Introduction: Wire Dispenser/Caddy

Picture of Wire Dispenser/Caddy

In my new Home Office/Workshop, I've been making space for my electronics hobby. My space has to be multi-functional and it has to be able to be tidy ... I'm not a very tidy person and my workspace can quickly become an homage to kipple (read Philip K. Dick for an explanation).

This instructable is about how I've approached the thorny issue of keeping my rolls of solid core copper wire somewhere that I can find, in a state that doesn't require untangling anything and easy to use.

At the end, I'll talk about some enhancements to the design that I've thought of, but haven't implemented.

Step 1: Make a Box

The shell of the wire organizer/caddy/dispenser is a simple plywood box. It has three sides and two ends ... nothing too fancy. I'm using a 6 mm thick plywood at a cost of $5.00 (AUD) from the hardware store, the sheet was much larger than I needed, so I have some spare for later projects..

The box is 400 x 80 x 80 mm.

Front and Back panels :- 400 mm x 75 mm (x 2)

Bottom panel :- 400 mm x 66 mm (x 1)

Side panels :- 66 mm x 66 mm (x 2)

Top panel :- 400 mm x 80 mm (x 1)

Inside the box is a 410 mm x 25 mm radius pine dowel (aka. broomstick) which I bought for @ $6.00 some time ago (to make perches for my chickens).

Make sure that your dowel goes through your wire reels, it's embarrassing to discover this late. Also, make sure that your box is big enough for your wire reels ... this can also be a bit annoying.

I cut the pieces from the plywood panel using a circular saw. To make sure that my cuts were the right size, I've made a simple circular saw sled for my saw, I clamp it to the work-piece at the cut line and I get a straight cut easily every time.

Next, I glued, clamped and nailed the front and back panels to the bottom panel. Then I clamped, glued and nailed the end panels. You can expect to get a bit of splitting if you use nails that are too big or if you don't predrill the nail holes ... I got some splitting. If your splitting isn't too serious, glue and clamp the split closed.

Step 2: Add the Dowel

When the glue had cured sufficiently, I then marked the center of both ends of the box. This is simply done by drawing a line between the diagonal corners, where the lines intersect is the middle.

I drilled a pilot hole with a 5 mm drill bit and then drilled the hole using a 25 mm spade bit.

After drilling, sand the hole inside and out and then offer the dowel to the hole ... it should be a reasonably loose fit (with about 1 mm to spare).

Step 3: Drill and Countersink Wire Holes

Picture of Drill and Countersink Wire Holes

Using your wire reel as a guide, mark the position of the holes approximately in the center of where each reel will go. I did this free-hand and the hole spacing is a little avant-gard, but what the hey?

I used a countersink drill bit to ease the drill hole. This will reduce the amount of friction when pulling wire out of the hole and reduces the amount of wear on the wire sheathing.

Step 4: Load the Caddy Up

Picture of Load the Caddy Up

Insert the dowel into one side and slip the wire reel onto the dowel, thread the wire out of the dispenser hole for the wire and repeat.

When you are loading your caddy, it's best to make sure that all of the reels are loaded in the same orientation. This reduces the accidental roll-out of wires that you aren't dispensing.

Step 5: Lid ... or No Lid

Picture of Lid ... or No Lid

You can put the lid on the caddy if you like, I'm planning to put a lid on the box to reduce places that I have to dust.

I've also bent the end of the wire over so that it "grips" the dispenser, this also reduces the amount of accidental roll-out.

I still need to put hinges on the box lid and I'll probably varnish the box.

Other Ideas

I plan to put a guide inside the box with a hinge and spring so that the wire doesn't get all tangled up inside the box.

Nylon spacers between the reels is good too ... less likely to drive other reels.

Anyway, the box is now made and ready to dispense wiry justice.

Step 6: Paint and Add Hardware

Picture of Paint and Add Hardware

Well, I said that I was planning to add hinges to the cable tidy ... so I went to the hardware store and bought 3 brass hinges (at $1.70 each).

