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Picture of Flat File Base

In a previous, paper-based age, flat files were important professional furniture for architects, engineers, and artists. They kept blueprints and drawings uncreased and wrinkle-free in wide, deep drawers that pulled out all the way. Nowadays, flat files have evolved into a hipster design accessory -- Pinterest ideas abound! People use them to support drafting boards, set them up as coffee tables, or, occasionally, use them for actual print storage.

My wife is a graphic designer and letterpress print artist. She has a wide-ranging portfolio of prints new and old, as well as different paper stock. It had been stored in plastic totes under our couch, but with the rental of a new studio it was was time to clean out the apartment and get those papers in their proper place.

She found a great deal on a flat file on Craigslist. It is a beast -- nearly four feet wide, three feet deep, and super-heavy. It's also not that tall, so we needed to elevate it up on a base that would bring it up to table top height, add some extra storage for art supplies, and make it easy to move around. The solution was a simple plywood cabinet on casters with deep drawers. The project took about $125 (could be well cheaper if you made some different material/caster choices) and 6 hours to make with simple tools. I did the whole thing with just a circular saw and a drill; for faster, more accurate work, a table saw would be very helpful.

You will need these materials:

- 1 sheet of 1/2" plywood

- 1 sheet of 3/4" plywood (if I was doing it over I would do it all in 3/4" plywood)

- 4 casters, two locking; the dimensions in here are for 4-1/2" casters

- 16 1-1/4" x 1/4" dia. machine bolts for caster mounting

- Screws (I prefer Spax brand #6 wood screws made for going into edge grain of plywood without splitting)

- Wood glue

- Drawer slides

You will need these tools:

- Circular saw

- Drill and impact driver

- Square

- Clamps

- Measuring tape

Step 1: Building the Carcase

In cabinetmaking, the carcase is the 5-sided "box" for a project, be it a kitchen cabinet, a dresser, or whatever. There are dozens of ways to build a carcase, but they boil down to two main methods: frame and frameless. As plywood has evolved and become cheaper over the last 50 years, frameless methods have become more and more common. This involves joining plywood panels together with rabbetted corners, glue, and/or Kreg-style pocket screwing. I chose to do much simpler butt-joints to save time and because this was a utilitarian studio tool, not a fine piece of furniture.

The carcase for this cabinet has a footprint of 45" x 33-1/2", and is 9-5/8" high. This was calculated to fit inside the stamped-metal rim underneath the flat file, which would keep the base from slipping out, and, once it was mounted to casters, bring it up to precisely the same height as the neighboring desk. Adjust your dimensions to fit your flat file accordingly.

I made the top and bottom out of 1/2" plywood to save money; in retrospect, that was a mistake. Use 3/4" stock -- the flat files are too heavy for thinner material. It is not in any danger of collapsing, but the carcase does deflect some around the casters. All of the dimensions I will give assume a 1/2" top and bottom; adjust accordingly.

Cut two sheets at 45" x 33-1/2" using a circular saw with a finishing blade and a clamped straightedge for nice clean cuts. It's best to go ahead and drill bolt holes for mounting your casters at this point, before the whole thing is assembled. Cut three rib pieces at 33" long by 8-5/8" wide using the same methods. Cut a back at 8-5/8" wide by 45" long.

Screw and glue the three ribs to one of the large sheets, one flush with each edge and one in the middle. Pull them flush with the front edge so that they are 1/2" in from the back edge. Put the back on, filling in that 1/2" gap and securing through the bottom and into the back of each rib. Especially if you are using lower-grade plywood, it may take some wrestling to get the pieces flush and straight.

I use Spax brand #6 trim-head screws, which are specially made to join plywood and MDF without splitting or pre-drilling. If you are using regular drywall screws, make sure to pre-drill with an 1/8" bit and countersink head.

COtterstrom844 months ago
Love it. I'm going to try this if I'm ever lucky enough to find an affordable flat file. They're hard to come by! Thanks for sharing.
wholman (author) 3 years ago
Hey guys, it's called the Stendig calendar. Modern design classic
jsil37 wholman2 years ago

Hey @wholman NICE WORK! I love it! If I decided to go with 3/4" plywood and build the same thing with industrial casters. Do you think this build would hold TWO meal flat file cabinets?

jsil372 years ago

Hey @wholman NICE WORK! I love it! If I decided to go with 3/4" plywood and build the same thing with industrial casters. Do you think this build would hold TWO meal flat file cabinets?

danfowler883 years ago


Meglymoo873 years ago

Very well done :)

ar_caver3 years ago

Nicely done. Great drawings!

Tell us more about that calendar.

YourMagesty3 years ago

Going vertical when space is precious is tremendously wise! Nice work, and seeds of applications being sown, I'm sure.

tinaciousz3 years ago

Your drawings are so pretty. Cool project and I love that jumbo calendar!

MelissaS1693 years ago

I get paid 75 bucks every hour for work at h0me on my laptop. I never thought I'd be able to do it but my good friend is earning 14k /monthly by doing this job and she showed me how. Try it out on following website...F12

======= http://MaxCenter20.Tk

lebowski3 years ago

Great design! Nicely done.