Canine Cafe

This large-dog dining station keeps food neatly contained and conveniently available, and its height allows the canine's head and neck to be at a good angle for swallowing food and water.

HANDY is not all about pet pampering, but we do recognize animal lovers' desire to keep their four- legged companions comfortable while maintaining order in their homes. So in the interest of practicality, we created this attractive, easy-to-build doggy diner. Besides making feeding time tidy, it aids in digestion because the dog's head remains in an elevated position. Although this design is made for a large dog, you can downsize it so the bowls are at a comfortable height for your pet.

Food is stored in a sealed plastic storage bin (typically used for file folders; see SOURCES in the PDF, below) that maintains freshness and keeps out would-be invaders (pets, tots or rodents). The lid is hinged for convenient access.

Designed for simplicity, the project consists of one open-end box and a drawer. It requires just one 4x8 sheet of lumber-core plywood (chosen for its light weight and ease of handling) and a couple of 8-ft. pieces of trim. The bone-shape cutouts are decorative and functional, serving as the drawer pull at one end and as handholds so the box is easy to pick up.

Cut the parts
The box and drawer dimensions shown in the cutting list (see PDF, below) assume that the plywood is truly 3/4 in. thick. Check your stock before cutting the parts, and adjust sizes if needed. The top trim pieces and the base trim pieces were ripped from a 1x4. For a slimmer profile, we resawed the base trim to 1/2 in. thick. If you prefer, you could purchase pre-milled trim.

Shape the parts
Mark the lengthwise center of the box top and measure equal distances from the ends to locate the centers of the bowl cutouts. Using a compass, draw two circles, each 3/4 in. smaller in diameter than the outside rim of the bowl. Cut the two holes with a jigsaw (photo 1); then use sandpaper or a router with a 1/8-in. round-over bit to smooth the edges.


To avoid weakening the box top, locate the dish holes as far apart as possible. Be sure to leave 1-1/2 in. of clearance at the box ends so the holes won't interfere with the cleats.


Clamp a scrap under the box end. Using a hole saw attachment, bore deep enough into the wood for only the pilot bit to come through the other side. Then turn the piece over and finish boring the hole. Two cuts with a jigsaw (inset) create the bone shape.

Next, choose one box end (D) to form the box rail (E) and drawer front (F). Make a horizontal cut 2 in. from the top, through the center of the bone cutout (photo 4). To create clearance for the drawer front, trim 3/8 in. off of each side edge of part F.


One of the box ends becomes a box rail and drawer front when you slice through the center of the bone cutout. Clamp an edge guide to the workpiece or use a table saw to cut a straight line.

Assemble the box
For all assembly, we used glue and 1-1/4-in. No. 8 wood screws driven into counterbore pilot holes. (All fasteners are eventually covered with trim.) Start by attaching the front and back cleats (J) centered along the tops of the box front and back (A; photo 5). Fasten the end cleats (K) to the top of the box end (D) and rail (E). Then attach the box back and front (A) to the edges of the box end (D) and rail (E; see illustration). Attach the box bot- tom (C; photo 6) to the box. Set the box top (B) in place and drive screws through the cleats and into it (photo 7).


Cleats can be made from scrap 1x material. Use clamps to hold the parts together and to secure the pieces to the workbench. Before assembling the box, bore pilot holes into the cleats for attaching the box top later.


When attaching the box bottom, be sure the end is recessed 3/4 in. from the edges of the box opening. Also periodically check that the assembly is square by comparing diagonal measurements.


With the box top (B) on your work surface, apply glue along the border. Set the box assembly in place, being sure the edges align. Drive screws through the cleats to attach the top.

Next, add the drawer guides: Set the front ends flush with the box bot- tom (photo 8) and prop the backs of the guides up on shims or scraps to keep the guides level while you secure them to the box. Fasten the top trim parts (M and N) to the edges of the box top using glue and 1-1/4-in. finish nails. Attach the corner trim (L) with 1-in. finish nails (photo 9). Then add the base trim.


Prop the drawer guides to hold them level for installation. Multiple holes in the guides allow you to reposition them if you need to make an adjustment during the final phases of drawer installation.


Add trim to the top edges, then to the corners and finally to the base of the box. A power finish nailer makes attaching the trim an easy two-hand (one-person) operation.

Build the drawer
Assemble the drawer box, butting the sides (H) to the ends (I). Attach the drawer bottom (G); then secure the drawer slides, holding the ends flush with the box edge (photo 10).


A centering bit (called a Vix bit) aids accuracy when drilling the pilot hole because it keeps the bit on center with the opening in the drawer-slide hardware.

To be sure the drawer front is centered in the box opening, set the box on a flat surface with the drawer box inside. Apply glue to the drawer box end and prop the drawer front in position. Use shims in both side spaces to hold the drawer front on center. Drive two screws into the drawer box (photo 11) 1-1/2 in. from the bottom of the drawer front. These will be covered with trim (Q). Remove the drawer and drive four screws through the box end into the drawer front (photo 12).


Shims ensure that the drawer front is perfectly spaced in its opening while you position it against the drawer box. After the feet are added to the box, the drawer front will clear the floor when opened and closed.


Because the drawer front carries a load when you open and close the drawer, it needs to be securely fastened to the drawer box.

Attach four rubber feet to the bottom of the box. This raises the box from the floor and prevents it from sliding. Apply clear finish or paint. Then just add kibble, water and Spot!