Because the plywood is only 6 mm thick and the smallest brass timber screws that I could get were 12 mm long, I had to cut the ends off the screws and then file them down to make the screws flush with the inside of the box. I screwed the hinges into the back panel of the box and then cut them down using some side-cutters, then with a flat fine file, I ground the screws down.

As the screws were going into the back of the lid, no adjustment of the screws were necessary. I used a 3/32 drill bit to pre-drill all of the holes so that the screws wouldn't split the plywood.

I also added another piece of plywood under the lid to make the lid more solid, the piece was cut 6 mm smaller all around (12 mm off the left side and 12 mm off the back). I glued and clamped and screwed the additional panel into the lid. This was also done because the lid panel was "cupping" that is, the plywood panel was bent, so laminating the lid made it possible to clamp the bend out of the piece.

I had some gloss red spray paint in the shed that was going to waste so ... surprise! It's now red ;)


yhdesai (author)2015-02-01

Its a great idea

baelza.bubba (author)yhdesai2015-02-01

Why thank you yhdesai

yhdesai (author)baelza.bubba2015-02-02

kudos means keep it up

bettina-sisr (author)2015-01-31

Hats off to anyone who reads Philip K. Dick, oh and very nice work too:) I will take your inspiration and build one too, because right now all my different spools of wire are sitting vertically, threaded with the dowel, which means I have to unthread it every time I want a wire type that's in the middle, which is more aggravating than it sounds:0)

I hear you bettina-sisr, I hear you.

wrenv (author)2015-01-31

This would also work as a ribbon dispenser if the openings on lower front were resized........

I like to transparent lid idea also.

baelza.bubba (author)wrenv2015-01-31

you could certainly make the openings any size/shape that you need ... f'rinstance, two drilled holes and join with a coping saw to make a rounded slot opening.

Captain Greg (author)2015-01-29

Very nice! Super simple, very effective. One suggestion: make a side from clear plastic, acrylic, what have you, so you can see at a glance how much remains, when to order more.

The lid would be best to make see through and, yep, that'd be a great enhancement. You could get really tricky and fit a lever switch inside the box for each roll connected to an LED that is NO, so that when the roll get's low, it's indicator LED lights up to tell you to order a new one. However, the clear lid would be a lower cost and easier solution ;)

Hmmm.. I like the switch idea, but you'd have to make it solar, otherwise a waste of batteries or need to keep it plugged in to the wall... The clear lid would be easier, but I really like the indicator light idea...

Nice idea with the solar ... I have an plastic solar panel from that I haven't really used yet ... maybe I'll give it a spin!

ndronet (author)2015-01-29

Some of the most simplest ideas are the most brilliant! I do n-scale model railroading which requires a lot of wiring and I'm constantly misplacing my spools. The size you chose makes it easy to carry around with you while working on projects.

I think this would be cool to do in an acrylic box where you can see the spool and the colors. Lowes carries a clear acrylic sheet sheet that is 24-in x 18-in x 0.22-in (609.6mm x 457.2mm x 5.6mm) for around 20 USD which would give you plenty to make the caddy with a lid. Going to fave this and put is on my to-do list. I need experience working with acrylic anyway so now I have an excuse :)

baelza.bubba (author)ndronet2015-01-30

Thanks ndronet, that's very kind of you. I use a circular saw for cutting acrylic ... and a jigsaw. It really is much less scary cutting it than I thought it would be. There are some good instructions on the interweb for making a hot wire bending tool for acrylic ... that'd make it both easier, and give you ANOTHER project to do (I'm in the process of making one at the moment ... it has been in my shed for a couple of weeks).

ndronet (author)baelza.bubba2015-01-30

I was also reading about acrylic welds. I think that would work very well. Would still have to use screw for the hinges. How well does acrylic hold a fine screw thread?

baelza.bubba (author)ndronet2015-01-30

Yep, acrylic takes fine screw thread pretty well. I've made a couple of platforms for Arduino UNO and clones and used an M3 screw with a nylon spacer to fit the UNO to the acrylic. When I've done this, I've drilled a hole in the acrylic that was slightly smaller than the M3 and then screwed it it. The screw taps the hole nicely and it holds it well. I've never used a proper tapping tool to make the thread in the hole, so I can't comment with authority ...

