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What Is a Blueprint File Cabinet?

K.C. Bruning
K.C. Bruning

A blueprint file cabinet is an organizational system for large flat documents such as architectural plans. It also is commonly referred to as a plan cabinet or flat file cabinet. It typically is a large piece of furniture that has long, flat drawers, usually with two handles. The drawers are often horizontal, though they can be vertical. They might have only drawers or might also have a top portion with cubbyholes in which rolled plans can be stored.

Most blueprint file cabinets are made of either sturdy wood or a strong metal, such as steel. The files lie flat in a horizontal cabinet and are attached from the top in vertical cabinets so that they can hang. They typically have several drawers, although the number can vary widely.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

The configuration of a blueprint file cabinet can be in any of several styles. It might consist of only drawers or might be a mix of drawers and cubbyholes. Some models that have holes on the top also have doors that can be closed to conceal the files. There also are models with drawers on the bottom and shelves for books and binders on the top.

A blueprint file cabinet is a common choice for archival files. It can be the sole filing method for flat files or part of a system that includes other storage for active files. A common configuration is the use of the cabinet for storage and a smaller, more portable file for current projects.

Although it is most commonly used for plans, a blueprint file cabinet can be useful for organizing several other types of large documents. It can provide filing space for pieces such as posters, maps and charts. In addition to offices, this kind of filing system is used in libraries as a way of both organizing and easing the categorization of large pieces.

In addition to the blueprint file cabinet, large files can be stored in a variety of other ways. One of the most popular ways to store rolled blueprints is on a shelf, stand or wheeled cart that has a series of vertical or horizontal cubbyholes. These can be made of materials such as wood, plastic or coated wire. Another storage option is a cart or stand that has several bars with clips, to which documents can be clipped and allowed to hang vertically. Documents also can be kept in low-height shelves made especially for large document storage.

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Discussion Comments


Great article. I would like to add a few things. Storing documents flat or rolled is how all documents were stored before the "innovation" of vertical filing. For oversized documents like architectural plans or engineering drawings, it was a bit trickier to file them vertically without ending up as a curled up mess.

For vertical filing, there are now several options. The first you mentioned in your article where the documents are held at the top by a clamp, then the clamp can be stored on a rack, either exposed or in a cabinet. Construction companies use this method because it allows them to store systems of drawings. One clamp might hold all of the electrical drawings, another all the plumbing etc. The clamped set of drawings does become heavy and inconvenient when you are interested in a single drawing.

The second option comes from Europe, and are generically called "Pin" files. The cabinets have two parts. The back of the cabinet is stationary and has pins or hollow posts mounted horizontally to the top of the cabinet. The front of the cabinet is on wheels with solid pins mounted horizontally, such that when the front is rolled up to the back of the cabinet the pins insert into the hollow posts or align parallel to the pins, until the cabinet closes. The user mounts a wide piece of tape attached to the top of each document; this tape has holes at regular intervals that match the posts on the cabinet. Unlike the clamp, each drawing is hung individually. With his type of cabinet, the front part of the cabinet sometimes opens as a clam shell instead of being on rollers. This storage method is best for quick individual drawing storage and retrieval.

The third option is for high density filing. These cabinets are sometimes called "tub files", due to their appearance which resembles a chest freezer. The interior of the cabinet has a spring compression system that applies enough gentle pressure to hold the drawings upright while allowing them to be easily removed. The system uses large folders to store the drawings, just as you would store letters at your desk. This method of vertical storage provides for easy file and removal if not as fast as the "Pin File" cabinet. The tub file's best feature is its ability to easily manage large numbers of large documents while requiring less space than a flat file, pin file or clamp filing. The tub file can also provide fire resistance storage for drawings due to its method of construction. --Barb B.

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