Ultimate (DIY) workstation powerstrip

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Craig writes in with this DIY power station (tons of comments on this one…) –

My needs were simple; A power strip at my soldering/electronics workstation for my desk lamp, a small stereo, soldering iron, etc.. In addition, I wanted the outlet space to plug in 4-5 bulky low power DC transformers to monthly maintain all my rechargeable devices to keep the Ni-cads properly maintained. With a standard power strip, I didn’t have the space even with other cords unplugged. They started making power strips with one or two offset outlets for bulky transformers, but none that met my needs. ONE heavy duty diamond-plate aluminum 4′ shop power strip would have worked, but it was $45!

With about $10 in materials plus a few things I had in shop such as an appliance cord, a cord strain relief, and some 14-2 house wire, I made a power strip that will fit all my low power transformers for monthly charge maintaining, and I don’t have to keep unplugging my lamp and radio. It also will stay in place unlike the cheap plastic ones with wall-mount keyholes that crack and come off the wall with the first tug of a tight plug.

60 thoughts on “Ultimate (DIY) workstation powerstrip

  1. I can kinda imagine what the finished product would look like, but isn’t there usually a picture of something like that?

  2. The cost of these materials would be more than ten dollars.

    Power Bars are more cost effective and often protect components from voltage spikes and surges as well.

    Assembly of electrical construction materials should really be left to the professionals for safety reasons.

  3. The nipples shown are not electrical material but rather that of the gas industry; another trade best left to professionals.

  4. eh, i think it’s pretty clear that nothing here needs surge protection – i think it’s a pretty nice effort that would suit lots of relatively low-tech needs. Projects like this needn’t be left to professionals as long as some common sense is employed. that 14gauge wire should be plenty for the draw from those wall warts.

  5. The threaded part of the nipples are in very close vicinity to the ‘Live’ screw terminals on the receptacles because the center knock-out is being used on the boxes.

    If it actually made contact and the somewhat likely scenario of a faulty ground existed, for example in an older home, you would have an extremely dangerous scenario that could go unnoticed for years.

    This is why we get permits and call professionals.

  6. I agree with Mork. Power bars are both more cost effective and safer. This is just asking for trouble if it’s a piecemeal hodge podge of guess work by someone who doesn’t know what the hell they’re doing.

  7. mork: EMT is coupled with metal boxes in a nearly identical fashion. The biggest downside to using nipples instead of EMT clamps is that the stop nut on the outside can result in too much of the nipple protruding into the box.

    All of the boxes should be grounded to one another and ultimately to ground on the supply cord. Even if one of the supply lines were to short to the box, it would be grounded and quickly throw a breaker. If you’re paranoid, start the circuit with a GFCI.

    While this installation is sure to catch the eye of an inspector, it’s not particularly unsafe.

  8. While I am the first to admit that electricity scares the bejesus out of me, this really isn’t that bad.

    All he has to do is buy one surge protector now, and plug the entire strip into it. Preferably into a GFCI outlet. Or on it’s own circuit breaker.

    Although, I would think about not using the nipples and instead just buying a couple feet of the flexible conduit.

    This is one of those areas where I woulden’t really skimp on using the proper materials.

  9. Once something is permanently attached to the wall then it becomes fixed wiring rather then an appliance, That is why powerstrips always use the keyhole attachments that we all hate so much since they fall off when unplugging things so often.

  10. Crack open even the nicest looking surge suppressor, it’s likely you’ll find 50 cent MOVs used to protect the load.

    Also, I think it’s unfair to assume that the people who frequent this site are incapable of building a working power strip that meets or exceeds the standards set forth by UL.

    I trust fellow Makers will do their homework.

  11. What everybody’s overlooking is that it’s not surge protectors, it’s a CIRCUIT BREAKER that is supposed to be in every power strip, to provide local protection against short circuits. That’s the missing item here.

