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Store earphones on a spool

As much as I appreciate having my MP3 players during these winter months, I really get tired of sorting out the tangle of earphone wires. To keep them organized and protect the delicate earphones, I came up with a simple spool I could build from scrap without freezing in the garage in front of my lathe. (You turners south of the Iowa permafrost can punch out your own versions no time.) Pulling a scrap of ¾” cherry from the cut-off bin, I managed to resaw and plane blanks ¼” thick while they’re stuck to a ¾” MDF carrier board using double-faced tape. Here’s what to do next:

print out circle at 3" diameter

print out circle at 3" diameter

1 three circlesCut out the pattern (right)  and attach one to your blank with spray adhesive. (I also printed out plain 2″ and 3″ circles, but they didn’t work on this post, so you’ll have to draw them with a compass.) Bandsaw a pair of discs 3″ in diameter and one at 2½”, but sand only the 2½” disc to the line. (A disc sander or belt sander resting on its side makes this easy.) Then use the pattern to bandsaw two notches in one of the 3″ discs (photo #1) and drill a 1/16″ hole at the center and two ¾” holes for the earphones. (Safety note: Clamp the disc to your drill-press table to keep it under control or it will spin around and bite you.)

Flip that disc over and use a compass centered on the 1/16″ hole to lightly mark a 2½” circle on the underside (photo #2). Use that mark as your guide to glue and clamp the 2½” disc centered on the drilled and cut 3″ disc. Later, center, glue and clamp those twodiscs to the other 3″ disc. Using the pattern on the top disc as a guide,

2 positioning circle

sand both 3″ discs to the pattern line (photo #3).

With a ¾” Forstner bit, drill the center hole through all three pieces and make the earphone holes deeper as needed to store the earphones flush with the top of the spool. Again, use clamps. I hold the spool on one finger using the center hole, so I routed a 1/8″ roundover on the bottom disc and on both outside faces using a jointer push pad to keep my fingers away from the bit. Also, sand off any sharp edges that could cut into the earphone wires. I finished the project with Waterlox (photo

3 circle sandwich


This is one of those projects that begs for design improvements and custom touches, so I’ll give you a little head start. First, I quickly learned that you really don’t need a center disc that’s ¼” thick to spool the average set of earphone wires. You can probably get by with 3/16″-thick discs and still fit the earphones inside the two holes. Second, those two notches for the earphones need to end along the disc edge as close together as possible, not spaced out as on my prototype. (Projects always become “prototypes” when they don’t work perfectly the first time.) Otherwise, you get loose loops poking out of the spool. Third, not everyone needs a ¾” hole in the center to hold the spool and a slightly smaller diameter may give you more clearance for the other two holes.

Let me know what you think (and how you’ve improved on it).

4 finished spool

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2 Responses to “Store earphones on a spool”

  1. Every morning I untangle the mess of earbud cords while angrily muttering profanities under my breath. I’m going to build this spool this weekend. Unfortunately, I recently burned the last of my small scrap trying to stay warm in the midst of the Iowa permafrost.

  2. Nice. Maybe your next version should have a spot for your mp3 player, which is now dwarfed in comparison to the spool. :)

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