Desktop Tool Stand




Introduction: Desktop Tool Stand

The pencil holder is a main-stay of the average desk environment. They reduce clutter, keep commonly used items within arms reach, and take advantage of vertical space by storing things upright. But they're not designed for the things that I often need like screwdrivers, pliers, etc. They're too heavy and too clunky to be stored in your run-of-the-mill desktop accoutrements.

Of course, in my world, that means a special order DIY. A tool holder that will keep the things I need where I need them most, and above all, organized. No more reverse chronological filing system in my toolbox! I made mine at

Materials Needed:
3/4" sheet of wood
dowel rod
sheet metal
small nails or tacks

Tools Needed:
Scroll saw or coping saw
Compass for drawing circles
Tin snips/metal shears

Optional Tools:
Hole Saw (for easier cutting out of the center)

Ok, I have to admit here that in this particular case the materials presented themselves to me before I had a project in mind. I had recently taken a CNC ShopBot class at TechShop, and the practice pieces that we made in class were the TechShop logo gear cut out of MDF. I happen to really like gears, but these were completely without function. Their teeth don't mesh with each other, and MDF wouldn't hold up under use anyway. Most of the students threw theirs away on their way out of the room. I couldn't help but pick up a couple, sand down the rough edges, and wonder what in the world they could be made to do (other than moulder in the trash heap, of course).

Once the idea had been conceived, I did consider making the stand completely out of wood instead of using a metal band to close up the teeth, but in the end I decided that the combined sturdiness and thinness of the metal would really lend itself to being able to hang things like pliers over the edge while keeping a generally slim profile, and doesn't run the risk of snapping if the holder gets leveraged or twisted while pulling a tool out of it. Plus I liked the old-time barrel look too.

Step 1: Cut the Top and Bottom Pieces

Draw two 5" diameter circles side-by-side on your wood. This indicates the outside diameter of your top and bottom.
Inside each of those circles, draw another concentric circle with a 3.5" diameter. This indicates the deepest part of each tooth.
Inside each of those circles, draw another concentric circle with a 2" diameter. This indicates the hole in the middle.

Divide each of the outer circles into ten arcs of equal lengths. That's either using a protractor and measuring 36 degree angles. Or you can go the fancy math route and calculate the length of the edge of a decagon inscribed within that circle:
sin(angle) = (edge length / 2) / radius
sin(18) = (x / 2)/2.5
sin(18) = x/5
5 * sin(18) = x
1.55 = x

I prefer the protractor

You'll now have marked one edge of each tooth of the gear. You need to mark the second. Measure .5" clockwise from each of your previous marks and make a new mark. That's the second edge of each tooth. Draw some lines inward from each mark you've made, angling them appropriately. No real need to have specific angles here, but I measured around 82 degrees from a line tangent to the circumference of the circle. A wider tooth will give you less space for your tools, but a thin tooth will be weaker.

Once you've got everything sketched out, use a saw to cut away the valleys between the teeth.

To cut out the hole in the middle, either use an appropriately sized hole saw (a huge timesaver), or drill a smaller hole and use a coping saw to cut around the inside.

Step 2: Drill Holes in the Top and Bottom Piece

The tip of each tooth will eventually be receiving one nail or tack in it to secure the sheet metal to the edge of the gear, creating a hoop. In order to prevent the teeth from splitting or having a nail accidentally break through the face of the gear while nailing, it is best to pre-drill holes at this point. You don't want the nails to be loose in the wood, so select a drill bit that is a slightly smaller diameter than the nail.

Using a straight edge, locate the center of each tooth by drawing an 'X' from opposite corners of the face of the tip of the tooth. Drill a pilot hole at the middle of each 'X'. Do this to both the top and bottom pieces.

At this point you should also drill holes for the dowels that will be used to give the holder height. I used five dowels since that was the lowest divisor of 10 (the number of teeth) that wasn't 2 (which would not have had any strength). Drill the holes at least a quarter inch away from the middle hole. Be sure the holes are all uniformly spaced so that the dowels will be parallel once the top and bottom are assembled. These holes should be the same size as your dowel. I prefer not to drill all the way through the pieces in order to have a clean surface on top, so I used a depth indicator on my drill bit to tell me when I had drilled down 1/2" (leaving 1/4" of my 3/4" material undrilled)

If you don't want to use dowel rods, you can opt for a different method, like nailing strips to the bottom of the valleys of the teeth. The strip method is probably easier, but I opted for using dowels because it let you clearly see through the middle of the holder and did not use up any of the limited space between the teeth that should be used for tools.

