How to Build a Shelving Tower Over a Filing Cabinet

Matching file towers create an elegant work space in this combination guest bedroom and office.


Tools and Materials:

3/4” plywood
decorative trim, fluting and crown molding
Brad nailer with 1-1/4” nails and 1-3/8” pin nails
screw gun with 1-1/4” wood screws
wood glue
sand paper
wood putty
pocket hole jig
drill bit
stain or paint, polyurethane and necessary tools
store bought file cabinet (approximately 27” x 18-1/8” x 14-1/2”)
table saw and a miter saw
speed square
wood putty
tape measure
safety glasses


1. Use a table saw to cut the 3/4” plywood to size (this cut list is for one tower). If you are building the tower around the filing cabinets, make sure your tower is wide enough.

  • three shelf pieces at 18-1/8” x 14-1/2”
  • one top piece at 18-1/8" x 20"
  • two inner vertical sides at 18-1/8” x 78”
  • two outer vertical sides at 18-7/8” x 78”
  • one back piece at 19-1/2” x 78”
  • four spacers at 1-3/4” x 78”

2. The sides of the tower are doubled – two pieces of plywood with spacers in between. Start the tower by building from the outside in. Lay down the back piece and attach the two outer vertical side pieces to the outside edge of the back piece with wood glue and nails.

3. Place two of the spacers inside each corner. Attach them with wood glue and nails.

4. Flip the unit onto one side. Lay another spacer at the front edge of the plywood, opposite the one just attached. Lay one of the inner vertical side pieces to the top of the two spacers. Line up all the pieces and fasten. Repeat the process for the other side. You should now have a back and two double-thick sides for your tower. Check to make sure your file cabinet fits inside the unit.

5. Drill pocket holes on the underside of the shelves, four on each side. Attach the shelves with pocket screws. We spaced our shelves 16 inches apart.

6. Lay the top piece on the top of the unit so it over hangs one inch from each side. Attach this piece to the sides from the top.


7. Cut the fluted trim to the height of the tower, 78 inches. Attach the fluted trim to the face of the tower. Cut the three pieces of crown molding to fit around the top of the tower. Attach with pin nails.

8. Sand any rough edges and fill nail holes or gaps with wood putty. Stain or paint as desired (we used ebony stain then sealed it with polyurethane).

9. Slip the file cabinet underneath the bottom shelf.

10. Measure the face of the drawers on the filing cabinet. (Our cabinet has two drawers that measure 13-1/4” x 13-1/4”). Cut two pieces of plywood to that size. Stain or paint the pieces to the same color as the tower.


11. Remove the existing drawer pulls from the front of the filing cabinet. Hold the new plywood drawer fronts to the front of the cabinet drawer; you may want to clamp it into place. From the inside of the drawer, use a pencil to mark the holes for the hardware onto the plywood. Remove the wood and drill the holes. Attach the plywood onto the filing cabinet drawer. If you are using the same hardware, you may need to get longer screws to accommodate the addition of the plywood.

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