How To: Reclaim Old Ring Binders to Corral Crazy Cables

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How To: Reclaim Old Ring Binders to Corral Crazy Cables

Once upon a time in America, industrious citizens built great castles of commerce atop unstable mountains of paper shored up, more or less effectively, by rooms full of file cabinets and shelves full of ring binders. And though the file cabinet is now believed extinct in the wild, ring binders are still occasionally sighted in their native habitats outside government preserves. But their population has been decimated, and the die-off has left us with boxes, bags, and bins full of discards occupying space in our attics, closets, and landfills.

You, yourself, dear reader, may have come across a grisly scene such as this.

If your office, shop, or other workspace suffers from a surplus of empty ring binders and a bird’s nest of tangled power and/or data cables, fear not. Instead, do what I do: Pull out your hand drill, chuck up a sharp 1/4″ twist bit, put on your safety goggles, and drill out the rivets holding the ring-snap mechanisms to the binder spines. Rescue the metal bits and throw out everything else. (Binder covers are usually made of cardboard shrink-wrapped in PVC. If you want, you can cut the plastic open and chuck the cardboard in the recycle bin. The vinyl plastic is a bit tougher; PVC has resin identification code #3 and is not always accepted by municipal recycling programs. But there are places that will take it if you’re willing to hunt.)

Wear safety goggles and mind your fingers. Drilled-out metal edges may be sharp.

Now you’re gonna need some screws. Wood screws work well; just make sure their heads are wide enough not to slip through the mounting holes where the rivets used to be. Line up the binder mechanisms along the edge of your desk or workbench mark your drilling centers, and drill pilot holes using a twist bit that matches the minor diameter of your wood screws. Now just put screws through the rivet holes, start the threads in the pilot holes, and tighten them down. Be especially careful not to overtighten, because overdoing it can squash the spring and keep the rings from opening and closing properly. Crank ’em down just far enough to keep things from rattling.

Don’t overtighten, or the rings may not close properly,

Now you’ve just gotta run the cables. Pop the rings open as needed to change your setup or adjust the slack. If you’ve got way too much in the slack department, you can also use the rings as winding posts to coil up any excess.

BOOM: You’re done. With plenty of time left over to check your closet for clothes with clashing hangers.
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I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

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