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How to Make a Wooden Housing for External HDDs (With Filing Tray on Top)

Arthur strives to balance aesthetics, functionality, and quality with costs when planning DIY projects in the home and garden.

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About This Project: Storage Rack for External Hard Drives or HDDs

My son asked me to make a wooden housing for two of his external HDDs (hard disk drives) to stop the cat from knocking them over every time she jumps up to gain access to the windowsill.

Design Concept

My wife had already asked me to make her wooden filing trays to replace the old plastic tatty trays in our home office, and I’d already purchased a 4’ x 8’ sheet of 12mm plywood to make the filing trays. So I used the same material for both projects and adapted the design of my wife’s filing trays to create the HDD housing for my son. Hence I wouldn’t just be making a wooden box to house my son’s external HDDs, but I would also make it multipurpose by adding a filing tray on top.

Step-by-Step Guide

Here's the steps I followed:

1. Cutting the Sections to Size

To make the housing with filing tray on top required four pieces of 12mm (½ inch) plywood, for the top, bottom and two sides; and a small strip of 4mm (1/6 inch) plywood for the back top.

All the main pieces were measured, marked out and cut from a spare piece of 12mm plywood using a circular saw.

2. Cutting Sacrificial Spacers

To make assembly easier, I decided to cut a couple of identical sacrificial spacers; with them being the same height as the interior height of the housing box that I was making. The spacers will be used in the assembly of the box and then discarded as scrap wood afterwards.

Having cut the four main pieces for the box construction; now cutting the two sacrificial spacers for use during construction.

Having cut the four main pieces for the box construction; now cutting the two sacrificial spacers for use during construction.

3. Bevelled Edge of the Filing Tray

For easier access, and for better aesthetics, I measured, marked and cut a 45 degree angle on the front top of the side panels to create a bevelled edge for the filing tray.

Using a circular saw to cut the bevelled edges to the front of the top filing tray.

Using a circular saw to cut the bevelled edges to the front of the top filing tray.

4. Initial Sanding

Before assembly, quickly smooth and round off all the cut edges, including the bevelled edges, with a suitable orbital sander.

Using an orbital sander to round off and smooth all the cut edges.

Using an orbital sander to round off and smooth all the cut edges.

5. Assembly

The stages for assembly were:-

  • Glue all the edges to be joined with wood glue.
  • Place the two sacrificial spacers on the base, and the top on top.
  • Then bring the two sides up into position on either side, and secure with clamps.
  • Then finally, secure in position with screws.

The process described above is a bit fiddly, a bit of a balancing act where you feel like you need half a dozen hands, as everything wants to flop back under gravity. I did manage to do it all on my own, but if it does prove too tricky holding everything in place while getting the clamps in position and tightened enough to hold it all straight, then certainly get someone to give you a hand.

All four pieces glued and clamped together, and ready for screwing; with the sacrificial spacers in place to temporarily support the top at the correct height during assembly.

All four pieces glued and clamped together, and ready for screwing; with the sacrificial spacers in place to temporarily support the top at the correct height during assembly.

6. Fitting the Back

Because it’s housing for external HDDs (electrical equipment) the box requires good ventilations and easy cable access at the rear. Therefore, rather than a closed back, I only needed to cut sufficient 4mm plywood to back the top (the filing tray), and for strength to make it a little larger so that it would block off just the top portion of the box at the rear.

Once cut, the 4mm plywood back was then glued and screwed into place.

Having measured and marked out the correct dimension on the 4mm plywood clamped to the work surface, ready to cut the plywood to size for making the back.

Having measured and marked out the correct dimension on the 4mm plywood clamped to the work surface, ready to cut the plywood to size for making the back.

7. Final Sanding

With the box complete, just give it a quick sanding to make all the corners and edges smooth and level.

Using a belt sander to level and smooth the front and back of the housing unit.

Using a belt sander to level and smooth the front and back of the housing unit.

8. Clean & Wax

With the wooden unit complete you could optionally paint, varnish, wood stain, wood dye and or wax the surfaces before commissioning.

For this project I opted to wax polish the wood using dark stain beeswax. I always use beeswax, and never the silicone furniture waxes. Beeswax is long lasting and gives the wood good protection; whereas the silicone furniture waxes don’t. With silicone waxes, once the oil dries it loses its shine, and the silicone oil attracts the dust, which means you end up forever dusting and polishing; while with beeswax, a quick occasional wipe over is all that’s required.

So the simple steps I took to clean and wax the multipurpose housing and filing tray unit were:-

  • Use a cloth to quickly wipe the unit over with white spirit, to clean off all the lose sawdust; and leave for 30 minutes to dry.
  • Apply the beeswax with a yellow duster, rubbing it into the wood grain; and leave for 15 minutes to soak in.
  • Rub to a sheen with a yellow duster.
White spirit and dark stained beeswax, with yellow dusters; ready to clean and polish the housing unit.

White spirit and dark stained beeswax, with yellow dusters; ready to clean and polish the housing unit.

9. Commissioning

Install the unit in location, and start using it.

Polishing

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Arthur Russ