To understand file cabinets, you really need to understand file cabinet parts and assemblies. Although cabinets designed to hold paper files are easy to use and have few components that can break or warp, the way the parts function to support the drawers and allow even heavy drawers to slide in and out make them handy and useful, even in an age where visions of "paperless offices" are putting them on the endangered species list.
File Cabinets - The Basics
File cabinets are special storage containers, usually comprised of drawers that hold papers and sometimes a variety of folders. They are available in a number of widths to accommodate the dimensions of specific types of paper, like letter, legal, A4, as well as blueprints and other specialty papers.
What we recognize as the modern file cabinet, the brainchild of Dr. Nathaniel S. Rosenau, was first introduced at the 1893 World's Fair. As offices began to proliferate and paper storage started to grow, basic wooden cabinets gave way to cabinets with all steel construction that were sturdy and could be mass-produced.
The basic file drawer, deeper than it is wide, soon spawned variations, like the lateral file. The lateral file opens on the long rather than the short side. This second style can be used in shallow rooms and can accommodate a lot of material by ordering files side-by-side and then front to back.
Although file cabinets are typically used to store paper, new applications, often in the home, are finding creative uses for this old favorite. Whether they're used to store important documents, recipes, stamp collections, DVDs or fabric swatches, file cabinets are useful pieces of furniture both at home and at the office.
File Cabinet Parts
One of the distinguishing characteristics of file cabinets is the slide mechanism that rolls the drawers in and out. Able to easily handle the weight of large volumes of paper, these sliding assemblies are designed to move using telescoping arms and high-density nylon rollers joined to stainless steel tracks.
Slides can present problems from time to time. If they're made of low quality materials, like aluminum, non-commercial grade stainless steel or plastic, they can crack or warp. Over time, the track screws or mounting brackets holding the slides in place can work loose too, causing the drawers to stick or jam. One of the most common problems reported with file cabinets is the failure of the slide mechanism, particularly when a drawer is overloaded. Some other methods have been devised to open and close file cabinets, like string pulley systems, but the slide assembly method is still the most popular.
File cabinets, depending on their age and quality, may also include the following file cabinet parts and accessories:
- Compressors - These are the drawer dividers that push files forward and hold them in place.
- Folder hangers - On quality wooden and metal file cabinets, the upper lip of the left and right sides of the drawer can support hanging folders, a type of folder sling that's suspended just shy of the bottom of the drawer. In metal file cabinets, folder hangers are usually either suspended from a support frame that sits inside the drawer, or can be hooked onto bars that are installed on the long sides of the drawers.
- Bumpers - File cabinets also have front stops to keep the drawers from pulling completely out of the cabinet.
- Locks - Optional locking systems for file cabinets can be very basic or quite sophisticated depending on the application. A common aftermarket niche is providing replacement keys for locking file cabinets.
- Hardware - File cabinets may also have hardware pieces, like brass or aluminum drawer pulls and label holders.
- Casters or Feet - Leveling feet on file cabinets raise them up off the ground, which can help reduce the risk of mildew when file cabinets are placed on concrete or other porous floors, and keep them level on uneven floors. Casters provide the option of moving file cabinets around relatively easily. Remember, file cabinets can get heavy, so look for feet and casters that are constructed of metal.
File cabinets should be made of quality rigid construction to perform well over time. This is particularly true if the cabinets are carrying a lot of weight or will be used daily.