Last revised: 10 Mar 2014

Mobile Electronics Workbench

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Gettting started with electronics:

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If you have questions, find errors or just like this page, please feel free to contact me

email: morten(at)nisker.dk 
twitter: nizger
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Portable electronics lab, mobile hack rig, etc.

Setup
messy gear
Concept art
Sketchup sketch
Building it #1
Building it #2
Locking mechanism
First revision
Tool drawer
Latest revision
Workbench and parts storage

The problem

My oldest kid got a very noisy police toy and rather than just removing the batteries I decided to lower the volume instead. This however made me realize my soldering iron was packed away in bag stowed under the stairs and my hand tools where in the workshop in the shed. This meant I never got around to tinkering with this toy and didn't get to tinker much with electronics at all.

In a perfect world I would of course have a permanent electronics lab workbench where everything would be ready for small and big projects at all times. But I don't have room for that and having all those small parts around is not optimal with small kids around - So I needed another solution.

The idea

My first thought was to use the briefcase that my soldering iron and power supply was already in - but I wasn't quite roomy enough which gave me an excuse to build something.

I sketched out my general idea and started contemplating what to put into it:
My soldering iron goes without saying, along with my variable power supply, a signal generator, a multimeter, and assorted small hand tools. I also wanted good work light, easy access to power and a work surface.

With a good idea of much room I needed, I used Google Sketchup to model it. (download sketch up file)
I ended up with a design that is approx  42 cm(16.5") high , 20 cm(7.9") deep, and 56 cm(22") wide, measured externally. 

Building it

I cut the plywood with a circular saw, that someone was kind enough to lend me. (note to self, buy circular saw) and after that assembling it was fairly straight forward.

The pieces are both glued and screwed together and the screws are countersunk. To make sure the plywood would not split I predrilled the holes.  

All parts of the box, except the front are 12 mm(0.47") plywood the front is 6mm(0.24"). The Shelves inside are 6mm(0.24")

Because the front board is so thin mounting the piano hinge and the closing/locking mechanism is a bit tricky. I predrilled the hole all the way through the board, then cut screws down in length and any excess screw was grinded down with a file. This way I get as much screw as possible without having anything stick out of the board. As there would have been had I been using bolts and nuts. 

Finding a good locking mechanism as also a bit of a challenge. I was initially looking for a more classical box closing mechanism(see picture) but my local hardware store does not carry anything small enough to fit my purpose so ended up going with some mountings which are for padlocks and locking them with small snap hooks. Its a little more work to open it but it has the added benefit of letting you add a small padlock if you need to keep children or the like out of the electronics workbench.

The result

In one the pictures on the right you can see the first revision one of the workbench set up on the dinning table, which no longer is out of bounds for electronics projects. And the project came full circle as the first thing I hacked on it, was the noisy toy.

Later I changed the internal setup a bit and added the shelf dividers/supports and small drawers for tools. I also got some other handles and moved them to the side as I had originally intended - It's rather heavy to lift in one handle.

So now I have an electronics lab/workbench that I can setup every in the house in a couple of minutes. Packing it up takes about the same time when the soldering iron and lamp cool have had time to cool off.

Comments

Clint, 08-09-10 16:24:
Another add-on that might be interesting is a power strip and maybe a breadboarding area, perhaps both attachable using Velcro to attach them to the frontboard.
Clint, 08-09-10 16:27:
Maybe some vertical shelf dividers, too, so everything has its own little cubby to fit into (i.e., the multimeter, etc.). Maybe with nice Dymo-type labels, too.
Morten, 08-09-10 19:29:
There are plenty of power outlets behind the lamp - they are just a little difficult to see. I considered vertical shelf dividers but were not sure where to place them. Just need to use it a little first.
Mark, 09-09-10 04:00:
I really like this box and have wanted something like this for years since I can't seem to find space for a desk (or table). Also nice for those with little children wandering around, it could be locked.

One other way could be split front panel (but both open), the upper section could hold a built in light and make both removable.
GORDIAN, 01-07-11 15:31:
I appreciate your good work, keep up.
Lovie, 29-08-11 06:27:
Umm, are you rlelay just giving this info out for nothing?
lights, 19-09-11 10:06:
Hello,to all the visitors of this great site.I read and know all things of this article.Its look like me a great things and idea to know about a very important information.If anyone visit this site,they will be very satisfied to look this article.
Paulo, 09-12-11 15:48:
Great idea, how didn't I think of it before? As most great ideas, it's a very simple one :)
Just great, have more ideas like this one and share them with us! :)
Sebastian, 07-10-12 21:12:
Really great idea. Considering my workspace, i might actually build something similar. Just to keep everything nice and together. Some dedicated toolboxes for specific jobs. And when not in use, they can be stowed away.
Cliff, 08-10-12 00:03:
What sort of lamp is that, and where can you find it online? (And can it be converted to operate from US 120V)
Dagnis, 08-10-12 01:35:
Soldering iron rocks. I own one like this. :)

But I think it would be a great investment for me to get something modern. (after I saw, how my friends one heated up just in seconds)

nice build. :) I remember how something like this was done in model track racing community.

BR from Iceland
Nisker, 08-10-12 10:17:
@Sebastian send me a link if you do :)

@Cliff it's an old 12v 20w halogen spotlight from IKEA (discontinued now I think) I had lying around - I cut of the clamp and mounted it on a bolt, that lets it swing in/out - Perhaps something like this: http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/30237256/ could work as well.

@Dagnis - My soldering iron heats up within a minute - plenty fast for me :)
Lee, 08-10-12 19:05:
Great work! I need to do the same thing, I have a "bag o tools" which is cumbersome to dig through... Can you explain what those other things on the shelves are? I see a box on the right that says "coarse, fine, ??" also the box on the bottom left, is that a power supply/test load?
Daniel, 08-10-12 20:16:
Nice idea! This could be really useful. You could improve it further by adding an ESD-mat to the fold-down work area.
Nisker, 09-10-12 07:39:
@Lee - The box on the right with 3 buttons(coarse, fine, ampl[itude]) is a simple signal generator - the box bottom left is an adjustable powersupply - I built them both myself.

@Daniel - Thanks. I considered a mat but I don't do much stuff that's very ESD sensitive and I think wood has reasonable ESD properties anyway
paul eric, 11-10-12 19:34:
Hey great idea.
I have a fishing tackle box for my electronic components, but for larger stuff, like the tester, iron, and power supply, your box is inspiring me to go and build something akin to what you have. Mega Kudos! You win Bacon Crown for the day!
Mathieu, 12-10-12 17:53:
You could live in paris !
OGUNDANA, 23-10-12 14:59:
How can i set an electrical and electronics workshop.
what are the tools i need to setup the workshop
Can you send me the tool needed for the workshop
OGUNDANA, 23-10-12 15:03:
W
m, 26-03-14 13:55:
FWIW, the "classic closure" you show in your picture is known as a Draw Hasp.
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