Tuesday, January 29, 2013

My Portable Work Bench Version 0.9

Some time ago I realized that if I wanted to do projects at university without wrecking the tables in my apartment  I would have to find a method of not incurring fees on my damage deposit. Well, the simple answer is to lay down newspaper, but that didn't cut it for me. I'm going to be mobile for a few more years yet and I want to work with my hands, not just my mind while I am at school.

When I was working on my computer tech. degree, I accumulated a lot of tools, so proper transport was at issue. Here is what I came up with!

Difficulty: Easy
Cost: $40 (tools not included)

-2" corner brace (x9)
-4" corner brace (x3)
-3" tee hinge (x6)
-4" strap hinge (x2)
-bolt lock set (x2)
-draw catch latch (x2)
-cabinet roller catches (x4)
-collapsible handes (x2)
-metal pipe strapping
-rubber feet
-aerosol truck bed coat

Tools/aids Required: drill, Robertson and Phillips screw drivers, square, table saw

 So here it is! The great thing about this box is that it is infinitely configurable, insofar as you have the right amount of surface area! My box measures in at L21"xW14"xH13" which is an odd dimension, but I was using scrap wood for the project. It was what worked the best.

As you can see, I have a row of screws on the backboard for hanging, two wings for holding screwdrivers and small pliers, my soldering iron is mounted on the lid (I plan to mount more tools there), and the forward facing black work surface is coated with about five layers of truck bed coating. This box is meant for gluing  soldering, minor dremeling, and whatever else can fit on the work area.

Now to my methods:

I used the five 2" corner braces on the inside and three 4" corner braces on the outside of the backboard, since it would be holding a lot of weight. I'm still not sure if it is totally sturdy, but it feels very firm.
Oops... the 4" braces were initially an afterthought, so they never got painted.

 This pipe strap will break eventually. It wasn't meant to take repeated bends as a lid catch. It is just a cheap solution right now. It is otherwise strong stuff!
 Here you can see the tee hinge for operating the work surface portion of the box. The roller catch above will  hold the wings in, but are not meant to take pressure!
 This was a squeamish decision to make. I needed a strong latch to lock the wings and work surface closed when in transport. Though it is ugly and sticks out, these bolt locks are strong! To the right, you will see another roller catch piece, which will just hold the work surface closed and keep it from falling randomly.
 So here is the closed portion. For trips outside the house, I screw in the little 1" corner brace on either wing to give it more strength.
 You might be wondering what this is for... I got this little beast from Sparkfun, called the squirrel cage. I use it as a solder fume blower and to blow away plastic fumes when I am dremeling plastic. It works well! I plan to use a few more in a mini server cluster in the near future.
 So this is it! You might be wondering how it stays together in a sturdy fashion: First of all, the hinges help, but are not enough. I don't like a lot of stress on hinges. The main holding power happens in both the bolt locks and the draw catches. The bolt locks secure the wings, while the draw catches secure the lid with the work surface. In effect, the pressure is pulled inwards and is locked tight like a box should be. It now moves and behaves like a closed box.

Those handles are beastly, but they will never fail. I use the same ones on a custom 4x10 bass guitar cabinet made from 3/4" plywood. They can carry a ton!

Some afterthoughts: It's ugly, but then again it's a work station, it should be/get ugly. In the future, I would build a more streamlined locking system to hold the box together. I would also make sure I have room to mount at least three tools on the lid of the box. I would route the wires into a small power bar and leave a cord dangling out the back. It gets messy when there are cords going everywhere. Also, a spot light would be nice for those small and hard to reach solder joints.

Future plans: Well honestly, I want to build a bookshelf size version of this. It could have a much bigger desk space and hold MANY more tools, parts, and drawers. I'm thinking: only 1' depth, 3' wide, and 6.5' tall. It would all fold away in a similar fashion to how this box folds now.

What creative ideas do you see for this box?

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