Introduction: Wood and Magnet Socket Holder

Picture of Wood and Magnet Socket Holder

Tired of your sockets rolling around in your drawer?  Or do you use one of those socket racks with the spring steel clips that invariably are too loose or too tight (especially for 1/4" sockets)?  Try making one of these wooden socket holders with an integrated magnet to keep your sockets where they belong.  As a bonus you can mark the socket sizes on the side of the holder in a font that is actually large enough to be legible as you age with your tools...

I made this at TechShop

Step 1: Materials & Equipment

Vector drawing software (I used CorelDraw)
Laser cutter (my TechShop has a Trotec Speedy 300)
1/2" thick 2" x 8" poplar board
1/4" thick 2" x 16" walnut board
16" of 1/2" wide magnetic strip
5 minute epoxy
150 grit sandpaper
Spray acrylic

This instructable assumes some basic familiarity with CorelDraw and a laser cutter.

Step 2: Design the Main Body

Picture of Design the Main Body

First measure the diameter of each of the sockets.  Draw a circle for each of the sockets, adding 0.02" to each diameter.  This will let the sockets drop in easily while still keeping them from moving around too much.  Make sure you are using a red line set to hairline width so that the laser cutter will know these are meant to be cut lines, not engraved lines.

Now move each of the circles onto the same horizontal line, with a 0.1" gap between each circle.  You can determine the center to center distance by adding the diameter of the two adjacent circles, dividing that by two, then adding 0.1".  Because I had both 6 point and 12 point sockets I duplicated the entire row above the first row, with a 0.1" vertical gap between the biggest sockets.  It turns out that a 5/32" 12 point 1/4" drive socket is pretty rare (and my set didn't include one).  So I replaced that socket location with my 3/8" to 1/4" adapter.

Finally, draw a rectangle around the socket holes.  For a little more visual interest, I added 1/4" radius scalloped corners.

Step 3: Design the Base

Picture of Design the Base

All of the sections will be the same shape, so start by making a copy of the main body design.  The magnetic strips will be embedded in the top of the base (so that they will be flush with the socket holes in the main body).  Using the socket holes as a guide, draw two black rectangles where the magnetic strips will go.  The magnetic strips are 1/2" wide, so make the rectangles 0.54" wide so they won't have an interference fit.  Then delete the circles and fill the rectangle with black (use black to indicate that these rectangles will be engraved rather than cut).

Step 4: Create the Socket Size Text

Picture of Create the Socket Size Text

Although the text will be engraved on the side of the main body, start by adding the dimensions on top of each circle.  These are each a simple text box, with a black line drawn to create the fraction.  Then delete the circles and outer rectangle.  Finally, draw a rectangle around the entire group of text that is the length of the main body.  This will make it a little easier to align the text on the wood when using the laser cutter.  Use a different color such as blue so that it will neither be engraved nor cut.

Step 5: Laser Cut the Pieces

Picture of Laser Cut the Pieces

Laser time!  All three pieces cut well at 100% power and 0.25% speed.  Although the walnut is much thinner than the poplar, it is harder to cut thus the same laser settings.  To create the cavities in the base piece of walnut, make multiple engraving passes until the rectangles are deep enough to let the magnetic strips sit flush in them.  In my case it took 4 passes at 100% power and 30% speed.

Step 6: Sand Everything

Picture of Sand Everything

Make a first pass at sanding all of the pieces.  It is important to completely sand the burned surface off the middle body portion where the text will go.  It takes a fair amount of effort to clear that off, and you would risk damaging the engraving if you had to sand it off after.  You can do the sanding by hand, but it is much quicker if you have access to a bench top belt sander.  The photo shows all three pieces rough sanded (I forgot to take a picture of the middle section before engraving, but I did sand it first).

Step 7: Laser Engrave the Socket Sizes

Picture of Laser Engrave the Socket Sizes

Stand the middle section of the body on its side in the laser cutter (I propped it up against another piece of wood to keep it stable).  Now engrave the text onto the side of the body.  The engraving worked well at 100% power and 30% speed.

