A good set of sockets, both english and metric and regular and deep well sockets are pretty much a necessity for a lot of DIY work. There are some complete sets that come with a storage tray and carrying case but often unless you are just starting out and need a set like that you buy just the sockets you need. I often end up with them scattered around in different tools bags depending on the project that they were involved in. After getting pretty frustrated with the disorganization I went looking for a tool bag that would work for organizing sockets. I browsed a few hardware stores and did not find anything that I thought wold work for me and I came to the conclusion that the best thing to do would be to make my own. And I had just the stuff to make it with.
I salvaged some Oak boards from a hardware floor and decided to try and make my own socket caddy out of the oak boards.
Step 1: Clean Up the Wood
Although the wood was in great shape it had nails in it and glue stuck on the back. The glue was not a problem as the planer would strip that off but the nails had to be removed otherwise they would wreck the planner blades.
There is a good technique to do this that I learned. Using a pair of vice grips clamp on the nail as close to the board as you can get and simply roll it out. Use the nose of the vise grips to pry the nails out and pull them through the back side of the wood. if you try and hammer them back through and take them out of the face of the wood they will often pull up splinters and damage the surface. If you pull them out through the back side you avoid that.
Sometimes the nails will break off. If this happens then get a punch and punch them out from the front until you can get a grip on them.
Make certain that you get out all of the nails, tacks and screws.
Step 2: Glue the Boards and Clamp.
Most of the wood that is used for floors has a finished edge so it connects together. But it is usually not a tight fit. It is made to allow for expansion and contraction of the wood in the floor. To use it in something other than a floor you need to glue it and clamp it so it locks tight and forms one piece of wood. I decided to use the Gorilla glue that expands for this because it will fill all the space and make a tight seal.
Just follow the simple directions and wet the wood first. Put in a moderate amount of glue and then align and clamp the wood. You have a little time before the glue starts to foam so don't worry if it takes you a few tries to get the clamps right. The glue will foam out of the joint and fill all the voids.
Watch out for the tendency of the boards to bow down. The way they are cut at the factory they are a little larger at the face than the underside so when you clamp it try and put the greatest pressure across the face and not the back.
If you use a pipe clamp, like in the picture, you can clamp the wood to the pipe to keep it straight and flat. Assuming your pipe is not bent.
Step 3: Plane and Cut the Wood
After letting all the glue dry for a day you can remove all the clamps and start working the wood.
A planer will shave off all the high and low spots and the old finish from when it was a floor. I found it easiest to plane everything at one time. Just keep running them through until the finish is gone and the back side is flat.
After you have flat boards you can run them through a table saw to get them to your dimensions. I decided not to make any fancy joints in this box but instead went with simple butt joints. Since I was going to use screws as well as glue the joints should hold. In addition if it does come apart, like from being dropped, a butt joint can be repaired and reglued where as something like a dove tail joint might not be fixable.
In one of those really strange things, I actually didn't use set dimensions. I never even used a measure for this project. Instead I went with the length of the boards I had and the width after they were trimmed. As long as the sockets fit in the box that is all that was important. Since the table saw is square all the pieces were square and using the rip fence meant everything was the same length. So I didn't have to measure anything. For the cross pieces I just marked where to cut with a pencil. It's actually pretty fun when you just cut to the size you want rather than to a specific measurement. I don't think I would try it that way for anything bigger than this.
Step 4: Assembly
You will need the clamps again and this time you need the regular wood glue and not the foaming one.
Run the glue on the edge of the joint and clamp it in place but not really tight. If you leave it a little loose you can slide and adjust the boards if you need to.
Put the clamps on at the ends and then drill the screw pilot holes in the middle. This way you don't clamp the middle but rather let the screws draw it together.
Counter sink your screws. It holds tighter, keeps the wood from cracking, and just looks more professional.
If your table saw is square this box should just come together and be square also.
Step 5: Sanding
After the glue is dry you can use a belt sander to get off any glue that has squezed out. Also it can take out any marks on the wood from the assembly process.
And a good sanding can work to cover any not to perfect joints. This is especially true of the ends where all the joints come together. If the wood didn't match together perfectly (which is likely) then just sand the whole end down until everything is nice and smooth. Cheating a little? Well maybe but it looks good when its done.
Step 6: Stain and Finish
I put a dark stain on one side of the caddy so I made one side dark for metric sockets and the other side for English or SAE sockets. This way it will be a little harder to get them mixed up.
For an overall finish I am using a polyurethane that is for floors. I expect that this will get a little bit if a beating so a floor finish might just work better.
For a handle I am going to use nylon webbing but I have to wait to put it on until the finish it completely dry.
I am using this caddy for everything that takes a 3/8 drive. I have 1/4 inch and 1/2 as well but this is the size I use the most. I am still tracking down the rest of the extensions and adapters that are in other places. It will be nice to have all of this together in one place for a change.
Step 7: Add the Dividers
After the basic box is done the next step is to screw in the dividers. Mark the position of the dividers with a pencil and then drill the screw holes from the top. If you go from the bottom you will likely miss where the holes should go.
If you try to put screws into this hard dry oak with out pilot holes it will split. Pre-drill everything and save yourself a lot of aggravation. After the holes in the box are drilled stand it on its end and place the divider where it should go. Drill a hole from the bottom through the existing hole and into the bottom of the divider. Just do one hole. Then put a screw in it to hold the divider in place. Do a second hole at the other end, put in a screw and now the divider should be in the correct position. Once it is correct then go ahead and drill out the other holes. Use a counter sink bit to cut dimples for the screw heads and put in the screws. Remove the 2 screws that were holding things together, counter sink them and them put the screws in all the way.
Step 8: Add the Handle
As a finishing step I added a nylon strap handle. The strap works for a number of things. It is soft so you can stack another box or bag on top of the caddy and the handle will not be in way. It also allows you to drag the box sideways which you are very likely to do if your under a car and needing a different socket.
I glued the strap in place with gorilla glue and put some staples in it to help while it was drying and to reinforce the glue. The staple gun could not drive the staples all the way into the oak so I tapped them all the way in with a hammer.
An interesting thing to note, This type of Gorilla glue does not stick to Aluminum foil. So you can put a piece of foil on top of it to keep it from sticking to things it should not stick to.
Step 9: Ready for Abuse
With the strap in place and loaded its a finished working project. A working project is one that has a job and will be used, not just admired. With a smooth bottom the caddy can slide on a floor. With the wide and low format it will not tip over and dump everything out. In a pinch its strong enough that you can even stand on it or put a board on it and use it as a seat.
If I were to get really ambitious I could extend this idea out and make a tool work bench with shelves that could hold a bunch of these types of boxes. So you have a series of boxes that you could pull out and take with you or use like drawers. If I get the time maybe I can try that.
This type of idea would work really good for small work areas also, like a sowing area with drawers that could pull out and double as caddy's.