Introduction: Portable Electronics Workstation

Picture of Portable Electronics Workstation

As a college student from time to time I need to solder some things. Additionally when people find out that you have tools, you become the go to guy to fix anything that breaks. So to help with this, I designed this portable workstation that allows me to take all my soldering equipment to a different location without loading up a backpack full of smaller containers.

The container is 11"x11"x11", with places for soldering equipment that you would need for basic repairs. The whole box weighs just under 20 pounds which makes it really good for moving around. Generally speaking I do repair work rather than creative work when it comes to electronics. With that said, my box lacks a multimeter, but it could be easily added if you needed one. Also, I think the best part about this box is that it has a built in exhaust fan. No one wants to inhale lead based solder, or solder smoke in general.


MATERIALS:

1) Half a sheet of 1/2" plywood. (preferably birch ply).
2) Wood glue/Tight Bond.
3) Hinges (4).
4) Locks (3).
5) Handle (1-2 based on preference).
6) Armature wire (Also known to be called floral wire).
7) Small Fan.
8) Power Strip.
9) Two Alligator Clips
10) Epoxy
11) Soldering Spring or an old wire coat hanger.

OPTIONAL:
1) Wood Stain
2) Paintbrushes
3) Clear Coat

TOOLS:
1) Laser Cutter OR Table Saw/Jigsaw/Bandsaw (your choice).
2) Drill with drill bits.
3) Screwdrivers.

Step 1: Cutting/Glueing the Box

Picture of Cutting/Glueing the Box

For this step, you can either use a laser cutter like I did, which took around 20 minutes. Or if you do not have access to one, this could be cut out on a table saw, with a jigsaw or a bandsaw. This would take more time but is completely possible. Either way you choose, cut out the pieces as well as the windows that are on two panels. The small window is to run power into the box, and the large one is for the fan that will work as an exhaust system.

If you are planning to cut this on a laser cutter, below should be two files, one is an .ai file. Also there should be a .dxf file for those who do not have a machine capable of running Illustrator.

If for some reason the files below are not showing up please leave a message in the comments and I will try to fix that.

Once you have cut everything out, start glueing the box together with wood glue. I used some clamps to hold it together over night while the glue settled.

****************************************************UPDATE*************************************************************
Below I have done some screenshots of the digital file I used to cut these, with call outs for dimensions.
I do realize that some of the numbers are a bit obscure, but when you're using a laser cutter and don't have to physically do the cuts or measure them out yourself being obscure is not really issue.

If there is anything else you guys need, just leave a comment down below and I will try to get back to you as soon as possible.

Step 2: Cut the Box and Bevel the Window Doors

Picture of Cut the Box and Bevel the Window Doors

To get working on the inside of the box, we need to split the box in half. To do this I cut it on a table saw using a fence to make sure everything stayed clean and straight. When cutting the box remember the kerf (thickness) of your blade, if you don't account for it, you cut will not be centered.

Once the box is cut in two, take the two window pieces and bevel the top edge at a 45 degree angle. An after thought I had once I put the whole box together was to shave off about 1/8" from the top of both door flaps. I would suggest doing this because the locks I used for the windows actually pull up on the doors a little bit, making them pinch and not open as smoothly as I would want.

Step 3: Shelves and Cross Bar

Picture of Shelves and Cross Bar

The next step is to place the shelves. Two of the shelves are just solid blocks, the last one has the holes for solder and lighters. I cut my holes after I cut the shelf, but it can be done simultaneously if you are using a laser cutter. In this step you should see a very crude diagram with the measurement call outs for each shelf part. Though because everything rests upon something else the pieces tent to place themselves.

Also note, the shelf with the holes; in my image, they are off center. This is because I had the laser on the laser cutter jogged without knowing. If you use the plans I provided and the laser is at 0,0 then it should come out center-ish. The round holes are for solder and/or small screwdrivers; the oval ones are meant for lighters, I didn't have any on hand to place in there however.

For the cross bar, I suggest setting it to your own location. A lot of the placement is based on the size of your wire spool. For mine, I placed it 3 inches down from the inside edge and 2 inches back from the front edge. 

