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  • File cabinets, follower blocks, and keeping sane

    This post addresses the ubiquitous problem of finding a file cabinet that allows you to get rid of hanging-file folders and use only manila folders. The short answer is to find a file cabinet containing the so-called "spring-loaded follower block" (or "follower block" for short).

    So what is a follower block and why is it so difficult to find them?

    Before hanging files, file cabinets stored records (such as folders) upright in place with the mysterious follower block. To account for the change in number or thickness of records, you squeezed the handle of the follower block to slide it forward or backward and released it to lock it in place.

    Nearly all file cabinets manufactured before a certain date have these follower blocks, which is why it's a great idea to pay a visit to your local used office furniture store. With the advent of hanging-file folders, file cabinets evolved to adapt to them; as a consequence, follower blocks became an endangered species and were often replaced with variations that arenít so helpful for storing file folders upright (such as much-hated wire frame).

    Here's a visual example of a follower block:

    http://www.schwabfiles.com/images/le...ower_block.gif

    So how do you find file cabinets with follower blocks?
    • Go to a used office furniture store, which tend to carry file cabinets of extremely high quality that have this follower block -- at a dramatically low price. In fact, many used office furniture stores have trouble selling these types of file cabinets simply because many of them don't have the capability to store hanging-file folders. In my case, I visited a local store that carried numerous two-drawer, four-drawer, and five-drawer models -- all with follower blocks, and all of very high quality. (I went with a two-drawer Steelcase that must have been made in the 70s but still works beautifully.)
    • If the thought of buying a used file cabinet makes you shudder, the big box office supply stores still do carry file cabinets with follower blocks. At Staples, I saw a two-drawer Hon model for $169.00 with a follower block in it. I doubt itís as high quality as used models for the same or equivalent price, but it would do the trick.
    • If money is no object, purchase new, high quality filing systems made by companies such as Steelcase. Some of their products still use follower blocks.
    • ALWAYS check the specifications of the filing cabinet to make sure it has a follower block.

    I hope this helps.

    Regards,
    Michael
    Last edited by gernblanston; 02-27-2008, 10:25 AM. Reason: Renamed title to original

  • #2
    Another big vote for local used office supply stores - we got fantastic deals on extremely solid cabinets. Caveats: Sometimes they don't match, and make sure you try the mechanics first. On the plus side: You might find some goodies inside

    Regarding follower blocks, check out 'The "Magnetic bookend" hack' section of my post:

    Five secret filing hacks from the masters
    http://ideamatt.blogspot.com/2007/03...masters.html#5

    ... However, converting a drawer to plain file folders often results in the dreaded "files falling down" problem for drawers that don't have a movable metal plate (AKA "follower block", "compression plate", "spring-loaded backstop", or "back plate"). Very bad. After extensive research (I kid you not), I've discovered the optimal solution (at least for metal drawers) is to use a magnetic 'L-shaped' bookend to hold them up...
    Last edited by cornell; 03-12-2008, 06:29 AM. Reason: corrected URL

    Comment


    • #3
      Thank You Thank You!!

      Thank you so much for this post!

      I've been dying to get my GTD system fully implemented so that I can clear some space in my office/garage. Sadly, I've been stumped by how to implement the filing system without hanging folders. Your post was a great help.

      If anyone has any links to cabinets with this mystical follower block, please share them. Alternatively, if anyone knows a good used furniture store in Orange County, CA, that'd be even better.

      Comment


      • #4
        Recommendations

        Hi bragot,

        First, I'd recommend you go to Staples and look for HON file cabinets at the back of the store. Make sure that you can actually open and close the cabinets, to see what the quality is and if the cabinet actually contains a follower block. As I mentioned in the original post, I've seen HON file cabinets at Staples with a follower block for about $170, but I'm not sure about the quality.

        Second, it's pretty easy to find used office furniture stores with Google. Just google "used office furniture" near your area. I live in the SF Bay Area and found a local store in Berkeley called Berkeley Outlet (which had MANY models to choose from, all good quality and low prices with follower blocks). http://www.berkeleyoutlet.com/

        For your area, I found the following locations:
        http://www.totalofficeonline.com/
        http://www.bbi-interiors.com/

        And that's just two... I'm sure there are many more.

