As wooden animal-shaped desk toys seem to be all the rage these days, I thought I'd make something to keep the cables on my desk organised. On any given day there are headphones, charging cables for my phone and various tablets trailing across my desk and regularly falling on the floor. I decided to make something to keep them together, and an octopus seemed like the logical choice.
Step 1: Design It
After looking up a few cartoon octopuses* on the internet, I did my design in Inkscape (free vector art software, available on Windows and Linux). The curvy octopus was a great opportuniy to practise using the Bezier curve tool. How Bezier curves actually work involves some fairly complex maths, but if you draw some Beziers and play around with the control handles you'll get a feel for how they behave and how to create nice looking curves.
* My vet housemate told me the plural should technically be octopodes- see here for more.
Step 2: Test the Design
If you're designing a 2D object, you can make sure the measurements and scale are right by printing your design at 100% size on a regular printer. Going through a couple of design revisions on paper is cheaper and quicker than using solid materials. I knew my design was too big when it wouldn't fit on a whole sheet of A4 paper, but after a 50% scale everything looked about right. The printout also made me notice a couple of sharp corners I'd accidentally left in the outline, which I could go back and fix in Inkscape.
Step 3: Make It!
There are a couple of different ways you could make your octopus. If you have access to a laser cutter, they are quick and very accurate (and can etch the octopus' face at the same time!). If you don't have your own laser you can always use laser-on-demand services like Razorlab (UK) or Ponoko (USA).
Alternatively, you could cut out the shape with a scroll saw or fretsaw, though the tiny curves are fiddly. If you don't have access to either of these, you could cut the shape out of a material like foamboard using a craft knife.
Step 4: Organise Some Cables
You'll probably need to attach the octopus to the surface of the desk somehow, or it will just fall off along with all the cables. It could be clipped to the corner of a desk with bulldog clips, or stuck on with blu tack or double sided tape. My office doesn't have any of those things so I just stuck it down with parcel tape.
Slot a cable into one of the curled tentacles, and the connector on the end should hold the cable until you need it again. You could even make a larger octopus to hold small hand tools like screwdrivers and files. Don't limit yourself to octopodes, either- if you've got enough cables to organise I'd love to see a hexadecapus :)