If you’re like me, you hoard your empty spools even though you aren’t really sure what to do with them. Not only that, my desk is always a scattered mess of tools, nozzles, bearings, SD cards, USB sticks - you name it - no matter how nicely I try to keep them organized. That’s why I put together this Spool Tool. By combining leftover spools with my scattered mess, I was able to knock out two birds with one stone. Read along to see how to assemble your Spool Tool and turn your desk of despair into a neatly organized workspace.

This organizational tool was specifically designed to fit within our PRO Series PLA and ABS filament spools; it may fit other spools but there’s no guarantee all dimensions fit well enough. To make assembly easier, some parts may fit a little loosely, but this is to ensure that someone with even a poorly calibrated printer will have some luck getting this to work.

Find the PRO Series Spool Tool files for free here, or design your own using Tinkercad

Equipment and Materials

  • Empty PRO Series PLA or ABS spool
  • Drill
  • 3.2 drill bit (approximately a ⅛” bit) (Use if you have 2.85mm filament)
    • Or 2mm drill bit (approximately 3/32”  bit) (Use if you have 1.75mm filament)
  • Filament of choice
  • Super Glue
  • Flush cutters

Step 1: Decide on Your Configuration

There are a number of different variations to the drawers to better accommodate any maker’s needs, so plan out what you will want to use your spool for. For mine, I wanted one drawer to contain all my varieties of nozzles that I have accumulated, one drawer for my USBs, one drawer for my SD cards, and one drawer for my miscellaneous bearings and things clogging my desk drawers.

Just a quick sketch to figure out what would best serve my needs, before I set out to print everything.
Just a quick sketch to figure out what would best serve my needs, before I set out to print everything.

Step 2: Prepare your Parts

Whatever your setup is, there are a couple settings that will make 3D printing go much quicker:

  • Print with a bigger nozzle if you can; functionality takes precedence over how the part looks.
  • Adjust the number of perimeters until there’s no infill in the walls. This will prevent your printer from making a ton of retractions and instead keep it printing along smooth lines.
  • Infill and layer height don’t matter, so you can print as finely or as coarsely as you want.

With those settings considered, get right to printing!

With a 0.8mm nozzle, I cranked my print up to a 0.4mm layer height.
With a 0.8mm nozzle, I cranked my print up to a 0.4mm layer height.

Step 3: Post Process the Prints

Now, this isn’t normal post-processing of sanding and finishing and all that mess, in fact, it’s a lot simpler than that. To hinge, these drawers, all you need is a little snip of filament. Clip off a 20mm bit of filament and see how well it fits within the printed holes. If it doesn’t fit, this is where the drill comes in. Use the drill bit that’s better sized to the filament that you have on hand and gently drill it out (don’t go too fast or hard otherwise you run the risk of melting the hole or splitting the walls).

Going slow and with the clutch low to minimize heat and splitting.
Going slow and with the clutch low to minimize heat and splitting.

Step 4: Prepare the Spool

As much as I didn’t want to have to modify the spool, you’ll need to drill out holes for the hinges. Using the jigs included with the drawers, drill out the first hole in the side of the spool. On the jig there is a small nub, this will register with the new hole that you’ve drilled, and align it for the next hole that you need to drill. Repeat this process by moving the jig around the spool until you have six holes drilled out. For the opposite side, use the second jig that is tall enough to register with the spokes of the spool near the center, and repeat the process.

Using a jig is a great way to make sure that any project has things line up in real life just like they do in CAD.
Using a jig is a great way to make sure that any project has things line up in real life just like they do in CAD.

Step 5: Some Assembly Required

Once you have everything drilled out and everything fits, prepare your super glue. You’ll need to put a small dab in the hole of the hinge, slide it into the spool, then jam in the filament. Make sure to pivot the drawer to make sure that the glue only dries on the hinge and doesn’t glue it shut. For the opposite side you’ll have to be a bit quicker since you’ll be dropping the glue through the hole of the spool, otherwise, it’s the same procedure of gluing, jamming, and twisting until it dries in a couple seconds.

Things got a little tidy with this Spool Tool on my desk.
Things got a little tidy with this Spool Tool on my desk.

And with that, Spool Tool Version One is done! I will be regularly updating the Spool Tool to have different configurations to expand upon it and make it more versatile so it can hold big tools like calipers and pliers. For now, this is a great step toward a clean desk. I’ve included the base model used for the drawers, so you can adapt them to better fit whatever use you can come up with too!

Happy Printing and Organizing!