Introduction: Amplifier Dock

Picture of Amplifier Dock

Amplifier Dock is a hybrid of DIY and industrial design that combines a found object with parts custom fabricated from readily accessible materials. Unlike similar consumer products, Amplifier Dock is meant to be manufactured and eventually discarded with minimal production of waste.

Amplifier Dock by Timothy Wikander from timothy wikander on Vimeo.

Step 1: Materials and Tools

Picture of Materials and Tools

The material count and skill level necessary to make this project are both pretty low. That being will need access to a pretty decent wood shop. Okay, here's exactly what you'll need:


• Ceramic cereal bowl about 6.25" diameter and 2.5" height
• 2 10-32 thread 1" length flat head phillips machine screws
• 2 10-32 thread wood tee nuts
• A small piece of 1/8" thick wool felt, at least 2.5" sq
• A block of hardwood you can cut down to 16" x 2.3" x 3/8" 
• A $.10 dime (totally serious)

Machine tools

• Wood planer
• Table saw
• Chop saw
• Belt or disc sander
• Drill press
• Drill bits
• Forstner bit,
• Countersink bit

Hand tools

• Pencil
• Calipers or tape measure
• Block sander
• Medium and fine grit sand paper
• Clamp
• Wood glue
• Craft glue
• Mallet or dead blow hammer
• X-acto knife
• Metal ruler
• Masking tape
• Phillips head screw driver
• Awl

Here's where I got my bowl and wool felt:


Step 2: Plane Hardwood Block to 3/8" Thickness

Picture of Plane Hardwood Block to 3/8" Thickness

The hardwood clamp, which holds onto the front lip of the ceramic bowl, is comprised of 3 parts: the base, a spacer, and the cap. All three parts are the same thickness, so you can make them from one 3/8" piece.

First order of business: plane to 3/8".

Step 3: Cut to 2.3" Width

Picture of Cut to 2.3" Width

The hardwood clamp is meant to create a flowing line directly to the point at which it touches the iPhone/iPod touch. That is why it's measured to 2.3", the precise width of an iPhone/iPod touch.

Use a table saw to cut your 3/8" piece to a 2.3" width.

Step 4: Cut the Base, Spacer, and Cap

Picture of Cut the Base, Spacer, and Cap

Use a chop/miter saw to cut your block into the three separate pieces, which will become the base, spacer, and cap. 6" for the base, 2.3" for the cap, and 1" for the spacer. Make sure to account for blade thickness when measuring and cutting your pieces.

I have provided a technical drawing (.jpeg and .pdf) to serve as a reference for the coming measurements and cuts.

Step 5: Countersink Base for Tee Nuts

Picture of Countersink Base for Tee Nuts

Use the technical drawing to mark holes on the bottom of the base. Now you're ready to grab your fortsner bit and carve out a small countersink using a drill press. This is will make the head of those tee nuts nice and flush to the bottom of the base.

Step 6: Drill Out the Base

Picture of Drill Out the Base

Now you're ready to drill out the holes for the tee nuts to slot through. Use a 1/4" bit here. Pretty straight forward.

Step 7: Countersink the Cap

Picture of Countersink the Cap

Being mindful of the grain, take your three pieces and  sandwich them together with some masking tape. Transfer them into the vice with a piece of scrap wood underneath.

**Insert your wood sandwich into the vice (base side up) and use a small bit to drill a pilot hole all the way through from base to the cap first. This will save you from having to measure again onto the cap like I did. 

Now flip your wood sandwich right side up, get your countersink bit, and carefully drill out countersink holes in the cap for the flat head screws.

Step 8: Drill Through All

Picture of Drill Through All

Ok, you're finally ready to drill through all three pieces and make the holes for the machine screws. A 3/16" bit will do the job. Line it up, nice and easy.

Step 9: Insert Tee Nuts

Picture of Insert Tee Nuts

You're all set to make metal meet wood. Insert your tee nuts into the bottom of the base one at a time, making sure to position them so that the prongs face as far from the front edge as possible (this will prevent splitting). Use a mallet or dead blow hammer and a piece of scrap wood to hammer the tee nuts until they sit flush with the bottom of the base.

Step 10:

Step 11: Round the Corners

Picture of Round the Corners

It's coming together now! Go ahead and stack the cap on top, insert the machine screws, and see how it looks!

It just so happens that the rounded corners on an iPhone/iPod are almost exactly the same size as a US dime. Grab ten cents and trace around the four corners of the cap and rear 2 corners of the base. Use a belt or disc sander to carefully sand down your corner. Remove the cap to hit its rear corners.

Step 12: Sand It Smooth

Picture of Sand It Smooth

Use a block sander and hit the curves, edges, and surfaces with medium/low and then fine grit sand paper until you get a nice smooth finish. **Leave the edges on the spacer square to maintain a seamless transition between the three stacked pieces.

Step 13: Cut Wool Felt Square

Picture of Cut Wool Felt Square

Using an X-acto blade with a sharp blade and the cap as a template, cut out a rounded 2.3" square from your wool felt.

