Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Wood File Cabinets - How To Select The Right One

File cabinets come in many sizes, styles and levels of quality. In addition to offering a way to organize and access your documents, file cabinets can also become flexible and useful pieces of furniture that can be used in almost any room of your home or office.

You can buy either metal or wood cabinets file. Wood, specifically solid oak, is the most attractive and durable material to look for. It will last a very long time and be an attractive addition to your home or office.

The many styles of solid wood file cabinets include Mission, Contemporary, and Traditional and come in several standard sizes, which include:

  1. Letter sized file cabinets, which generally hold only 8.5" x 11" paper, but can also be used for 8.5" x 11" legal size files.
  2. Legal size file cabinets, which generally hold both 8.5" x 14" and 8.5" x 11" paper.
  3. Lateral file cabinets, which come with 2 or 3 drawers and generally hold 8.5 x 11" and 8.5" x 14" paper.
  4. Personal file cabinets that are generally smaller and hold only 8.5 x 11" letter files

The letter or legal size file cabinet can be used the alternate way by moving the metal brackets.

Wood file cabinets are available with 2, 3, 4 or even 5 drawers. When deciding which one would work best for you, consider not only the amount of file storage needed, but also the other uses you have for the file cabinet as a piece of furniture. It could be used as an end table, a storage chest, a credenza, a DVD or video tape cabinet, a nightstand, or a place to keep your printer, fax machine, copier, or coffee machine.

If you want to place some of the above items desk height, a 2-drawer cabinet allows you a 30" high platform. If you line several up in a row you can have quite a large surface. A lateral file also offers you this advantage without a seam in the middle. For this purpose, look for file cabinets with flush sides so there won't be any gaps between the cabinets.

A 3-drawer file cabinet, which stands about 43" high, offers more storage per square foot of floor space and you can still put plants or other light items on top. A 4-drawer file cabinet, which is about 55" tall, offers a tremendous amount of storage, as does an even taller, but rare, 5-drawer file cabinet. We don't recommend putting anything other than a very light item on top.


Any piece of furniture that is holding a lot of weight can be dangerous. An important safety issue with file cabinets is the danger of tipping and crushing. Large and heavy file drawers can cause the file to tip forward. Therefore, several things can be done to minimize this danger.

  1. Do not fill the file on the top drawer while leaving lower drawers empty.
  2. As mentioned above, do not open more than one drawer at a time.
  3. Attach file cabinets to the wall to prevent tipping.
  4. Where possible, put your heaviest items in bottom drawer (to act as an anchor).
  5. Do not put attractive nuisances like TV's and games on top of tip prone furniture unless it is properly tethered. Children may climb up to retrieve the remote or turn on the TV with horrible consequences.


The lowest quality wood file cabinets are generally made for self-assembly by the customer. This is usually more difficult than you expect and utilizes "cam" assembly hardware. You'll also want to stay away from file cabinets that are made of particleboard. Even though the tag might say it's made of wood, don't be fooled because that description might still be referring to particleboard, so beware. According to the Furniture Manufacturers Association, solid wood includes particleboard. What you really want to look for is SOLID wood-either solid oak, pine, or cherry.

Another thing to keep in mind is that in order to hold a lot of weight a file cabinet should have glue screws and clamps--not cam locks in particleboard.

Next, know the difference between printed grain, genuine wood veneer, and solid wood without particleboard. The easiest way to tell if a piece of furniture is made of solid wood is to look at how the grain is running. If the end grain runs the wrong direction (perpendicular to the other grain), it is most likely veneer. I'm not saying veneer doesn't have its place if properly done, however, you should not be misled and be able to purchase what you are looking for/know what you're looking at.

Wood drawers are best made with English Dovetailed joints. If a drawer is assembled with cams, it won't hold together. A drawer glued and stapled can be an acceptable assembly method if the staples are only holding the assembly together until the glue dries.

Another important element of a file cabinet is the hardware used to open the drawers. Check the runner system. Make sure it pulls out smoothly and evenly? How does the tracking system work? If the drawer pulls out less than 90%, you will loose storage space and it will be difficult to retrieve your documents from the back of the file. Euro type roller glides are unacceptable for any file cabinets. This type of roller system works with two interlocking wheels on a spindle and it can't take the heavy weight of a file drawer and will likely not last very long at all. The better glide system for file cabinets is a full ball bearing--full extension slide system with at least a 100 lb weight rating.

Also, consider whether or not you want to lock up your drawers. You can put a lock on each individual drawer. This is the easiest way to lock up any particular drawer from which you want to keep prying eyes. You can also lock up all the doors by using a key just on the top drawer and the mechanism will lock all the doors below. Interlocking systems on quality wood files can be a costly and sometimes can hang-up creating access problems.

The wise consumer will take all these pointers into consideration when selecting a wood file cabinet. If you stick to solid wood and good glides and stay away from self-assembly, you'll have good access to your files and your cabinet will last a very long time.

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