New switchboard

The wiring around my table is a sheer nightmare. There is a web of cables and peripherals that is impossible to clean let alone service when problems crop up. And with these tens of wires knotting around each other, things break down on a weekly basis. I’ve brought electricians over for getting a permanent solution to this problem many times but they end up either throwing their hands up in exasperation or quoting rates that would easily cover new wiring for an entire house.

So I decided to do the switchboard myself. I didn’t think it was a big deal, time consuming certainly, but not really a technical horror. It took me almost a week to get the thing made and the headache was more than I had anticipated. Had I known that it would be such a problem, I would have given up long before getting it down even on paper.

The main problem was that most of the switchboards available here in Bhopal are pre-fabricated fixed sized ones. The number of switches and panels is very clearly limited to the common usage like one plug, two lights, one fan and one dimmer. Or a combination with still only one fan and one plug. You get multiples of these but not the way I wanted. I needed no lights, no fans but twelve two-pin plugs, seven three-pin plugs, ten switches, one fuse, one indicator and one dimmer for the six inch cooling fan keeping my motherboard calm. Plus I needed one cable for power coming in, one going out to the UPS and then one coming back from the UPS to assorted plugs and switches that needed a battery backup.

There wasn’t a lot of choice for the layout, most of the connections had a very fixed place with respect to everything else. Like the battery backed up plugs had to be all in the same area with a little space around it for clarity. The two printers and the scanner connections all had to be near each other, same with the audio and the USB drive power supply.

None of the boards available fit the bill here. They were all too small for this. I went to industrial sized ones but they were too big. In the end I got an industrial board and cut it to size myself. Then marked the space needed for all the electrical parts and accessories with a set-square and a permanent ink marker. That was the easy part. Cutting the holes out and making the frame is what caused blisters on my hands. I guess its been a while since I have done any real carpentry and finishing. This was a really hard fire-retardant fiber board and it didn’t want to be machined in any way. I almost gave it all up halfway through when I couldn’t manage to get it done the way I had planned.

But it worked out in the end. Even the spike protectors and the short-circuit buzzer fit in despite the plentiful fabrication and machining errors because I was working mainly with portable tools and had no real work area for securing the work pieces. It meant finger numbing pain in bending and striping the wires during fabrication. But now as I sit here looking at it, I can’t help but feel glad that I stuck to it till the end. And I know its psychological but somehow I think all my digital stuff is running more smoothly now than it used to with the original mess of extension plugs and knotted wires.

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