Step 14: Glue Wool Felt to Cap

Picture of Glue Wool Felt to Cap

Use craft glue to attach your rounded wool felt square to the bottom of the cap. The wool will act as a bushing between the cap and base, creating a nice tight grip onto the lip of the ceramic bowl. Wait a few minutes for the blue to bond.

Step 15: Poke

Picture of Poke

Use an awl, or similarly pointy thing to poke holes through the wool from the cap.

Step 16: Assemble, Dock, Amplify!

Picture of Assemble, Dock, Amplify!
You're all set! Grab your ceramic bowl, slide it in between the base and the cap, and tighten the machine screws until they sit flush to the cap. Enjoy!


massaoasaga (author)2016-10-13

Genius. Realy. I always put my phone inside.

Paige Russell (author)2016-04-29

Awesome sauce!

dav8it (author)2016-01-27


primosanch (author)2015-06-21

Very nice. Thanks for sharing.

jeanniel1 (author)2015-06-13

Elegant design - nice planning, and wood working

dtextor (author)2015-06-12

very nice design!

FirstSpear (author)2015-06-11

OK mister smarty pants, what if you want to listen to music AND eat your cornflakes? Didn't think that through, didya?!

Questor (author)2015-06-11

just make sure all the milk is out of your cereal bowl! (don't ask)

phoe (author)2015-06-11

nice and simple, I like it - it's set me thinking, I wonder whether you could get a similar passive amp effect from a soda bottle... with some smart design you could even make it collapsible to fold flat for ease of carrying around...

brianfss (author)2013-03-27

Her is my quick take on the amplifier. Took about 10 minutes to build. Didn't need to use T-nuts. It's glued together so the T-nuts are overkill. Mine is made from a scrap piece of 1/2" baltic birch plywood I had sitting around. I'll make another with black walnut or mahogany and use a maple dowel instead of screws. I showed this to another teacher and she wants a bunch of them to display bowls. She liked the design a lot more than the typical easel stand you usually see on a bowl display.
Took me longer to go to the Home Ec department and find a bowl than it did to build it.:)
With the popularity of Iphones, androids, etc... this is going to be my next project in class as soon as we get back from spring break next week.
Really love the design. Kids will too.

Pwag (author)brianfss2013-07-04

I don't think the t nuts are for strength so much as they are to aid in disassembling the unit.

shallnot (author)Pwag2015-06-11

There's no point in disassembling the unit. It's small enough that there is no need to do so for transport. At the end of the unit's life it can "biodegrade", as the author claims or burnt as I suspect, as easily in one piece as in four.

The hardware is unneccesary for assembly, wasteful, tedious to install, and ugly.

timwikander (author)shallnot2015-06-11

Hey guys. It’s so cool to still see people dissecting my design two years later. Maybe I can offer some clarity here.

The hardware actually came about as a way to provide adjustable clamping pressure, allowing the dock to achieve an extremely snug fit with a variety of bowl profiles. Dialing in on the screws actively compresses the felt along the lip of the bowl and increases the amount of surface area being clamped, effectively improving the grip on the bowl being used. This feature just isn't possible with an all wood design.

In the end, incorporating the hardware added to the collective visceral impact I was looking to achieve - a low cost DIY tech accessory with a level of detail that pays homage to the iPhone itself. :)

timwikander (author)brianfss2013-03-27

Thanks for sharing!

Catley (author)2015-06-11

Not having an iPhone of any generation, I am not likely to be making this, but just wanted to comment on the careful workmanship and elegance of the finished product. Not just something useful, but a thing of beauty.

mokebhai (author)2014-09-29

Hey can you design an amplifier dock for the htc one? Or any mobile phone with 2 front facing speakers. Thanks

wpierce3 (author)mokebhai2015-06-11

Sit the phone on so that it faces into the bowl

rzugnoni (author)2015-06-11

What a slick idea and an elegant solution! I'm partially deaf and always missing calls from my wife in Thailand even with the phone next to me while sleeping. I'm going to try this.

The Green Gentleman (author)2013-08-20

Totally feeling the minimalism. Great design!


qewt (author)2013-08-20

*cry* It's so beautiful!

timwikander (author)qewt2015-05-31

Haha you are too kind qewt

Grissini (author)2013-09-09

Congrats on your Core77 award. Pretty sweet!

timwikander (author)Grissini2015-05-31

Thanks Grissini! :)

timwikander (author)2015-05-31

Hey Kise. Although I designed Amplifier Dock around the iPhone 4/5, its ability to amplify sound works just as well with any current iPhone - it just doesn't look quite as nice. The wider screen and more "rounded" feel of the late iPhone 6/6+ might suggest a few modifications be made :).

pandelume (author)2013-03-18

This is a great little design - simple and effective.

But unfortunately, it's not an amplifier. Strictly speaking, an amplifier uses a weak signal to modulate the output of a power supply to create a stronger signal. This design is more like an impedance matching device - something like a speaking trumpet - or a sound reflector. A similar but more elaborate setup can be seen here:

THEMONEY (author)pandelume2014-04-24

Does the term amplifier pre-date the use of which you speak? If so, then... Anyway, why even try to pick nits from such an elegant work?

gmh5760 (author)pandelume2013-03-19

I'm sure we have all done this: Propped our phone/mp3 player up on a surface to make it "louder". I'm sure you get the point of "amplifier" here. Why over analyze it?

p.s. I have never heard a trumpet speak.

