Electronic-Lab in a Box

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About: When it don't work in C you need to solder it! And there is always a way! Always! And if it is an idea, put it in a class! And there is always a n*log(n) solution! And security through obscourity is never an...

Since I work in a small flat with no separate space for handcrafts i struggle always with building before and cleaning up afterwards just for simple electronic work. There were always the same tools to search in boxes and cases, plug them in, find wires and solderin tin and so on. So for only 5 minutes work comes together just an hour or so for the setup time. For me the solution was a box where everything can be found at the same space where it belongs to.

Simple philosophy: Everything has a space, everything has its own space.

This Instructable should be more a watchable, because for myself I don't read the long text instructables. But I believe I took around 80 pictures that give you an Idea what could be done and how to do the important parts. If there are any questions left, just put them in the comments.

Step 1: Get an Idea

First question: What I really need everytime?

  • soldering Iron and holder
  • lab-power supply
  • Multimeter,
  • some wires and soldering tin
  • cleaning sponge and flux
  • fume-extractor (i don't have one but always wanted to build one)

So I begin with the heavy thing, the power-supply put it in the middle and arranged everything around it in mind and constructed everything in sketchup. It need to fit on the desk and on the storage-space.

Since I don't move much around with that stuff and have a lot of wood waste I didn't bother weight. So I took a mix of hardwood (for main support frame), plywood, MDF and 3mm HDF and mainly express-wood-glue and a mix of screws.

I will not give measurements here, because every part is fitted around what needs to be put inside the box and where it should be stored. The tunnel for the fume should be at least 12x12mm.

Part list:

  • 18mm glued hard wood plates for the upright plates (the only type that holds screws in grain direction properly!)
  • 13mm mdf for top and bottom
  • 10 & 6mm light plywood for back and front
  • 3mm for inner parts, backplate and fume extractor
  • sinkable wood screws from 12mmx3mm to 40mmx3,5mm, a M4 for the iron holder foldout
  • express wood glue (one can not wait long enought with that huge ammount of parts)
  • small color varnish
  • 12V AC adaptor
  • 40cm of LED-Strips (I used RGB as white light)
  • 12V PC-case fan (I used an 80mm but recommend 120mm for better performance) for the fume extractor
  • a small ammount of fleece as fume-filter
  • cables, wall plug and suitable plugs for all devices, everything is connected paralell
  • hinges for frontplate, backbox and wire-dispenser-coverage
  • magnets for frontplate and coverage


Most parts should be found in a good sorted Hobby-room. I believe that everybody that want to build something like this should knew where to get this or allready has it. My aim was to use as most as possible parts from scrap.

I only used a few tools:

  • cordless screwdriver
  • drills and the thing to sink screw heads (don't know the correct english name)
  • a really good handsaw (I recommend to invest good money to one, it won't be wasted!)
  • electrical tools (solder iron and the common suspects for the wiring)
  • brush
  • screwdriver perfectly suitable for your screw-heads (a pozidirve is not phillips and a Torx T10 should not be used in a T15 head, evend when it fits ;)
  • files to clean the saw cuts
  • a dremel for round corners in the mdf plates (files will also do)
  • sharp pencils and good rulers!!! You should be able to draw lines as precise as possible! A milimeter error will let the result look horrible!

So let the build begin...

Step 2: Saw and Glue and Screw and Saw and Glue and ....

I don't have an electric saw and in this tiny flat using one is not recommendable. But I'm very trained with my crosscut-saw, it is quiet and much more precise than every other hand-guided saw, even any electrical!

Step 3: Saw and Glue... No Screw Version

3mm HDF is really good to glue edge to edge, holds perfect and is really stable, I used it for the inner part, mainly for the fume-extractor.

Step 4: The First Gimmick: Wire-dispenser

One side gimmick is to handle wires and soldering tin, always wanted something like this.

Step 5: Second Gimmick: Soldering-iron Handling

so my old iron holder died years ago and so i build a new one as a foldout in the main room, also for cooling issue the iron is mounted outside so that i don't need to bother when packing everything together.

Step 6: More Sawing and Glueing: Back-, Top- and Frontplate

not much to remark here...

Step 7: Wiring and Fume-Filter

Okay, there is not much to say, but it was really hard to hardwire the iron since one can not cut the cable of the station and solder them because you need that it runs to solder them... hard stuff, creative solution...
Wiring is simply straight forward paralell everything. The fan and the LED-Strips are connected to the AC-Adaptor output, but the fan will get a switch to interrupt.

