Friday, April 7, 2023

More Sketchup - Four Drawer File Cabinet

 It is hard for me to get into the workshop during the week which is sad. However, doing design scratches the same itch as making sawdust for me. When I was learning to fly my instructors would call it chair flying. Basically, sit yourself in a chair and go through all the steps involved in starting, taxiing, and flying the plane. This is the same thing for me except I am building projects in my head. I am thinking about joinery, order of operations, etc.

I did design wheels for my tool cart.

They aren't perfect in every detail but they serve the purpose I needed. I'm tempted to go back in and make them more accurate as an exercise but I think I need to get a little better with Sketchup first.

With that done I remembered the other project I wanted to make. My in-laws had this beautiful quarter sawn white oak four drawer file cabinet. Unfortunately it has seen better days. The finish went bad and it suffered some water damage causing the veneer to buckle and separate. I briefly thought about trying to clean it up; however, I'm pretty sure building a new one will be less effort. So, I am going to design and build my own four drawer file cabinet.

A file cabinet is just another case of drawers. It shouldn't need anything too fancy. Sure it is going to get filled with hundreds of pounds of paper but does that really differentiate it from a bookshelf when just considering the case? I don't think it does.

I started my design with the drawer. Since the drawers need to be a specific dimension in order for the hanging file folders to work my drawer width is already fixed for me. I did decide that I wanted my cabinet to be 18" deep so that meant 16" drawers to leave room for the false fronts and cabinet back.

I'm going to hang my drawers on 16" full extension side-mount metal slides. These are easy to mount and should be plenty strong. I will not be opting for the soft close style.

Those slides look a little stubby because I could only find 24" and 14" slides in the Sketchup collection. 14" slides were sufficient to get the idea across and to help measure/fit the width of the cabinet. As you can see in the above photo I have a 16" deep drawer made from 1/2" material. The false front is 3/4" and is sized to leave a 1/8" gap all around. The 1' 1" width measurement is including the sides so there is 12" between rails.

The rails are 1/2" x 1/2" angle aluminum. I'm going to attach it to the top of the drawer sides using screws and epoxy.

With my drawers figured out I moved on to spacing them out. I put a 3" toe-kick on the bottom, added a 3/4" divider between each drawer, added a 1/8" gap, and topped it with a 2" thick top. Here's an image with one side and the back removed so you can see the internal structure.

You can see I left plenty of room for the 1/4" plywood back. I haven't included the rabbets for the back in the Sketchup yet and I don't know if I will. So long as I remember I need to do it when I am doing the construction it should be fine. Same reason I don't have joinery on the drawers yet. I haven't determined what material I will make them out of which may influence the type of joinery I will use.

The overall dimensions of the cabinet are 18" deep, 15 1/2" wide and 54 1/2" tall.

The stiles are going to be 2 3/4" wide. Both the top and bottom rail are going to be 5". In the above image the stiles are actually 3" wide but I thought they looked too big as they only leave 4 1/2" of panel. I'm going to shrink them to 2 3/4" which makes the panels 4 7/8" wide. This makes the panels twice as wide as the stiles vs only one and a half times as wide.

You can see from the above image that the sides are going to be proud of the drawer fronts and top. I initially planed on making it only 1/4" but on reflection decided that 3/8" might be better. I want to put a slight round-over on the sides and I still want to see a little bit of the flat sides in the reveal.  I think...

This is hard to see in Sketchup but I'll mock something up before construction and then decide. Fortunately I have plenty of space inside the cabinet to move the sides forwards or backwards as I want. I also want to mock up a drawer. I measure my metal file cabinets and it looks like I've got it right but I'll feel better knowing that the drawers will hold hanging folders before I go through the effort of construction.

I've already got my wood selected. I came into a supply of soft maple a few years ago and it's been just sitting in my basement. I think it is a beautiful wood and will make a superb filing cabinet.

I still need to finish my mobile tool cart for my radial arm saw and the bookshelf I started last winter but I am hopeful I will be able to get to this by this coming fall.

In the meantime I need to find something else I can model in Sketchup to stretch myself and learn it better.

Building the Rolling Tool Cart

In my last post I talked about learning Sketchup and making plans for a rolling tool cart to hold my radial arm saw. Here's the finished version.

It looks a little more squat than last week's version because last week I had the height wrong. I'd measured my table heights, measured the height of the saw including a new top on the saw, then promptly forgot to subtract the height of the saw from the total height. No worries, that just gave me an excuse to redo the Sketchup design from near to the beginning.