HOSSEIN_GH (author)2015-01-30


baelza.bubba (author)HOSSEIN_GH2015-01-30

THanks HOSSEIN_GH, I appreciate it :)

chuckstake (author)2015-01-30


baelza.bubba (author)chuckstake2015-01-30

Thanks, chuckstake

Cat00x (author)2015-01-29

Great for all kinds of string-like objects: ribbon, strings, yarn, etc. I like the idea of separate compartments so you don't have to remove the whole dowel to get to one spool. Thanks for sharing this!

baelza.bubba (author)Cat00x2015-01-30

You are welcome treetopcoach, and thanks for your suggestion and feedback. I'm going to have to sharpen my pencil and start designing V2 of the Caddy!

judgeyoung (author)2015-01-29

Great tool, thanks! I might consider adding an acrylic lid, or even drill viewing holes above the wire outlet holes so that you could keep tabs on the amount of wire left on the spool.

baelza.bubba (author)judgeyoung2015-01-30

Thanks judgeyoung. Several readers have suggested the acrylic lid ... it's like the old saying "there's nothing on earth more powerful than an idea whose time has come" ... maybe a little dramatic for a plastic lid on a box, but, hey ... whatevs! I love that you guys have given me such kind and thoughtful feedback on my simple project. Y'all rock!

LordAnubis (author)2015-01-29

why not make compartments and remove dowel. then you can remove one wire not all. :)

baelza.bubba (author)LordAnubis2015-01-30

Heya LordAnubis, Sure, why not? Although, I'm not getting any problems with removing only one wire at a time. The dowel has a much smaller diameter than the wire spools, so, with simply bending over the end of the wire after use, the roll-out isn't really a problem.

steinie44 (author)2015-01-29

I made one for large tape rolls, have a look.

baelza.bubba (author)steinie442015-01-30

Nice steinie44, sadly, I had to get rid of my table-saw ... now I feel all nostalgic.

PJSolarz (author)2015-01-29

I used screw rod to make my wire spool holder with large wing nuts on the end. I attached L-brackets to a piece 2 x 4 as the holder. It looks like a long toilet paper holder. This idea of using the box is great, it keeps the wires separate.

baelza.bubba (author)PJSolarz2015-01-30

Thanks :) I love making boxes, so that helps to see a box as a solution!

SandLizard (author)2015-01-25

I like it. Maybe drill small holes in the dowel near each end (inside or outside of box) and stick a cotter pin in to keep the dowel from working it's way out of one of the end holes?

baelza.bubba (author)SandLizard2015-01-26

Thanks SandLizard, I thought about that and when I used the wire caddy, the dowel doesn't move much (except when I unspool the green wire, as it is tightly fixed on the dowel. A cotter pin is a good idea or even just a toothpick if the hole is tight enough. Cheers!

KrunoslavH (author)2015-01-24

May i ask where you got the wire?

baelza.bubba (author)KrunoslavH2015-01-24

Sure, KrunoslavH, I got the wire from, they have a good range, reasonable prices and 14 days to deliver to Hobart Tasmania ... I was pretty impressed with their service. The wire is sold as Hookup Wire 20 gauge x 100 feet at around $13.20 AUD at the time (exchange rates change). I've found 20 gauge to be a good size for making breadboard jumpers and generally pretty good for the electronics projects that I play with.

KrunoslavH (author)baelza.bubba2015-01-24

Thank you, I was looking to get some and now I know where.

Quanah (author)2015-01-24

Good job. Maybe you could add some pads underneath the lid to rub on the spools, keeping them from free wheeling and the accidental rollout, and from rolling-in causing the wire to go back into the box.

baelza.bubba (author)Quanah2015-01-24

Thanks Quanah, that's a good idea ... I'll give it a go and see if it works better than the springs.

About This Instructable



Bio: I have been working in IT since the mid 1980's. Most of that has been database and application development. I've been working on ... More »
More by baelza.bubba:Simple Breadboard Switchable Power SupplyL293D Motor Direction Control for under $2.2012V NE555 PWM Controller Under $3
Add instructable to: