Tired of your sockets rolling around in your drawer? Or do you use one of those socket racks with the spring steel clips that invariably are too loose or too tight (especially for 1/4" sockets)? Try making one of these wooden socket holders with an integrated magnet to keep your sockets where they belong. As a bonus you can mark the socket sizes on the side of the holder in a font that is actually large enough to be legible as you age with your tools...
I made this at TechShop www.techshop.ws
Step 1: Materials & Equipment
Vector drawing software (I used CorelDraw)
Laser cutter (my TechShop has a Trotec Speedy 300)
1/2" thick 2" x 8" poplar board
1/4" thick 2" x 16" walnut board
16" of 1/2" wide magnetic strip
5 minute epoxy
150 grit sandpaper
This instructable assumes some basic familiarity with CorelDraw and a laser cutter.
Step 2: Design the Main Body
First measure the diameter of each of the sockets. Draw a circle for each of the sockets, adding 0.02" to each diameter. This will let the sockets drop in easily while still keeping them from moving around too much. Make sure you are using a red line set to hairline width so that the laser cutter will know these are meant to be cut lines, not engraved lines.
Now move each of the circles onto the same horizontal line, with a 0.1" gap between each circle. You can determine the center to center distance by adding the diameter of the two adjacent circles, dividing that by two, then adding 0.1". Because I had both 6 point and 12 point sockets I duplicated the entire row above the first row, with a 0.1" vertical gap between the biggest sockets. It turns out that a 5/32" 12 point 1/4" drive socket is pretty rare (and my set didn't include one). So I replaced that socket location with my 3/8" to 1/4" adapter.
Finally, draw a rectangle around the socket holes. For a little more visual interest, I added 1/4" radius scalloped corners.
Step 3: Design the Base
All of the sections will be the same shape, so start by making a copy of the main body design. The magnetic strips will be embedded in the top of the base (so that they will be flush with the socket holes in the main body). Using the socket holes as a guide, draw two black rectangles where the magnetic strips will go. The magnetic strips are 1/2" wide, so make the rectangles 0.54" wide so they won't have an interference fit. Then delete the circles and fill the rectangle with black (use black to indicate that these rectangles will be engraved rather than cut).
Step 4: Create the Socket Size Text
Although the text will be engraved on the side of the main body, start by adding the dimensions on top of each circle. These are each a simple text box, with a black line drawn to create the fraction. Then delete the circles and outer rectangle. Finally, draw a rectangle around the entire group of text that is the length of the main body. This will make it a little easier to align the text on the wood when using the laser cutter. Use a different color such as blue so that it will neither be engraved nor cut.
Step 5: Laser Cut the Pieces
Laser time! All three pieces cut well at 100% power and 0.25% speed. Although the walnut is much thinner than the poplar, it is harder to cut thus the same laser settings. To create the cavities in the base piece of walnut, make multiple engraving passes until the rectangles are deep enough to let the magnetic strips sit flush in them. In my case it took 4 passes at 100% power and 30% speed.
Step 6: Sand Everything
Make a first pass at sanding all of the pieces. It is important to completely sand the burned surface off the middle body portion where the text will go. It takes a fair amount of effort to clear that off, and you would risk damaging the engraving if you had to sand it off after. You can do the sanding by hand, but it is much quicker if you have access to a bench top belt sander. The photo shows all three pieces rough sanded (I forgot to take a picture of the middle section before engraving, but I did sand it first).
Step 7: Laser Engrave the Socket Sizes
Stand the middle section of the body on its side in the laser cutter (I propped it up against another piece of wood to keep it stable). Now engrave the text onto the side of the body. The engraving worked well at 100% power and 30% speed.
Step 8: Epoxy All of the Pieces Together
Although the magnetic strips have an adhesive strip on their backs, and the magnetic strips will be partially sandwiched between the base and the main body, I decided to epoxy them in as well. Mix a small puddle of 5 minute epoxy and spread it along all of the outer edges of each cavity. Press the magnets in and hold for five minutes. Be careful not to get any epoxy on your fingers. I flipped the base over onto a piece of parchment paper and pressed down until it hardened. Then epoxy the poplar middle piece on top of the base, then finally the walnut top onto that assembly.
Step 9: Sand, Seal, Sand, and Seal Some More
Now sand all of the sides until there is no overhang between the three layers of wood. Now apply a coat of spray polyurethane, let it dry, sand again, spray again, and repeat until you are happy with the finish.
Step 10: All Done!
Now gather up your pile of sockets and put them in your new holder. The magnetic strips are not very strong, but will help keep the sockets from accidentally popping out when bumped or jostled. As you can see, they are just strong enough to hold the relatively small 1/4" drive sockets upside down if you are careful. For larger sockets either use stronger magnets (if you want to invert your holder for some reason), or just accept that the magnets will help keep them in place for normal use. Enjoy!