“It's best to have your tools with you. If you don't, you're apt to find something you didn't expect and get discouraged.” ― Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
Every Day Carry (EDC) is a small collection of useful things. It is also a system for framing the world through the lens of action, multiplying one's ability (real or imagined) to get stuff done. A whole collection of blogs, threads, and forums have sprung up around the phenomenon. Large companies have started to market around the trend, creating EDC categories for knives. Instructables itself also has a thriving EDC sector. The obsession extends to containers for toting around all the EDC stuff. Handsome, refined, bespoke off-the-shelf kits exist, but they are expensive.
Recently, I had occasion to make a set of groomsmen gifts, and decided on an EDC kit inside a book. Held closed with powerful magnets, it made for a small, unobtrusive case for a great set of tools. I made some mistakes along the way (documented here), and none of them came out quite perfect, but they are all sturdy companions for the daily challenges of life. Mix-and-match components and compartments to fine-tune for your own needs. If you need help tracking down the best, look at Kevin Kelly's excellent blog, Cool Tools.
Each one, including the contents, cost about $65. Relatively simple, you can build one in a few hours with off-the-shelf parts.
You will need these materials:
- Approx. 36" of 1/2" x 1/2" basswood (don't get balsa, too flimsy and splitty)
- Approx. 36" of 3/8" x 1/8" basswood
- 3 #10 washers
- 3 1/8" of 1/4" neodymium magnets
- 10" x 12" x 1/16" thick sheet silicone rubber
- Can of rubber adhesive (don't skimp, get 3M, contact cement won't work)
- Wood glue
- Gorilla Glue
- Spare batteries
You will need these tools:
- Box cutter
- Pull or craft saw
- Small miter box
- Large binder clips (to use as clamps)
Step 1: Dead Ends
I went through a lot of ideas for this kit, most of which turned out poorly. I present them here in hope that someone out there will either avoid or improve upon my dead ends.
1. My first idea was to glue the pages together and carve out niches for the tools in the manner of a classic false book. It was too labor intensive and didn't seem like it would be durable over time.
2. I cut 1/2"-thick plywood blanks the same sizes as a page in the book, traced the tools, and used a scroll saw to cut out the shapes. It was incredibly labor intensive because I had to keep detaching, threading through, and reattaching the scroll saw blade. Also, many of the interior corners were too tight for the saw, making for a rough cutout.
3. I had the same problem with foam rubber and neoprene: it was hard to get clean cuts with an X-acto and make the necessary tight interior corner cuts.
I still think the rubber solution is a good one, and if I had a little more time I would have experimented with laser-cutting layers and building them up.
Step 2: Filleting Books
For the body of the case, I bought a bunch of inexpensive hardback sketchbooks online. Using a box cutter, cut carefully down the spine of the book to separate the pages from the cover. If done right, the pages will stay together so you can reuse them as a softcover sketchpad. Try to avoid cutting through the spine of the book as you go, it's extremely easy to put a little too much pressure on the knife and pierce through.
Step 3: Rubber Lining
To reinforce the spine and make a quiet, no-mar contrasting interior, I chose a rust-red silicon rubber sheet I found on eBay. 1/16" thick, it is flexible and very smooth.
Cut a piece of rubber to the exact interior dimensions of the cover, minus 1/8" all the way around. Using a dab of Gorilla glue, attach three #10 or #8 washers inside the front cover in a row, 5/8" O.C. in from the long edge. Spray rubber adhesive on the inside of the book cover and one side of the rubber sheet. Wait a few minutes (directions on can), then adhere them together. Burnish down with the palm of your hand or the back of a spoon in an even circular pattern, working from the center out to eliminate any wrinkles. Make sure rubber fits tightly around and adheres to the washers.
Do not use spray adhesive! It doesn't stick to the rubber at all, as I discovered when one of my prototypes completely delaminated after a day.
To finish edges and reinforce spine, use fabric book tape. Super strong, sticky, and tear-resistant, book tape is pricey but worth it. Take care to keep all the edges straight and even, and burnish down with the back of a spoon.
Step 4: Framin'
To form the box inside the book, I took inspiration from old letterpress job cases used for storing wood type. While the compartments don't hug the EDC items super-tightly, bars across the inside of the cover and neoprene weatherstripping keep things from shifting too much.
Using a small miter box and a pull saw, cut three pieces of 1/2"-square basswood to form a "U" around the perimeter of the back cover, with the two short bars of the "U" dead-ending into the spine. Mine was approximately 5-1/2" x 8-1/2". Make sure you line up the long piece of the "U" with the washers on the inside of the front cover. Fasten the wood with a little bit of Gorilla glue and enough binder clips to maintain good clamping pressure. Top the perimeter with a second layer of 3/8" x 1/8" basswood to make a stepped rim.
Fit 1/2"-square stock pieces inside the box to make compartments for each tool. Top the interior divisions with 1/2" neoprene weatherstripping. Reinforce the weatherstripping adhesive with some super glue to ensure it stays in place.
Glue two 3/8" x 1/4" basswood strips along the inside of the front cover so that when the book is closed the strips act as retaining bars for the items inside.
Pre-drill and fasten the corners with Spax #6 hardwood/MDF screws, being careful not to split the stock. While not strictly necessary, these screws reinforce everything, tighten up the spine, and will ensure your EDC book lasts a long time.
Step 5: Finishing Touches
Close the book and use a pencil to lightly scribe where the washers hit the wood frame. Drill carefully, straight down, with a 1/8" bit at each mark. Insert magnets with a dab of epoxy and make sure they are fully seated and flush. THose little magnets can be really hard to handle, especially with a sticky dab of epoxy on the bottom. I found the best method was to pick the magnet up with a hammer, then use the hammer to firmly press (don't hit) the magnet down into the hole.
I customized each case with a little embossed label made with an old-school Dymo label maker. I used a little super glue to make sure the label stayed put.