Open Hardware: Inexpensive Enclosures From Junction Boxes.

I had a need for a cheap, standard enclosure for a humidity and temperature monitoring project. While there are many, many options for enclosures out there, few are cheap AND locally available. It occurred to me that electrical junction boxes are widely available, inexpensive, and consistently dimensioned.

So, off to Home Depot I went, wallet and calipers in tow. There were a few attractive junction boxes, each around $1 each:

Raco 1-Gang Drawn Square Box
Model # 8190 Home Depot SKU # 587799

Raco 1-Gang Welded Square Box
Model # 8189 Home Depot SKU # 201863

Carlon 2-Gang 20 cu. in. Switch and Outlet Box
Model # A521DE-CARR Home Depot SKU # 271612

There was even a blue plastic cover!

But, on closer inspection, the cover turned out to be unsuitable. It’s made of PVC, which cannot be cut or marked on the laser. Etching or cutting PVC on the laser forms gaseous hydrochloric acid, which is toxic, corrosive, and voids the warranty on your laser cutter. Don’t cut PVC/Vinyl on the laser if you value your health, safety, and/or warranty. Incidentally, if you are buying a used laser, always look for signs of rust around the optics/cutting area. Rust is a good indicator that the laser was abused in this particular way.

After some iteration on cheap 1/4″ import Baltic Birch plywood…

I came up with this — a simple, Open Hardware cover and liner system for junction boxes. If you have access to a laser cutter, you can now make custom project boxes, suitable for holding Arduino AND a shield, in minutes. It’s as simple as a top plate and a bottom plate – the bottom plate designed to insulate the Arduino or other electronics from the metal box. Of course, as pictured above, you can also use the blue PVC boxes while retaining the laserability of this cover.

Here’s a nice shot showing some of the better features of this setup. First, by knocking out one of the knock-outs on the side, it is possible to feed in ethernet, USB, and sensor cables with room to spare. Second, even with the insulating plate in place, there is enough room for Arduino with a shield and header pins sticking up. Third, the box comes with screws suitable for fixing the cover in place. Pretty slick, and very cheap.

This is Open Hardware.

The Internet Archive is pretty excited about Open Hardware, and most or all of my work here will be released as such. This is release number 1 of many. Here is the artwork. (this link will be updated shortly).






14 thoughts on “Open Hardware: Inexpensive Enclosures From Junction Boxes.

  1. Pingback: Need cheap and plentiful project boxes? Hit up your local hardware store - Hack a Day

  2. Pingback: Need cheap and plentiful project boxes? Hit up your local hardware store | You've been blogged!

  3. mdb

    Cool!! I had the same idea last week walking through my local hardware store, but I didnt realize if it would be useful or not. Now I know it works, and really well!!! Congrats!! And great post!

  4. Pingback: Aveti nevoie Dulapuri cu zboruri ieftine din belsug si de proiect? Lovit la magazinul de hardware locale | ro-Stire

  5. Barry Thomas

    Super-mega-ultra-spectacacool-awesome! Love the modular flow and a definite level 9.8 on the smack the forehead ‘why didn’t I think of that’ meter. Great!! Keep it up and please email me if you wanta bounce ideas of one-another.


  6. Pingback: Need cheap and plentiful project boxes? Hit up your local hardware store | The Depot of Talk

  7. Daphne Lera

    As a book restorer or conservator, I am very interested in these ideas.
    Please visit my website where you will find a two min. clip(YouTube) of me &my work, and also my bindery. What is the plan for items the are book related, such as 19th Century book bindery, or are you collecting only books themselves?I am in Vancouver Island for the month of August, can you please email me once you have had a chance to look at my website?

  8. Pingback: Inexpensive Enclosures From Junction Boxes « adafruit industries blog

  9. MauiMaker

    Cool hack… I saw this on Hack-A-Day last week and happened to be in hardware store over weekend. They had several black plastic junction boxes at very low prices (<$1). That was too good to pass up, since I need some project boxes anyway.

    I also spotted several outdoor, weather sealed junction boxes for <$15. These may be quite useful alternatives to hacking more expensive sealed boxes, as they already have openings and outlet options.

  10. Pingback: Using building supplies as cheap project enclosures « Build Lounge

  11. Coderjoe

    While this is cool, I would like to see the Open Hardware principle applied to the petabox enclosure, from V1 onward. There was talk about releasing the designs for the V1 red boxes, but that seems to have dried up right about when Capricorn Tech was spun off to build them.

  12. daniel Post author

    Hey coderjoe,

    Noted. That was well before my time at the Archive, so I personally don’t have much to say about it. I *can* tell you that the work I do here, going forward, will all be Open Hardware and publicly documented.

  13. Pingback: How to choose solar junction boxes? | Uses of Solar Power

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