Making a Box of Power

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Introduction: Making a Box of Power

Sorry: this isn't a magical device to achieve superhuman abilities. Unless you count 'availability of 22 outlets and 2 light sockets' as a superhero trait:)

Important note: please ignore me when i say "you can experiment with plugging in multiple sources of current." read sneigke's comment below to understand why this is a dangerous/stupid idea!

Here's a video of this easy-but-fun project:


This and pretty much everything else I build are for sale as kits and finished projects at my site, dirtnail.com.

Why build this? Good question. For me, it was basically because I wanted to finish a cool-looking project and get an obscene number of available outlets in a day:)

Step 1: Gather Your Materials, Tools

Here's the materials I used:
-A toolbox to ruin (or cardboard if you're ok w/ that:)
-Desired number of AC outlets
-Desired number of lightbulb sockets
-An AC on/off switch
-Some decent-gauge cable, to wire your outlets, etc. to each other
-Thicker gauge AC cord, to connect box of power to the wall. I used one from a broken surge protector.

And the tools:
-Piece of cardboard, or other suitable stencil material
-Pen/pencil/other writing instrument to use with your stencil on the side of the toolbox
-Utility blade, or something else to cut through the side of your toolbox
-Wire stripper
-Philips head screwdriver

Step 2: Stencil, Cut Your Layout

With all your parts and tools together, you're ready to plan your box of power.

Basically, this involves deciding how many and where you want any switches, outlets, and light sockets. If you're doing a bunch of something, I recommend making a cardboard cutout a little bigger than the size of your part and stenciling this on the side of the toolbox; if you're just doing 1 or 2 of a component, it's probably not worth the time to make the stencil.

To cut out the shapes, carefully use a utility blade, saw, or whatever else works well for your toolbox material. If you're using a utility blade, I can't stress carefully enough: they're easy to snap, and any red you see on the toolbox is from me doing so into my finger:)

Step 3: Wire It All Together, Screw Them In

Next, we'll wire all our outlets, etc. together.

To do this, I cut lengths of wire a few inches longer than the space between outlets, stripped both ends, and interconnected the outlets before fully securing them to the box.

Brass to black, silver to white: to wire your outlets w/ the right polarity, connect the black wire to the brass screws and the white wire to the silver ones. And, if you're more safety-conscious or just plain smarter than me, go ahead and hook up that ground wire as well:)

Your on-off switch should be connected to black (hot) directly from the incoming power cord if you want it to control power to everything.

For any light sockets: wire these such that they won't interrupt your circuit when a lightbulb is not present. One way to do this is to wire in parallel to any of the outlets (your outlets are connected in series to each other).

After I had everything wired together, I secured the whole shebang to the toolbox. For the outlets,
this meant cutting a pilot hole for the included screws and then screwing them through the plastic. On the light sockets, that's layers of electrical tape wrapped until i had a thickness on each side that was enough to keep the socket from sliding into or out of the box.

On the power cord, I tied a knot on the inside and then did the electrical tape trick for the outer.

Step 4: Shine On!

Plug in, flip your switch, and, if you've included lightbulbs and haven't miswired anything, you should be in well-lit, outlet-filled bliss.

Some improvements you might consider are:
-Adding a nonconductive, watertight sealant around the edges of the outlets.
-Providing separation between exposed, AC-carrying wires and whatever you put in the toolbox. this could be bending the wires to the side and placing an inner layer of plastic between wires and toolbox contents.
-Adding a DC converter and having one side of this output adjustable DC current/voltage for projects.
-Adding a camera, duct tape dispenser, or whatever else you never have handy but always wnat for your projects.
-Basically, anything you feel like adding on!

And, as Pink Floyd would say:

Shine on, you crazy diamond:)

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33 Comments

user

I like it, its pretty cool. It not bad but it need some kind of circuit protection. Like if you cord if it 16 AWG or gauge on it, you would need a 10 amp thermal circuit breaker or 10 amp or less fuse. And if your cord run 14 or 12 AWG or gauge on it, you would need 13 amp thermal circuit breaker or 15 amp or less for the fuse.

Yes, your outlets are wired one after another, but they are not in series; the circuitry is still wired in parallel in your instructable. I would ensure that the supply cord to the tool box is 12 gauge and that all connections between your outlets use 12 gauge wiring. The switch should also be rated at 20 amps. Ensuring those three components are up to the task of carrying 20 amps means you will not end up melting something and causing a fire if you plug the toolbox into a 20 amp outlet and draw 15+ amps. A cord from an outlet strip is not suitable for even 15 amps and poses a safety hazard as long as the toolbox design doesn't include overcorrect protection of its own.

I'm sure someone else has commented, but you should work on the construction quality. Electrical tape is nice for insulating things, I don't think you should use it to hold things in place. Over time it will fail if you are asking it to serve a mechanical rather than electrical insulation based duty.

The box itself should have some kind of over current protection. Relying on what is installed at your apartment or house is really taking your life into your own hands. Even some of your larger Microwave ovens are only rated to 1200 watts. (As to feedback on the cord you are using)

Of course, this is just me, but that plastic toolbox isn't UL listed, I would feel much safer with a metal box for grounding purposes, combined with over current protection and some sort of GFCI, you could make this a much safer project.

911 whats your emergency
----ummm my house is on fire

with that many outlets you cant use them all you will end up overloading the circuit and thripping the breaker or worse

Ya, you will never be able to use this many outlets, but if you rewired your house with larger gauge cable and put in a larger breaker you could use some of them but there is no way in hell that you could use 22 sockets from one socket, it just can't be done. The only problem with rewiring your house is that it is hard and time consuming as well as your breakers wouldn't trip when you needed them to for normal appliances. Rewiring one socket with a bigger brealer would be good though, like I had to do for my welder.

the real problem is u would be drawing to many amps

I'll admit that I'm not an expert at electricity, but having that many outlets rigged in series, and then plugging it into the wall, seems like a fire hazard to me.

i'm no expert either, but I'm sure your suppose to have a max of 10 outlets on a single breaker. and BTW, where is your ground wire? they are not there just for looks. But I do like LinuxH4x0r's comment about an inverter.

Short answer: don't use more than 15-20 amps on this unless you've got a fire extinguisher ready.

Longer answer:

The issue isn't number of outlets, but what those outlets are carrying: you don't want to pump too much current through your wires, or they get hot and bad things happen. Assuming your electrical system has properly-sized breakers, this shouldn't happen: you'd just flip a fuse before things get flammable. Keyword is assuming:)

After entry to the box and making the debatable assumption that I know what I'm talking about, the limiting factors should be:
-thickness of wires in microwave AC cord running into box: should be rated to total amperage used on box. Microwaves use lotsa lotsa current and the wires are physically thicker than the ones used between outlets, so I'm not too worried about this as my failure point
-amount of current the wires i used to interconnect the outlets can carry. according to this, I should be good on the 12-gauge wire used up to 20 amps
-switching capacity of main switch: should be rated to total amperage used on box. This was printed on the switch itself as 15 amps.
-capacity of outlets. ditto at 15 amps.

Also, for more detail than you'd ever like on grounding, check out this, courtesy of make #14 article on solar system design.