Step 3: Cut Your Dowel

The height of your holder will be determined by how long you cut your lengths of dowel. Mine ended up at 4 1/8", and is an excellent height for tools. Decide how tall you want your holder to be and cut your dowels appropriately.

If you drilled the whole way through your top and bottom pieces when drilling the holes for your dowels, cut your dowel exactly to the height you want your tool holder. If you drilled only part way into your material (I left 1/4" undrilled), subtract that amount for both the top and bottom piece from the total desired height of your holder to get the proper dowel length.

Cut five dowels that length.

Step 4: Cut Two Strips of Sheet Metal

You'll need two strips of sheet metal to wrap around your gear shapes, closing off the openings of the teeth.
Each strip should be the height of the material 3/4", and needs to be slightly longer than the circumference of the circle. The goal is to be able to nail through both the start and the end strip on the same tooth of the gear.

For now, just cut tow strips to the proper width that you know will be long enough. We'll worry about trimming them to the proper length later in the process.

Tip: Metal shears that are angled to the left or right will cut straight lines more easily than 'straight' shears, whose handles sort of get in the way when cutting straight lines.

Step 5: Attach the Metal Strips to the Gears

Place one of the gears on the table so that the face of one of the teeth (and the pilot hole you drilled in it) is sticking straight up. Take one end of one of the strips of metal and cover the face of the top tooth. Try to line up the edges so that three of the edges of the strip line up exactly with the edges of the the tooth. Hold the gear and metal strip in place with your non-dominant hand and pick up a nail with your dominant hand. You should be able to judge pretty well where the center of the face of that tooth is. Using the nail, mark that spot.

If you can manage it, add the nail to the growing number of things that you're holding in your non-dominant hand. If you can balance everything in place, holding the tip of the nail in the proper location over the pilot hole on the other side of the sheet metal, pick up a hammer and give the nail a whack. It should punch cleanly through the metal and into the pilot hole. You aren't trying to drive the thing home with one shot, just pierce the metal. A bad hit can knock the nail out of alignment but still pierce the metal, leaving you with a hole in the wrong spot, and possibly a damaged gear. Be gentle but forceful. Once it's through you can tap it the rest of the way down. Actually, you want to leave this first nail a little bit loose, since we're going to pull it back out when we close the loop.

If you weren't able to hold everything in one place with one hand while wielding the hammer in the other, you can put the metal flat on a piece of scrap wood and pierce it with the nail at the spot you marked, then transfer back to the gear to finish the job.

You'll repeat this process the whole way around the gear, attaching the metal like a hoop to the tip of each gear. Once you get back around to the first tooth, pull out the first nail. Trim down the long end of the sheet metal strip so that it covers almost all of the face of that first tooth, but not quite. Add a slight convex bend to the first end of the sheet metal so that it curves slightly towards the gear. This will help it sit flush once the nail has been put back in. Slip the second end (the one you just trimmed) underneath the first end (which you just gave a slight bend to) and hammer the nail back into place, piercing the sheet metal one last time. If done correctly there shouldn't be any jagged metal edges sticking out, they'll be exposed, but not in a way that would cut you unless you were really trying. to cause yourself harm. If you're worried about it, you can use some glue to fill in any gaps and prevent snags.

Step 6: Glue the Gears and the Dowels Together

Drip a drop or two of wood glue into each of the holes for the dowels and assemble them. You may have to fiddle with the alignment in order to get the dowels perfectly parallel. Let it dry.

As an additional step you may want to glue a circle of cardboard to the bottom of your holder to keep sharp objects you may put in int from scratching up your desk's surface, or leaking ink if you store pens in it.

Step 7: Paint It

This part is totally optional, but I've never been a fan of the color of MDF, and the back of my sheet metal was white, and really stood out, which I just didn't like.

I masked off the face of the sheet metal to keep the nail heads shiny, then spray painted the rest of the holder an unassuming brown.

Let dry, then introduce your tools to their new home.

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