Introduction: Electronic-Lab in a Box

Picture of Electronic-Lab in a Box

Since I work in a small flat with no separate space for handcrafts i struggle always with building before and cleaning up afterwards just for simple electronic work. There were always the same tools to search in boxes and cases, plug them in, find wires and solderin tin and so on. So for only 5 minutes work comes together just an hour or so for the setup time. For me the solution was a box where everything can be found at the same space where it belongs to.

Simple philosophy: Everything has a space, everything has its own space.

This Instructable should be more a watchable, because for myself I don't read the long text instructables. But I believe I took around 80 pictures that give you an Idea what could be done and how to do the important parts. If there are any questions left, just put them in the comments.

Step 1: Get an Idea

Picture of Get an Idea

First question: What I really need everytime?

  • soldering Iron and holder
  • lab-power supply
  • Multimeter,
  • some wires and soldering tin
  • cleaning sponge and flux
  • fume-extractor (i don't have one but always wanted to build one)

So I begin with the heavy thing, the power-supply put it in the middle and arranged everything around it in mind and constructed everything in sketchup. It need to fit on the desk and on the storage-space.

Since I don't move much around with that stuff and have a lot of wood waste I didn't bother weight. So I took a mix of hardwood (for main support frame), plywood, MDF and 3mm HDF and mainly express-wood-glue and a mix of screws.

I will not give measurements here, because every part is fitted around what needs to be put inside the box and where it should be stored. The tunnel for the fume should be at least 12x12mm.

Part list:

  • 18mm glued hard wood plates for the upright plates (the only type that holds screws in grain direction properly!)
  • 13mm mdf for top and bottom
  • 10 & 6mm light plywood for back and front
  • 3mm for inner parts, backplate and fume extractor
  • sinkable wood screws from 12mmx3mm to 40mmx3,5mm, a M4 for the iron holder foldout
  • express wood glue (one can not wait long enought with that huge ammount of parts)
  • small color varnish
  • 12V AC adaptor
  • 40cm of LED-Strips (I used RGB as white light)
  • 12V PC-case fan (I used an 80mm but recommend 120mm for better performance) for the fume extractor
  • a small ammount of fleece as fume-filter
  • cables, wall plug and suitable plugs for all devices, everything is connected paralell
  • hinges for frontplate, backbox and wire-dispenser-coverage
  • magnets for frontplate and coverage

Most parts should be found in a good sorted Hobby-room. I believe that everybody that want to build something like this should knew where to get this or allready has it. My aim was to use as most as possible parts from scrap.

I only used a few tools:

  • cordless screwdriver
  • drills and the thing to sink screw heads (don't know the correct english name)
  • a really good handsaw (I recommend to invest good money to one, it won't be wasted!)
  • electrical tools (solder iron and the common suspects for the wiring)
  • brush
  • screwdriver perfectly suitable for your screw-heads (a pozidirve is not phillips and a Torx T10 should not be used in a T15 head, evend when it fits ;)
  • files to clean the saw cuts
  • a dremel for round corners in the mdf plates (files will also do)
  • sharp pencils and good rulers!!! You should be able to draw lines as precise as possible! A milimeter error will let the result look horrible!

So let the build begin...

Step 2: Saw and Glue and Screw and Saw and Glue and ....

Picture of Saw and Glue and Screw and Saw and Glue and ....

I don't have an electric saw and in this tiny flat using one is not recommendable. But I'm very trained with my crosscut-saw, it is quiet and much more precise than every other hand-guided saw, even any electrical!

Step 3: Saw and Glue... No Screw Version

Picture of Saw and Glue... No Screw Version

3mm HDF is really good to glue edge to edge, holds perfect and is really stable, I used it for the inner part, mainly for the fume-extractor.

Step 4: The First Gimmick: Wire-dispenser

Picture of The First Gimmick: Wire-dispenser

One side gimmick is to handle wires and soldering tin, always wanted something like this.

Step 5: Second Gimmick: Soldering-iron Handling

Picture of Second Gimmick: Soldering-iron Handling

so my old iron holder died years ago and so i build a new one as a foldout in the main room, also for cooling issue the iron is mounted outside so that i don't need to bother when packing everything together.

Step 6: More Sawing and Glueing: Back-, Top- and Frontplate

Picture of More Sawing and Glueing: Back-, Top- and Frontplate

not much to remark here...

Step 7: Wiring and Fume-Filter

Picture of Wiring and Fume-Filter

Okay, there is not much to say, but it was really hard to hardwire the iron since one can not cut the cable of the station and solder them because you need that it runs to solder them... hard stuff, creative solution...
Wiring is simply straight forward paralell everything. The fan and the LED-Strips are connected to the AC-Adaptor output, but the fan will get a switch to interrupt.

Step 8: Done!

Picture of Done!

So here's the result


ikonko made it! (author)2014-08-28

My version of lab-in-box with following modifications:

* PSU replaced by regulated notebook adapter 12V/5A - 24V/3A (regulation below 12V still to be added)

* PSU and fume-extractor space freed for rework station 858 and back compartment for boxes with parts

* Added datasheet reader - 7" tablet

* Shoulder strip added for easier manipulation - when fully loaded box becomes heavy

* Dimensions: 44x37x32 cm

Thanks McLovinGyver for great inspiration! I like wire-dispenser compartment the most

RobertC2 (author)2015-04-24

Great example of thinking in 3D!

I like everything about it, but the wire dispenser is my favorite idea of all. ;-)

I might incorporate it into my full size work area. Thanks for the inspiration!

McLovinGyver (author)2014-08-28

Neat, like how you're able to fetch a clear look out of even the crappiest rest of wood. After half year working with the box I must say: never again without! Saves really 80% of my time!

ikonko (author)McLovinGyver2014-08-28

Sandpaper and good acrylic paint make a miracle.

flashcactus (author)2014-05-25

Hmmm.. The radiator of your power supply looks a bit insufficiently exposed to the outside air. What if you made your Fume Extractor blow the sucked air over it? That would probably provide sufficient cooling...

Other than that, both the idea and the implementation are great.

Alderin (author)2014-03-14

Great work! I keep running into the "I need more room to build the things I need to make more room". :-)

piggybankcowboy (author)2014-03-13

Nice! This is great for folks who live in an apartment/rental (like me). I'm lucky enough to have a small designated area for projects in my current place, but I'm moving soon, and may not get that luxury again, so I'm definitely keeping yours in mind. Looks solid and useful!

rush_elixir (author)2014-03-10

so cool dude! I love it

mgosztyła (author)2014-03-10

awesome. I need to build one . gunna use yours idea. perfect.

Kethurston (author)2014-03-10

I have wanted to make something like this for some time, Thank you

atlaswalkedaway (author)2014-03-08

you sir, are worthy of the title engineer. creative, precise, elegant, and simply useful. in summation, impressive. youve got my vote.

louis.m (author)2014-03-08

Real Smart Thing !

elms30637 (author)2014-03-08

I cant wait to build it!!!!!!! Perfect for my Studio thanks!!!!!!!

bolsocheio (author)2014-03-06

Well, first of all, english is not my native language, sorry for any mispeeling.

If not ask too much, would you have the plans (in cad format, for example) for the box?

McLovinGyver (author)bolsocheio2014-03-08

So there is only the sketchup file. I like it that there is a direct relation between: When it last long in sketchup, it wil last long to build in reality :) Begin every piece whith a rectangle, cut it in shape and at the end use the push/pull tool and type afterwards the thickness of the plate. By the way the little trick many user don't know: after putting a line, rectangle or push/pull you can type the measurements you mean, and it will be corrected immediately.

kenbob (author)2014-03-07

Great instructable! I have been toying with making something like this - starting with a commercial tool box. I have been trying to come up with a way to organize all the small bits ( resistors, leds, etc ) and have room and access for all the larger components. I am thinking converting the back storage into "slots" for plastic organizer containers could be the ticket!

uwezi (author)2014-03-07

Nice project. I have something in the same direction and now you triggered me to also make an instructable about that...

McLovinGyver (author)2014-03-07

I allready described: it is clearly an individual based setup, because every measurements are constrained by individual restrictions.

The deepest part inside was the power supply, what gives me 27cm in depth + frontplate-thickness (green plate deptht).

The width and height are limited through the space where the box is stored minus some cm to be able to move it there. So outer width and height makes 48cm and 37cm. The inner height (height of orange parts) therefore needs to get subtracted two times by the thickness of bottom and top plate. The Shifting of the rear orange plate to the inside is determined through a suitable thickness for cable rolls etc and then summed up, leaving the other shift. So as I told: place everything in Mind where it should be till your restriction are reached and place the small things around there. Its a design process that can't follow a strict rule. It's just important to know what you want to have inside before, since changing during production is mostly not working. There is also a construction need: You need a plate in every surface (three independend surfaces crossing parwise on long edges) to make sure it is stable and won't fold or burden the joints to much. That means in this case: green crosses orange, orange crosses blue and blue is crossing green.

And easy tools like sketchup will help you to see if it fits and intersect correct, extracting measurements for every part could be easy done here (be wise and group stuff from the beginning). Its recommended to invest some time to learn such tools, they saving you tons of time afterwards.

And at the end: you can produce every Parts just by design drawings, not by measuring the gaps of allready jointed parts. You won't stabilize sawing errors from step to step, it's visible at the end. When joing begin with clamps and staplers and see if it fits, if not, search errors in lenght and angles and correct them.

mohamed4data (author)2014-03-06

Can you show me the dimensions of every piece

bclamore (author)2014-03-06

Love it!

DDW_OR (author)2014-03-06

could put it on a folding hand cart

wish i had something like this when i was in devry

this is my "tool box" on a 2005 Honda rancher 2wd

DDW_OR (author)DDW_OR2014-03-06

the only change i would make to my tool box is move the stuff on the right to the left.

that way i can hold a ladder with my left hand and work the throttle with the right hand

McLovinGyver (author)DDW_OR2014-03-06

That and the images seems more like a apocalypse preparation... And with holding the ladder you mean?: Waving the katana?!? But then there is a questions left: why doesn't mount the chainsaw-blade in drive direction?

DDW_OR (author)McLovinGyver2014-03-06

This ATV is my everyday work "truck" for my property.

instead of going back and forth to the tool shed, i put my most often used equipment on the ATV. the ladder is either an eight foot folding, or a 16 foot extension. I remove either the pole saw or the brush cutter, then put the ladder on the outside hooks.

stay away from holders made out of plastic. it brakes in cold weather, or warm weather when you hit a tree branch

pmk222 (author)2014-03-06

this is a great idea, im setting up a new work station and hoping it will be more permanent therefor i will probably make a small one for soldering and the major stuff build into a desk

AdamGalbraith (author)2014-03-06

when i do it i will use a power strip then plug every thing into it and have seperate boxes for electrical componets

phillipsjs (author)2014-03-06

Great project and congratulations on doing the Sketchup detail so quickly. Still trying to get that familiar with it.

I notice that you are a 'lefty' from the soldering iron placement.

McLovinGyver (author)phillipsjs2014-03-06

nope, but it's intentionally there: its because the box should stand more on the left side and the cable should hang down not in front of me. And a little more artistic: I even work smd's with that old trashy lady, when my right hand is more busy with keeping the devices in place, just tipping heat can be done also with the left one.

planetscape (author)2014-03-06

Way cool idea and execution.

What kind of hand saw do you have, and where did you get it?

McLovinGyver (author)planetscape2014-03-06

Doesn't know the correct english word. It a crosscut saw with regular tooth, important is that it cuts on the push stroke (regular), since I always used a rectangular piece of hardwood to guide the saw and that works only in that direction. Found it at our local store of a big hardware chain. I think it costs me about 13 Euros (16US$) or so, thats middle price class, but totally worth it and it should be available at any good sorted hardware store. Frome time to time its recommended to oil (wd40 will do it) or wax the surface, since the friction becomes disturbing, especially when the blade is that height. But that is important for real straight cuts. Even on 27mm hardwood it makes cuts nearly as precise as pencil marks over really long distances. The height has only one big disatvantage: the direction of every cut is hard to change, so it's difficult to correct angle errors.

