I'm building a file cabinet case 40" tall (3 drawers), 27" deep. I'm
thinking of making it out of solid cherry which would be dovetailed
together at the top. But I'm not sure what to do (what I can get away
with) at the bottom. Does the case need to have a bottom, or could I
make it out of three solid wood panels (plus the plywood back) and just
put 1.5" wide bars across the front as drawer dividers and maybe a
second set of 1.5" bars across the middle to discourage the sides from
I'd put a bottom in, if for nothing else than stiffening. It could be
something like a couple of pieces of 3/8" plywood glued together. Use
1x1 pieces to attach. You need to have maybe 2" at the bottom below the
bottom drawer anyways, so that would fit nicely. Also give you
something to hang some glides or casters on to make the sucker easier
to move (you will want to do that!). Give us a photo of the final
results, if you could.
What do you mean by "Use 1x1 pieces to attach"? None of the ways I can
think of for attaching a plywood bottom seem like they would really
help with rigidity since the solid wood case has to be allowed to move
around the plywood. (The ways I can think of are plywood in dados and
glued only at the front, or plywood attached like a table top with wood
or metal clips in a groove, or plywood attached to rails which are
screwed to the case through elongated screw holes.)
If you want to see "work in progress" pictures you can take a look at
the three drawers here:
http://members.cox.net/jsam/drawers.html The eventual plan is to have
the cherry case with one piece curly maple drawer fronts. (I have a
wide piece of curly maple.)
My thoughts on the bottom were that the "bottom" would be two inches
off the floor and the sides of the case would extend down the rest of
the way. This means the bottom would have to be in dados or sliding
dovetails. If I do dados I'm relying on the glue to keep it together.
(I could reinforce the dado with nails, I guess.) I'm not sure 2 foot
long sliding dovetails are something I want to try to cut--I prefer
hand tools and don't know how I could make such a joint. I could
dovetail a bottom on but then I'd have to do something to raise it a
couple inches off the floor, some kind of stand that the case would sit
on and could take the wood movement of the case ... and all the weight.
When it gets full there will be a lot of weight, in each drawer. Every time
you open and close the drawer there will be a weight shift which can rack
joints etc. If anything over build as much as possible, and put a bottom in
it. Also if you can put some kind of base unit under it, it will raise the
bottom drawer and make it easier to use. I have 30, 4 drawer metal units and
did this with all of them, to keep the employees happy (me included).
My own feeling is that if he comes up with a structure that actually holds
up he should write an article for FWW or somebody, because I've _never_ seen
a multidrawer wooden filing cabinet that wasn't coming apart after a few
My friend's bicycle shop has (4) white oak oak file cabinets that are at
least 60 years old, possibly 80. Before it became a bike shop in 1997,
the 4 story building was a plumbing and heating supplier for almost 100
His file cabinets are solid wood, with the top and bottom finger jointed
to the sides. The previous owners were NOT easy on the stuff, so it
hasn't been babied. The cabinets are currently stuffed with the bicycle
shop's records, and still in daily use.
IME, you will probably want to use your most undesirable pieces of primary
wood for the bottom panel, but use the same wood and dovetail/fingerjoint
all four sides of your casework. You will be glad that you did.
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