Picture of Amplifier Dock

Amplifier Dock is a passive amplifier and docking solution for iPhone and iPod touch that utilizes the shape and material of an ordinary ceramic bowl. Designed for disassembly, the ceramic bowl may be reused, steel hardware may be recycled, and hardwood/ wool felt may be left to biodegrade. This is my first project as a 2013 Artist in Residence at Instructables.com.

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 said...you 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:

Bowl: http://www.crateandbarrel.com/lunea-melamine-individual-bowl/s600141
Felt: http://www.britexfabrics.com/fabric/wool-felt/grey-wool-felt.html

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primosanch2 months ago
Very nice. Thanks for sharing.
jeanniel12 months ago

Elegant design - nice planning, and wood working

dtextor2 months ago

very nice design!

FirstSpear2 months ago

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

Questor2 months ago

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

phoe2 months ago

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...

brianfss2 years ago
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.
amp 1.jpgamp 3.jpgamp 2.jpg
Pwag brianfss2 years ago
I don't think the t nuts are for strength so much as they are to aid in disassembling the unit.
shallnot Pwag2 months ago

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)  shallnot2 months ago

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)  brianfss2 years ago
Thanks for sharing!
Catley2 months ago

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.

mokebhai11 months ago
Hey can you design an amplifier dock for the htc one? Or any mobile phone with 2 front facing speakers. Thanks
wpierce3 mokebhai2 months ago
Sit the phone on so that it faces into the bowl
rzugnoni2 months ago

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.

Totally feeling the minimalism. Great design!
timwikander (author)  The Green Gentleman2 months ago


qewt2 years ago
*cry* It's so beautiful!
timwikander (author)  qewt2 months ago

Haha you are too kind qewt

Grissini1 year ago
Congrats on your Core77 award. Pretty sweet!
timwikander (author)  Grissini2 months ago

Thanks Grissini! :)

timwikander (author)  kise2 months ago

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 :).

pandelume2 years ago
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:


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?

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 gmh57602 years ago
I put mine in my empty coffee cup at work.
gmh5760 Pwag2 years ago
Good idea! I usually try to lean mine against a window. The glass makes great transducer!
gmh5760 Pwag2 years ago
Good idea! I usually try to lean mine against a window. The glass makes great transducer!
ouki1 year ago
To your terribly awesome plan, here is my humble tribute, thanks matey!
2013 13:11.jpg
EricHi2 years ago
Hey- nice Instructable. Nothing wrong with practicality! Nicely made and a stylish look.
ZaneEricB2 years ago
YES! beauty, simplicity, form + function...i love this...thank you! it beats sticking my phone in a cup!
kel dahshan2 years ago
That's really awesome. You're inspiring.
MUCHEN2 years ago

thank you for your plan, i also make it. ^ ^
for fb.jpg
timwikander (author)  MUCHEN2 years ago
Nice! I like the black bowl too.
Dude, you really rock with this amplifier!!! This is an absolutely smart and simple to do!!
Congratulations and greetings from Brazil!!!
timwikander (author)  dlivingstone12 years ago
tsaylor2 years ago
Why use the glue if you have machine screws and t-nuts holding it all together?
timwikander (author)  tsaylor2 years ago
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.
ursm2 years ago
good design
ever tried a wooden cup?
probably it would sound more natural, not so metallic.
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. 

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