Introduction: LED Backlit Tool Wall

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I like working in the shop but almost more than that, I like organizing my shop. No matter how much I do, the place always seems to become a mess and I like the challenge of trying to keep it as nice as possible. I was looking for a way to make a really flexible tool storage that also look kind of cool. Here is the process I went through to make this really cheap, easy, flexible, back-lit tool wall.




Step 1: Backing

Start by hanging some backing. This is just 3/8” plywood, held to the wall with a couple 1 inch screws. The only reason it was cut in half is so it would fit in my car. After it is attached, a quick coat of white paint goes a long way later for making the mounted portion stand out and the it makes the most of the additional lighting.

Step 2: Frame

The next step is the outside frame. Use 3/4” mild steel angle-iron and measure it to be slightly smaller than the size of the plywood. This pulls it in a little from the edge and frames it nicely. Put a 45 degree angle on all of the edges with a cutting wheel on an angle grinder. This makes it nice to weld and will minimize cleanup.

Step 3: Welding

This is the first welding job I've ever actually done and I've never really welded before. My friend Josh came over and taught me how to weld. I definitely learned a lot and improved over the entire day but I still have lots to learn.

After each weld, to see how well you did, use a drill with a wire brush to clean it up give you a much better view of how the weld actually turned out. It also cleans it up so that painting later would adhere better.

Step 4: Mesh

Once the outside rectangle is welded , weld some 2” x 4” galvanised fencing inside it. This is what the tools will actually hang on.

Tack all four corners down to hold them in place, go along and weld the ends of each vertical wire. It is more important to weld the top of each piece than it is the bottom because once it's hanging up on the wall, you're going to have a lot of tension pulling down on them, but not much compression on the bottom. You have to be very very careful when welding galvanised metal because it releases harmful gas. Make sure have the area super well ventilated and lots of moving air.

Step 5: Paint the Frame

After frame and mesh are welded into place, add a coat of rust spray paint to the inside and the outside. This is just plain steel, so it will rust over time. I painted the mesh too as best as I could, but that is just for looks. Galvanised shouldn’t rust, except possibly where you welded it.

Step 6: Mounting Holes

Measured where the studs are in the wall where you are hanging it. You want to attach it straight to the studs as it will likely end up holding a lot of weight.

Having some machining oil on hand will make it nicer to drill a bunch of holes through the steel

Step 7: Lighting

I am using an RGB LED strip to back-light the tool wall, but you could use a solid colour too. Use the adhesive strips to stick them to the inside of the frame on the top and bottom. You can do the sides too if you have enough LED strip. This is just temporary., as the adhesive strips that come on the lights are terrible. At best, it will hold for a month, but likely a lot less. Because of this, we are going to use some silicone caulking to hold them down permanently. Make sure to use clear so it doesn't block any of the light if it ends up covering an LED.

Once everything's down, make sure to plug it in and give it a quick test to make sure that nothing got shorted out and everything still works properly

Step 8: Hang It Up

Finally, it’s time to hang it up on the wall! Using some 1 1/2” screws, screw through the holes you made, straight into the stud. Also, try to screws the top holes before the bottom holes. This will stretch out the mesh a little and keep it from sagging over time. Remember, the plywood is barely held on, so don’t rely on it.

This is another ideal opportunity for an electrical test.

Step 9: Make Tool Mounts

Once it's up, it's time to start making brackets for your tools. Each shop has different tools in it, but here is an example of how to make a hanger for a driver.

Find some random cylindrical objects in your shop. A can of WD-40 a couple different sizes of pipe worked for me. With some 19 gauge galvanised wire, bend it around a cylinder that is roughly the size of one end of your tool. Hang that part of the tool to see how high it will come on the wall. At that height, bend a 90 degree. I put a couple cuts in a piece of wood to use as a jig to get accurate and easy bends that will go through the mesh. Once you have the mesh spacing bent, put it in a vice and bend that whole edge down 90. This will give a good, strong point for the mesh to hold on to. Then, put the tool on the hook again to find a second point. Bend the wire around a cylinder that is roughly the right size. Trim it down. Keep in mind, wire is cheap. If you make a bad hook, just make another one. Save the material for other smaller hooks.

Step 10: The End

I'm really happy with how this wall turned out. Super cheap and easy to make, and actually looks pretty good. It has ended up being a focal point in the shop and it also has more than enough space for all of my current tools and probably the next batch of or two of tools i’ll likely get.

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