I am continuing with my quest to finally have an organized toolbox. I decided the next goal would be to get my sockets organized. I have seen a few products that look pretty helpful, I even own a couple of plastic socket holders labeled with the sizes and everything. Things like that work OK but they are never exactly what I need, they have spots for sizes I don’t own and even more annoyingly sometimes they don’t have a spot for sockets that I do have.
If you want something exactly right you need to just make it yourself!
I am fortunate enough to be a member of a really good local makerspace which means I have access to some really cool stuff such as a laser cutter. It does a great job of cutting and engraving acrylic. I picked up a full 4’x8′ sheet of 3/16″ gloss black acrylic from the local plastic supplier and drew up the shape of the top shelf of the Harbor Freight tool cart in a handy drawing tool called inkscape. For those not familiar with inkscape it is a completely free and open source vector drawing program. I use it on Linux but works on Mac and Windows as well. Check it out at inkscape.org.
From there I went on to the tedious job of measuring the diameter of each socket with digital calipers and drawing a bunch of circles for the holes…. I quickly lost patience with this and decided to “work smarter, not harder”.
My day job is as a software engineer so I decided I should be able to solve this problem programatically. I wrote a fairly simple python program that could take a list of socket sizes (including wall thickness of the socket for things like impact sockets) and output an inkscape (svg) file containing the appropriate sized circles along with text labels that could be engraved below each one. In the end I probably spent more time on this getting it just right but the nice thing is now if I decide I want to create a new one for a different set of sockets it will go much more quickly.
From there it was just a simple matter of importing those automatically generated drawings into my template and moving things around to arrange them how I liked.
I am not yet too sure this is exactly how I want the layout to be but I figured it was a start so I might as well go cut it. Being fairly thick acrylic it took a couple of passes to cut through so the entire cut job (along with the engraving of the labels which is the really slow part) took a little over an hour.
The end result looked great! That was at least until I got home and test fit it in the top of the toolbox. It was too small!!!! Somehow in the process of exporting the .svg file to a .dxf it got scaled down around 5%. None of the sockets would fit in the holes and the entire outline was significantly smaller than the space for it in the toolbox. I had done a smaller version as a test cut the other day and it came out just right. After some head scratching and digging I realized the one that worked OK I had done on my desktop PC and the one that was too small was on my laptop. Both were running Ubuntu Linux and both had the same version of inkscape. I dug in more deeply and in the settings.xml file somehow there was a dxf export parameter that converts pixels to inches that was set to 90 on one and 96 on the other…. still no clue how this happened but once I fixed this it appears they now both generate proper dxf files.
So… as they say “long story sort” (yeah, I know, too late for that now). I have a chunk of plastic that looks nice but isn’t actually useful for anything. Going to see about cutting a new one tomorrow, once I do I will be posting a video of the whole process and will post the .svg files here for others who might want to make something like this.