Tuesday, January 17, 2012

DIY: Super Simple Wooden Spool Headphone Keeper

Image ©Bridgette Meinhold
Earbud wires are forever getting tangled up into knots in my bag. Try as I might to keep them neat they always end up in a ball. Then back in December I came across this adorable idea to keep them wrapped up nice and neat. I was on my way to go buy a set when I realized - doh! I can make this myself. After a trip to a great antique shop down in Salt Lake City, I located a few old wooden thread spools. Then with the help of my trusty drill, a big drill bit and a utility knife I was in business. Read on my clever friends to see how I changed a mere wooden thread spool into a headphone keeper.

Basically the idea is to drill a large hole into the end of the spool and then create tabs on the rims to hold the headphone wires in place. To wrap the spool, insert the plug in through the big hole, pull it out until the earbuds fit inside the spool. Wrap the wire around the spool, just like thread, and then insert the plug back into the hold. Your wrap notch locations may depend on the size of your spool and the length of your headphone wires. This project should take you less than 1 hour.


- Old wooden thread spool (at least 1 in wide)
- Drill
- Largest drill bit you have (I used one that was 1/2" wide, but bigger would have been better)
- Other drill bits in variety of sizes (basically a drill bit kit to pick the best size depending on your spool)
- Utility knife or other sharp knife
- Pencil
- Table vice or clamp (optional, sorta)
- Safety gear - gloves, goggles (be safe ya'll)


1. Fit large drill bit into drill and grab spool. Preferably you'll want to secure the spool in some sort of vice or clamp. Don't tell anyone, but I held the spool with my hand - really tight. I recognize that this was not the safest way to do it, but it is possible if you are careful. If you have access to a drill press - this is even better.

2. Drill out center of spool on one end. Do not drill all the way through, just 1/2 to 3/4 of the way through. Hold on to the spool tightly.

3. If you had a drill bit that was only 1/2" wide, you'll need to ream the spool out to make more space for the earbuds. Carefully push the drill bit against the sides to widen the hole. Keep doing this until you can get both earbuds into the hole. (Note: my hole is not big enough for the buds to sit completely inside the hole. I was worried about reaming the hole out too much and breaking the spool. If you're careful and take your time, you can probably make the hole bigger without affecting the integrity of the spool)

4. Now you want to widen the hole on the other end. Not too much, but just enough so you can fit the wire and the plug in the hold. Choose another drill bit that is about 2x the size of the small hole in the spool. Drill this hole out to widen it.

5. Now test the spool with your headphones by inserting the plug through the hole, pulling until the earbuds sit inside the spool. Then wrap the cord around the spool and insert the plug in the bottom hole to secure. Note where it might make sense to make notches to hold the cord in place with a pencil. For mine, I placed the notches opposite each other on the bottom of the spool. But your cord length or spool size might mean they need to be in different locations so the cord doesn't unwrap. You'll probably have to test wrap it a few times to figure out the best way.

6. Use the utility knife to cut notches into the rim of the spool where you made marks. A sharp knife should easily cut into the wood. If not, a small drill bit will make the notches, although it may be more challenging to drill a straight hole on such a small area. (Although it's not necessary, I made two notches into the top on the side where the earbud hole is. This was during my test phase to determine if it was easier to drill the holes or cut them with a knife. I say go with the knife.)

7. Rewrap your earphones to confirm the notches are placed correctly. And that's it! I found that the tighter I wrap the cord, the better it works. A loose wrap can lead to unwinding later on.

This handy dandy little headphone keeper protects your earbuds and keeps your cord from tangling up. It's also super easy to unwrap them. Simply hold the plug end and let the spool unwind with the help of gravity (kinda like a yo-yo without the return yo) and then pull out the buds and the plug.

I found my spools at an antique store and all three cost less than $2.

Images ©Bridgette Meinhold