DIY Wood File Cabinet


Fewer things are more useful for organizing paper clutter than a file cabinet. At home or an office, a file cabinet eases storage needs, placing the papers you want at your fingertips. A wood file cabinet is especially useful, not only as storage but as an accent to the decor of any room. Many wood file cabinets are made from particleboard, lacking the sturdiness and security you might require. The DIY enthusiast, however, can build one using only a few tools and a bit of carpentry skill, made with materials of your choosing, providing the look you prefer.

Cabinet Dimensions

  • Your filing cabinet can be built much like any other cabinet. Choose your materials---cherry, pine or solid oak are long lasting, durable and take a finish well. The amount of wood you'll need depends entirely on the number and size of drawers you want in your file cabinet. Your cabinet carcass will have to be built large enough to contain drawers capable of storing letter-sized hanging files, commonly 10 inches by 12.6 inches, or legal-sized holders, measuring 11 inches by 15.6 inches.

    Plan the dimensions of the carcass with a depth capable of holding multiple files---24 to 27 inches should be sufficient for a typical file cabinet---a height sufficient for hanging files with mounted tabs rising up to ½ inch above for indexing and a width wide enough for the file size as well as the width of the drawer's sides and the rail system used to move drawers in and out of the cabinet.

    For a cabinet containing multiple drawers, allow an additional 1 inch between drawers to prevent crowding and ease of movement. Make sure when planning the dimensions of your boards that you take into account the board width, generally 1/4 inch, especially when designing the boards for the sides of your file cabinet. These should be long enough to cover the widths of both the rear boards and the fronts of the drawers, which should be built to lie flush with the cabinet front.

Cabinet Construction

  • For wood file cabinets, you'll want to go with a simple box construction. Using your pre-planned dimensions cut your wood to needed sizes. You'll need a back board, two side pieces, two boards for the top and bottom of the cabinet, and wood for the drawers. Sand smooth all cut portions.

    Before assembling the cabinet, you'll want to mount the drawer slides. Since you'll be building a file cabinet which may hold a significant amount of paper weight, it's best to go with medium-duty slides rated for up to 120 lbs. Measure on your cabinet sides where the drawers will fit within the cabinet and then find the middle of each drawer. Mount the slides at these points.

    With slides mounted, assemble your cabinet, beginning with the back piece and one of the sides. Use a carpenter's square to make sure the cabinet is square and fasten the pieces together using 3/4-inch coated nails. Mount the top and bottom of the cabinet, followed by the other side. Once you have the shell of your cabinet complete, build the drawers using the same process. Mount the sliders to drawer sides, attach handles to the front, and then mount two small poles down the length of the drawer tops for the hanging file folders.

    Your drawers should slide easily into the cabinet once completed. Finish the cabinet by applying a wood stain, and allow it to dry. If you are in need of a secure drawer, you can mount a lock, purchased at any home improvement store.

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