The Cabinet

As means to furnish and manage FabLab Lisboa facilities, we decided to reuse an old varnished wooden cabinet retrieved from Lisbon City Hall warehouse. This massive piece of furniture encloses 80 drawers, 36 in the front and 40 in the back, and assures a very organized stowage for small objects, such as office supplies and hand tools. Its convenience to FabLab was quite evident.

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Little restoration was needed, just cleaning and assembly. However, as the cabinet was being used, some primary design problems started to show. The drawers have no handles or knobs to assist opening, as can be checked in the picture above. Users have to grapple their slightly protuberant centers and pull. For heavier contents, this doesn’t work properly. Moreover, some of the drawers’ bases are skewed or even cracked, and all of them have a nonfunctional slot – and so smaller items might fall through it.

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40 drawers

The overall dimensions of each drawer are about 27x16x45 cm. The slot is in average 29.5 cm long and 2 cm wide, but these measurements can vary up to 5 and 1 mm respectively, from drawer to drawer. This additional challenge was taken into account in the design research, since we wanted to find a unique solution that would work for the entire cabinet.

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Different handle possibilities emerged from brainstorming, such as nails, knobs made of acrylic plastic, metallic rings or thin MDF engraved plates, among others. Finally, we went for a cord puller solution and designed a piece that would solve two problems at once: cover the slot and attach the puller to the drawer. With right dimensioning, we could mend all the 40 drawers just from one design. This piece is fixed inside the drawer, over the slot.


Its underside fits the hole and leaves the piece in place, while its top assures pulling pressure is exerted on the drawer base. It’s a very simple design, suitable for quick fabrication processes and low-cost materials – from cardboard to plastic. These handles are very easy to implement, or replace, in case of damage, and since no glue or any other fixing forms are needed, we avoid making permanent changes to the furniture. Also, we managed to preserve the aesthetic quality of the cabinet, by opting for neutrally colored MDF and discreet black cords.

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DIY – Design and digital fabrication

We cut 3 mm thick MDF sheets with the Laser Cutter, for very fast and precise results, but the same job could be performed with Ouplan 2015. Each piece is obtained from joining the following parts with wood glue:

contornoDownload here the design file.


For pullers, we used 28 cm long shoelace bits that would assure good handling without being too thick (about 5 mm diameter). The knot we used was based in the “Nó de Cabo”.
Here are some step-by-step instructions for knotting. Burning the puller tips would turn handwork easier.







To give the drawers some informative labeling and maximize stowing effectiveness, we perforated a grid of 43×13 mm rectangles on white paper with the Vinyl Cutter. In this way, labels are ready to write, tear apart and apply!

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