  12. I dont know how the US wiring works, but here in NZ anything with outlets to run more then 2 appliances has to have a breaker so that you cant take more then the 10 or 15 amps the wall outlet is rated for. 15 amp sockets are still as rare as hens teeth despite some kitchen appliances coming with them now and most welders also needing them so most people just change the plug over

  13. If the wires are at least 14 guage no circuit breaker is required, assuming it is being fed by a 15 amp breaker in the panel.

  14. I agree with flexo that the entire strip should be on it’s own breaker, surge protector, and a GFCI like most of these “shop strips” tend to be. I have seen MANY of these exact same setups in wood shops and shade tree garages all around.

    I do agree that maybe some PVC or Conduit would be a bit safer on the short out and touch a 110v gas pipe front. The less metal around your custom wiring the better :). Running some electrical tape around the outlet screws is another safety measure i have seen many people do as well to keep things from shorting to the side of the box or in this case gas pipe.

  15. It’s less the 14 than the 2 in the 14/2 that concerns me. The extra effort of grounding the thing seems like it’d be worth it to me. (says the guy who has a not terribly different set up on the desk next to him… but with a switch!

  16. 14-2 *is* grounded.

    Also the usage of gas pipe confounds me. Get a 6-foot length of conduit, a tubing cutter, and a few proper connectors.

  17. Funny, I thought this forum was aimed towards people who were handy. A slew of non-handy people who don’t know a neutral from a ground WONT make this any more than refurbish a tube amp. Do you poo-poo the guy who refurbished the tube amp? 14-2 is grounded, houses used to use threadded pipe for conduit in garages & workshops but a cheaper less quality conduit became more cost effective yet remained code. Surge protection is not nessesary or code. The cost IS $10 + tax. The cord is 14ga with a strain relief (properly fastened) 14ga is rated at 15A, store bought ones are less. Geez Mork, do you nay-say everything others do, thinking that they are not as smart as you? Other people have experience and common sense to you know. It’s what we all do here!!!

  18. John,
    The reason I went with threadded pipe & electrical locknuts was it is more heavy-duty, easier to assemble, and cheaper than a 10″ standard length of conduit and 6 connectors. Indeed it is NOT code, but any electrician would tell you it’s BETTER than code. Use of water/gas pipes for conduit in houses is now a violation because at a glance an electrician or plumber cannot tell what is what. This is a mere outlet strip and not a permanant fixture. Coduit & fittings would make a weak flimsy unit taking it down & moving it. Good inquiry though.

  19. John,
    The reason I went with threadded pipe & electrical locknuts was it is more heavy-duty, easier to assemble, and cheaper than a 10″ standard length of conduit and 8 connectors. Indeed it is NOT code, but any electrician would tell you it’s BETTER than code. Use of water/gas pipes for conduit in houses is now a violation because at a glance an electrician, HVAC or plumber cannot tell what is what. This is a mere outlet strip and not a permanant fixture. Conduit & fittings would make a weak flimsy unit taking it down & moving it. Good inquiry though.

  20. @Craig…
    “Indeed it is NOT code, but any electrician would tell you it’s BETTER than code.”

    Code is the MINIMUM standard for the area. If it is better than code, it is code.

    “Use of water/gas pipes for conduit in houses is now a violation because at a glance an electrician, HVAC or plumber cannot tell what is what.”

    Well…not clearly as stated. To reduce problems, ALL certified fittings carry the markings for the industry(s) they are tested for. We do NOT want techs ‘assuming’ good looking parts from another trade will do the job.

    Why?

    The job of the tech at this level is to assure a safe install of parts to the customer. They do not, and should not, bear the liability of deciding which parts are safe to use.
    Now if you, as a homeowner, wish to test the limits of what will/might work go ahead. It is still a free country(USA) and in most areas you may do whatever you wish to your OWN house.
    But as a professional, code is there for a reason. CYA and their’s. Might even save it!

    (Helped a few electrons down the path of least resistance in my time……..)

