Instructables

$20 Charging Station

Picture of $20 Charging Station
If you're reading this, you probably have enough electronic gadgets around the house to choke a small animal. This isn't the bad part. The bad part is the mess of wires and chargers that are strewn around the house and cluttering up tabletops and desk drawers. You can usually never find the charger you need or you don't use the device because it's never charged.

I've seen these Charger Valets online and at various stores, but they usually cost a small fortune and can't hold all the stuff I need. I've got to charge my cellphone, my wife's cell phone and Zen, the digital camera and my bluetooth headphones at the very least.
 
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Step 1: Supplies

Picture of Supplies
I picked up a $13 leather-like box at Winners, a $2 plush brown face cloth and a couple of extension cords.

Step 2: Pop a hole and insert chargers

Picture of Pop a hole and insert chargers
A little hole in the back let's the main extension cord into the box and I have it tie-wrapped to the bottom of the box to keep everything locked in place in case the cable gets pulled by the kids.

Step 3: The Cardboard Insert

Picture of The Cardboard Insert
The face cloth is glued to a cardboard insert which I made high enough to allow all the extension cords and charger boxes to sit evenly. I used a silicon glue that wouldn't soak the face cloth and make it rough. But it's fastened firmly. One hole lets all the cables come through.

Everything sits on the face cloth to protect the devices and keep them from sliding around.

Step 4: Ready For Action

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You'll notice that one of the chargers (the camera battery) has this stupid direct-in-the-wall arrangement that doesn't allow it to easily be extended. For this, I ran a little brown extension cord to the surface and plugged the camera charger into it.

With no devices in the box, it's still pretty clean. Two of the devices charge from the USB mini and for now I only have one of them connected.

$20 later ... the mess is solved and the devices are charged! Easy project.
cojafoji6 years ago
That entire project, while looking very nice and usable, screams fire hazard. Putting that many cords into a confined area surrounded be cardboard is NOT a good idea. With that, you are just begging for a short followed by a fire. A+ for idea, F for design.
SandyWalsh (author)  cojafoji6 years ago
Thanks for the feedback ... but why is it a fire hazard? Yes, the surrounding items are combustible, but no more so than anywhere else the individual chargers would sit. If I charged my phone on my dresser, I would have the same risk. I've been monitoring the heat given off by the transformers and they're negligible. There are no open wires, no splices, no sharp edges, no tight bends or pinches. Fire was certainly a concern for me ... am I missing something obvious here? How does it deviate from what CSA certifies? But you've got me worried now. One of my neighbors is a fire marshal ... I'll check with him and get back to you.
The issue is zero airflow around the wall warts. Older ones will generate several watts of heat. It doesn't sound like much but if you pile several in an enclosed area, there can be a significant temperature rise. Newer wall warts are much less wasteful especially when nothing is hooked up. It wouldn't look as nice but if it was built out of metal, the metal would spread the heat around and also could not ignite. Wires could be threaded through a hole in the metal if you use a grommet to stop the wires from being cut by the edges of the metal hole.
I am thinking about building one of these out of a metal toolbox so that it will be portable. It would have to accommodate several wall warts (iphone, two ipods, laptop, second cell phone), and I am really worried about the heat. Do you think it would be possible to install a fan to vent the thing when it was drawing power?
Since you are putting it in a metal box, you probably do not need a vent. Metal will get the heat out so much better than a wooden box. In line with other comments, feel the charger after it has been charging for a while to see if it feels particularly warm. A little warm is unavoidable. If you insist on a vent, be sure to have both an inlet and an outlet for airflow. To avoid it being noisy, get a large fan and run it slow. Alternately, you can make the whole thing vertical, put some vents in the bottom and the top and go with a chimney effect so the hot air draws itself out.
SandyWalsh (author)  mikes805016 years ago
Thanks mikes80501! That makes sense. I did some research last night and compared it to the commercial valets that are out there. Older chargers are indeed the issues. The ones I have in there now are all of the new style which don't draw current unless charging. I may put a temperature sensor in the box and open some ports for air flow. Thanks again for the great feedback!
micromuffin5 years ago
Not to be mean, but I could buy a factory-made charging station for $20. Maybe you could use cheaper materials?
xboxteen015 years ago
So I just started buying materials for my own charging station and the box im using is a wooden box. Any thoughts on how that might fare on the fire issue end? it has four 1/4" holes drilled in it for rope handles but im gonna take those out so i figure those will vent.
polar bear66 years ago
damn, i just threw out my converse all star shoe box! it would have been super sweet for this thing :(
SandyWalsh (author)  polar bear66 years ago
Yeah, that would be awesome. I had to go with the pretty box to increase the WAF * of the project.

