This DIY Compact Portable Magnetic Laptop Shelf (Magnetic Utility Shelf Computer Workstation) was designed to be light and compact for easy transport and use in the elevator industry (IUEC).
I use this Portable Laptop Shelf also as a Utility Shelf to hold prints, manuals. When troubleshooting an elevator I don’t need the extra aggravation of having to hold the laptop and prints.
Thanks to totalElement for contributing magnets to this project.
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4 Easy Steps to Build
DIY Laptop Shelf
Step 1: Drill & Countersink Mounting Holes
Step 2: Mount Folding Brackets to the Board
Step 3: Glue Magnets to Folding Brackets
Step 4: Add Anti-slip Coating to Magnets
It’s that easy to build your own Magnetic Laptop Shelf.
I did learn some tips and tricks that I share with you.
Commercially Available Portable Laptop Shelves
If you don’t want to, or don’t have time to build your own magnetic laptop shelf / utility shelf, I know of 3 companies that you can purchase a commercial laptop shelf from.
- The UtiliShelf – Magnetic Portable Utility Shelf: https://amzn.to/2QzY3uS
- MagBench Workstation Standard (MBS): https://amzn.to/34ZQrKP
- The OmniShelf Magnetic Computer Workstation: https://amzn.to/3hIyJ1z
When I first had a need for a laptop shelf in the year 2000, I searched and couldn’t find anything on the market so I bought materials and started to build Version 1 as can be seen here: https://youtu.be/RYzeIt-HlEs
This post is Version 2 build. Version 3 will be lighter and more compact, just one board that folds like origami.
The first commercially made magnetic laptop shelf / utility shelf that I ever saw was The Utilishelf, then MagBench and just recently I have seen The Omnishelf. I know several coworkers who own both the Utilishelf and Magbench and are happy with them. The Omnishelf has the unique feature of also being a case you can store your laptop, tools and material in.
I personally like something more compact that fits in my laptop bag which is why I built variations of my first Version 1 and then Version 2. Wait till you see Version 3, it’ll be like the iPhone, too thin & compact.
Notice how compact this Laptop Shelf fits in a laptop bag. The computer cables are stored in the zippered bag between the brackets.
Variations of Version 1, I first started in the year 2000
- 8” Steel Folding Bracket: https://amzn.to/2Cjr36a
- Cutting Board +/- 11” x 14”: https://amzn.to/3jrfr1m
- 1/2” x 1/2” x 1/16” Block Magnets: https://totalelement.com
- 1/4” x 1/4” x 1/32” Block Magnets: https://totalElement.com
- M4 Machine Screws: https://amzn.to/3b9d4NI
- M4 Nuts: https://amzn.to/311Y3Ks
- Gorilla Flexible Glue: https://amzn.to/37KJhJw
- Gorilla Glue Impact Resistant: https://amzn.to/3h0tDgg
- Electric Tape 1.5”: https://amzn.to/3lz65lR
- 9/64” Drill Bit: https://amzn.to/3gECvrL
- 1/2″ Countersink Bit: https://amzn.to/2QFxC6Z
- Drill Motor: https://amzn.to/3gHGNi1
- Metric Nut Driver Set: https://amzn.to/32C6744
- Metric Allen Wrench (Hex Bit) Set: https://amzn.to/31MmlbH
- Husky Zipper Bags: https://amzn.to/358rJrv
- Milwaukee Zipper Pouch: https://amzn.to/3i6nZuq
- Milwaukee Narrow Pouch: https://amzn.to/3h365Y2
- Velcro Extreme Duty Adhesive: https://amzn.to/31Yu1HM
- 3/4” x 1/2” x 1/16” Block Magnets: totalElement.com
- Plasti Dip White Rubber Coating Spray: https://amzn.to/2Dcbkqq
- Router: https://amzn.to/32BYKtn
Red Flat Top KTFG_002 shown mounted to an elevator controller folded down and locked open. Notice how unobtrusive when folded down. No, I didn’t wire that controller. Here is video of that last controller I wired when I was in the modernization dept: https://youtu.be/LapboSMfJ2M
Here I am using the Magnetic Laptop Shelf as a Portable Utility Shelf to hold a Milwaukee Organizer at the perfect height to work out off. I usually bring the Magnetic Utility Shelf with me whether I plan to use it or not.
Overview of Material Choice
After researching all sorts of board options (too much research), I found cutting boards to be the simplest and best option. I also use these as panels to mount electronics.
