Introduction: Portable Electronics Workstation
Third Prize in the
Portable Workstations Contest
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.
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
11) Soldering Spring or an old wire coat hanger.
1) Wood Stain
3) Clear Coat
1) Laser Cutter OR Table Saw/Jigsaw/Bandsaw (your choice).
2) Drill with drill bits.
Step 1: 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.
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
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
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)
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
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
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
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