Electronics Components Storage





Introduction: Electronics Components Storage

Electronics is great fun, but you do end up with lots of different types of components which need to be stored individually.

I kept mine in a series of small plastic divided cases (Tactix brand), but the cases themselves were getting a bit out of control.

I liked J-Po's cabinet design but my cases had slightly curved edges which meant that they would not be held securely by the method J-Po had used.

Jesper75 had built a cabinet for the same style of cases, but I didn't want to have to cut, paint and fit the number of shelves which I would have required.

The requirements for my solution were to have as little space between the cases as possible and to use timber which I already had.

I decided to use aluminium extrusion to make holders for the cases, and since it would have been annoying to fit these once the carcass was assembled, I also decided to finish the surface before assembly. Unusual, and probably not an experiment which I will repeat, but a method which worked "well enough."

Step 1: Uprights

Starting with the thicker (18mm) piece of spare ply, I needed seven cases to store the 2% resistor series which was the largest range of one type of component, so the columns had to be at least that high.

I decided on having three columns of cases, which means four uprights. I cut the outside uprights about half an inch deeper so that the back of the carcass could be recessed.

The third picture shows some thin hardwood strips (saligna) which I'd cut a few years ago. I glued those to what would be the exposed front edge of the plywood using ordinary PVA (Elmer's glue) and (as you can see from the fourth picture) lots of clamps.

Trimming the excess of the hardwood facing was done using a router with an edge-following bit. I usually tried to go just a little proud of the edge to avoid damaging the ply.

Once the router had taken most of the overhang off, I used a small plane to get the saligna absolutely flush, and then cleaned up the crossgrain overhang with an xacto saw.

Step 2: Top and Bottom

I only had 7mm structural ply for the top and bottom, but I also had two smaller, mismatched pieces of very thin ply with different facing layers.

As you can see from the left hand edge of the piece in the third photograph, this proved difficult to cut with the circular saw.

Laminating the pieces took a lot of glue and a lot of clamps.

While I used the same technique to apply a facing laminate of saligna to the edge of the joined board, this time I remembered the trick of protecting the timber surface from the follower bearing on the router bit by using masking tape.

The last two photographs show me concealing the crimes of the slipping saw by covering the damaged rear edge of the top with another strip of saligna. It actually ended up looking OK, so phew.

Step 3: Cutting the Aluminium Supports

The cases are not very heavy, but I still chose 3mm thick aluminium, 30x30mm extrusion. I bought ten metres which was about a hundred bucks.

Cutting it was noisy and time-consuming, but otherwise pretty simple. I stacked the four sections of extrusion together so that I only had to do a quarter of the cuts.

I wanted a recessed edge to the front to give a neater look, to give support and to ease insertion and removal of the cases. This meant that the right-had and left hand pieces had to be mirror image, but since I decided to not care about the appearance of the end of the slide which would be hidden in the depths of the cabinet, whether that was straight across or angled didn't matter.

Using an angle-grinder and metal-cutting disc (well, three metal-cutting discs) left a few sharp burrs on the edges, so I filed those by hand.

In doing this, I learned that aluminium clogs up files quite quickly. On-line tipsters recommend coating the file with beeswax before starting, but it's easy and quick enough to clean the file with a brass wire-brush. Make sure that it is brass, as the more common steel brushes are said to damage the file.

Step 4: Drilling Screw Holes in the Aluminium

I used a drill press and a 4mm bit, which gave a good clearance for the M6 panhead screws I was going to use to fix the racks to the uprights.

I fixed a piece of 2x2 to the drill-press platform to hold the aluminium against, and marked a couple of lines on it to give a rough idea of where to hold the workpiece. Holding the piece tight for the left-hand hole was quite difficult as the drill-press is designed for right hand use.

The holes were good, but again the aluminium burrs quite badly, so I changed the drill bit for a countersink bit and they tidied up nicely.

Step 5: Mounting the Rails

I wasn't sure how much space the cases would need for easy removal, so I supported a shelf on two cases and shimmed it up until I was happy, then I made a template block of that thickness and used that to space each rail.

Each rail was spaced from the one below, so to avoid any errors building up over the height of the cabinet, I used the template to set the front of the rail, then duplicated that distance from the top of the upright at the rear of the rail.

Step 6: Assembling the Cabinet

The top and bottom pieces weren't squared, so I had to be careful in setting the line of pilot holes for connecting to the end upright.

Once everything was clamped at right angles and the first end piece attached, everything went together nicely, and a quick test fit of the cases was perfect.

