How to Make Your Own Card Catalog Cabinet

I searched high and low for the PERFECT card catalog cabinet. When I first started looking, I didn’t even know what they were called! After a little research, you too will discover that authentic ones are equal parts cute and expensive. That’s why a DIY was in order!


  • Two 1x12in boards (for the box)
  • 2x4ft quarter inch plywood (for the drawers)
  • wood glue
  • drawer knobs
  • paint/stain of your choosing
  • saltwash (if you decide you want yours chippy like mine)


  • clamps
  • brad nailer
  • mallet
  • jigsaw

DIY card catalog
If you don’t have a saw at home, ask them to make the cuts for you (from the two 1x12in boards) at Home Depot or Lowe’s!

DIY card catalog
Use a clamp to hold the bottom and side pieces together and use the brad nailer to attach them!

Hooray! You have a box now!

Now for the more detailed part: THE DRAWERS!

This is what we’re making to go inside the box:

DIY card catalog

Here’s how you make it:

DIY card catalog

  1. Take a 8.5in x 9.25in sized square, and use a jigsaw to make the cutouts like you see above.
  2. On the edge of the square closest to you, measure the exact center and mark it. Then, measure 3/8 of an inch on each side of the line and mark it. Now, turn the square 90 degrees and mark the exact center of that line, and draw a line with your pencil (as seen above). Cut out the rectangle in that shape.
  3. You will need 4 of these blocks total!

DIY card catalog

4. Next, take a board that is 28.5in x 9.25in.

On the 9.25in side, mark the center all the way through (hotdog style). Take 28.5 and divide it by 5 (because we’re creating 5 boxes). This gives you 5.7

From the cornerof the board, measure 5.7 inches, and make a mark with your pencil. At each mark, measure 3/8 of an inch on each side and make 2 more marks (remember, just like we did above!). You’ll cut with your jigsaw from the outer 2 marks, up to the line that you made hotdog style. That’s how you get the cutout shape you see above!

5. Grab a mallet (and your little helper) to put the pieces together.

Here’s what you should have:

DIY card catalog

6. Now, grab your mallet again and hammer the insert down into the box

DIY card catalog

Yay! It’s actually starting to look like a card catalog! Great job 🙂

DIY card catalog

7. Next, let’s make the drawers!

Because wood isn’t perfectly straight (and due to human error), there is not an EXACT measurement to cut out. You’ll want to measure each opening to ensure the drawers fit and slide smoothly.

  • Measure each box opening from side to side to get your width, and top to bottom to get your height. The front of your box is made out of a 1 inch thick plank of wood. You’ll need 2 pieces like this, because the back and front are the same.

  • The sides of the box are the height of your opening (from the bullet point above), and the drawers are 7 inches deep. This is made out of 1/2 inch plywood, and you’ll need 2.

  • The bottom of the box is 7 inches long. Then, take the width of the front (minus one inch), and that’s how wide the bottom piece needs to be.

Time to put the pieces together to make the drawers!

8. First, use wood glue to assemble the pieces like you see below.

9. Then, for extra strength/security, put a few nails in with your nail gun.

DIY card catalog

Now the fun part– PAINTING!

You can choose whatever stain/paint you’d like for this part. My favorite way to paint, well, EVERYTHING, is with Saltwash.

DIY card catalog
Saltwash project

Saltwash is a powder that you add to paint. What it does is make your paint look aged and weather-worn, and it also makes paint easier to distress!

DIY card catalog

For a video tutorial on how to use Saltwash, head on over to my Instagram (@olivebranchcottage) and check out my story highlights! Here are the ones where I use saltwash:

home decor instagram

The paint color I used is Pure White by Glidden, and HERE is where you can buy some Saltwash for yourself!

These are the handles I attached— they came with screws!

I’m so happy with how my card catalog cabinet turned out! It found its new home on my kitchen island and adds so much character– and it makes me think of fun DIY times with my hubs <3


Did you see my last post?

Patriotic Farmhouse Decor

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