Introduction: $1 Socket Tray

About: I'm a husband and father that loves working in the garage. From sewing to welding to wrenching on engines and everything in between.

I received some large metric impact sockets for Christmas. The packaging that they came in wasn't suitable to be used as normal tool storage because it was very difficult to get the sockets off of the packaging. I also didn't want the heavy sockets just rolling around in the drawer of my toolbox. I have some plastic socket trays to keep my other sockets organized, but I've found that they break easily and are generic enough that a person typically does not have a socket to fit each of the specially sized locations in the tray. I decided to make my own socket tray out of materials I mostly had on hand. I made a video to show the steps. It's posted below. If you prefer to read and look at pictures, follow along.

Click HERE to watch me build the socket tray

For this project, you'll need the following.

Materials needed:

  • Scrap wood (sheet) - FREE
  • Dowel rod - $1
  • Wood glue - FREE

I used 1/2" plywood that I removed from the front of my house on a siding replacement project a couple years ago. Depending on your layout, you could also use a 1x2, 1x3, or similar. For the dowel rod, since the sockets that I'm using are 1/2" drive, I purchased a 1/2" dowel rod. If you're using 3/8" or 1/4" drive sockets, use the appropriate sized dowel.

Tools needed:

  • A tool to cut wood (handsaw, jigsaw, bandsaw, tablesaw, etc.)
  • Drill
  • Drill bit (appropriate sized)

Step 1: Other Considerations

You can easily do the following steps with no regard for spacing or layout or order. You could simply just "eye ball" it and drill some holes in the wood. I decided to get a bit more technical. I used a spreadsheet to calculate the distance I would need to drill each hole from the next in order to achieve even spacing between each socket. This is more complex than just using a specified distance between each socket, since all the sockets are different sizes, but using a simple formula on a spreadsheet makes it very easy. I made a short video to show how I calculated these measurements.

Click HERE for the spreadsheet video

I also used Sketchup to layout those dimensions to ensure that I could get all of the sockets to fit on a piece of wood that would take up the least amount of room in my toolbox. Sketchup can be a bit overwhelming if you've never used it before. This video shows step by step how to get your feet wet with this simple project on Sketchup.

Click HERE for the Sketchup video

Step 2: Cut Your Wood to Size

Measure and cut your scrap wood to size based on your particular layout. I used a tablesaw.

Step 3: Mark Your Holes

Use your template or ruler to mark where to drill the holes. I use an ice pick to "center punch" my marks to keep my drill bit from wandering.

Step 4: Drill Your Holes

I'm using a drill press so I set my depth stop so that my drill bit just barely pokes through the back side of the wood. This is to prevent tear-out on the back face. Once all holes are drilled from the front, I flip the wood and drill from the opposite side for nice clean holes. If you don't have a drill press, you can prevent tear-out by clamping your wood on top of a scrap piece. The scrap underneath will support the fibers of the wood and prevent them from tearing as your drill bit comes out the other side.

Step 5: Measure Your Dowels

You'll need to determine how long you want your dowels to protrude from the surface. These particular sockets had a shoulder that prevented the 1/2" dowel from sliding all the way through the socket so that ultimately determined how long I would have to cut my dowels. I slid the dowel through a freshly drilled hole and slid the square drive of the socket over the dowel until it bottomed out on the shoulder. I then pulled the dowel back through the wood, bringing the socket with it, until the socket contacted the wood. I marked the dowel on the back side of the wood. This would be my length.

Step 6: Cut the Dowels

I found an excellent 'ible by JON-A-TRON on how to quickly and safely cut short pieces of dowel rod. Check it out : JON-A-TRON's dowel cutting 'ible. I followed his tutorial and quickly made a jig out of a scrap 2x4. If you don't have a table saw, the same jig can be used with a hand saw, sawzall, or jigsaw as well.

Step 7: Glue Up

Now it's time to get sticky... I threw a sheet of wax paper down and squeezed a pool of wood glue onto a piece of scrap paper. I rolled the bottom edge of each dowel in the glue, trying my best to not get any glue on the bottom of the dowel. I pressed each dowel into the wood until it bottomed out against the wax paper. Once all dowels were glued in, I used a wet paper towel to wipe off any excess glue that squeezed out and let it sit for an hour or so to let it dry.

Step 8: Finished

At this point, you can finish it how ever you see fit. If you used some nicer wood, you could do some pyrography and mark each socket size next to it's peg. I just used a fine tip Sharpie to mark the top of the dowel with the size socket that goes there. My sockets are oriented with the hex side facing up. This makes it convenient because I can walk to my toolbox with a fastener in my hand and try to fit it directly into a socket to determine which socket I need. If the sockets are turned the other way, you have to pick each socket up until you find the right one if you're unsure which size you need.

Thanks for checking out my 'ible. If you make your own socket tray(s), show me in the comments section.

Before and After Contest 2016

Participated in the
Before and After Contest 2016

Full Spectrum Laser Contest 2016

Participated in the
Full Spectrum Laser Contest 2016