Make a Workshop Tab Grabber

Introduction: Make a Workshop Tab Grabber

About: I love the design and ambition of vintage technology, and the usability and potential of new - my passion is bringing the two together.

This is a tab grabber (bill holder?) that took literally 10 minutes to make. It's perfect for keeping notes, diagrams etc right where you need them in the workshop. It's made from a length of electrical conduit, mounted upside down under a shelf and filled with ball bearings that effectively grab and hold any piece of paper you shove in there.

We used one of these when I worked in kitchens years ago,so you could keep all your orders visible while cooking, and easily move them along the grabber as more orders came in - kind of like an analogue draggable window.

Step 1: Gather Ingredients

Often when working on a project the bench gets cluttered, and I either end up with circuit diagrams and notes lost underneath tools or vice versa. Today I had the idea of getting a tab grabber to hold them at eye level while working, but after seeing the prices on ebay and remembering the rough design from my Pizzaland days I decided to build my own.

The kitchen ones are usually made from aluminium, but use the same system of steel balls,friction & gravity to hold paper in place. I conveniently had a bunch of 12mm ballbearings to hand after some recent Geomag butchering, and lots of conduit left over from childproofing the wandering home cinema cables when the kids were younger. Luckily the two were a perfect fit!

It's a really simple build - grab some electrical condiut (this was the 15mm variety), cut it to size and fill it with ballbearings. Mine is 62cm wide and needed 47 of them. I used small right-angle meccano pieces to hold the balls in place at either end, but you could just use blu-tac - especially if you use self-adhesive conduit, which this was originally.

Step 2: Serve at Eye Level

With the conduit prepared I screwed it to the underside of an eye-level shelf, though you could equally fix it directly to the wall. A small piece of the conduit cover was added to each end for neatness.

It works really well! I've used it to hold pinout diagrams while soldering, and especially to keep handy the snipped-up CD labels I use for labelling cables. It has quite a firm grip, so can hold postcards, posters etc with no trouble at all.

Bit of a niche build, but if you have the bits handy it's cheaper and much more fun than buying a new one!

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    Reply 3 years ago

    Looks grear, really clean! And you're right marbles are ideal for this, probably easier to get hold of than ball bearings too!


    3 years ago

    Here's what I did.

    Fission Chips

    This is awesome, and is the perfect solution for people who are always losing papers! I am probably going to build one to put over my computer, as I am always having to tape things around the monitor. Nice job, and keep up the creativity!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Great way to hang up diagrams and stuff! I usually just tape things up, but this is a nice, clean, and always-ready solution. Nicely done!