In Case of Pandemic - Mask Storage Case

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Introduction: In Case of Pandemic - Mask Storage Case

About: I am a recent graduate from the University of Washington with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering currently looking to take the next step in my engineering career. From internship experience…

Instructions for use:

  1. No, it's not glass
  2. No, you don't need to break it
  3. I hope the rest is self explanatory

By now, many of us have a decent supply of masks at home, and I have definitely found the need to have a place to store them, so why not have some fun with it? Now, you may be thinking, "We may not even need masks in a few months", and best case scenario you may be right. But that's the beauty of it! Now you have a place to keep them just in case (god forbid) we need them again in our lifetime.

This Instructable will detail the steps for making this project, including the necessary CAD and laser cutting files.

If you enjoy this Instructable, please consider voting for it in the Plywood Contest!

Supplies

Consumables:

  • Plywood (I used 0.2" thick)
  • Wood Stain (I did one with "true black", and one with "dark walnut")
  • Wood Finish (I used a polycrylic finish)
  • Brushes for staining
  • Glue (wood glue may be good enough depending on the wood you choose, but I used an expanding glue to help ensure adhesion/contact)
  • Acrylic sheets (roughly ~12" by 12" sheets)
  • White Spray Paint
  • Hooks to hang the masks
  • Canvas Offset Clips (or similar) to hold the acrylic sheet in place
  • Chicago Screws. I originally planned on using M4x6mm, but ended up going up to M5x6mm. I mention this because the hardware that I use below had holes that don't fit the M5, so I had to manually widen the holes in the hardware
  • Butt Hinges (if you get hinges with any different dimensions from mine, you will likely have to adjust the design in some way to fit the different size or hole locations)
  • 6mm Round Neodymium Magnets (optional, but helps hold the case closed)
  • 1/8" offset bracket to hold the acrylic sheet (optional if you get a taller acrylic sheet)

Tools:

  • Laser Cutter
  • Clamps (corner clamps can really help)
  • Drill (if you need to oversize the holes in the hardware you get like I did)
  • Screw Driver

Step 1: Designing the Case (CAD and Laser Cutting Files)

For this project, I used the now infamous Fusion 360. I went through two iterations, which you don't really need to know about, except that the first didn't work (hence the 2nd!). This project included a couple firsts for me; it was my first time designing a project with a hinge, and my first time trying out Chicago screws (which I really like and will definitely be using again).

Since I already made the design, you don't (necessarily) have to! But if you use different thickness material (not 0.2") or different sized hardware (in particular the hinge), you will need to update the design so that what you laser cut will have the correct joints, gaps, and hole locations for your case. Otherwise you will have a very bad day when you go to assemble it.

The CAD files are attached here for posterity. Here's an online model of the project, but I don't believe it is downloadable without the paid service.

With the case designed, I used Inkscape to make the acrylic cover design, and prep the files for laser cutting. I based my virus picture on the cover from this picture by Starline.

As an explanation of what each of the attached files are:

  • The .step and .f3d files are the original 3D CAD Model of the shelf I created
  • The two .svg files are the exported surfaces of the CAD model, and the cover design design that I made
  • The PNG (last image in this step, open to get full resolution), is the raster to laser cut the cover design
  • And the DXF is an alternative vector graphics format of the exported surface

Step 2: Laser Cutting

The laser cutting process is pretty straightforward; the pictures speak for themselves! Files needed for laser cutting are in the previous step.

Step 3: Applying Stain

The staining process is also pretty simple. I tried out two different colors, one with "true black", and one with "dark walnut". The one shown is the dark walnut.

Step 4: Gluing

Now things start getting a little tricky. I originally just used wood glue to put the frame together, however I found that in this case, it wasn't strong enough to hold the joints together (possibly because I stained first). So because of that, I upgrade to an expanding super glue to ensure that the joints were good and set. This has the downside though, of needing to remove the excess expanded foam after the glue is done setting. To do that, I carefully used a chisel on all of the edges/corners with foam.

To help make sure that the wood was positioned correctly, I used clamps while the glue set. Though CAUTION, if you clamp too hard, you will warp the sides, which cosmetically looks poor, and may cause problems later on when attaching the hinges.

Step 5: Applying Finish

Next I added the wood finish. For this I used MinWax polycrylic finish, which I like because it is water based, and easy to clean up. It also doesn't have a strong odor (ideal since we're storing masks in this).

Step 6: Modifying Hardware

In my infinite wisdom, I purchased some of my hardware before fully finalizing some parts of my design. Specifically here, I was originally planning on using M4 diameter Chicago screws, but due to having a hard time finding that diameter, I upsized to M5's, which are much more common. Problem is, I already purchased the hinges and brackets that I was going to use (and had designed for those hinges...), so the simplest fix was to simply open up the holes in the hardware to the diameter that I needed. Which I did using a drill.

There are a couple options to avoid this if you don't want to do this. You could:

  • Use the hardware/hinges I did, and M4 screws
  • Use different hinges with the right diameter holes, and redesign the hinges to properly fit your hinges
  • Use different hinges, not laser cut the holes for the hinges, and match drill the holes using the hinges themselves when you are assembling the storage case

Step 7: Spray Painting

Back when I laser cut the acrylic, I tested a couple options for how I wanted to spray paint the design on, specifically whether:

  • I wanted to simply outline the pattern, then peal off the outline later to spray paint
  • Raster the full image in the inside (mirrored so that you could see it correctly when closed), then spray paint
  • Raster the full image on the outside, then spray paint

For all of these, I kept the protective film on the acrylic, so that I could easily spray paint on the cover design later. I ended up going with the 3rd option, because I was worried about the durability of the first option (too easy to chip it off the surface), and the second option looked a bit rough when viewing from the outside (it was hard to clean out all of the dark residue left over from the rastering, which is visible if you look at it from the other side.).

Step 8: Assembling the Face

Next is screwing the acrylic sheet to the plywood front face using the Chicago screws, then attaching the hinges to face and finally to the back of the case.

In this step you might be wondering, why the offset clips on the top and bottom to hold the acrylic sheet in place instead of holes straight through the acrylic like on the sides? That was another case of me purchasing the acrylic sheets in 12"x12" squares before I had fully finalized my design. I ended up slightly increasing the height of the storage case, which didn't leave enough room to put holes straight through it like on the sides; my solution for this was brackets on the top and bottom to hold the acrylic sheet. You can simplify this step for yourself by getting taller acrylic sheets, which would eliminate the need for the brackets , and would only require adding the holes to the acrylic sheet when laser cutting.

Step 9: Final Hardware

Final touch ups include:

  1. Gluing on the the hook bases, then the hooks. The hooks have bases because the screws for the hooks were slightly longer the thickness of the plywood that I used. So the extra material keeps the screws from going out the back of the case.
  2. Gluing on the 4 magnet holders. For the one that goes on the back side of the cover, I laser cut a little placement jig, to make sure that I glued it on the right spot.
  3. Gluing on the magnets. I recommend double and triple checking to make sure that you orient them correctly (so that they attract instead of repel when closed).

Most of these could (and probably should) be done before putting on the polycrylic finish. I did it this way mainly because I forgot to do these steps first. It doesn't matter much either way though, since none of these glued on pieces are load bearing.

Step 10: And Done!

And that's basically it! You are now set for the current pandemic, and any that (hopefully do not) follow.

I hope you enjoyed this Instructable, and if you did, please consider voting for it in the Plywood Contest. Thanks!

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