Customized Metalware Drawers



About: I'm an Italian freelance structural engineer, graphic designer and photographer, and I'm teaching physics in Waldorf schools. I always investigate electronics, robotics and science in general, I'm a passiona...

Lately I found myself wishing a convenient place where to keep metalware, both small parts and not so small ones. I thought that some drawers under the working table were a good solution. One fact was that table is quite deep, and I wanted to use all available space, so I decide to make some deep drawers with a section of about 6x6 centimeters.

How to make them with new available technologies? Notice that I LOVE classic woodworking, and a classic making process with a circular saw would be wonderful, but this is just another way to make them.

If you have access to a laser cutting machine you can follow this tutorial to build some nice drawers with customized dimensions.

Step 1: Frame

One way is to use this phyton software made by Florian Festi, which you can find online here:

This is a parametric design of many different boxes, drawers and containers, with and without cover, which you can personalise to your necessity. The design always involves dovetail joints, which is very easy and effective for right angle connections.

You can also modify some parameters like joints stiffness, distance between joints, and many other, but the way they are normalized are already great.

You see you can select "traylayout", where to set number of rows and columns of a typetray. I used this to create the case for my drawers. Insert as X value the number of vertical columns of drawers, and the number of horizontal rows as Y parameter. Then click generate.

Now you have a window with an ASCII schematic, and some parameters to set. As "inner height" set the inner depth of your case, that is drawers length. "Inner height of inner walls" should be same of before or zero. "Thickness" refers to wood board. In ASCII scheme insert values you want, they also can be different row by row but in that case you need different drawers too. Click "generate" and you should have the .SVG drawing similar to mine on the picture.

Step 2: Drawers

It's time to generate the drawers parts. Go to"universal box" section, and select "h edge (parallel finger joints holes) as bottom edge, and "e straight edge" as top edge. Then set "x", "y" and "h" paraments referring to your needs. Pay attention that:

  • those are inner dimensions
  • "y" labeled as inner depth should be equal to "inner height" of the case plus three times thickness
  • "x" plus two times thickness should be almost equal to case compartments width, but it has to be two millimeters shorter
  • "h" plus two times thickness should be equal to compartments height substracted by two millimeters

Click "generate" and you can save the .SVG vector image. Import your vector image into Adobe Illustrator or Inkscape, and convert it into .DXF file, keeping measurements in mm.

Step 3: Test

I always suggest a fast test with little pieces, to check dovetails and joints.

It can be similar to this one in the picture, three parts ready to be cut and connected together. Take them out from the .DWG, and adjust them to match this model. If the trial works well you can go on with the drawing as is, if not you have to adjust values in web page and generate a new SVG. Joints have to be quite hard, so that you need an hammer to beat them in place.

Step 4: Partitions

If drawers are long as in my case you need one or more partition, and you have to add it manually in your DWG. Use AutoCAD or another technical software. Copy a line of holes and position it where you need it. Remember to add one or more plates similar to the back side of the drawer, but the bottom edge should have finger joints like side edges.

Step 5: Handle Hole

The front plate will have a center hole to screw in an handle.

Step 6: Front Plates

I made a set of front plates, with also a fast decoration engraved on them. Dimensions are only 2 or 3 mm larger (horizontally and vertically) than the plates generated by software, and they will cover part of the frame when drawers are closed. The handle screwed in the holes will help keeping plates centered while gluing.

Step 7: Cutting Parts

I used two full plywood boards to make this project, one 3mm thick for drawers and one 4mm thick for frame.

Use a lasercut machine, like an Epilog model. My machine has an 80W laser and can cut 3mm plywood without burning the edges.

Step 8: Hammering the Case

My frame is quite big and I had to be quite careful to not brake thin plywood while hammering it. A good way is to start from one extremity and carefully go on hammering along the lines. Remember to add some vinylic glue before putting parts in contact.

Step 9: Back Plate

As you see I added some holes in the back face, so to let air going in and out when we move drawers.

As last piece of the frame, place the back plate, then check again all finger joints. At last place some weight over the frame while glue dries and, more important, check that all faces are perpendicular and all angles are square.

Step 10: Drawers

Time to glue the drawers parts. Begin with bottom face and all dividers, then joint the side walls. Now you only have a wood square board as front panel, the one with the hole. See next step to reinforce that part.

Step 11: Handle Holder

To holster the screw of the handles you need more than one single layer, so you have to glue a second wood square board inside the drawer. This also have an hole.

Step 12: Front Panels and Back Reinforce

Also glue inside the drawers against the back panel, another reinforcement, this time it will have no hole.

On the front face instead you have to attach the last pieces. They're square boards with a thin decorative frame engraved by laser. Glue them and press them with clamps. I used tape since I had no more clamps, and I screwed in the handles so they helped to keep panels together.

Step 13: Well Done!

Your personalized metalware drawers are now ready! You'll be happy to have so much space to fill tidily with screws, nuts, and washers, or maybe with electronic components like resistors, diodes and transistors all well divided by values.

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