One thing to note, I highly recommend sanding the whole box down before you put in the shelves. If you don't, the small areas are hard to work around. I would even go as far to say you may want to stain you pieces before glueing them into the box as well.

Step 4: Finishing (Stain and Hardware)

Picture of Finishing (Stain and Hardware)

The last part of this project is to finish your box. I personally chose to stain my box with a mahogany colored stain and really like how it turned out. Also you can add hardware. Because availability for hardware will differ based on where you are I will not specify the ones I used. Overall though, you want a hinge and a locking system for each window door. Two hinges for the back. A locking system for the front. And finally a handle for the top. Placement is up to you and what is most convenient. 

Step 5: Installing Fan, Wire Holders, and Soldering Iron Holder

Picture of Installing Fan, Wire Holders, and Soldering Iron Holder

Install the fan directly over the Fan Window.

To make the Wire Holders take your armature wire and epoxy one end into the alligator clips. Take the other end and glue it into the back corner of the box (see pictures). I made a small hole for the wires, so that they are anchored into the wood. I then bent the armature wire so that the alligator clips were directly in front of the fan. Epoxy the armature wire in the corners to give then a little more rigidity.

The last part of the is to make/install the soldering iron holder. I made mine with an old coat hanger. If you take one and wrap it around a broom or other dowel you can make a coil. Once you have your coil, drill a small hole in the shelf and epoxy it in.

Step 6: Project Finished

Picture of Project Finished

Once you fill up your box with your tools, you're ready to start working.

I hope that you liked this project. If you have any questions, feel free to leave them down in the comments and I will do my best to respond as soon as possible

Comments

sergior112 (author)2017-05-04

gracias muy util

kbbaktha (author)2015-05-24

This has a looks and finish of a Treasure Chest. Wonderful. Thanks for sharing.

SparkySolar (author)2014-10-19

Thank you for your Instructable

Nice job.

Rima

SparkySolar (author)2014-10-19

Thank you for your Instructable

Nice job.

Rima

Tommyb345 (author)2014-04-12

Thanks for the update. Keep up the good work.

nickneubrand (author)Tommyb3452014-04-22

Hey Tommy,

The file sizes for the printable plans are too large. I'm still working to get them to upload. Sorry for the delay.

Tommyb345 (author)nickneubrand2014-04-22

That's perfectly fine. I'm on vaca for the week anyway. Can you email them to me when you do? Tommyb345@yahoo

nickneubrand (author)Tommyb3452014-05-04

Hey Tommy,

I'm really sorry it took so long, but I just got the plans uploaded on step #2, they are in PDF format and are files that are 12'x12'. Hope that you have fun building this if you still choose too. I will also be sending the plans to the email you provided above.

Sorry for the delay,

-Nick

swaggoner (author)2014-04-08

What power lasercutter? Just curious, I have a 50W and don't think I would quite make it through 12-13mm birch!

J,R,D, Ltd (author)swaggoner2014-04-14

You can always "engrave" the design on the wood with the laser cutter and then cut it out with a saw.

nickneubrand (author)swaggoner2014-04-08

I'm pretty sure it was 120W. You could just take multiple passes at it. I'll be putting up plans with dimensions this weekend. Though if you have laser cutter I imagine that you have some form of program that could open up the files to find the dimensions if you need them sooner. My suggestion, if a laser cutter is not going to work, open the files and print out each component and glue/tape it onto the wood you will be using and cut it out that way. If you print at 100% from the files there should be no need for measurements.

MercuryCrest (author)2014-04-13

Love the finished look of this piece. Really excellent. Had to vote for this one, even though electronics is magic, as far as I'm concerned. ;)

foobear (author)2014-04-12

Lovely. Looks good. I need about 10 of these.

nickneubrand (author)foobear2014-04-12

My end goal, is to have about 5-10 of these that are all for different uses. I'd really like to have one with a mini table saw in it and a mini disk sander. If you build some of these please link a picture, I'd love to see what you come up with.