Ralph61 (author)2014-03-06

It looks nice but I don't think I will be doing any electronics for a while. I do have an Oscilloscope an isolation transformer and a Variac for sale as a group or separately. The oscilloscope is a Leader board dual trace type. Email me at

crazypj (author)2014-03-06

That's great, just voted for you.

I've been thinking of making something very similar but hadn't thought about wire storage or an fume extractor built in.

I'm thinking of fold down or telescopic legs as well to have a 'stand alone/transportable work station

Glad I haven't started making it yet, needs a re-design

chrism74 (author)2014-03-06

Excellent work! I've had a very similar thing in mind for a while. Even bought some hinges.

davbbley (author)2014-03-06

I am wondering, how much does this weigh, empty and fully equipped?

McLovinGyver (author)davbbley2014-03-06

way to much to called mobile, half of the weight comes from the Powere supply, the other main part from the Hardwood. I should have consider to use hardwood braces for a main structure instead of whole plates. Its alltogether at about 14kg (~30lbs)

A next sorting construction will be way much more 3mm hdf sandwich structure, since it is also much more easy to cut.

throbscottle (author)2014-03-06

I am so impressed with this! Awesome is not a word I normally use, but, well, it's awesome! I am inspired to make my own :)

sssaksena (author)2014-03-06

great idea! looks neat! good timing for spring cleaning, I need to get organized with my shoe boxes full of electronics stuff. I'm definitely going to stick with mdf and particle board and not hardwood plywood, that will add a lot of weight.

s00500 (author)2014-03-06

Hi this is a really cool Project!!!
I was thinking about building something like this myself till I discovered Ben Hecks Portable Workbench and rebuilt it =D. Check out my Version dokumented on my Website!

FryGuy2086 (author)2014-03-06

Very nicely done.

flodderke (author)2014-03-06

Great idea! ;-)

abeimers (author)2014-03-05

The bit is called a counter sink bit

nygma2004 (author)2014-03-05

Consider this: raise the components in the box slightly, and install a slide out tray (or underneath the current box). Use that as your worktop instead of the lid. This way you can leave the project, tools on the tray, just slide it in and close the box. No need to put everything neatly away. You can resume your project as you left it the last time.

McLovinGyver (author)nygma20042014-03-05

Thanks, I've thought of this in the first place, but with drawers you need always to consider: if it is in front of the workspace the work will be in the way, if it is under the frontplate it is not accessible through the plate likewise. If it is on top,then the top box would be too small. I needed a plate because soldering bigger stuff produce much dirt. I sort electronic stuff in small plastic bags, and if the box is deep enough so that it is browsable, wires, resisitors etc. That is the fastest way. Also the box should only contain the electronic-tools. All other tools are allready in a drawer at my desk and every Project got its own box - thats the result of years with a tidy-up OCD. I learned a lot at jetfighter maintanance and repair and there's the agenda to clean up after every step - really every step. I Never lost that!

clockworkfish (author)nygma20042014-03-05

That's a really awesome suggestion!

newtonn2 (author)2014-03-05

I love this! Very well made. I voted for you. All the best.

mlindhé (author)2014-03-05

Impressive woodworking! Also like your style of many pics and short texts.

padbravo (author)2014-03-05

WOW !!

That is impressive!... great project... great idea to implement...

clockworkfish (author)2014-03-05

Such an awesome project!

wquoyle (author)2014-03-05

Very smart idea, well implemented. I can see me making something along these lines too.

And in the interest of knowledge sharing: thing to sink screw heads = countersink bit :)

mat_fr (author)2014-03-03

Definitely something I should make, being in a small flat as well. Great project, thanks for sharing.

About This Instructable




Bio: When it don't work in C you need to solder it! And there is always a way! Always! And if it is an idea ... More »
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