File Box

Follow the instructions to build this free woodworking plan and you'll enjoy using the file box for years to come. What's more an adult and kid will like building it together.

By Gene And Katie Hamilton

File Box

We designed this file box for 4x6 index cards, which are a standard-size card used in offices, schools, and of course, in the kitchen for recipes.

Although the box is small in size, it is probably one of the more challenging projects. It is fun to build, however, because it uses several different materials, and the finished project is handsome and useful. The senior woodworker should not have any problems building this box, and the junior member of the team will enjoy its see-through design.

The box is made from l/2-inch-thick oak. Many lumberyards carry this thickness, but if they don't, ask the yardman to plane down a 3/4-inch-thick lx6 oak board; a small fee will probably be charged for the service. A dowel is used as a hinge for the acrylic top. The sides and bottom are 5 1/2 inches wide, and you can cut these to length from the stock. The back is only 4 3/4 inches high, however, so you will have to rip (cut the length of) the board to this width and then cut it to length. When you are finished cutting the parts to size, check that the back and bottom pieces are the same length. If they are not, the sides will not fit evenly.

Shopping List

The box is held together with glue and wood screws. Wood plugs are used to conceal the heads of the screws and give the box a finished appearance. You'll have to drill pilot holes for the screws to prevent them from splitting the wood. These pilot holes are located along the bottom and back edges of the side pieces (A). The centers of these holes are located 1/2 inch in from the edges. The holes along the back edge are located 3/4 inch down from the top and 1 inch up from the bottom, and the holes along the bottom edge are located I inch from the front edge and I inch from the back edge.

The pilot holes for the screws are 1/8 inch in diameter and go completely through the wood. The holes for the wood plugs are 3/8 inch in diameter and only 1/4 inch deep. Drill the 3/8-inch-diameter holes first, then drill the 1/8-inch holes in the center of the larger holes.

Cutting List

You also have to drill pilot holes in the edges of the bottom and back pieces (B and C). Mark the location where the screw pilot holes from the sides meet the edges of the bottom and back. Then drill 1/8-inch holes through these layout marks.

Next, make the dowel hinge hole. Turn the side parts over, and drill a 3/8-inch-diameter hole 1/4 inch deep in each piece, located 1/2 inch from the top edge and 3/4 inch from the back edge. Be careful not to drill completely through the side.

The front (D) and top (E) are made from acrylic plastic that is easy to cut. Use a straight edge and a felt-tipped pen to mark the size of the front and top on the plastic sheet. The senior member of the team should use a sharp utility knife to score the plastic along the layout lines. Break the sheet along the score line by placing it over the edge of a table. Align the score line with the table edge, and then push down sharply on the sheet to snap it along the score line. When you have finished cutting these parts to size, sand their edges to remove any sharp corners.

The dowels that form the hinge (F) and the top's front trim (G) must be slotted to fit over the edge of the top. Cut these two dowels about 7 inches long now, and after they are slotted, cut. Them to the exact lengths specified in the Cutting List.

The easiest way to make this slot is with a saw. Since this calls for cutting a very thin piece of wood, this job is best done by the senior woodworker. Clamp the saw in a vise with its teeth pointing up. Then hold the dowel over the saw and work it back and forth over the teeth to cut the slot. Most saws will cut a groove a bit too narrow for the acrylic; to enlarge the opening, wrap a piece of sandpaper around the edge of the Acrylic top, and run it back and forth in the slot. Repeat this until the groove is large enough for the acrylic. When the top fits into the slot, trim the dowels to length. (Note that the hinge dowel is 3/8 inch longer than the trim dowel.)


Another slot must be cut along the inside of the sides, 1/4 inch back from the front edge, to hold the acrylic front. These slots are easier to cut using the saw without the vise. Clamp a side piece to your work surface, and then cut a shallow slot with the saw. Enlarge it with sandpaper wrapped over the edge of the acrylic panel.

Assembly is easy, but make sure that everything is ready, because once the sides are installed, the top cannot be removed. Glue the hinge dowel to the back edge of the top, making sure that there is an equal amount of dowel protruding from each side of the top. Then install the trim dowel on the front edge of the top, flush with the sides of the top at each end. After the glue has dried, test-fit the hinge in the hinge holes drilled in the side parts. If it is a tight fit, sand the dowel end or ends slightly as necessary.

Apply glue to one side edge of the bot- tom. Put the matching side in place, and check that it is flush along the bottom, front, and back; then install the number 6 screws. Apply glue on the back piece along the bottom edge and along the side edge that matches the pilot holes of the side piece just installed. Then put it in place and install the screws.

Flip the box onto the side you just installed and apply glue to the edges of the bottom and back that are facing upward. Before you install the second side piece, place the hinge dowel into the hinge hole in the first side piece. Align the dowel with the hole in the side you are installing, and push the dowel into the sides until the back, bot- tom, and second side piece are in full con- tact and flush along the edges. Then install the screws.

Occasionally move the hinged top back and forth while the glue is setting to prevent it from getting stuck in place, which can happen if any glue strayed into the hinge hole. While the glue is drying, glue the screw plugs in place. Place a couple of drops of glue in each plug hole, and tap in the plugs. Then set the box aside and allow the glue to dry.

After the glue has dried, cut off the wood plugs flush with the face of the side with a sharp chisel. Then place a sheet of sandpaper around a scrap block of wood and sand the plugs smooth. Remove any glue that may have squeezed out of the joints during assembly with your chisel. Once the box is completely sanded, it is ready to finish.

We used a wipe-on tung oil finish to show off the grain and texture of the oak. Give it three or four applications, with ample drying time in between. Put masking tape on the acrylic where it touches wood so that you will not get oil on the acrylic. Use a clean rag to spread the tung oil evenly onto all of the wood, including the interior of the file box. After the finish is dry, slide the acrylic front into the slots in the sides, and your file box is ready to use.

TIME REQUIRED Eight hours for cutting, building, and assembling, plus drying time for glue and finish.

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Find helpful advice and tips about tools, finishing, safety practices and a glossary of woodworking terms at Before You Begin