Step 7: Tidying Up and Fitting the Back

Once the sides and top were together and checked true, I trimmed the worst of the excess with handsaw, then tidied up with the router, and then finally concealed the crimes with a couple of coats of the same stain that I'd used for the rest.

The fillets which would be used to retain the back panel got a couple of coats, hanging up to dry.

Then they were nailed into medial side of the two outside uprights to support the end of the back panel, which was pinned against them and then held in by strips mounted on the outside back.

Finally, I removed the countersunk screws from the top, and replaced them with nice brass ones with matching cup washers.



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    What kind of cases are you using? I've never seen ones like that.

    4 replies

    They are "Tactix" brand 310mm wide. (link not guaranteed). I have no idea why they are referred to in the web page which I've just linked as "12" compartment since they have 23 (21 with dividers and two at the front). If you are in Oz or NZ then Bunnings sell them. I'm sure that Home Depot or B&Q (left and right of Atlantic respectively) will have something pretty similar. Stanley also make slightly different ones which were used in the J-Po design which I linked in the intro.

    Seek and ye shall find. The Tactix organizers (which Bunnings misspells as "Taxtix" on their website) are available in the US at Cabela's (a hunting-fishing-boating store chain) and other retailers. However, they are much more expensive here (NZD 6.98, about USD 5 to USD 11 - 20, depending where you look).
    PS: I like your idea, just need to find the right cases!

    I use some of those cases here in OZ. You can also find them often at Cheap As Chips, and sometime The Reject Shop.

    Note, it does pay to shop around, as the price varies from store to store, and can be different at different times of the year.

    That Cabinet, is fantastic btw. Love it.

    i have maybe 2-3 of them. I think they are made by Ridgid. And i got mine from Home Depot.

    Wow, that is a lot of cases! Really nicely made cabinet. I've made some out of scrap chipboard from taken-apart furniture/kitchen cabinets, but they're not pretty! I really like your edge finishing, must try that.

    Thermal laminated tape labels work well for this sort of thing, like you make with p-touch label makers for example. They get tatty before they come unstuck.

    I keep all my re-claimed resistors in one case with 16 compartments labelled 1.0, 1.5, 1.8, 2.2, 2.7, 3.3, 3.9, 4.7, 5.6, 6.8 and 8.2 - basically the E12 series. The decades are just mixed up in each compartment, it's easy to pick them out by one colour band. It's rare I get any of the E24 values. So if I do those go in another compartment, the occasional 1% in another compartment, mixed presets in another, mixed power resistors in another, and oddities like varistors in another.

    Then I have the entire E24 series stored per value in little zip lock bags, which are stored in big zip lock bags. I write the values on with a marker.

    I hit a problem when I started re-claiming SMD's, however 1.5mL centrifuge tubes work very nicely. I need a little rack for them though, they are just in bags for now.

    Re-claimed capacitors fulfil 99% of my capacitor needs, so they get sorted by type and stored in old plastic vitamin jars. Again it's easy to pick out values from the limited range I have. Same goes for inductors.

    The ton of other stuff I have (90% reclaimed) gets sorted into little component drawer cabinets, zip lock bags and a variety of other containers. I've found the plastic containers that washing liquid capsules come in to be good for things like motors, heatsinks and transformers.

    Sorry to go on, I didn't mean to make such a long comment!

    But what I'm trying to get round to saying is that, those cases are very nice until you find you have a lot of stuff that is either so small, or of so little quantity, that it wastes a lot of compartments or space in your compartments, or is too big to fit in the compartments. Sooner or later you are going to want a more flexible system.

    1 reply

    Thanks, and good luck with putting edgings on. I found that lots of pressure for a full 24 hours was key getting good adhesion. You might try AverageJoesJoinery "How to Glue Wood Without Clamps" if you don't have clamps. Alternatively, I've used strips of masking tape before, but that can leave residue on the wood.

    I like your idea of grouping components by digit and having all the decades together, but I have more space than time, so I decided to sacrifice efficiency of packing for efficiency of retrieval. YMMV :-).

    I'm not hitting the "too many kinds of components" yet, but pfred2 at the foot of the comments is right with the "some are too big" remark. So I'm planning another cabinet to hold the next size up cases which hold the higher-power resistors.

    that's a cool idea, but man, how many electronic stuff do you have?I thought I own a lot of stuff :)

    3 replies

    You can probably put a chop saw blade in a table saw, or a mitre saw. I have a specific metal mitre saw, but the discs should be able to be mounted. If not, there must be some that are made just for standard saws. Just remember to wear ear, hand, and eye protection. Also if you cut lots of metal, wear a hat or better yet, a toque to keep metal debris "shedding" at the end of the day to a minimum. The same goes even more so if you ever find yourself wire wheeling metal (which can be quite effective for de-burring sometimes).