Step 8: Done!

So here's the result

Portable Workstations Contest

Third Prize in the
Portable Workstations Contest

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54 Discussions

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RobertC2

3 years ago on Introduction

Great example of thinking in 3D!

I like everything about it, but the wire dispenser is my favorite idea of all. ;-)

I might incorporate it into my full size work area. Thanks for the inspiration!

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McLovinGyver

4 years ago on Introduction

Neat, like how you're able to fetch a clear look out of even the crappiest rest of wood. After half year working with the box I must say: never again without! Saves really 80% of my time!

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flashcactus

4 years ago on Introduction

Hmmm.. The radiator of your power supply looks a bit insufficiently exposed to the outside air. What if you made your Fume Extractor blow the sucked air over it? That would probably provide sufficient cooling...

Other than that, both the idea and the implementation are great.

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Alderin

4 years ago on Step 8

Great work! I keep running into the "I need more room to build the things I need to make more room". :-)

Nice! This is great for folks who live in an apartment/rental (like me). I'm lucky enough to have a small designated area for projects in my current place, but I'm moving soon, and may not get that luxury again, so I'm definitely keeping yours in mind. Looks solid and useful!

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mgosztyła

4 years ago

awesome. I need to build one . gunna use yours idea. perfect.

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Kethurston

4 years ago on Introduction

I have wanted to make something like this for some time, Thank you

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atlaswalkedaway

4 years ago

you sir, are worthy of the title engineer. creative, precise, elegant, and simply useful. in summation, impressive. youve got my vote.

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elms30637

4 years ago on Introduction

I cant wait to build it!!!!!!! Perfect for my Studio thanks!!!!!!!

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bolsocheio

4 years ago on Introduction

Well, first of all, english is not my native language, sorry for any mispeeling.

If not ask too much, would you have the plans (in cad format, for example) for the box?

1 reply
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So there is only the sketchup file. I like it that there is a direct relation between: When it last long in sketchup, it wil last long to build in reality :) Begin every piece whith a rectangle, cut it in shape and at the end use the push/pull tool and type afterwards the thickness of the plate. By the way the little trick many user don't know: after putting a line, rectangle or push/pull you can type the measurements you mean, and it will be corrected immediately.

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kenbob

4 years ago on Introduction

Great instructable! I have been toying with making something like this - starting with a commercial tool box. I have been trying to come up with a way to organize all the small bits ( resistors, leds, etc ) and have room and access for all the larger components. I am thinking converting the back storage into "slots" for plastic organizer containers could be the ticket!

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uwezi

4 years ago on Introduction

Nice project. I have something in the same direction and now you triggered me to also make an instructable about that...

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McLovinGyver

4 years ago on Introduction

I allready described: it is clearly an individual based setup, because every measurements are constrained by individual restrictions.

The deepest part inside was the power supply, what gives me 27cm in depth + frontplate-thickness (green plate deptht).

The width and height are limited through the space where the box is stored minus some cm to be able to move it there. So outer width and height makes 48cm and 37cm. The inner height (height of orange parts) therefore needs to get subtracted two times by the thickness of bottom and top plate. The Shifting of the rear orange plate to the inside is determined through a suitable thickness for cable rolls etc and then summed up, leaving the other shift. So as I told: place everything in Mind where it should be till your restriction are reached and place the small things around there. Its a design process that can't follow a strict rule. It's just important to know what you want to have inside before, since changing during production is mostly not working. There is also a construction need: You need a plate in every surface (three independend surfaces crossing parwise on long edges) to make sure it is stable and won't fold or burden the joints to much. That means in this case: green crosses orange, orange crosses blue and blue is crossing green.

And easy tools like sketchup will help you to see if it fits and intersect correct, extracting measurements for every part could be easy done here (be wise and group stuff from the beginning). Its recommended to invest some time to learn such tools, they saving you tons of time afterwards.

And at the end: you can produce every Parts just by design drawings, not by measuring the gaps of allready jointed parts. You won't stabilize sawing errors from step to step, it's visible at the end. When joing begin with clamps and staplers and see if it fits, if not, search errors in lenght and angles and correct them.

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mohamed4data

4 years ago

Can you show me the dimensions of every piece