        I'm glad you found the post useful. Good luck!
        Last edited by gernblanston; 03-23-2008, 11:54 AM. Reason: typo

        Comment


        • #5
          DIY cheap vertical files: Ball-Bearing Slides + Follower Block

          Hi, I did a fair amount of research into this and found a potential acceptable solution.

          For me, the two features I needed in a file cabinet are ball-bearing slides and a spring-loaded follower block. The cheapest cabinets I could find were the Hon 310 series at ~$200 apiece.

          I instead chose to buy Staples commercial vertical files (2-drawer without lock is Model 15286, ~$120 each) with ball-bearing slides at http://www.staples.com/office/suppli...51_true_SEARCH

          You can then buy a pack of 4 follower blocks from Hon at http://www.honaccessories.com/Produc...d=1061&cid=149 for $60 shipped. The installation instructions are at http://www.hon.com/getattachment/371...are-they-.aspx.

          Everything is arriving this week, hopefully I'll get my $400 worth of cabinet functionality for $300.

          Comment


          • #6
            Cheap--Children's picture books!

            Hello,

            I'm new to the forum and I'm a children's librarian. I decided to sign up just to share this tip. I'm trying to change my files over to just manila files and no hanging files. Unfortunately, I cannot use the magnetized book ends to hold my files up because my drawer is made out of wood.

            So, I came up with using a stack of children's picture books! Here's the advantage...they are just the right size, and they are skinny. As you filing system shrinks and grows you can remove or add the books. Perfect!

            Your local library probably sells used picture books for a $1 or less. Or check a used book store.

            I hope this helps someone!

            Comment


            • #7
              A4 Manila files, cabinets and follower blocks in Europe

              Has anyone found an (online) store that sells A4 Manila files in Europe, especially Belgium? Also, I haven't even met anyone who has ever seen anything else than filing cabinets for hanging files. So where might I find non-hanging filing cabinet with follower blocks?

              Comment


              • #8
                Great thread!

                Thanks everyone for information!

                The use of magazines or books as 'following blocks' has been discussed here too: http://www.davidco.com/forum/archive...hp/t-2844.html (in 2004)
                I've used some heavy books on some of my shelves/file cabinets too.. It is a bit annoying if you take out a lot of big files, can be done with the books though, if the cabinets are sturdy enough..

                Ronnac, by Googling I found this thread, where A4 folders in Europe have been previously discussed - maybe some links can be helpful to you? (I don't speak Swedish, he he!) http://www.davidco.com/forum/showthread.php?t=8714

                I've used a mix of other files before, not sure which to use now..
                I also have this question: are the files supposed to be 'open' on top, or not? (personally I prefer files that can be fully 'closed')

                Comment


                • #9
                  I have looked at folders offered here on this website (open on 3 sides), and seen a few pics.. So now I realized it is important to at least be able to put stuff in easily.. Which means I will keep my old folders, at least temporarily, and see how it goes.. (And add new ones as I find them locally, or order online..)

                  Just a question: if your file cabinet (2-drawer) almost falls over when you pull out the top drawer to the end, is it too full?

                  Is it better to have more stuff in the bottom drawer? How do you know how much weight a cabinet can carry? Are there any 'warning signs' before it falls apart?

                  PS I used my (mostly unused) knitting/crocheting/crafts supplies as a 'follower block' They're a project too, he he!!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Layla View Post
                    Just a question: if your file cabinet (2-drawer) almost falls over when you pull out the top drawer to the end, is it too full?
                    Yup.

                    Each drawer should be no more than 3/4 full. I'm hoping I can locate an affordable 4-drawer filing cabinet before I reach that point . . .

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Layla View Post
                      Just a question: if your file cabinet (2-drawer) almost falls over when you pull out the top drawer to the end, is it too full?

                      Is it better to have more stuff in the bottom drawer? How do you know how much weight a cabinet can carry? Are there any 'warning signs' before it falls apart?

