New Tray for Fischertechnik Computing Box

My weekend’s entertainment was making this wooden tray to hold the parts from an Apple ][ era engineering construction toy.

Since the mid 1960s, Fischertechnik has been making building blocks that slide together using dovetail pegs and slots, which is sturdier than the friction-fit of original-style Legos. I heard about them in 1991 and bought a Profi Sensoric set -- sensors, a motor, and enough blocks to build real projects with them. I've just dug out the set and resumed building with it, and I've been picking up a few vintage sets on eBay.

The Computing set has an I/O module with parallel-port interface to IBM PC XT, Apple ][, and Commodore 64 -- and now an Arduino library thanks to Jac Goudsmit. I bought a package containing two of the I/O modules and a mix of parts (more than one set, less than two), and it came with one original slipcover and no parts tray.

I really wanted a parts tray and I figured it was an opportunity to make one out of wood. Later Fischertechnik sets have vacu-formed plastic trays; but out of a desire to create misplaced nostalgia, I went for more of an antique Erector-set look. I planned to use 1/4″ plywood for the base and walls and thicker tray ends to keep the slipcover ends from slipping past the narrow walls and caving in.

After sorting the parts, I laid them out and developed a plausible arrangement that fit within the profile of the box, which apparently I didn’t photograph. My loss, because this would be the perfect place for another photo.

I then cut a 1×6 to length and width, test-fit it in the ends of the box, and rabbeted its ends and lower edge for the thickness of the plywood. I cut a base to fit and glued and pin-nailed it in place (to save clamping while the glue dried), then cut the long front and back edges and did the same.

After that, I cut and installed partitions, notching the ones on the left to hold the baseplate and instruction/assembly guides. I want to add a couple more partitions yet, but I’m already happy with the result. It fits nicely in the slipcover and the whole thing is now sturdy enough to stack with the other kits.

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