Please critique this design for a file cabinet

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Forum topic by Octavius posted 10-21-2009 05:08 PM 1127 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Octavius's profile


60 posts in 3174 days

10-21-2009 05:08 PM

Hi folks,

Could I get some input on the design of a pine, 3-drawer file cabinet for the good wife.

Front: no face frame.

Back: 1/4” plywood, glued and nailed to the sides. (sides will be grooved to accept the plywood)

Sides: tongue and groove frame, holding 3 raised panels

To hold the thing together, I’m thinking of 4 horizontal frame-works that will be glued into dados in the rails of

the sides. These dados can be routed before gluing up the side frames. Also, the front and back frame-work

members will be sized smaller in length so that the other 2 members fit into the dados.

These frame-works will be strengthed with glue blocks. The glue blocks in the top frame-work will have elongated

holes for screws to attach the solid wood top.

The bottom of the cabinet will have a mitred wraparound, with a cove molding nailed on top.

Hope that is clear. Anyways, would this work? Or can you think of something better.


5 replies so far

View lew's profile


12062 posts in 3756 days

#1 posted 10-21-2009 05:17 PM

Depending on the overall dimensions (LxWxH), the size of the drawers- when full- could cause a weight problem. You didn’t indicate if you were going to use drawer slides.

Also, raised panels usually “float” in grooves, so there won’t be much “racking” strength in the cabinet sides. This might also be a problem with heavy drawers.

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View DynaBlue's profile


131 posts in 3191 days

#2 posted 10-21-2009 05:39 PM

I built a four drawer file cabinet several years ago and used 3/4” birch plywood sides with horizontal pieces between each drawer and haven’t had any issues with racking. If you are going with frame and panel you might want to investigate sliding dovetails on your horizontals to help give some side to side rigidity.

-- Mistake? No, that's just an unexpected design opportunity....

View Octavius's profile


60 posts in 3174 days

#3 posted 10-21-2009 06:58 PM

Thanks for the post. The cabinet is about 44” high, 17” wide and 15” deep. Glad you mentioned the weight – I was thinking of putting a weight lifters disc – 15lb – in the bottom. Yeah, drawer slides – Lowes/HD have them inexpensive. Thats why I decided against a face frame. As far as racking, good point. I wonder if I could add cross bracing on the inside between the rails and stiles. Not exactly Krenov but better than the thing collasping! Ha!

Thanks for the post. As far as adding side to side rigidity, I was hoping that the plywood back would do that – glued and screwed/nailed to the sides and to the 4 internal frameworks.


View Julian's profile


880 posts in 3526 days

#4 posted 10-21-2009 08:29 PM

A plywood back wont help front to back racking at all. You could always use a piece of 1/4” on the inside of the sides.

-- Julian, Park Forest, IL

View DynaBlue's profile


131 posts in 3191 days

#5 posted 10-25-2009 12:34 AM

Well, tightly fitted plywood rebated into the sides and dadoed to accept your horizontal members will help eliminate side to side racking but I’d recommend you use something stiffer than 1/4”. I would use at least 1/2” or 3/4” if possible..but some might consider that over engineering a bit. Still, I’d rather overbuild something and have it stand up than underbuild something and have it fail, perhaps castastrophically, a couple years down the road. Also the joints, if properly fitted and glued up, should be sufficient to eliminate the need for screws/nails.

I also considered weighting the bottom in exactly the same manner and built the cabinet to accept weights if I later deemed them essential. They weren’t needed and the cabinet is very stable on it’s own and it’s been used on both carpet and hardwood flooring. For reference my base (measured from the outside of the base trim) is 19 1/2” x 24”. Total height is 60”.

So far my file cabinet has survived about 5 years and two moves without any problems.

Good luck and if you have any other questions I’d be happy to give you my opinions.

-- Mistake? No, that's just an unexpected design opportunity....

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