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Lightweight Subdividers for Cabinets


This cabinet subdivision system provides an economical and effective method of storing lightweight specimen folders and objects in commercially available units. It minimizes mechanical damage and facilitates retrieval, while maximizing shelf space. Inserts are easily repositioned, providing the flexibility to serve the changing needs of a systematically arranged collection (Fig. 1).

Figure 1. Before and after views of a cabinet.
                left, Stacked herbarium folders.
                right, Fluted plastic board inserts. The slotted sides are held in position by the divider and the top of the metal shelf.



Margot Brunn
Provincial Museum of Alberta
12845 – 102 Avenue
Edmonton, Alberta T5N 0M6
Tel (403) 453-9169
Fax (403) 454-6629

Photographs: Rod McCaskill

Publication: 1992



Lightweight, free-standing subdividers are placed inside metal shelving units. These subdividers are made of rigid corrugated plastic board. One shelf insert consists of two sides and at least one divider. 

The vertical sides are cut to the depth and height of the metal shelf, and grooves are cut along alternate flutes. The horizontal dividers are positioned and slid on the grooves of the side supports. Making grooves along the side supports permits flexibility in the positioning of the dividers.

Materials Tools Supplies

  • Corrugated polypropylene board 4mm standard (4ft x 8ft x 3/16in) or 6mm for heavier folders
  • Mat cutter or utility knife
  • Wood carving V-chisel, 1/2in or 3/8in


  1. Measure the height and depth of the space between existing shelves.
  2. Cut the two side pieces from the corrugated plastic board with a mat cutter, taking care that the flutes will be in a horizontal position when the side pieces are placed inside the cabinet.
  3. Cut grooves on alternate flutes all along the two side pieces with a V-chisel (Fig. 2).

    Figure 2. Alternate flutes are cut out. The insert depth is cut shorter than the shelf so that there is space for the
                    location number. (Flute removal technique was developed by Carl Schlichting.)

    To ensure an even line-up of the grooves, the two sides should be cut from the same length of sheet.
  4. Place the inserts against the sides of the cabinet with the grooved sides facing each other.
  5. To make the dividers, measure the width and depth of the existing shelves. The width of the divider should be approximately 1/16in narrower than the shelf and should slide easily into the side grooves. For botanical specimens, the depth should be 1in to 2in shorter than the depth of the shelf and the length of the botanic folders.
  6. Place the dividers as needed, e.g., under each folder, to support irregular shapes, and to separate delicate specimens from heavier ones (Fig. 3). 

Figure 3. The dividers provide rigid, straight support, but can sag under weight if
                folders contain too many specimen sheets. Use 6mm board instead of 
                the standard 4mm thickness.

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