Monday, August 27, 2007

Part 2: Lowe's Tool Case Wristwatch Conversion

Cutting the Dividers

Link to Part 1: Introduction

The Lowe's tool case came with two long dividers, about 12-1/4 inch long, that can divide the case interior completely from front to back. Unfortunately, they only provide two of them, and getting more isn't possible (unless one buys more cases). I'm going to need more dividers of the same size. The question became the material to use. I had more than 18 watches when I bought the case and have even more now. It would be nice if it could hold more. Should be able to get 7 across with padded dividers more closely spaced and might be able to fit 4 rows of them for a total of 28. Even if only three rows will work, 21 is still a few more than 18.

The next question was the materials from which to make my own dividers. I just happened to have some Plexiglas sheets laying in Ye Olde Junque Box, left over from my Dad's when I cleaned out his house after he passed on. He taught me well: Don't throw things away, especially raw materials and hardware, that might be useful in some future, unforseen project; reduces trips to hardware stores and keeps money in one's pocket.
It also just so happened that their length and thickness was exactly that of the long dividers (sans padding) that came with the tool case. These could be used to create some of my own additional dividers. I also had some suitable foam padding material and a can of adhesive that will adhere the foam to the Plexiglas without damaging either. Dug out the small square, a steel rule and a scribe from the tool bench. Measured an original divider, laid out the shape of it on a sheet of Plexiglas.After marking the Plexiglas with the scribe, I put it on top of the original divider to see how well it matched up visually. No problem. The bottom corners will have to be notched to fit the radiused edges and corners inside the tool case, like the dividers it came with. I'll be darned. The same coffee mug got into this photo as in the one shot a year ago when the case was new!

Now to cut the sheets into strips the correct width. The inner material used in the originals is some form of Plexiglas, Polycarbonate, ABS or similar material that flexes slightly. This inner, stiff core is exactly 2-3/4" wide. What to cut the Plexiglas with was the next problem. They need to cut very straight. I could use the 10" table saw and its rip fence, but don't have the appropriate extremely fine toothed blade to cut sheets of plastic . . . nor do I want to buy one (carbide tooth blades are $$$).
However, it can be done with a band saw with a 15tpi blade. Alas, nearly all band saws do not have a rip fence. They're usually used for scroll work on thicker materials. An expedient fence using a piece of scrap 1x4 of Douglass Fir (left over from a completely different project; another reason to keep certain scraps around), a couple of deep C-clamps, and a small combination square can set up a fence on the band saw's table quickly. Don't forget there's a kerf width to account for in measuring where to set the rip fence! Plastics can also chip and crack when being cut using a power saw, even with extremely fine-toothed blades. A bit of thin masking tape covering where the cuts will be made helps prevent that.

If the band saw looks vintage, it is. It was my Dad's and when he bought it, the thing was already very vintage. It was made circa 1933-1936! Requires a separate motor (they didn't come with one integrated into the saw then). The wheels are cast iron, and balanced (small drill holes in the edge around the rims). Takes a second or so to spin up, even with a 1/3-horse motor, but they're Mondo flywheels -- takes a LOT to slow them down once they're up to speed with all that rotational momentum spinning around. Saw doesn't bog easily!
Bed is very heavy cast iron, ground dead flat and has remained that way since it was made nearly 75 years ago. Wouldn't trade it for a brand new Delta! They don't make 'em like they did this one any more.
Two sheets were ripped and the bottom corners were notched in short order. Got three dividers per sheet for a total of six cores for home-brewed ones, in addition to the two the tool case came with.
Although I had double-checked beforehand - measure twice and cut once - off came all the tape and they were checked against an original. Perfect match dimensionally (by eyeball comparison; close enough for me). Now to see how they actually fit, and whether or not I can get seven across. Pulled out my TISSOT Seastar 1000, my largest watch (at the time), and started spacing them . . . Happy Day! I can fit seven across with enough additional space for the padding that will have to be put on the dividers . . . and the new dividers are just the right thickness and length to fit perfectly into the shallow slots around the sides of the tool case.

Now for the cross dividers. This entailed measuring more dimensions, and then designing exactly how to fit everything together into a grid.
Sometimes something is discovered during a project and a better idea comes along resulting in changes to the original plan. That's what happened as I got started making the dividers to go across the the tool case. It's about 18 inches wide, so the design question was where to put one of the long dividers the case came with, and how long to make the cross-dividers for each side of it.Started working out the details of the spacing for the cross-dividers. The Bad News: Four rows will not fit, only three. This means it will end up holding 21 watches, not the 28 I had hoped to achieve. The Good News: I discovered by complete serendipity that the second long divider fit perfectly as a cross-divider if the first long divider was placed where one of dividers made yesterday would go.

Hmmmm . . . needed to think about this. Good spacing of the three rows (for the pillows in my watch boxes) didn't consume the entire case either. There was a bit of space left over. It could be consumed by additional padding, or it could be worked into some small cubbyholes for accessory storage. A design revision ensued.

I cut more long dividers from additional panels of Plexiglas on the band saw. The first four would also have to be shortened, and short cross-dividers would have to be made, 5" long, to go on the right side of the case. I could cross-cut using the band saw, but that's painful trying to make a straight line. There is no miter slot on the bed, unlike a table saw.
I could also jury rig a cross-cut miter guage that would slide along the edge of the bed (using an old wood drafting T-Square; I have several from which one could be sacrificed and retained for future use). Nope, more than I wanted to do for this, and didn't want to dismantle the jury rigged rip fence just yet. More strips might have to be made (if cross-cutting existing ones were botched). Aha, the miter saw still had the abrasive non-ferrous material cut-off "blade" in it! Strips were cross-cut using it very carefully to ensure proper dimensions, and very slowly to keep from melting the Plexiglas (which I discovered it would do quite quickly with the first cut).Now to see if everything fits. Yep! There was also a trip to the local fabric store to look for suitable material to cover the padding that would be laminated onto the Plexiglas. Told the Better Half where I was going. She immediately felt my forehead to see if there was signs of fever. Then she presented me with a list of stuff she wanted! Also suggested I look for Ultra-Suede after looking at my watch boxes to see what they're lined with. Got to the fabric store and I was the only male there the entire time. Ultra-Suede it is; texture and feel is just like the material lining my watch boxes. Got a yard of it for about $10 (the bolt is 54" wide). It was on sale at half price! Should be enough to cover everything. Also remembered the "other stuff" the wife wanted. The last photo in this part shows all dividers in their planned locations, and some of the coffee colored Ultra-Suede can be seen in the lower left.
Next step was making a lattice out of all the Plexiglas dividers, the subject of the next part.

Link to Part 3: Creating the Grid

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