Introduction: An IPad / Tablet PVC Stand Anyone Can Make!
This instructable was designed to allow you to use your iPad or tablet in bed, sitting on the floor or at a table. It is something that even someone in an apartment can make with just a few basic tools. I can now comfortably use my iPad in bed whereas before I had to prop it up on my chest at an uncomfortable angle. This design supports landscape or portrait modes by adjusting the positions of the top brackets. The frame can be easily disassembled to pack for traveling. It can also be used as a tripod for the device's camera or even a copy stand if the tablet is tilted horizontally.
Step 1: Supplies and Tools
There are 3 parts to the complete stand: the frame, the stand and the kickstand. The kickstand is optional, but it does make a convenient handle for carrying.
The only tools required are a PVC tubing cutter, tape measure and a drill. The tubing cutter is the most expensive item, but it cuts easily and cleanly with no dust. Alternatively you can use a hacksaw. All these materials are available from your local home improvement store (I did, however have trouble finding the 3-way side outlet elbows at Home Depot). The project uses 10-24 machine screws and wing nuts (this is the coarse thread type, don't confuse it with the 10-32 fine thread). The drill bit is 1/4", which makes the holes slightly oversize for the screws so alignment of the parts is easier. Most dimensions can be changed to your liking unless a particular instruction says it is critical.
The PVC is plain old white schedule 40 which is the easiest to find. Make sure all the elbows have 'slip' fittings, no screw threads inside them. Get all the PVC from the same store, so you can be sure it fits together well. Make sure to get the right PVC cement. You want cement made for PVC, not CPVC or other acronyms. All PVC pipe and fittings should be for the 1/2" size.
You will need the following:
1.) 3 pieces of 1/2" schedule 40 PVC pipe (sold in 4 or 5 foot lengths at Lowe's), consider getting extra because you will undoubtedly cut some pieces too short ($5-$6)
2.) six 90 degree PVC elbows ($2)
3.) two 45 degree elbows ($1.50)
4. ) five 'tees' (3 way connectors shaped like a 'T') ($3)
5.) four 3-way (also called 'side outlet') elbows shaped a bit like little tripods for the support brackets (this is not the same thing as a 'tee' above) ($6)
6.) 2 end caps ($1)
7.) 6 rubber hose washers (sold in the garden hose section) ($1-$2)
8.) 220 or similar grit sandpaper to remove printed markings on the PVC pipe and fittings
9.) four 3", one 2.5", and one 2" 10-24 coarse machine screws and six 10-24 wing nuts ($7)
10.) PVC cement (do not get the purple primer - it is unnecessary and will just make a mess) ($5)
11.) an electric drill and a 1/4" bit, preferably a brad tip bit instead of the more common twist bit ($6 at most)
12.) a tape measure (always use the same one)
13.) a PVC cutter or hack saw ($12 to $25)
14.) Sharpie fine point marker or equivalent to mark positions on the PVC
Don't glue anything until you've actually used the stand for awhile. You'll have to support it carefully to make sure it doesn't fall apart but once you've glued PVC, there's no going back. Use the minimum cement necessary (I wipe the brush on the side of the can so there is none dripping and lightly go around the inside of the fitting once). You'll get 1-2 seconds before it sets so absolutely dry fit everything first and practice putting the joints together the way you want them.
If you haven't used a tape measure, each tic represents 1/16th of an inch, two tics together make 1/8th. There are (eight) 8ths in every inch.
Step 2: Build the Frame
The frame holds your iPad or tablet and attaches securely to the stand. It is just two top and bottom horizontal bars and a center vertical connecting piece. Multiple holes can be drilled in the vertical connecting piece to allow you to adjust the height. There are four 3-way or 'side outlet' elbows that act as brackets to support your device. The bottom two support the weight and the top two secure your device from the sides. Be careful not to tip the stand too far forward or backwards or your tablet can slide out. An optional 'kickstand' can be made that will allow you to prop up your device on a table or other surface.
The dimensions here are for an iPad 2. You can check other devices against these measurements to make sure that they will work. If in doubt cut the pipe a little longer, that way you can always cut it down versus starting over if you cut it too short. The bracket machine screws will turn in place if you try to tighten the wing nuts too much, helping to prevent over-tightening. The hose washers squish between parts to give things a better grip and make it easier to tighten the machine screws. Making the frame first will make it easier to adjust the final height of the stand so you know how long to cut some of the stand pieces.
