Intro: Altoids Tin Storage Rack
Every geek, hacker, tinkerer and home mechanic knows that the absolute best way to store all your little fiddly bits is in Altoids tins. Most of us have a sizable stack of them holding little screws, gears, bits of wire, salvaged electronic components, and a thousand other things. The problem comes in how you store them. You can pile them up on a shelf, but then when you need something from one on the bottom, you have to move the entire stack around. What you need is a wall mounted storage rack. This rack will hold 38 Altoid tins at a 10° angle with enough protruding to allow for easy removal of each tin.
What you'll need:
• 2x sheets of 3mm or 1/8" material, cut to 12"x24"
• Appropriate adhesive for your material - methylene chloride for acrylic or wood glue for plywood or MDF
• A laser cutter with a bed large enough to fit the sheet goods
• 8x Wall anchors and screws for mounting it on a wall.
Step 1: Choosing Your Material
This rack is designed to be laser cut from 2 pieces of 12"x24" material that is 3mm or 1/8" thick. The design allows for that material to be any kind of firm sheet good, whether it's plywood, MDF, acrylic or some other plastic. With some adjustments to the cut files, it could even be plasma cut from aluminum or steel.
For mine, I chose birch plywood. If you want a nice finish on your wood, I recommend finishing the sheet before cutting it on the laser. It makes cleaning up the residue easier, and it saves a lot of time vs. trying to sand, stain and seal 40+ individual pieces.
Step 2: Cut It
Use the settings appropriate for your machine and material to cut out the pieces. I have a 40 watt Epilog Mini, and I cut my plywood at 12% speed, 100% power and about 800Hz frequency at 600dpi.
There are several layers in the file. One for the main body of the rack, one for the shelves, one for the mounting template and one with measurements for the tins, in case you want to modify the design and don't have a tin handy to measure.
The layer for the main body pieces has one piece with a decorative design. It's up to you to decide whether you want to engrave it or not, or replace it with your own design. That piece goes on the front of the rack at the bottom, so it's a great place to put your name or company name or artwork you like.
Choose the layer for the main body and send the file to the laser. Once it's done cutting, put the pieces aside, choose the shelves layer and cut that as well.
Step 3: Clean Up the Material
If you're using wood, there is likely a bit of residue from cutting. A little bit of water and a toothbrush will take care of it. If it's really stubborn, you can use a bit of orange hand cleaner. Try to avoid getting the wood too wet though, as it will make it swell. If you're cutting acrylic, this is when you want to peel the masking paper off.
Step 4: Assembly, Test Fit the Shelves
There are 4 shelves in the file that have full support on both sides. Place (but don't glue yet) one each in the top and bottom slots to hold the 3 main vertical supports together. Then place the other two roughly evenly spaced between the top and bottom. Every 7th space seems to work well. Once those are in place, insert the rest of the shelves. Since they are cut out in a triangle pattern to fit on the layout, I like to alternate each shelf to give the rack the best stability.
Step 5: Assembly, Glue the Mounting Pieces
After the shelves are all test fit in place, flip the rack over onto its front on a large flat surface. Then take the keyhole mounting pieces and lay them out in the matching grooves on the back side. Make sure the small side of the keyhole is pointing towards the top of the rack, and then glue each piece in and clamp it with either a woodworking clamp or a piece of painters tape. Apply a small bead of glue to the face of each piece where it will contact the vertical supports, and apply a little bit of glue inside each matching groove on the vertical supports. There is one smaller 5th support that goes near the bottom at this time as well.
If you're using acrylic, put the pieces in place first, then use your needle applicator to apply solvent to the crack. The solvent will flow into the space between the pieces and weld them together. Apply light pressure for about 20 seconds for each joint after bonding. Make sure not to use too much solvent, because it will mar the surface of the acrylic if it drips out.
Step 6: Assembly, Glue the Shelves In
After the glue on the backside has cured a little bit, flip the rack over again and lay it on its back. Starting with the 4 full sized shelves, take them out one at a time and apply glue to the face of each one where it will contact the vertical supports. Then carefully slide it back into its slot and clean up any squeezeout. Once the 4 full sized shelves are in place, work your way from either the top or bottom, one shelf at a time until every one is glued in place. If you're using acrylic, solvent weld the pieces together in the same manner as before, by applying a small amount of solvent with the applicator to each joint and then applying light pressure for 15-20 seconds before moving on to the next joint.
Step 7: Assembly, Attach the Front Plate
Take the front decorative plate and glue or bond it to the appropriate space just below the bottom shelf of the rack. Once this is complete, allow your rack time to cure so that all the bonds between pieces are strong.
Step 8: Prepare a Mounting Spot
Pick a spot on your wall to mount your rack. If you have access to a large format printer, you can print out the mounting template to guide your screw holes. Otherwise measure. The holes are ~ 68mm (2.6875") apart width wise, and the first 3 sets are ~126mm (4.95") apart top to bottom. The fourth set of mounting holes on the bottom support are ~251mm (9.9") below the third set.
After marking the holes, drill them out to the appropriate size for your wall anchors, and then push the plastic anchors in according to their directions. Then screw the screws into the anchors, leaving them sticking out a little over 1/8". After all 8 screws are in place, you're ready to hang your rack.