  21. MORK,
    Why are you ASSUMING the cord is under-gague? Why are you saying there is no cord connector even though it states there is? You ASSUME it is wired unsafely? You ASSUME I mounted the box nuts against the terminals. You state that if older home ground is faulty this is dangerous… EVERYTHING in a defective ground home is dangerous!!!
    Then you attack my ability to work on brakes??!!?? Post, after post, after post.. You think I’m an idiot that cant get 3 wires in the right place. Slam my ability to lay ceramic tile while you’re at it. How can you sleep at night knowing you are a genius and everybody around you will never be half as much of a god as you? At work I correct licenced electrician mistakes all the time. Safety-minded common sense is often better than a certification.
    I like to think that those who actually DO projects here at MAKE, have a head filled with good decent common sense. ‘NUFF SAID!

  22. I just bought a snazzy power-strip from McMaster-Carr. Its got these mounting blocks that slide in the extrusion, pretty much generalizing the mounting interface. This convenience alone made up for the extra cost. MOVs protect against over-potentials, but don’t provide the harmonic protection that filters provide.
    If one is doing electronic repair, the important thing is to get an isolation transformer.

  23. Don’t sweat it Craig. Mork is what is known in the trade as a trolling, know-it-all, asshole. (No offense Mork) While your set up has some draw-backs/problems, it in no way deserves to be peppered with comment after comment from some guy who can’t do so without researching each comment on the net or from his home DIY books. (no offense Mork) This is a clear case of cyber-bullying at its most mediocre. (no offense Mork). Just ignore him and don’t answer his replies directly because that is what his type thrive on and crave in order to offset feelings of inadequacy which he can’t shake no matter how many therapists he sees. ;-)

  24. Funny you are surprised with my discomfort regarding the safety of this install when you proudly state “electricians won’t like this one” before you explain anything.

    Any inspector would fail that install. bottom line.

    Regulations are in place for our safety.

    I’m only encouraging a safe standard.

  25. @mork – i knew folks would post up helpful tips, suggestions and more – it’s a good way to learn and for makers to not only see the best way to do something, but also not-so-the best way.

  26. “Regulations are in place for our safety.”

    And occasionally for the safety of the wages of the licensed tradesmen.

    Look we’re not working with 1500-volt tube amps or gamma radiation here. Ground everything, tape the connections, white to white and not to black, proper gauge wire… it’s not rocket science.

    Boston (and any older city) is full of houses stuffed with pre-WWII wiring. Cloth insulation, no grounds, nailed right to the lath holding up the horsehair plaster. Goes great with the lead water pipes and asbestos paint that you can still find on almost any block!

  27. As an apprentice electrician (in Canada, but the Codes are very similar for obvious trade reasons) we made splitters much like this for job sites. Inspectors on a jobsite didn’t look twice at them, especially if it was on a site that they knew had a foreman would give it a pass/fail before it got closed up. And this is in BC, where the code is far more anal than the rest of Canada!

    Appliance cord is NOT lamp cord. 14/2, as stated previously, is grounded, and he mentioned electrical lock nuts, in the plural. It would be trivial to construct it in such a fashion as to not have the pipe protrude in a way that would contact the neutral or hot lugs. Furthermore, as long as the pipe is metallic, it continues the ground. Every foreman and journeyman instructed me to make sure that not only should the ground wire be connected to the outlet, but to the box as well.

    The only thing I can possible think of that would give an inspector pause is whether this is going directly to a breaker in the panel or plugged into another outlet elsewhere. Here, we are limited by law to twelve devices on a circuit, and if this is not going directly to a breaker, this would possibly well over that number.

    However, since it’s for low-draw charging devices, it’s not that much of a concern. If the explicit intent was to run routers, planers and other high-draw devices, then I would indeed echo the concerns of the others.

  28. Mork says that I proudly state “electricians won’t like this one”
    ANOTHER ASSUMPTION on Mork’s part. Phillip put that statement in while uploading the article!! Whenever you ASS-U-ME you make an ASS out of U and ME
    Your assumptions are getting annoying to the point that we cannot take you seriously. Does your own mother even believe what you say anymore Mork? GO AWAY!

  29. Mork, if you’re affraid to break a few rules now and then this isn’t the site for you. Go hang out at your Union hall.

    Nice simple solution Craig.

  30. The pipe provides superior mechanical strength over EMT. The method of pipe to box connection is obscured but if two EMT nuts are used on each end of the pipe protrusion into the box is controlled and the resulting mechanical connection is stronger than an EMT style tubing-adapter-nut method (I’d weld it together). Black pipe surfaces do provide electrical resistance but the threaded portions do not. So the boxes are are grounded through the pipe in addition to the ground wire. I would replace the cord entry box receptacle with a GFI if the wall socket isn’t on a GFI but I’m paranoid. Anyone can build anything electrical. As long as it plugs into a wall socket it doesn’t have to be “to Code” unless you sell it. Killing yourself accidentally is still legal. Thank fully, I live in South Dakota.

  31. My projects are so much better designed than yours. Check out all the ones I submitted. All of my projects are always flawless.

    Oh and btw. Next time, Instead of trying to save money by doing a fairly simple and straightforward project like this yourself, you should pay god knows how much to have some other guy come in and do pretty much the exact same thing except for he would actually use electrical conduit.

    I know more than you,
    Mork The Troll

  32. Craig listen to John L. He seems to have a pretty good head on his shoulders. As you probably already know every internet forum or message board has someone who makes it his own personal mission to show everyone just how much knowledge he has (or the person wants to make people think he has knowledge on the subject). This person will sit there and criticize every aspect of your project, but usually doesn’t ever post a project of his own. Weird isn’t it?

  33. Another important thing to do, if one is going to get into this stuff, is to ensure his own ground.

    Get a copper-plated iron rod made for this and pound it into the ground, with a sledge hammer, be cautious, butch work like this can be addicting. I threaded the top of mine and put a machine ball on the top, in case anyone falls upon it, they wont be impaled. This was a little diffucult, as Fe is quite hard. Get some copper wire far thicker than anything, or some copper braid far thicker than anything, and clamp it onto the top of the rod with clamps designed for the purpose sold next to the rod. Run the wire or braid to your service box standard and clamp it there similarly. Use clear polystyrene paint to weatherproof everything.

  34. Dude, you did pretty good, Ya sorta missed some of the finer tech details, were you the guy who installed the soap dispenser at the pizza joint? The one who drilled into the electric breaker panel on the otherside of the wall? Shooting sparks into the tomato sauce, AND the unsuspecting video store? He missed one of the details too. DETAILS MATTER WITH ELECTRICITY.

  35. There is nothing technically wrong with this installation. Some people object, this is because they do not like to see funky looking, though functional, joints. I’m this way a little bit myself, but more due to the fact that I am reasonably well capitalized these days, despite the odds. Robert Pirsig has a wonderful riff on this topic in his “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” I do not agree with the overall conclusion of the book, but the incident early on when he tries to use part of an aluminum beer can to shim his buddy’s BMW motorcycle handlebar, and his buddy won’t let him, is pure gold!

  36. Can’t handle criticism from an electrician?
    You’re overly defensive comments lead to me assume your mom is close by. Try her for some comforting.

  37. Wow, why the hell are people making such a fuss over this? Maybe if you put the wires through Altoid tins no one would think twice about it.

    I’d prefer projects like this over useless “art” crap anyday.

  38. Good work on wanting a better functioning system and taking the effort to build something. There are some major shortcomings in what you have done though.

    If the boxes are attached to the wood surface properly then they are rigid and thick walled pipe will not make it any more then thin walled conduit, pvc conduit or nonmetallic cable (Romex is popular brand).

    If the boxes are not securely attached to the wood then the this use of conduit is against the code, conduit is not allowed to provide structure to electrical work, the system must be rigid without the conduit. You seem to make a claim that this is portable, if so using conduit for structure is against the code. A simple solution would be to mount the boxes on a 2×4 and using conduit of any sort or nonmetallic cable would be allowed.

    The use of gas or water pipe was not allowed for electricity (when houses were converted from gas lights then gas pipe may have been allowed, but that would be historic trivia not current practice for maybe a half century). There was and still is thick walled electrical conduit with threaded ends, to many it looks like other pipe but not to an inspector or electrician. Thick walled electrical conduit is made differently from other pipe so it doesn’t have a seam inside or flaws that could damage the wire. Gas or water pipe are not substitutes.

    In the USA in areas that follow the NEC you are not
    allowed to use 14 AWG for anything but lighting
    or alarm circuits in new work. You can use it in
    appliance circuits only in repairing old work, you
    should have used 12 AWG.

    If it is permanently attached to the structure it
    cannot be feed by appliance cord as this seems to be.

    14-2 is not grounded as you claim and other people have stated. 14-2G is grounded and if that is what you used then you misstated the cable type multiple times.

    Things can certainly be better then code and I have done so many times. But it can’t be beyond code if it doesn’t meet code. Much of the code clearly has a safety function. With experience with electrical work you will see that things that aren’t done to code will probably become unsafe in time, if you have to keep repairing it to keep it functional or safe then it isn’t to code. This project as you’ve done and intend to use it would demand frequent repair.

    Tell me where you shop, I would really like to get all the parts you bought for $10, I think it would be lots more.

    Some people have made sharp remarks. You seem unwilling to take valid and correct criticism of your project and probably prompted some of those remarks. A person skilled in electrical work wouldn’t have made it the way you did or make the remarks that you did, so it is clear that your skill level is not high (you are certainly skilled enough to do the what you did, but close doesn’t count here). People with more skill then you have made correct comments that you should take seriously and not feel it is an attack upon yourself.

  39. Buddy just leave craigs project alone already. Yeah it has flaws. What projects have you made that are on here? I’m sure if we all look at something you have done we can find some kind of flaw in it.

    Bottom Line: IT IS IN HIS HOUSE. If he wants to risk any kind of problem IT IS HIS CHOICE. I doubt he even checks the comments anymore because he probably has better things to do than rip apart someones project on a message board. He also probably has better things to do than continuously try to prove how skilled he is being an electrician.

    Yeah it probably won’t pass an inspection. Guess how you get around that. Unplug it from the wall when not in use. if you have a home inspection….put it away somewhere.

    You seem to be the kind of guy that has to get the last word so I am guessing there will be a response.

  40. Buddy just leave craigs project alone already. Yeah it has flaws. What projects have you made that are on here? I’m sure if we all look at something you have done we can find some kind of flaw in it.

    Bottom Line: IT IS IN HIS HOUSE. If he wants to risk any kind of problem IT IS HIS CHOICE. I doubt he even checks the comments anymore because he probably has better things to do than rip apart someones project on a message board. He also probably has better things to do than continuously try to prove how skilled he is being an electrician.

    Yeah it probably won’t pass an inspection. Guess how you get around that. Unplug it from the wall when not in use. if you have a home inspection….put it away somewhere.

    You seem to be the kind of guy that has to get the last word so I am guessing there will be a response.

  41. Disregard ID below, it’s Volkemon seeing if posted comments can be id’d incorrectly….

    I wonder if there is id theft going on here….

  42. Too bad. It used to be such fun here in the comments when one ‘knew’ the posters. Maybe subscribers can still log on and ‘protect’ their id…

    pt- please consider something along this line….There has to be a way to do it that doesn’t lose revenue. Heck, some of us might even pay to keep our name ‘safe’ here on the blog. The info gathered here is worth something, as are the comments. Sometimes the comments are better than the post!

    Like this one…53 and counting….

    Thanks!

  43. @volkemon – the problem with the old system is we’d never get more than a few comments since you would need to use the “single sign on system” – now we have more comments but anyone can put a name they want.

    once we move to MT 4 i will be adding open ID, so hang in there.

  44. There is nothing wrong with this homebrew powerstrip. Have you ever looked at industrial wiring? If you don’t like his selection of pipe to interconnect the boxes, you can find “official” threaded conduit tubes in the electrical section (increase price accordingly). Or better yet, you may be more satisifed with the snap fit tubes they sell that tend to fall apart… but hey, they’re the official conduit for this…

    1. This post is about 9 years old, so I suspect comments may not have been preserved when the page was migrated from an older domain.

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