Thursday, April 26, 2012

Studio Renovations - Custom Wood Flat File, part 2

Well, last entry saw my flat file looking pretty good, but not complete.

Here is what it looked like.  One thing I did not talk about last entry was the vertical boards I added to the front on the sides.  These two boards do three things.  First, they hide the ends of the flat files' sides.  Second, they are notched and guide the drawers through to the glides.  Third, they were cut to butt up against the walls and cover the gaps between the sides of the flat file and the walls surrounding it.  Here is another image of one of these boards where you can see the notches:

I had to cut the notches with a scroll saw, which is what I used for all the cutting.  I often clamped a four foot level to the particleboard and plywood as a guide to to keep my cuts straight.  The notches here were done by hand and end up being a little rough looking, although they look fine here.

Next, I put fronts on the drawers that will act as drawer pulls and will also keep items from slipping out of the drawers.  Here is an image of two drawers leaning against a wall with the fronts on them.

The fronts are made of 3/8" x 2" smooth slats. I sanded the front edges to a gentle rounding.  I glued these fronts on and then nailed them, making sure they were centered on the drawer.  The fronts also extend beyond the sides of the drawers a little bit.  This will end up covering my rough notches I mentioned earlier.

Here is an image of the flat file with the drawers installed.

Next, I had to create the top.  For this I used some sanded plywood.  But the walls surrounding the flat file are not square.  I wish I was a better carpenter, but there you go.  So how was I going to cut a top that would fit snug without big gaps between the top and the walls around it? To do this, I used drywall.  Or at least, I used a piece of drywall with two original edges that still had the 90 degree corner.  I laid one straight edge against the back wall and could then see, and measure, any gaps.

Here you can see that I have a 3/4" gap to account for.  The other side actually lined up pretty well, but there was a little bow to the wall.  Once I carefully measured these gaps and bows, I marked the plywood top and cut it.  The first fit was pretty good.  I had to trim a little off of the side with the bow, but it was easy and I was very happy with the fit.  I nailed the top to the frame and screwed the middle of the top to the uppermost supports underneath.  I finished by putting a piece of trim along the front of the top to hide the edge of the plywood and to have a rounded edge.  And here is what it looks like.

I ended up putting one more slat across the bottom shelf to hide the edge of the particle board and to make it match the fronts of the drawers.  The top of the flat file extends forward from the drawers about 5" so that I can sit on a stool and draw on the top.  It is quite comfortable.  The only additional thing I might do is wax the glides.  The drawers pull out fine, but they are heavy and a little wax would help keep them gliding smoothly for years to come.  Here is a picture with one of the drawers open.

And here is my helper:  Delilah was in my studio with me most of the time while I was making this flat file.  Every time I would cut a piece of wood, she would come over and pick up the scrap, go to a carpeted part of the studio, lay down and chew it to splinters.  My floor was covered with wood shavings - from her.

I hope you enjoyed this little how-to on making a flat file.  If you have any questions, feel free to ask.


  1. Thanks for showing the process. You have great craftsmanship. It'd be pretty cool if you had built the top so it could incline (like a traditional drafting table).

    1. Hey John,
      Thanks for the compliment. I actually built this to hold a tilted drawing board/drafting surface that I already have, otherwise I would have built it to tilt.