Home Lan Caddy

In the spirit of MAKE, I thought I’d share a little project I did over the weekend: making a box for wrangling the connections in my home LAN.

My home LAN is not very complex: a DSL modem, a wireless router / printserver, a NAS device, and an inkjet printer. But even on a simple network the connections between the devices can create a real mess! The back of the network has to hold
3 power supplies,
a power strip / surge protector,
2 phone connections (fax and modem), and
3 ethernet connections (modem->router, router->linkstation, router->desktop).
Particularly problematic are the power supplies, which tend to be bulky. Cables will wrap around the power supplies and around each other, and before long the entire setup becomes difficult to maintain.
My solution came to me in the supermarket: I realized that a disposable aluminum baking tray had a diagonal length almost identical to a power strip.
Putting an identical tray upside down on top of the first tray makes a self-cooling container big enough to hold all your power and data cords. What follows are detailed instructions.
1) Label all your power supplies (on both the power supply and the cord). If you plug your router into the wrong power supply you won’t be happy.
2) Cut a hole in a front bottom corner of your aluminum tray: this allows the power strip cord to exit the baking tray and reach your wall socket. A phone cord with a splitter also goes in the tray, and reaches it’s wall socket by the same method.
3) Plug in all your power supplies. Drape the cords over the back left corner of the tray.
4) Plug retractable phone cords ($1.25 at Frys!) into the phone line splitter for as many lines as you need to support (I needed 2, and attached 1 spare for a total of 3). Get enough loose cord to drape the cord over the back right corner of the tray.
5) Make sure your surge protector is turned on!
6) Drill some air holes in the second baking tray. You can use a pencil for this if you don’t have a drill. ;->
7) Duct tape the second baking tray as a “roof” over the first baking tray. It should be “upside down”. The photographs should make clear what I mean by this.
8) Glue the retractable phone cord boxes to the “roof”. This allows you to get as much cord as you need, and no more, without opening up the baking tray.
9) Put your network gear on top of the entire enclosure. If you have the typical number of power supplies, the stuff in the box will be enough to hold up the network gear.
10) Hook up the router, modem, etc.
11) For bonus points, put the phone and power cord inside corrogated plastic tubing. This way there is only ONE unsightly wire coming out of your rig, instead of two. You can buy the plastic tubing at Frys as well.
12) There is no step 12.
The aluminum tray holds the surge protector, the phone line splitter, and all the power supplies for the network. Neat!

7 thoughts on “Home Lan Caddy

  1. ventifacy March 23, 2005 / 2:28 pm

    Wire labels are good but duct tape conducts electricity. . .

  2. Haji March 24, 2005 / 7:11 pm

    Yeah…but with any luck and good cables…you shouldn’t have to worry about it…

  3. jon March 26, 2005 / 9:47 am

    II haven’t got zapped so far! If I do I’ll let you know ….

  4. Keith Free Ellis March 27, 2005 / 9:26 am

    That’s classic. I think I end up moving enough things at least once a year and am forced to redo my setup. There’s just too many damn cables…What a killer app if there was a nice and easy way to hide all that shit

  5. jon March 27, 2005 / 10:52 am

    Go for it man! If you do the project and take pictures I will post them here.
    It shouldn’t take you more than an hour once you’ve got the aluminum baking trays and the phone splitters / retractible phone lines.

  6. Ed T. April 12, 2005 / 5:01 pm

    Great idea! Maybe use some Rubbermaid or other plastic container instead of the baking trays?
    Ed T.

  7. jon April 12, 2005 / 5:31 pm

    Ya that was the first thing I thought of trying.
    I was worried about the plastic melting, and aluminum is great for transferring heat. Also, I didn’t see any rubbermaid containers big enough to hold a power-strip.
    If heat isn’t an issue (I have no idea whether it is, so I played it safe) than a Rubbermaid container of suitable size would be sturdier and better than my aluminum contraption.
    Give it a try and take photos!

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