Top bar is about 6" above the bench top and can accommodate most sizes of plier and similar tool you are likely to encounter on a maker workbench

Tool Rack for Pliers

The workshop is my happy place — I go there to create. One of my favorite things to do out in my woodworking shop is to build cabinets, organizers and jigs to make it easier to work or accomplish a given task. I’ve been applying that to my recent work with 3D printing and electronics hardware hacking.

By training I am a software engineer and a preservation carpenter — yep the is an unusual mix to some — but to me I use the same part of my brain to envision a large software application and break it down into manageable pieces of code and then write them that I use to envision a chair and break it down into all the steps and pieces that start at a tree and result in a chair.

After getting some more work time at the Maker Workbench that I recently completed I realized that my hand tool storage was lacking.

I was storing my pliers, strippers, nippers and similar tools in the holes on the sides of the metal racks that support my workbench.

For tools that only get used infrequently the holes on the support posts of my maker workbench do a good job at keeping them off the desk, but are a pain to get in and out of for frequently used tools.
For tools that only get used infrequently the holes on the support posts of my maker workbench do a good job at keeping them off the desk, but are a pain to get in and out of for frequently used tools.

It seemed like a great idea — I can see the tools, they are off the workbench and reasonably accessible, but for common operations I felt I was wasting too much time and energy getting them in and out of those holes — as sometimes they would catch a bit on the way out.

After thinking about some of the optimizations I made out in my woodworking shop and watching videos like some of Adam Savage’s shop tours, behind the scenes and shop projects builds from tested.com and this video in particular which made the case for not using drawers I wanted to come up with something efficient to organize the tools I used most often on the bench.

The idea bounced around in my subconscious for a few weeks until I finally came up with the following tool rack for my pliers and similar tools:

Angle view of completed tool rack
Angle view of completed tool rack

How I built the tool rack:

The rack is about 6″ tall, the base is about 6″ wide and the rods are about 12″ long. I bought a 36″ long piece of O1 Tool Steel Round Rod, Polished Finish, Precision Ground, Annealed, Metric 10mm from Amazon here. I cut the rod on my abrasive cutoff saw and ground off any burs and chamfered the cut ends a bit so I would be sure they’d seat nicely in the 3D printed ends.

Test prints of end caps for 10mm rod.
Test prints of end caps for 10mm rod. (Left is Dark blue nGen filament, right is clear blue PLA)

I then made what I felt was a reasonable sized 10mm end cap in SketchUp and printed it out. It was a tiny bit tight so I measured the rod and the print and adjusted things a bit and tried printing at 102, 105 and 108%. 105% was the sweet spot and gave me a nice tight fit. I also made a variant of the end cap to include a #4-40 machine screw to see if that would keep the cap on there even tighter but felt it was negligibly better in this case and recommend you print 1 or more of these caps to dial in your printer an get a real nice fit. If you still find the cap is loose you can epoxy it into place.

Printing each side of the tool rack. Printed with a brim to try and minimize any warping.
Printing each side of the tool rack. Printed with a brim to try and minimize any warping.

With the printer dialed in and the cap in hand it was time to print the sides. Rather than waste material and to increase the aesthetics of the rack I added a series of holes to the model to give it a more pleasing and modern look.

(Left) Side with brim still attached. (Right) Cleaned up piece ready to go.
(Left) Side with brim still attached. (Right) Cleaned up piece ready to go.

I printed the sides one at a time with a brim to try and minimize any warping.

View from the side of the completed rack.
View from the side of the completed rack.

The cleanup was easy with an X-acto knife and the assembly was simply inserting the rods into the printed end pieces and start using the rack.

3/4 view of completed rack loaded up with pliers and nippers
3/4 view of completed rack loaded up with pliers and nippers

The above described rod is a bit on the expensive side, costing about $15 but the ground and polished look is what I wanted and it adds a pretty good amount of weight to the tool rack and I’ve found it stays right where I leave it on the bench. It works well with all the small and medium size pliers shown below and can also accommodate some of my larger and specialty channel-locks and similar hand tools. If you are on a budget, simple mild steel rod from a hardware store or even a wooden dowel can be used.

Top bar is about 6" above the bench top and can accommodate most sizes of plier and similar tool you are likely to encounter on a maker workbench
Top bar is about 6″ above the bench top and can accommodate most sizes of plier and similar tool you are likely to encounter on a maker workbench

I’ve shared out the plans and SketchUp files for the end caps and rack sides (both solid sides and the sides with the circular holes) up on Thingiverse.com here.

If you make or remix this project, please share some pics or notes in the comments below.

Take care,
-Bill Rainford
@TinWhiskerzBlog
@TheRainford

 

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One thought on “Tool Rack for Pliers”

  1. Thanks for sharing this article. I have another Idea. Simple tool rack to place on the wall at your bench. Adjust the thickness setting to beef it up. Print it with 100% infill as its a bit fragile in its.

    Like

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