I wanted to get a couple of days in the shop this weekend but only got one. I had running around to do on Friday and I'd also slept poorly the night before. Power tools and poor sleep do not go well together and I don't do that. I did however get Saturday afternoon in the shop.

I got most of my parts sourced and rough cut and I got the rails glued up. I also marked out and cut out my outer tall side panel that I will use as a template for the rest of the panels.

It still needs some work but I got most of it done. I cut out the middle and the bottom using my cordless Makita circular saw. I used my homemade fence to layout and guide it and needed to plunge most of the cuts to get them started. It isn't the most comfortable way to start a cut; however, I am comfortable doing it when I have to. I stopped short of the corners and finished them will a Japanese style pull saw. Some of the corners didn't need more than a light sanding, some needed a file.

I'm trying to decide if I want to drill a pilot hole for the handles or the full hole. If I drill a pilot hole I can just drill the pilot hole  into the other panels. It feels like I might be able to drill the holes straighter by hand if I have a pilot hole versus using a Forstner bit to mark the center and then just winging it.

I actually started on my end panels first and then remembered that I needed the rails completed to make sure I cut the notches for the rails accurately. So after getting this far I went and grabbed another couple of my prefinished panels and cut the rails. Since the panels are prefinished I sanded the finish off the backs before gluing them together.

Why am I calling them panels rather than plywood? Well, it is because these aren't really plywood. They are a poplar core with two thick layers of veneer on top. These came out of my father-in-laws barn and I am sure they were scavenged from the garbage from somewhere he was working. Regardless, they were free to me and are super flat. I don't normally put finish on my shop projects but since these panels are prefinished I'm going to leave them as is. I'll just sand off the finish where I need to glue them.

Regardless, this was all my progress this week. I got my rails rough cut and glued together. I got my template panel cut out and cleaned up. (and yes, that was way too  much glue on those rails. It was a mess to clean up.)

I think I might print out a 3/4" radius template on my 3d printer this week and use that for routing the corners. I'd thought about designing my own but as people say, "if it's a clever idea someone else probably thought of it first." There are several designs for these on Thingiverse. This is the one I chose.

I'm trying to decide what I want to model next in Sketchup. I'm thinking about doing the wheels for the cart. I'll have to figure out how to do toroids (donuts).

Saturday, March 25, 2023

I learned Sketchup

 I recently came into possession of an old Craftsman radial arm saw. I wasn't looking for one but when my father-in-law recently passed away I inherited his. He'd had it on a homemade stand made of 2x4's. It was serviceable but since it was easier to transport the saw without the stand I didn't take it. Also, since this will not be an everyday tool I cannot dedicate space in my primary workshop for it. This means I need a mobile base for a fairly heavy tool.

A friend of mine - we'll call him "Dave" to protect his identity - is a new woodworker and is still building his shop. When he was looking at buying a contractor table saw I did some research looking for home made mobile bases. He ended up buying one with a mobile stand and didn't need a homemade stand but I remembered this stand from my research.

It's a cute little cart and fits a lot of the criteria I was looking for:

  • Mobile
  • Smallish foorprint
  • No fussy build details
  • Stable
Their cart looks to be built out of southern yellow pine and plywood. My initial design was also using construction grade lumber and plywood; however, when picking up the saw I found a whole mess of veneered lumber. I changed my plan to use all sheet goods.

This is what I came up with:

Two sheets of plywood for each of the end panels. Each of the rails will be two strips of plywood. Then there will be a sheet of plywood on the top. 

What I wanted to mention here was, "I learned Sketchup". If you are reading this you've probably already heard of Sketchup. If you haven't, Sketchup is a 3d modeling tool with lots of features. If you are somewhat technically literate and maybe have some 3d design background it is quick and intuitive to learn. I made the above model after watching 40 minutes of videos and then another 5-10 hours of playing with the tool.

Pretty much every woodworker with a YouTube channel has made a video on how to get started so I am not going to try and replicate that here. The video I used was the Foureyes Furniture Part 1 & 2 by Chris Solomone.
Part 1:
Part 2:

As of this writing the professional version costs $300/year. As a occasional hobbyist wood worker I could see spending $300 as a one-time cost; however, per year is a little much for me. Fortunately they provide a web-based version that is free for non-commercial use (i.e. hobbyists like me) and what I used for the above plan.

One real strength is the ability to remove or hide parts, or spin to alternate perspectives.

More on this later but I wanted to share my excitement at learning the basics of Sketchup. I'll probably still keep using my pencil and paper for my initial drafting but I'm going to try to do final versions in Sketchup. I could see when I get a little more agile in the tool I might switch to using it exclusively.