Step 8: Epoxy All of the Pieces Together

Picture of Epoxy All of the Pieces Together

Although the magnetic strips have an adhesive strip on their backs, and the magnetic strips will be partially sandwiched between the base and the main body, I decided to epoxy them in as well.  Mix a small puddle of 5 minute epoxy and spread it along all of the outer edges of each cavity.  Press the magnets in and hold for five minutes.  Be careful not to get any epoxy on your fingers.  I flipped the base over onto a piece of parchment paper and pressed down until it hardened.  Then epoxy the poplar middle piece on top of the base, then finally the walnut top onto that assembly.

Step 9: Sand, Seal, Sand, and Seal Some More

Picture of Sand, Seal, Sand, and Seal Some More

Now sand all of the sides until there is no overhang between the three layers of wood.  Now apply a coat of spray polyurethane, let it dry, sand again, spray again, and repeat until you are happy with the finish.

Step 10: All Done!

Picture of All Done!

Now gather up your pile of sockets and put them in your new holder.  The magnetic strips are not very strong, but will help keep the sockets from accidentally popping out when bumped or jostled.  As you can see, they are just strong enough to hold the relatively small 1/4" drive sockets upside down if you are careful.  For larger sockets either use stronger magnets (if you want to invert your holder for some reason), or just accept that the magnets will help keep them in place for normal use.  Enjoy!


pgronseth (author)2014-04-27

Looks beautiful and nice directions. Unfortunately it's not much of a DIY project if very, very few people have a laser cutter. It may as well be a CNC machine or a water jet. Maybe a good old drill press will do the job.

chabias (author)pgronseth2014-04-29

I agree. It seems a lot of the projects found here lately involve CNC or laser cutters, or other gadgets that do all the work for you. I don't consider that workmanship at all. While the finished product here looks awesome, I'd rather see it made with a drill press, band saw, etc.

p3nguin (author)chabias2014-04-29

I respectfully disagree. Laser cutters and CNC machines are just tools. They aren't magical devices but actually take a lot of skill, technique and perseverance to master. Yes, they make some tasks easier but it's a whole new skill set. Someone could argue a drill press or band saw is cheating and that one should really use a handsaw and chisel to provide true workmanship. I've built my own CNC machine and it's not magical. I understand the sentiment but this is an age old position that started with the industrial revolution. Laser cutters and CNC machines will only open up new ways of artistic expression and provide a bridge for students to learn new skills including the use of a drill press and band saw.

I work in the manufacturing industry running CNC equipment and am trained as a manual machinist and I have to disagree. CNC equipment takes very little skill to operate, only knowledge. Anyone can be taught how to run a CNC, but manually doing things takes a feel that not all people have, similar to how some people can draw and others can't.

I hate seeing people use complicated but easy to use tools to make simple items, where using hand tools and a little manual labor would result in the same end product, but with more value.

That being said, great instructable!

<i>CNC equipment takes very little skill to operate, only knowledge</i>.

my point, put far more succintly. thinking and studying produce intelligence. action and experience produce wisdom. they are equally necessary, and neither is a substitute for the other. to confuse one for the other is often the source of many horrible accidents in industry.

cwisneski (author)WayneEarl2016-04-12

Anyone can *operate* a cnc machine. Our new guy (ged, never worked in a shop before) is decent after a half day of training. Setting up a cnc machine, programming it, troubleshooting, optimising, etc is not so easy. You have to have machinist and computer skills. Anyone who thinks starting with an idea in your head and ending up with perfect parts being ripped out at high speed on a cnc machine is easy, has never done it (or is a god among men, one or the other). But any amature woodworker could build this with a drill press, a table saw or band saw, and hand tools. I'd use the scroll saw i got for $20 at a yard sale, but that takes a little more skill and time (for a little nicer finished part). Technically, i have the tools and skills to build this with no power tools... but i wouldn't unless someone was paying top dollar for true hand-craftsmanship.

Everyone can draw. Most just do not think that they can. Get a book called, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, and work through it conscientiously. I guarantee by the time you're done with it you'll be drawing better than you ever imagined that you could. That book will blow your mind! I can just about guarantee that too. It might even permanently alter your perception of yourself, and the rest of the world too. It is some freaky stuff.

