Friday, May 21, 2010

PVC Cable Minders

 PVC is great stuff.  It's durable, millable, drillable and paintable.   Once upon a time I created a monitor riser for my laptop to sit under.  You can read about that here.

Recently, I moved my desk yet again and it would now have the back facing the room.  That's the side where a waterfall of cables usually drapes to the floor, making it impossible to find a wire for a given device to unplug it and creating problems for keeping the floor clean.  Nobody wants to vacuum if they have to pick up a rats nest every time.

The solution was to make some custom cable minders to hang off the back of the desk to keep things some what tidy and out of the way.  Here's a couple of shots of those which I created from a spare length of 2" PVC.

Here's a single unit.  It amounts to a "C" shape with a hole near one end throug which a 3/8" wood screw holds it to the desk.  With dense fiber board like that used in my furniture, this is sufficient.  If you have a softer material, a longer screw may be advisable - just don't put in more screw than you have wood.
And here's an indication of the spacing.  I created three in all.

The only thing on the floor now is the power strip.  These were pretty easy to make and just took a tiny bit of work.  To start with, you'll want some 2" PVC.  I use schedule 40 for most of my work due to the hardness.  You  get a more rigid structure and thicker walls which means a bit more work cutting but a lot lower incidence of failure.

I don't have step by step photos (apologies) but here are the steps I went through.

Before you start, remember safety rules.  I use un-powered hand tools for most of my work except when impractical. They are safer and cheaper and often times work just as well.  Use your brain and don't blame me if you get cut up doing this.  PVC is a bit stiff but will work easy enough if you are patient and careful.  Alway cut away from yourself, look both ways before crossing the street, and wear clean underwear for the love of Pete.

1. Mark your segments on the pipe with a grease pencil, crayon or sharpie.  Allow for blade width if you are picky about uniformity.  I'm not in this case.

2. Make a line parallel to the pipe along one side.  This will be your center line for drilling the screw holes.

3. I used my baby drill press to drill a hole on the center line in each of the segments I had marked out.

4. Cut the segments free from the pipe as a group if you only have two or three.  If you are making a lot, you'll want to do them in groups of three, four at most....

5. ...because next you'll want to head to the miter saw.  I have an old fashion one that my fingers don't fear too much.  Make a set of lines parallel to the screw center line about 1/4" away from the center line and about 1/2" or slightly more apart from each other.  You will remove this material with your saw.  I used my biggest wood block clamp and a sacrificial bit of blocking to get this set on the saw.  Clamp, cut one of the lines through one side of the pipe, unclamp, line up the second cut, cut through one side and then remove the waste material and burs.  A pocket knife or box cutter is handy for getting the burs off.

6.  Turn the piece 90 degrees and cut each cable minder free.  You might need to block and clamp your last one for finger safety.

7.  Decide where you want your cable minders and drill a small pilot hole if you have very hard material.  I did and so I put in three 1/16" pilot holes. 

8. Insert screws through the inside of the "C" and into your pilot holes and tighten till snug.  Don't over tighten as you may strip out the wood and have to move your cable minder to a new pilot hole.

9. Run your cables.  You can see from the pictures that I just fed them through the gap in the "C" and then looped the excess back and forth so all the cable was up off the floor.

Now, as a bonus step, if you are really anal like I can be sometimes, use zip-ties to tie the cables that must run to the floor to find the power strip to the legs of your desk.  In the past, I had done the revers and mounted the power strip up under the desk, but then the power button is hard to get to.

There you go.  If you already have scrap lying around (like every good shop hog should), free cable minders for little effort.