Tool Container

The goal of this project was to design and build a container for a tool out of sheet steel. I first began thinking of some different ideas for tool containers and their user. Some ideas were a lens case for a photographer, an X-acto knife case for a design student, and a match case for a camper. Some of the sketches I made based on those ideas are shown below.

I really liked the idea of a set of matches the most, so I decided to continue with that idea. The matches that I have chosen to design for are large stormproof matches. I continued making sketches.

I knew that working at such a small scale with 20 gauge sheet steel would present some problems. Sheet steel that thick requires a lot of force to deform precisely. Also, getting into small crevices with the spot welder would be next to impossible. I decided to work in 3 dimensions moving forward.

Making a few models out of paper made me realize that these designs would be too small and complicated to make out of sheet metal. I decided to go back to sketching. I also changed my way of thinking about the design. I needed to think simpler. Maybe I didn’t have to make something that completely contains the matches, I could make something that holds the matches. I sketched out my idea.

I really liked this idea of a curvilinear form with slots that holds the matches. I started making cardboard models to see how it would look in 3D.

You can see in the second model how there is a tongue that is designed to provide pressure on the base of the matches to hold them in. From here I had a pretty good idea of how it would look so I decided to start working with sheet metal. I knew I needed to find an order to the cutting, bending, and welding that would successfully make the final product.

This is the prototype that I made out of sheet steel. The process of making it started with cutting out the two rectangles that make up the top and bottom halves. Then slots were punched in the top piece using a circular hole punch then filing down the ridges. Then I bent the two halves into their curved shapes. On the bottom piece, the tongue was not folded over until both pieces had been welded together. After bending the bottom piece into place, using a vice to get the last little bit, I spot welded the section at the valley of the curve. Then the sharp edges of the match holder were sanded down.

I was pretty satisfied with how the prototype turned out; the matches fit well and came out satisfyingly. As I planned the next version, I decided to limit the amount of spot welds to give it a cleaner look. I also kept the radius of the rounded over edges smaller to fit with the curves of the rest of the form. I wanted to mill the slots in the top piece this time to make them look cleaner. On the back of the match holder I would add a recess where the striker could be glued in. This time I decided to make two of them at the same time to test my process.

I’m very satisfied with the final result. I think the form of the match holder compliments its function. As you pull out a match, the curve brings the match up and closer to you. The tongue inside the match holder is functional and is also a smaller version of the entire curved form. The match holder has been sanded smooth making it feel good in the hand and it easily slides into a pocket or pouch.

If I were to go further with this I think the best path to take would be to change materials. I think switching to a durable plastic would be best. With plastic, you don’t have to worry about the product corroding and it can be produced much more efficiently. Here is a rendering of what this match holder could look like in plastic.