I've read another of her books, and meh, not as good as right side. I've read Nicolaides The Natural Way to Draw too, and it is essentially the same stuff, but much more drawn out. I have to recommend Right Side over it, as I feel the material is presented better there. But if Right Side leaves you looking for more then try The Natural Way, because it is a much longer course. So more is certainly what it has to offer.

Brittond14 (author)pfred22015-03-22

Just bought it. Thank you sir.

pfred2 (author)Brittond142015-03-24

Well let me know how it works for you. I have to say it certainly surprised me.

The machines may be easy to use with a little know-how, I was speaking to the fact that most people don't have a $20k+ machine in their garage/workshop.

Maybe it's just me but I see inscrutable's as being meant for DIY projects that can be completed for cheaper than buying a similar commercially sold product. Very few people work at a shop where a laser cutter is available for personal use.

As nice as the finished product is, I would gladly pay a decent price for a few of them made via laser cutter or take time and make one on a drill press. I've seen cribbage boards that look similar that were made with a drill press so I know it's doable.

WayneEarl (author)p3nguin2014-04-30

yes. and as an actual engineer building a lathe in my garage right now, they are just tools. however, when i was learning how to draft, long ago, my instructor was old school enough to encourage all of his students to take machine shop classes, because something neat on paper doesnt always work well in the real world. i was the only one who followed his advice, and in that machine shop, file in hand doing benchwork, i learned more about mechanical engineering in a month then in my entire time in school.

with all due respect, ive yet to meet a cnc advocate make similar statements that possesses the skill enough with handtools and small powertools to produce quality work. and many shop teachers will tell you that the proliferation of cnc machning has turned today's machinests into button pressers, little more skilled then the button pressors at mcdonalds. at the same time, this is a beautiful project. there is no shame in using the best tools one has access to. dont player hate if you cant participate - save your pennies and harbor freight coupons for your own lathe.

pfred2 (author)WayneEarl2014-06-16

I've made a couple of wood lathes. If I beef up the spindle on my last one, and make a carriage for it, I might even be able to do a bit of metal working on it too I think. At least that was the plan a while back. Someday maybe. If you show me yours I'll show you mine. Homemade lathe that is.

It took me a while to put that one together.

Many of us used hand tools and basic machines to be able to read a level where we can afford access to and know how to run cnc machines.

While you may argue that CNC operators are just button pressers, you need to know how to machine effectively before you can tell the machine how to do it by itself, and know what is happening in order to troubleshoot when things go wrong.

The reason yo see more projects liek this is because more people are gainng access through Techshops and make spaces to machines that either help them make interesting objects, or help them build their own tools.

About 20 years ago, I use to operate a 5'x10' bed CNC router in a high end cabinet shop. We made all the store fixtures for over 500 Sports Authority stores. Once the pattern was made, I set up the vacuum table, loaded the wood and pushed a button. It's chimp work. It's a great tool for production. But it's not woodwork.

At Disney almost 30 years ago I saw a CNC Airbrush tshirt painting machine. Would you call those t shirts it produced "art"?

pgronseth (author)WayneEarl2014-04-30

Gotta love the 20% off coupon at HF, as long as you know what to get and what to stay away from.

Great comments.

Vampyra65 (author)chabias2014-04-29

I agree with both of you.

hmonnier (author)Vampyra652014-05-02

This argument has 2 sides. We all use tools in the production of our 'products'. Being a woodworker for several years that has migrated to CNC, I can understand the point of the 'purists'. However with CNC, you are designing your project on a PC where we all used to do it on graph paper. I design on PC, to the same tolerances as I did by hand. Both sides need the same spacial visualization capabilities to produce a quality product. Like it or not, the computers are invading all facets of our lives, why not in woodworking (or other mediums) as well. It will only become more pervasive as time marches on.

One way things are easy with CNC are those who download already completed projects, then produce them. No PC or design skills needed for that. Those who think Vector designing is easy ought to design a 3d project....Then 'cut' it................

mrandle (author)pgronseth2014-05-02

I both agree and disagree. This could easily be replicated with hand tools but its a very cool idea that I would not have though of had I not seen it here. I agree though lately Instructables has been becoming saturated with things made at tech shop and with complex machinery (3-d printers, CNC etc.). Guess it just means we have to be more creative in the execution lol.

pfred2 (author)mrandle2014-06-16

Having made a couple of socket holders manually using a milling machine as a drill press I have to say it is somewhat of a pain to do. For each drive the larger size sockets are all different diameters. So that means a lot of bit changes. You also should drill flat bottom holes to hold the sockets in, and drill them to a uniform depth too.