The 2 Cutting Boards I recommend are:
– Mainstay Poly Cutting Board 11″ x 14.5″ (Dexas NSF Polysafe is the same board): https://amzn.to/3bbfMm3
– Faberware Basics Plastic 11″ x 14″: https://amzn.to/3lzA0dZ
The Mainstay Cutting Board has a recessed top and flat bottom. You can chose to face either side up and I have done both. After using both I preferred the recessed side up to better hold material including hardware, pens , flashlights etc.
The Faberware Cutting Board is flat on both sides, thinner and more rigid. If you use this board you will need 8mm bolts rather than 10mm for the thicker Mainstay Board
I like the handle but if you don’t, boards are available without a handle.
Folding Bracket / Hinge
After exhaustive research and purchasing hundreds of dollars worth of locking hinge / folding brackets (most were garbage), I finally found a well built compact set in the QCAA 8″ Steel Folding Bracket https://amzn.to/2Cjr36a . This is the only low profile compact folding bracket that I could find that was well built and didn’t have jagged sharp edges. The other brackets that were well built were just too big and not low profile enough.
Magnets *this is important*
My first prototype of this Version 2 Laptop Shelf utilized Cup Magnets and worked well but wasn’t as low profile as I would like and took work to mount. I then realized that I could simulate the increased magnetic strength of a Cup Magnet by alternating the poles of super strong N52 Neodymium Block Magnets.
Originally I thought I would need 1/8″ thick magnets but realized that those where insanely strong, way too strong when configured with alternating poles. So I requested some 1/16″ thick block magnets from totalElement and found they were still too strong so you have to reduce the number used to suit your preference.
Bolts / Machine Screws
I wanted a Countersunk Flat Head fastener so the machine screws would be flush with top of the board. I chose M4 – 0.70 Flat Head Countersunk Machine Screws because it’s a readily available fastener size available in the different lengths I required.
I purchased a wide variety of 4mm M4 Machine Screws including Hex, Torx and Philips drive. Sizes 8mm, 10mm, 12mm, & 14mm, Stainless Steel and Black Oxide. My preference is Hex drive Stainless Steel. For nuts I tried Nylon Insert Lock Nuts (Aircraft Nuts) but found them to be too tall for the folding bracket to close all the way so I just used regular M4-07 Hex Nuts.
What is the difference between a Bolt & Machine Screw?
Generally speaking, Bolts are turned from the outside of the head while screws are turned form inside the head by various means including Hex, Philips, Slotted and Tamper Proof bits. There are exceptions to this general rule though. I will use the term bolts from here on though as it’s less typing.
What is the difference between a Machine Screw & a Cap Screw?
We are not going down that Rabbit Hole!
The world is not as standardized as we like to believe it is.
Drill & Countersink Mounting Holes
To layout your holes just flush the brackets to the end of the board. You can mount the folding brackets any distance from Centerline you like but I put mine with the center of the bracket 4″ off board center or 8″ bracket center to bracket center (8″ bolt hole to bolt hole).
This spacing is narrow enough to mount to narrow elevator controller doors (Tac-20) and also 3-ph disconnects yet still wide enough to be stable and allow for a zippered cable pouch to store between them.
Mark the board through the 3 mounting holes in the bracket. You will have to un-spring the locking hinge and fold up for access to the rear hole. You will put this spring back after adding the fasteners.
Drill & Countersink
Now drill your marks with a 9/64″ drill bit then use a countersink bit to countersink the hole for the bolt heads, or use a countersink drill bit combo, whichever you have or prefer.
9/64″ Drill Bit: https://amzn.to/3gECvrL
Countersink Bit: https://amzn.to/2QFxC6Z
Countersink Drill Bit Combo: https://amzn.to/3gILOGQ
I wanted the holes tight enough that the bolts would actually thread into the boards so I used a 9/64″ drill bit which is smaller than 4mm. 9/64″ = 3.571mm. This just gives a tighter, more solid build and eliminates the chance of the bolt heads pulling through the board. If you drill a big sloppy hole and countersink too deep, it can happen. I personally have never drilled too deep in a big sloppy hole.
If you have a drill press you can adjust the depth stop so you don’t countersink too far. I put tape on my bits as a depth marker and used a bolt head as a depth tester. Remember the hole is smaller than the 4mm bolt so I cut off the head of a bolt as my depth tester.