You will need to drill two 1/4" holes in each of the two top horizontal pieces, one for landscape orientation of your tablet (long axis of the tablet horizontal), and another to secure the device in portrait orientation (long axis vertical). Only one hole each is needed in the bottom two sections for the bottom brackets. A 3" machine screw is used to connect each bracket to the pipe with a hose washer between the bracket and the pipe. The frame attaches to the main top horizontal bar of the stand with a 2" machine screw and a hose washer between them. The holes in the connecting vertical piece are somewhat arbitrary. You will need a hole in the top tee to attach the kickstand or directly to the stand. In general the frame should connect to the stand at the frame's highest point so the stand does not become top heavy, but still leaving comfortable clearance for your body underneath the frame. Some trial and error may be necessary to find the best height.
PVC is very slippery, and the drill bit is likely to 'wander' or slip if you don't make a point for the bit to grab into. You can gently tap the bit into the bottom of the fitting to create a small divot, or use a nail and hammer. If you can, try and use a woodworking 'brad point bit'. It has a sharp point that helps prevent slippage that can happen with more common 'twist bits'. You can put an old phone book underneath the pipe or fittings that you are drilling if you don't have a suitable backstop.
Make sure to cover any screw heads that make contact with the tablet so it doesn't scratch. You can use a piece of thick tape, a band aid or some rubber shelf liner for this if necessary. You can wrap string or paracord around the pipe to hold the tablet more snugly in the frame.
Sandpaper will remove the writing on the PVC. However, do not sand the writing on the parts that fit into the joints or the connections may be too loose.
Remember, don't glue anything until you've finished and have started using your stand.
Step 3: Build the Stand
The length of the main horizontal bar that attaches to the frame is arbitrary. Customize the final height of your stand in bed by laying down and positioning your tablet just above your chest to get an idea if you need to adjust the vertical pieces longer or shorter than 2.5". If you will primarily be using the stand on a hard floor while sitting, the tablet will be lower because your body drops down a few inches in a soft mattress. You may want to leave the vertical pieces permanently unglued so that you can swap them out for different sizes depending on where, and who, is using the stand.
Start by cutting out the longest pieces first. Refer to the pictures for the cut lengths of each section. Each fitting forms two joints with a neighboring piece of pipe. In some cases only *one* of the joints on the fitting is glued as described in the picture. Do not glue any of the sides of the joints indicated by red arrows. The bottom joints in red allow the legs resting on the surface to turn outward or inward as you move the stand closer or further away from you. It also allows you to disassemble the stand. The top unglued joints allow the long horizontal bar to tilt the frame and tablet up and down. The only crucial part of this step is to make sure that the 45 degree connector is at 90 degrees to the the top elbow when you eventually glue it. If you look at the two middle sections back to back in the photo on the Supplies and Tools step you will see that these sections are mirror images. If you do not account for that the legs will point in opposite directions.
If you leave the end caps unglued they may make a nice storage compartment for pens or styluses.
Step 4: Build the Kickstand (Optional)
The kickstand is used for propping up your device on a table, counter top, bed or even your lap. It is simple to make. The lengths notated on the picture above are important so the kickstand doesn't block the holes for the portrait position. The kickstand simply rotates around the unglued joints of the top tee which is connected by a 2.5" machine screw to the top tee of the frame (with a hose washer between the two tees). Make sure the top tee is oriented open end up like in the picture so it doesn't block the screw below it. The kickstand can rotate up and form a carrying handle that makes moving and positioning the stand much easier.
Step 5: Improvements
There are other ways of improving the stand. In the picture above, I've used scrunchies to hang my earbuds through on one side and take up the cord slack on the other side. I also hung a mesh bag to keep my stylus handy.
You may want to add end caps to the ends of the horizontal frame bars for aesthetics or to protect against sharp pipe edges (you can also sand the edges). If you decide to use end caps, you will need to lengthen the four top and bottom pieces by about 3/4".
To prevent the unglued joints from separating completely you can attach the two pieces with a string. Drill a hole in both pieces of the joint, but make sure not to drill through the part of the joint where both pieces overlap. Pass the string through one of the holes from the outside, then through the inside of the joint and then out the other hole. Tie a knot in both ends of the string but keep the length of the string loose enough that you can still pull the joint apart.
You may want to paint the PVC with specially formulated PVC paint (Krylon™ Fusion spray paint is made for this). You can decorate it with bright paint and 'sparkles' to suit yourself or your children.
You may also want to use rounded 'acorn nuts' instead of wing nuts to avoid the sharp ends of the machine screws if you have children.