All of this together adds up to it being somewhat of a hassle to do. Now for pix, or it didn't happen

mrandle (author)pfred22014-07-11

I agree but if you don't have access to a CNC or a 3-D printer it would be difficult to pull off. You could drill all the way through then you wouldn't have to worry about uniform depth and then mount the magnet strip on the bottom and then the wood. That way you wouldn't have to match the drill bit size too closely to the socket because the magnets will hold it in place. ANd i suppose not all people would have drill bits in that large of a size either, I don't think I have anything larger than 1/2 inch. I should have said it is possible to do with hand tools but not easy.

pfred2 (author)mrandle2014-07-12

I really do not like any of my tools being magnetized. That makes little bits of metal grit stick to them. So a magnetic strip on the bottom is a no go for me. Spade bits work great in wood, and come in some large sizes too. I think I have them up to 1-3/16" Spade bits up to one inch are quite common. Get spur spades if you get a set. The spurs really help keep the holes clean.

swetherbee (author)2014-09-12

Looks great. I just wonder why make it out of wood if your going to go to all the trouble setting up a laser cutter. Brass and aluminum would look really cool.

melance (author)2014-08-29

Very cool idea to use the magnets. I'm thinking of doing the same with electromagnets so I can turn them off when I'm using the sockets and back on when I'm not.

Jiggsy (author)2014-04-27

I concur with pgronseth. If I had a Tech Shop around the corner, I'd be down there tonight turning this baby out. As such, I'm faving it in the hopes I can recreate it using a table saw, a drill press and a LOT of Forstner bits.

pfred2 (author)Jiggsy2014-06-16

Thinking about this project some more I don't know why I don't just drill clear through the holder, then glue a piece of hardboard onto the bottom once I am done drilling for all sockets. It would eliminate depth stopping, or the need for bits that drill flat bottom holes.

pfred2 (author)Jiggsy2014-04-29

My Forstner drill bit set is only in 1/8" increments. Paddle bits work almost as good though if you do not mind the spur hole coming through the bottom. I think when I made my socket holders I used a few end mills too. One thing I noticed is once you go below the drive size all bits are the same on the bottom, which is nice. Makes for less bit changes then.

One trick I learned making my wrench organizers is putting a little spot of hot glue in a place I want tools to hold. Hot glue has a nice grip even when it is setup. I would drill a little hole and squirt some hot glue into it, letting a bit of the glue protrude. Holds stuff firm like fingers.

pfred2 (author)2014-04-27

Do the magnets magnetize your sockets? I am not a big fan of magnetized tools personally.

ksexton1 (author)pfred22014-04-29

Those rubber type magnetic sheets shouldn't magnetize the sockets, they are usually actually like a bunch of relatively weak long thin magnets, oriented alternating north up, south up. so even a small socket is held by several opposing magnets, and their effect in magnetizing the socket is pretty much cancelled out.

This would not apply if the neodymium magnets some have suggested were substituted.

pfred2 (author)ksexton12014-04-29

That's good. Because magnetized sockets tend to get metal grit stuck to them, and metal grit can be very bad dropped into some places where it should not be. Like inside engines. The problem is a little tap knocks the grit right off, where you do not want it to go!

I actually have an electric degausser to demagnetize tools. I do not think most folks have one of those though. I really do not like tools being magnetic at all. Not even a little bit.

I've made wooden socket holders and they stay in the holes well enough for me without any magnets. Although I did put a bale on one of the wooden holders I made.

I made it in my garage.

amclaussen (author)pfred22014-06-15

Me too. I think magnetized sockets can drop metallic shavings inside delicate mechanisms like engines etc. Could you describe your degausser please? I use a heavy wire (about 6 AWG solid wire) coiled into several turns and attached to a pistol type soldering gun to provide the large current to completely demagnetize my screwdrivers. The thing is that i need to remove the screwdriver blade very slowly from the coil in order to properly demagnetize it. And my set-up overheats the wire fast! Amclaussen.

pfred2 (author)amclaussen2014-06-16

I bought my degausser and I have never looked inside to see what is in there. The thing is a complete mystery to me. An honest to goodness black box, except it is chrome colored. Imagine, if you will, if someone encased a brick in heavy gauge sheet metal and you've a good idea of what my degausser looks like. I assume there is a powerful electromagnet of some kind inside of it. Sort of like a half of a transformer?

Although what gauge wire it is I've really no idea. I can say this, my degausser is quite heavy. It weighs more than if it just had a masonry brick inside of it.

I'm not even sure if it is made to open it up, to look inside. It might be welded closed. Someday if it ever stops doing what it is doing I would be motivated to investigate further. As of now I just use the thing though. It works as good today as the day I bought it too. Which was a long time ago now. It sits on my welding bench, in the corner of my shop, leaning up against the wall. So it is not exactly front, and center, if you know what I mean. Whenever magnetism rears its ugly head, I go over there, turn the degausser on, and pass the offending item over it. That is the extent of my interaction with the tool.

I will add this, I do recall receiving some brief instructions with the unit that explained the use of the device. I recall those instructions saying not to leave the unit powered up for any extended period of time. So overheating might just be an endemic problem with degaussers. Bearing this in mind I have only ever ran mine for seconds at a stretch. As long as it would take someone to pass something at a fair clip from corner, to corner over a brick, then from opposite corner, to corner, describing an X in total. Because that is how I use my degausser. One or two X motions does the trick.

You may be wondering where I managed to buy such a unique device. I bought it a long time ago from Harbor Freight. It appears to be some kind of a genuine salvage item that they fell into somehow. It was incredibly dirt cheap as I can recall too. The figure of $8 comes to mind today. How this thing was even shipped for that price I cannot tell you. But that is part of why I bought it.

I'm sorry I cannot tell you any more, but this is all I know about my degausser. I suppose I should attach a picture of it. This is it's Internet debut. I've never thought much about it really.

lime3D (author)2014-04-27

I love it. I think I'd like to also add a magnet to the bottom to stick it to the side of a toolbox (or even a car) while working.

espdp2 (author)lime3D2014-05-05

Best comment so far. Great idea!

WayneEarl (author)2014-04-27

here's an adaptation for a drill press, without laser cutter: if using wood for the body, use forestner bits, and compensate for larger/less smooth progression of drilled holes with substituting a single sheet strong magnet underneath (as opposed to the dual magnet strips in the original). This exposes each socket to more direct contact with the magnetic field and the magnet it self, and should compensate for the larger tolerances in hole diameter.

ive got a nice steel plate and some indexed drill bits for steel cutting. I'm thinking about doing the body of this 'ible using that steel plate, drilled in my drill press, stud the plate with small studs that i can then use to fasten the magnet sheet to the bottom of the plate. i feel "pulled" towards doing it this way ;-)

pgronseth (author)WayneEarl2014-04-29

good thinking. noted.

Jdsardone (author)2014-04-26

From one Joe to another, Looks great, now if only i had a laser cutter...

pfred2 (author)Jdsardone2014-04-29

A drill works just fine. Time on laser tubes is expensive.

tsknutsen (author)2014-04-29

Very nice and i would love to need one, but unfortunately kinda redundant since -i think- all of my sockets are stainless steel and not very magnetic. Still i love the look of it.

boxcarmj (author)2014-04-29

Very NICE!!!


RL83 (author)2014-04-29

I like this project and like the suggestion of putting magnets on the bottom. You could drop some neodymium magnets flush mounted into the bottom of this and that should be more than enough to hold all of the sockets you can drop in this thing.

martriguez2005 (author)2014-04-27

it looks great but some people like me we do not have such tools like laser cutter. .. too bad for me..

DCA (author)2014-04-27

Very cool project! Wish I had acess to a laser cutter.

GarageGuru (author)2014-04-27

A great idea, and looks amazing.

bob3030 (author)2014-04-27

Great job! Thanks for sharing.

stereophonic (author)2014-04-27

so pretty! Nice work.

ochâtelain (author)2014-04-26

really cool, this could work for a nice bit-holder too

Honus (author)2014-04-26


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