I put up a piece of 1/2 inch plywood to mount all my communications equipment on at my house. As you can see from the picture, it was a mess! I always intended to buy and put up a piece of plastic wire duct to hide all the cables. As you can see, my board is a mess of wires that beg to be run through a wiring duct. With a duct, all the wires run inside it, and it has a cap that snaps on to conceal the mess, making it look clean and neat.
I wanted a duct that was about 4 inches wide, and to buy one that's 6' long costs upwards of $100. It's marketed toward panel manufacturers and industrial customers that can pay to have this stuff on hand to keep their work looking professional.
I looked on instructables.com to find instructions on how to make one, as I needed only about 6 ft total. After striking out, I decided to come up with my own plans. I decided to publish the plans as this is a unique project!
Step 1: Materials and Tools
Materials: I was able to buy all these materials at Home Depot.
- 1/8" Masonite
- 1x4 pine board
- Rectangular Magnets.
I used 4 pairs (8 magnets) per duct. How much Masonite, 1x4s, and magnets depends on how much duct you'll be creating. For my project, I purchased a 2'x4' masonite board, a 8' 1x4 pine board, and 16 magnets.
- Drill Press
- Band saw
- Jig saw
- 3/8" drill bit
- measuring tape
- wood glue
- band saw
- sand paper / sanding block
- pocket/utility knife
- straight edge
Step 2: Cut Base, Sides, Lid
The 1x4 board with be the base of the duct. The sides and lid will be made from the masonite.
Base: The 1x4's original width (~3-5/8") defined the width of the duct. I simply cut the board into the length of the ducts I wanted to make. You may choose to rip the board for a narrower duct.
Sides: I decided to make sides 4" high, so the inside height of the duct will be just over 3".
Lid: The lid should be cut wide enough to cover the sides. I decided to allow 1/16' overhang on either side. The total width will be the width of the base, the two sides, plus the overhang. . . or 3-5/8" + 2x1/8" + 2x1/16" = 4".
So to make a 24" long duct, you'll need a 1"x4" board cut to 24", and 3 pieces of 4"x24" masonite. For my ducts, I wanted to "T" them so that I can route along the bottom, as well as up the board. (See my final pictures). Therefore I ended up making two shorter pieces for one side of one of my ducts.
I set the gate on my bandsaw as shown in the picture. I used a bandsaw with the gate set to make all my cuts, although a table saw would probably be more appropriate for the job.
Sand the cut edges to knock off any burrs.
Step 3: Cut Entry Gaps in Sides
The beauty of a wire duct is that there are spaces all along the sides where cables can ingress/egress. Cutting these gaps into your sides is the most tedious and time-consuming part of this project. I used a 3/8" drill bit to form the top and bottom of each gap, then use the band saw to cut the notch and sides of the gaps.
Mark Drill Holes: On each side piece, draw 2 lines along the side. One will be 1 inch from the top, the other 1 inch from the bottom. Then make marks every 1-1/4" along both lines, starting 1-1/4" from the edge.
Drill the Holes: You could use a hand drill, but a drill press will make this easier and more consistent. Using the 3/8" drill bit, drill holes at the crossing of every mark you made in the step, above. Use a block of wood below the masonite to help keep it from breaking as the bit pushes through.
Clean the holes: Even with a block of wood underneath the masonite when drilling, it'll be hard to get the hole drilled 100% clean. Carefully use a knife to clean any burrs from the holes.
Cut the gaps: Using the bandsaw, cut down to the center of the top hole. One your blade is in the first hole, move the blade to one side of the hole and cut down to the lower hole. Carefully back the blade back to the upper hole, then cut down the other side. You should now have a gap with a cut from the top of the notch.
After a number of cuts, the neck of the bandsaw got in the way, making it impossible to use it for all the cuts. For -these cuts, I ended up using my jigsaw.
Step 4: Attach Sides to Base
One side of the masonite is smooth, while the other side is rougher without a sheen. Put a bead of glue along the bottom of the rough side, about 3/8" from the bottom. Use your finger to spread the glue to cover the approximately 3/4" where the sides will be glued to the base.
I didn't get any good picture of the clamps in place, but you will want to lightly clamp the sides up to the base until the wood glue can dry. The above picture shows the boards after the glue has dried and the clamps removed.
Step 5: Attach (glue) Magnets to Duct and Lid
I used a pair of magnets in each corner of the trough to hold the lid in place. For each pair of magnets, one will be glued to the inside of the trough and the other glued to the lid. This makes the lid easy to remove.
I used a a small piece of Masonite below each magnet in the trough, as shown, to provide more surface to which to glue the magnet.
For ducts that will be mounted horizontally, the magnets alone should be enough to help the lid in place. If mounted vertically, however, I added an "L" piece attached to the inside of the trough. It serves two purposes: 1) Keep the lid from sliding down when attached (the "L" will catch the magnet attached to the lid), and 2) Create more surface area to which the 'lower' magnet will be glued.
Once the glue has set on the lower magnet (the magnet attached to the inside of the duct), you can then apply glue to the top of the upper magnet, then press set the lid on top of it, then let the glue dry. Once dried, remove the lid from the duct the first time by gently prying the magnets apart with a knife. This allows you to break any glue between the upper magnet and the side without detaching it from the lid.
Step 6: Mount Your Duct(s) and Route Your Wires
I used 1-1/4" wood screws to attach the duct to the backboard. Then route the wires, one at a time, into the trough. It helps if the cables are not excessively long. I.e., if you're fabricating your own cat5/5e/6 and or coax cables, route them and terminate to the exact length.
Take care to leave extra cable inside the duct so your setup will be neat and clean once the lids are in place.
Technically, you are not supposed to co-mingle power and signal cables. However this is due to concerns of power cables inducting current into the signal wires. This happens when the cables run parallel for long distances. I've never experienced problems if they're together for very short distances (such as in my communications board). Also, not that there is no inductance if the cables only cross perpendicularly.
Here's the after picture. This is a much neater setup than my original board!!