    "Just remember to wear eye, hand and eye protection"

    Totally agree to this one!

    I'm a big fan the "MoldEx SparkPlugs" ear plugs. No connection other than a satisfied repeat customer.

    Also, many years ago I saw a safety poster where I worked which said "You can walk with a wooden leg, but you can't see with a glass eye." That has proven a very useful reminder over the years.

    It just kind of sneaks up on you! And I have allowed for future expansion too. When I was a kid I had all my components in paper envelopes, but it's too much trouble to flick through looking for a given value. Each of the cases holds one decade of the 2% resistor range, so I can get any value I want much more quickly.

    Also (serious point) some of the cases have components with single-core hookup already soldered on to them so that I can make up breadboard circuits more quickly, and some are used for tools.

    Nice, I like the aluminum hangers, although they are a little expensive. Definitely minimizes the spacing of your boxes. We'll done, and nice finish! Having used my own cabinet for a while, I still like it. But I find myself pulling half of them out until I find the one I need. I'm thinking of labeling them maybe just with a color, so it is easier to get to the right one. I don't store electronics, but all kinds of small stuff. Congrats and good luck with it.

    1 reply

    I was a bit shocked by the price of the aluminium myself, but as I said to ReginaldoP below, there may be other stuff (e.g. square PVC ducting/pipe) which could be used.

    You are absolutely right about the labelling though! I've found that label tape does not adhere well to the polypropylene of the cases, and so I'm looking for a solution. At the moment I'm wavering between physical (wood? pvc?) labels attached to the cases or a guide down the side of the uprights. I'll post when I solve that issue (or steal your idea if you do it first).

    And thank you for your inspiration in the first place! :-)

    Very nice. Electrical components are truly a problem to store in any reasonable manner for amateurs. Often too many to mix together even in the smallest drawer, and not enough for separate drawers. Your design goes a long way towards solving this problem.

    The only thing I would point out is the finishing sequence. You mention that finishing before assembly is unusual. But many professional cabinet makers will not only finish before assembly, but even before the joints are cut. This serves two purposes. It simplifies finishing, especially in corners. It also serves to more easily remove glue squeeze out, as many glues do not adhere well to a finished surface.

    This is just an FYI, in no way a comment on the construction of your very practical and well thought out storage unit.

    2 replies

    Thank you very much for your kind compliment! I have to say that the design is really that of the posters J-Po and Jesper75 whom I credit in my intro.

    Re: the order of finishing; that is fascinating. I can see both your points, and I'd add another benefit (from which I didn't benefit) that some timbers, including the surface laminate on the thin ply which I used, can splinter and the finish soaking into the surface fibres can help to mitigate this.

    I felt rather constrained in working with finished pieces, so the joints for the cosmetic facings on the uprights aren't as tight as I'd like (about 0.3mm gap where the uprights join the horizontal members).

    I've studied gluing a lot more than I've studied finishing, so I shall have to go and do some more reading.

    Many thanks for the pointer!

    Also, if you're worried about splintering, there's two more things you can do to help.

    1) Use a sacrificial board at the ends or under your cuts that will take the brunt of the force of the tool exiting the stock

    2) Lay out masking tape along the kerf line. This works pretty well on plywood to keep it from lifting the layer of material where the blade will exit the material.

    Thanks :-)

    You don't say what the problems are, but if you're not comfortable with cutting aluminium with an angle grinder, then a hacksaw will do just as well albeit more slowly. Quieter though!

    If you have problems getting the aluminium, then you could use plastic so long as the cases were loaded with light stuff. "Top hat" trunking, or square trunking, could provide two angles per unit length, and could be cut with a hacksaw.

    If the cases are the problem, then you can just make wooden trays of a size to fit. If you look at my instructable on a "Cable Reel holder," that was made from scrap timber. It's just slightly too big for this rack, but it would be easy enough to make slightly smaller.

    Good luck with whatever you decide!

    Your storage unit looks handy for some kinds of electronics parts. I could not fit my filter capacitors into them though. Many of those are larger in diameter than your individual totes are tall. Those I keep in this rolling drawer storage unit. I have a number of storage solutions I use for different kinds of electronics related materials. As for me one size does not fit all.