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

Amplifier Dock by Timothy Wikander from timothy wikander on Vimeo.

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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
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".

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mokebhai7 months ago
Hey can you design an amplifier dock for the htc one? Or any mobile phone with 2 front facing speakers. Thanks
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 gmh57601 year ago
I put mine in my empty coffee cup at work.
gmh5760 Pwag1 year ago
Good idea! I usually try to lean mine against a window. The glass makes great transducer!
gmh5760 Pwag1 year 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
Grissini1 year ago
Congrats on your Core77 award. Pretty sweet!
qewt1 year ago
*cry* It's so beautiful!
Totally feeling the minimalism. Great design!
EricHi1 year ago
Hey- nice Instructable. Nothing wrong with practicality! Nicely made and a stylish look.
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 brianfss1 year ago
I don't think the t nuts are for strength so much as they are to aid in disassembling the unit.
timwikander (author)  brianfss2 years ago
Thanks for sharing!
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. 

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...
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 Rehorst2 years ago
timwikander (author)  shannonlove2 years ago
This is awesome. Thanks for sharing!
timwikander (author)  ursm2 years ago
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.
Yaunclesam2 years ago
Very cool looking. Sometimes I put my ipad in the sink when I shower.
timwikander (author)  Yaunclesam2 years ago
brianfss2 years ago
Really great design, but from a woodworking perspective, way too complicated.
Instead of the T-nuts, just screw the top and bottom together. The only reason to use T-nuts is if you are going to take it apart. Since you have glued the pieces together, that isn't happening.
You could even get away from the screws and put two dowels through the pieces. They could be a design element if you use a contrasting wood.
I'll build one today and post some pics of it.
That said, I love the design, love the simplicity, love the clean look.
Thanks for the 'ible
Kinnishian2 years ago
Wonderful presentation
arowe32 years ago
Very nice and sleek design. Awesome job. A little shellac would really set it off :)
workislove2 years ago
Very cool - dead simple and looks very sleek.
ynze2 years ago
Smart smart smart smart smart and looks cool too! Love it!
i *so* want to make one of these....but out of g-10 instead. then with what skill i have in armouring, i could probably make a dish out of some 16g mild steel. thanks for making such an in depth ible. you gave me some kick ass ideas.
timwikander (author)  kage_no_mozaiku2 years ago
Epic. I would love to see that!
pramponi2 years ago
Absolutely freakin' ingenious!
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