Pwag (author)gmh57602013-07-04

I put mine in my empty coffee cup at work.

gmh5760 (author)Pwag2013-07-04

Good idea! I usually try to lean mine against a window. The glass makes great transducer!

gmh5760 (author)Pwag2013-07-04

Good idea! I usually try to lean mine against a window. The glass makes great transducer!

ouki (author)2013-10-02

To your terribly awesome plan, here is my humble tribute, thanks matey!

EricHi (author)2013-07-15

Hey- nice Instructable. Nothing wrong with practicality! Nicely made and a stylish look.

ZaneEricB (author)2013-05-08

YES! beauty, simplicity, form + function...i love this...thank you! it beats sticking my phone in a cup!

kel dahshan (author)2013-04-19

That's really awesome. You're inspiring.

MUCHEN (author)2013-04-15

thank you for your plan, i also make it. ^ ^

timwikander (author)MUCHEN2013-04-15

Nice! I like the black bowl too.

dlivingstone1 (author)2013-04-11

Dude, you really rock with this amplifier!!! This is an absolutely smart and simple to do!!
Congratulations and greetings from Brazil!!!


tsaylor (author)2013-04-03

Why use the glue if you have machine screws and t-nuts holding it all together?

timwikander (author)tsaylor2013-04-10

Hey, you're right. This would appear to be one of those ghost steps that gets carried over from an initial design or notion; originally the base and spacer were going to be made from one milled piece. There isn't really any mechanical advantage here. Good catch. 10 points for Griffindor.

ursm (author)2013-03-17

good design
ever tried a wooden cup?
probably it would sound more natural, not so metallic.

shannonlove (author)ursm2013-03-17

Natural wood in general has poor acoustic properties largely owing variation in density and flexibility inside in the wood itself. The former means that different parts of the surface reflect different degrees of sounds and later means wood asymmetrically absorbs sound vibration and dissipates them. Natural wood acoustic reflections are usually dampened, muddled and unbalanced. 

Biomechanically, trees are giant springs. They have to be to light enough to grow high to compete for sunlight while still being strong enough to support a leaf load under wind shear. The heart wood of the tree has to not only flex but absorb and dissipate energy as it does so. As a consequence of growing as a mechanical spring, natural wood absorbs and diffuses vibrations and shocks better than any almost any other structural material. 

That's why all-wood sailing ships could transverse the world and ride out massive storms while the first iron and steel ships, even though made of a stronger material, often simply snapped apart under the pounding of the sea. The metal could transmit the shock vibrations but not absorb or dampen them. The shock waves just built up echoing inside the ships until they blew it apart. 

Vibration dampening and diffusion is not what you want for an acoustic reflector. That's why speaker boxes are almost always made, at least internally, from engineered woods like plywood or MDF. The latter being preferred for high end systems. 

I've had people claim to me that hard natural woods like walnut or other hickories work well but I've never seen anybody selling such speakers with natural woods used for anything but decoration so I have my doubts. 

Mark Rehorst (author)shannonlove2013-03-27

Uh, this excellent, if slightly overdone, project is about making a tinny, crappy, little cell phone speaker more audible, not about building a hifi system. I suggest you try a dose of reality (and lay off the Stereophile magazine fantasies) and try cupping your hand around your cell phone and observe what a difference it makes. I know, I know, a hand is not an ideal acoustic reflector...

shannonlove (author)Mark Rehorst2013-03-27

Sorry, I'm not an audiophile as I am borderline tone deaf. I was explaining to ursm why timwikander likely didn't got with wood. 

The explanation may seem overly elaborate but it's just knowledge I happen to have had off the top of my head. My grandfather worked at a USDA field station that bred pecan trees soI spent my childhood around botanist. Then I went for a degree in biology. I also like wood working. 

All that happenstance knowledge combined to enable me to bang out a quick but detailed explanation of why a wooden bowl doesn't work as well as a ceramic one in this case. 

Everybody has some chunk of knowledge they can just rattle off that in the right circumstances seems very impressive. Just don't ask me about accounting or music. 

timwikander (author)Mark Rehorst2013-03-27


timwikander (author)shannonlove2013-03-17

This is awesome. Thanks for sharing!

timwikander (author)ursm2013-03-17

I did try a few different wooden, ceramic, and glass bowls for this project; shallow, deep, straight, curved, large diameter, small diameter. Despite all these variables, the most noticeable difference I found was in how focused the sound became. Bigger diameter bowls diffused sound over a wider distance, whereas smaller diameter bowls made for a more direct path of sound. My choice in both size and material were a combination of sound quality as well as physical footprint and visceral appeal.

Yaunclesam (author)2013-03-24

Very cool looking. Sometimes I put my ipad in the sink when I shower.

timwikander (author)Yaunclesam2013-03-27


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