Tommyb345 (author)2014-04-08

Can I get the dimesions for all the parts? I don't have illustrator. And I'm not planning on laser cutting it. Thanks.

nickneubrand (author)Tommyb3452014-04-08

Yeah no problem, I'll try to get the physical plans up over the weekend.

Tommyb345 (author)nickneubrand2014-04-08

That's really nice of you. It'll make a great little weekend project for me:)

nickneubrand (author)Tommyb3452014-04-12

Hey Tommyb345!

I just uploaded images that have the dimensions of the box components in "step2" which should help if you are building the box by hand. I am also going to try tomorrow to make .jpg images that I can be printed out and be full scale for those who don't have software to open an .ai file or .dxf.

If I can do that, I think it will save a lot of people time because you could just tape down the printouts and cut around them, not having to worry about the exact dimensions.

If I am successful with it, I will leave another comment under this so you know.

Thanks for your feedback on this project,

-Nick

PhilKE3FL (author)2014-04-09

Two things you should add to this:

1. cmlsupply.com $6 for five solder fume absorber replacement filters - I believe these are 6" X 6" square and about 0.25" thick. One of these can be cut to size and mounted between the fan & the exhaust port from the inside so you don't just blow the lead fumes around to inhale later. From USA, took ~ 5 days to Maryland

2. Perhaps a soldering iron tip cleaner? I got mine from eBay, wellparts, #180907115396 ~ $4.50. From China, took ~ 13 days to Maryland. email: tinazhang1227@live.cn

I have no interest in either supplier other than that is where I picked up these items. I've dealt with cml for years, the eBay supplier, wellparts, just this once last year but at least the items arrived in well under the 30 day limit of either eBay or PayPal to start a case, should the items not arrive.

Edgar (author)2014-04-09

Very nice!

Perfect for Fablabers.

killersquirel11 (author)2014-04-08

Nice work!

I'd probably have made some different choices to suit my workflow better (old PSU converted to bench supply, soldering station with controllable temperatures rather than that firestarter, and a fold-out or removable panel to be used as the actual working area)

I actually took most of those into consideration when building this. I didn't go with the PSU to cut down on weight, because thats an extra 5 pounds easily. It also takes up a lot of space. I just used a soldering iron that I had on hand. They make adjustable ones that go into a power strip and I will probably pick up one eventually. I also purposely didn't build in a work platform because of the nature of the project. For me, I'm forced to work at the edge of a desk which means I don't have a surface for an external workspace. This was also the reason I kept the wire holders attached and within the box. Pretty much if you can fit the open box on a surface, you can work, that was my goal.

srilyk (author)2014-04-08

Gorgeous box!

ghaines1 (author)2014-04-08

Having the fan is a great addition. You've got to keep those fumes away from your lungs.

jrudisill9182 (author)2014-04-07

Adam Savage would approve of this box. I think. Adam? Care to Chime in?

Exactly my thoughts!

Fujo (author)2014-04-08

Can I just double check that you said it weighs about twenty pounds/just under one and a half stone?

nickneubrand (author)Fujo2014-04-08

Yes sir, that is what mine weighs with the components I used. If you added some other components like a multimeter, light, more spools of gauge wire. Then you could be pushing 30ish pounds. Even then, its sill pretty mobile.

s00500 (author)2014-04-08

Nice Thing!!
I've done something similar:

http://lbsfilm.at/the-portable-workbench/

rishichavda (author)2014-04-07

Really nice workstation that can be packed away easily! I would personally prefer the cables to come out of the back of the enclosure so it doesn't get in the way while soldering. Nevertheless excellent build.

Costarus (author)2014-04-07

Excellent idea and realization! I will certainly do this. It is necessary to add the lighting on a flexible cable.

nickneubrand (author)Costarus2014-04-07

Yeah, adding lighting would be really easy. Post a link/picture if you happen to add one. I'd love to see what you come up with.

About This Instructable

54,747views

576favorites

License:

More by nickneubrand:League of Legends - Riven Sword PropDIY Disk Sander from Corded DrillPortable Electronics Workstation
Add instructable to: