If you're like me you have a drawer that is a hopeless tangle of of extra audio, video, and data cables. You may also have a box of assorted twine in the basement that even now is busy tying itself into one giant knot. This instructable will teach you how to build an organizational tool to help you reign in the chaos. It keeps each strand tidy, easily identifiable, quickly accessible, and completely tangle free!
You'll need several bits of wood to complete this project:
1. Piece of plywood or a board. I chose a piece of plywood that was 1/4 inch thick, six inches wide, and one foot long. You may opt for completely different dimensions depending on your need.
2. One piece of dowel rod. I used a piece of 5/16 inch dowel that I had lying around, but if your dowel is a soft wood like pine, I'd use a thickness closer to 1/2 inch.
3. Some scrap wood you can cut into small blocks. This will be a great way to use up some of those ever-present 2x4 chunks nobody can ever seem to get rid of.
Jigsaw or reciprocating saw (band saw or scroll saw a bonus)
Drill (drill press a bonus)
Drill bit the same size as your dowel
I made mine at Techshop.
Step 1: Draw & Cut the Main Board
Using a reciprocating saw, cut along the side of each tooth. Once the sides are cut, cut out the scrap wood from between each tooth. This can be accomplished with two cuts, the first a sweeping cut from the tip of one tooth to the base of the tooth on the other side of the gap you're cutting out. By reaching the level of the bottom of the teeth before reaching the end of the cut, you allow yourself the space to begin your next cut at the base of the second tooth and can cut in the reverse direction straight across to the base of the tooth from which you began the first cut.
Step 2: Cut Some Dowels and Dowel Guides
The lynch-pin of the project is a sliding dowel placed opposite each of the teeth cut in the previous step. The ability to retract the dowels creates a quick release mechanism that allows you to remove each cable individually without unwinding it loop by loop from the board. In order for the dowels to slide, we need to create channels for the dowels to run through by drilling holes in wood blocks that we will in turn glue to the storage board.
The length of each dowel will need to be at least the height of a cut tooth plus the depth of you make your dowel guides. My teeth were one inch deep, and my guide blocks were one inch deep, but I made my dowel segments 3 inches long instead of 2 inches. They'll only be "too long" if they're longer than your storage board is wide.
I started the project cutting a separate block of wood for each dowel, but quickly realized that cutting one strip of wood the same length as the storage board and drilling a hole opposite each tooth was much more efficient time-wise. Either way, the wood should be at least twice as tall as a dowel to allow enough material to remain after drilling a hole through it. If cutting individual blocks, make sure to leave enough space to either side of the dowel that the block won't snap in half when dowel puts pressure on it.
When drilling the holes, make sure that the drill bit is exactly the same size as your dowel. Some dowels are labeled with a "nominal" size, which means they are actually slightly smaller than listed. You need to drill a hole that fits the dowel snugly or the dowel will just fall out.
By drilling the hole towards the edge of the block that we will glue to the storage board, we reduce the leverage the dowel has with regards to pulling the guide block off of the storage board when we start wrapping things around it. Be careful not to break through the side of the block or else the dowel will not be able to slide properly within the guide block. Using a drill press with a fence is a great way to get straight, uniformly spaced holes.
Before you drill all of your holes, test fit the first one with a dowel. If the dowel is too snug to slide when pushed with one finger, you'll probably want to sand your dowels down a little. If you sand only in the middle of the dowel but leave the ends at full diameter, they will slide easily but not fall out of the guide blocks.
Step 3: Glue the Guide Blocks Onto the Storage Board
Apply wood glue to the surface of a guide block closest to the hole you drilled. Place the block on the storage board so that it is directly across from one of the teeth you cut. Clamp it in place. Repeat for each guide block. If you opted for the smarter 'lots of holes in one strip of wood' option, just make sure the holes line up with the teeth when you glue the strip in place.
The guides should be glued as close to the edge of the board as possible, but should not extend past the edge. The closer to the edge of the board you glue the block, the less leverage the dowel will have with regards to pulling the block off of the storage board.
Once the glue has dried, insert the dowels into the guide blocks, and you're ready to go!
Step 4: A Few Notes on Usage
1. To remove a cable from the board, simply push the dowel flush with the edge of the board then slide the rest of the cable off of its tooth. Grab either end of the cable, let go of the rest of the bundle, and gently shake!
2. Start your wrap with a half hitch. The half hitch is super fast to tie and will be secure as soon as the first wrap around the tooth is made. It will also come undone as soon as you start to lift the cable from the storage board. Easy on, easy off.
3. Wrap in a figure 8 style, not in an "0". There are a few advantages the "8" has over the "0". First, it will not kink your cable as much. Each wrap you make in an "0" adds a twist to the cable that will stay in the cable unless you unwrap it exactly how you put it on, and those twists are a major cause of tangling. Second, using the "8" method lends itself to being tied off in a "cleat hitch", which will basically just disappear when you retract the dowel.
4. If you are using the board more for cables than for twine, you may prefer to wrap the cables on the same side of the board that you glued the guide blocks to. This will ease the somewhat sharp angle that can be inflicted on wires when they wrap over the edge of the board and around the dowel.