  • WAF = Wife Acceptance Factor
i do not need a waf i need a g?ln?*

*g?ln?=geeky?looking nice?
I caution you readers about building one of these ... its a fire hazard!! Think about it, chargers are designed to be connected to the wall and have air flow. If you stuff them in a box they WILL get hot and could start a fire.

How do you get around this?Take a look at one of these quad chargers that have four outputs built in from Gomadic here Quad Wall Charger ... or just buy one that includes the wall charger already like this one ... Gomadic Charging Station

It is common for people not to consider heat ... heat is the most common damaging element to electronics.

Cheers
they will not overheat if you do not overload it
martymunch6 years ago
This is way cool. And yeah you can spend $50 and get one from Gomadic but what fun is it to buy what everyone else has? Besides this is Instructables. I'M BUILDING ONE!!! fav'd
gbosbiker6 years ago
i dont really see the point in this. couldnt you just take an old shoe box and spray paint it and have the same effect for no cost??
dragev6 years ago
Nice idea if you don't think you'll ever need to take one of the charging cables on a trip.
SandyWalsh (author)  dragev6 years ago
Actually the insert pops out really easily ... it's not glued to the box or anything. Beyond that it's just a matter of removing the charger.
Brennn106 years ago
This is pretty neat! It is one of those, "Why didn't I think of this?" Instructables. Nice job!
StarBlades6 years ago
oh wow im amazed at your creativity... i gotta do this..
SandyWalsh (author)  StarBlades6 years ago
Thanks StarBlades!
SDx6 years ago
The main concern which has prevented me from constructing such a station, though I've wanted to, is that it seems like a potential fire hazard. Looks great though.
LinuxH4x0r6 years ago
Cool! I would recommend adding a switch for each charger (or one for all) to reduce wasted power, and I would use the top instead of cardboard.
Very good idea and good Instructable too. Never would have thought of this, it just came out incredible. Hopefully I'll do this soon for my parents (maybe, I guess we don't really need it) but if I do then I'll do this for sure. Nice job.
xboxteen016 years ago
very cool idea and technique, i was meaning to make one and this looks great
SandyWalsh (author)  xboxteen016 years ago
Thanks!
Kozz6 years ago
Simple and brilliant. I like it!!! A few improvements I could think of would be to cut a lengthwise slit perhaps 1/4" wide, with the hole at one end. You can pull the charger dongle through the hole and then slide the cord down the length of the slit, perhaps providing a better angle at which to connect the device to be charged. It could make it easier since most connectors aren't L-shaped, and you wouldn't have any stress on the dongle or charger port on the device because the cable is being pulled at an angle from the hole. Also, incorporating a small power strip would be nice, perhaps with the master power switch accessible. Using it could reduce wasted power consumed by unconnected AC adapters when no devices are charging. But of course you could always unplug the main extension cord, too -- easy enough if you remember. Nice job!
SandyWalsh (author)  Kozz6 years ago
Thanks Kozz! Good suggestions. I was thinking about making one for a friend as a gift ... I think I'll incorporate your ideas. Cheers!
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