                      PS I used my (mostly unused) knitting/crocheting/crafts supplies as a 'follower block' They're a project too, he he!!
                      Yes, the drawers are supposed to be only 3/4 full but I have to admit I tend to stuff mine completely full and then some.

                      I do put heavier stuff and more in the bottom drawers myself, but again if I followed recommendations and only had the drawers 3/4 full it wouldn't matter.

                      That brings up an issue I'm dealing with now, I'm trying to sort all my knitting/weaving/sewing/quilting/naalbinding/spinning projects into Rubbermaid tubs by craft. Then I can add cedar, lavender or moth balls if needed easily. Yarn, patterns and any other stuff assigned to a particular project is being put in a bag together. I'm trying to keep all my projects in easily grabbed bags except tools. Those I'm trying to make up a fiber craft toolkit that I can carry so I always have everything I need in one place. Loose unassigned fibers are in groups by type, tops, roving, (further divided by fiber type) knitting yarns, weaving yarns, quilt fabric, clothing fabric and so on.

                      It's a GTD project of mine to organize and inventory all my craft supplies. I also have GTD projects in each craft that I try to work on weekly.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Thanks, Lola and Oogie!

                        WOW! Having a grab'n'go bag for everything sounds a really fab idea!

                        OogieM, I adore your projects! Never learnt how to spin, but I'd love to try someday!

                        My cabinets are perhaps 3/4 full (well, at least one of them - just some heavy stuff in there until I weed it out! I used a small pillow as a follower's block! ), the other one is already supported with extra wood he he..

                        I am filing by topic/project area and then intend to assign stuff into NAs and organize project support materials more specifically...

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Did not work

                          Having the same requirements as uwaeve, I was encouraged by the premise of buying a Staples cabinet and using the HON Follower Blocks. UNFORTUNATELY, THIS DOES NOT WORK. (A bit disappointed uwaeve didn't post this red herring as a failure! I'd NEVER have assumed this to work otherwise). Hopefully, I can spare any one else the trouble.

                          To be clear, I did use a slightly different model -- although I suspect it's the same with the 25" version.

                          http://www.staples.com/Staples-Verti...ea=sku_pd_box1
                          * Item: 470381
                          * Model: 16304/14558

                          The main problem is the bottom of the drawer is "ribbed" so the follower block cannot slide back & forth. This gotcha should be identified easily enough by visiting your local store. A lesser, secondary problem is that the pins of the block do not latch into the drawer. I almost expected this, but it might be manageable, as friction may prevent the block from sliding anyway.

                          Hope this helps!



                          Originally posted by uwaeve View Post
                          Hi, I did a fair amount of research into this and found a potential acceptable solution.

                          For me, the two features I needed in a file cabinet are ball-bearing slides and a spring-loaded follower block. The cheapest cabinets I could find were the Hon 310 series at ~$200 apiece.

                          I instead chose to buy Staples commercial vertical files (2-drawer without lock is Model 15286, ~$120 each) with ball-bearing slides at http://www.staples.com/office/suppli...51_true_SEARCH

                          You can then buy a pack of 4 follower blocks from Hon at http://www.honaccessories.com/Produc...d=1061&cid=149 for $60 shipped. The installation instructions are at http://www.hon.com/getattachment/371...are-they-.aspx.

                          Everything is arriving this week, hopefully I'll get my $400 worth of cabinet functionality for $300.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by bragot View Post
                            Thank you so much for this post!

                            I've been dying to get my GTD system fully implemented so that I can clear some space in my office/garage. Sadly, I've been stumped by how to implement the filing system without hanging folders. Your post was a great help.
                            I agree, your tips have done so much to someone like me as well. Now I won't have much trouble organizing my files and folders. Thanks again!

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Filing cabinets have been a long time choice in the business office atmosphere. These cabinets are able to hold large amounts of files and are helpful for managing papers. Quality wooden filing cabinets are best for both home and offices available in various types and size but little costly whereas metal file cabinets would be simple. You just have to pick what fits your budget from whatever is available and you're done.

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