Introduction: Computer Case Drawer Unit

I recently intercepted a heavy duty, solid metal server computer case from Computers for Schools Yukon (CFSY) headed for recycling. Strong enough to stand on!

It hung around gathering dust for a while, as I contemplated what to do with it, and eventually I decided to make it into a desktop drawer unit to help better organize the tools and equipment we use around the laser cutter and 3D printers at YuKonstruct.

Step 1: Materials and Equipment:

  • metal server computer case (heavy duty!)
  • 1/8" birch plywood
  • wood glue
  • elastic and clamps
  • sandpaper
  • feet
  • acrylic paint and paint brush (optional)
  • design files for drawers (CorelDRAW)

Step 2: Design the Drawers:

The dimensions for each drawer were determined by the existing spaces in the computer case.

For each drawer, I measured the width and height of each box opening (adding a bit of play) and then measured the depth of the space, from the front edge of the box to one of the metal tabs at the back of the box, that would stop the drawer from going any further back, (they weren't all in the same place). I then took these dimensions and the 1/8" thickness of my material, and input them into the online BoxMaker program to create a pdf to start my design from. Then I imported the pdf file into CorelDRAW, discarded the top of the box and removed the finger tabs on the top edges of the sides to create a smooth top edge.

Finally, I added a curved dip to the centre of the top edge of the front face of the drawer to make it easy to pull the drawer out.

I ended up making 4 different drawer design files.

Step 3: Cut Out Your Drawers

I worked on this project over a few weeks, using up the scrap wood from a dismantled computer case as much as possible, and designed and completed one drawer at at a time in the lulls between other projects.

When you have your design ready, set your print settings and cut out your box pieces. I used speed/ power/ frequency settings of 12/80/20 to cut the 1/8" birch plywood on a 60 watt Epilog Fusion laser cutter.

Step 4: Gluing the Drawers Together

I used the same method for gluing all of the drawer parts together.

Use a small paint brush to apply a bit of glue to the top surface of each of the finger joint tabs (photo) and assemble your drawer, one side at a time. Clean up any glue that squeezes out along the way.

Wrap large elastics around the box in both directions, to keep everything in place and then clamp the box in all directions if you can. Check to be sure the corners and bottom edges of the drawer are snugged into position.

Once the glue is completely dry, remove the elastics, and lightly sand the edges of your drawer.

Step 5: Adding an Extra Shelf

The bottom right side of the unit had a pretty big space, so I decided to add an extra shelf, to accommodate a couple more drawers.

Using the bottom edges of the spaces between the uprights, seemed like an easy and logical way to support the shelf.

I designed the shelf in two pieces, which I figured would make it easier to get it in. For my first attempt, I used the full depth of the space available between the uprights, thinking that it would give maximum strength and keep the shelf from moving around. I ran into a problem getting the shelf tabs it into the sides holes because the angle was too tight, even with putting quite a bit of bend in the shelf.

To solve this, I cut a little bit off the length of my tabs until I could get it into place (2 more tries). Not very scientific, and the shelf does move around a bit, but it will not come out unless you really want to take it out!

Step 6: Two More Drawers

The last two drawers were deeper than the top drawer, and although I could have made the bottom drawer a bit taller to fill the available space, I made both of these drawers the same height. I figured that the bottom drawer will likely have the heavier and most frequently used stuff, and it will be easier to see and get things in and out if i leave a bit of a gap between the shelf and top of the bottom drawer.

Step 7: Adding Feet

I wanted to lift the unit up off the desk and was looking for something to screw into the threaded holes in the bottom of the unit. The first thing I tried, were some interesting screws (photo) from my collection, that had come from some surplussed office equipment taken apart a while back. They fit perfectly. I love it when that happens!

Step 8: Filling Up the Drawers

With the drawers, shelves and feet now assembled and in place, it was very satisfying to clear off the desk and tables and fill up the drawers. I found that there was plenty of room in the drawers for all the items regularly found scattered across the desk and table top; sandpaper, calipers, tape measures, utility knives and clamps etc. and even more.

My plan, is to eventually paint the fronts of the drawers and add labels, after we have figured out how to best way to organize the tools and equipment, and in which drawers.