Introduction: Cell Phone Jail

Picture of Cell Phone Jail

Don't you hate it when you're having a drink with a friend and you can't hold their attention because their cell phone keeps going off? Me too! Cell phones are the real pests! I was watching an episode of Soul Pancake and they showed me the answer! A cell phone jail. They made theirs out of Legos. I don't have Legos and when I priced it out, the thing was going to cost $50! Here's my answer to the Lego Cell Phone Jail.

Step 1: Tools and Materials


  • Metal cutting saw
  • Files
  • Automatic Center Punch
  • Drill & Bits
  • Wrench
  • Razor knife
  • Compass


  • Sheet metal (I'm using ¼" aluminum diamond plate)
  • Long machine screws (I'm using 8-32 x 5" Carriage bolts)
  • Nuts
  • Plastic tubing of suitable size to cover the machine screws

Step 2: Cut and Mark the Sheet Metal

Picture of Cut and Mark the Sheet Metal

The largest cell phone I've seen is the Samsung Mega with a massive 3.5" x 6.5" display. Take this into account and make sure to cut the sheet metal large enough to enclose the largest phone you may encounter.

Cut two plates of sheet metal to the same size. These will be the floor and ceiling of the jail. Mark a line around three sides of the perimeter. On this project, I marked 1 cm from the edge. Next measure off and mark the locations for the bars using a compass. This makes it real easy to get precise spacing. On this jail, the bars are spaced at 2 cm.

Step 3: Center Punch and Drill

Picture of Center Punch and Drill

Using a center punch (I like the automatic kind), punch a hole for each bar and drill the plates. If you use flat plates, you can clamp them together in a vise and drill both at the same time. Since I used diamond plate, I had to countersink with a larger drill bit to provide a landing place for the bolt heads.

Step 4: Install the Bars

Picture of Install the Bars

Once both plates are drilled, install the bars. First, lock them into place on the ceiling with a nut. Next cut the plastic tubing to an appropriate length and slide the pieces over the screws. This will protect the cell phones from the threads of the screws. You could also use aluminum or copper tubing for a nice color effect instead and save on nuts. Do what expresses your style best.

Step 5: Make the Door

Picture of Make the Door

Cut two pieces of sheet metal to the same width as the door opening. Drill these two pieces to mate with the two bars at the open end of the jail. One bar will be the hinge, the other bar will be the latch. Next, drill for the bars in the door. This is best done in a vise with the two pieces stacked so both are drilled at once. Cut the sheet metal to create a notch that will slide onto one of the stationary bars. Using a file, you can create a small detent that will use friction to hold the door closed. Install the bars into the door.

Step 6: Install the Door

Picture of Install the Door

Had I thought this far ahead, I would have installed this bar first. But I didn't, so I had to painstakingly inch the nuts up the bolt, add the tubing, and move it all another ¼" at a time till the bolt was through both the ceiling and the floor.

Your cell phone jail is now ready to use. You can use it for yourself, make people lock up their phones in order to join you or just conduct social experiments like they did in this video from Soul Pancake.


mrsmerwin (author)2017-04-15

These should be on every high school teacher's desk.

ConnieB82 (author)2016-11-28

First person to take the phone out gets the tab.

alzie (author)2016-03-16

Airplane mode?

Airplane mode is a good idea too! I prefer the cage idea though because it physically demonstrates the NEED to get your point across to the other person. My wife is on her phone so much it drives me nuts! Breaking her away from it is like my parents trying to get my attention when I was watching cartoons when I was a child. Like pullin' teeth! Lol

Pulling teeth out of A chicken?

Ah right, i get it,

the psychological effect of having the cage.

It does look pretty cool.

Exactly! A push of an airplane mode button can be a casual thought that might not illustrate the point and thus not achieve the importance of what the issue is about. Because of how important this issue is with SO many people, the lesson to be learned and retained has such a higher chance of being forgotten if the jail isn't used. All people learn in different ways. To put the problem in front of the ones that learn more by seeing things is a great reason to used the jail. Peace!

snowdrop1101 (author)2016-05-15

Couldn't you just break the phone with A hammer?

warriorethos2 (author)2016-04-10

Nice idea! Your instructions and photos are easy to follow. The design and size so it fits all phones was a good touch as well. Good luck in the contest.

B-Natalie (author)2016-03-16

OMG! Great little idea that says SO much about our frustration with cell phone users. But, has anyone ever thought of just saying "power down your phone during (dinner/our time together)? I'm amazed how many people would like a 'jail' when they should just say 'enough!'.
It's like sex: if you're close enough to be having sex, you're close enough to have the condom discussion, RIGHT? Well, if the family's having dinner you've got the right to ask for 'cell-phone-power-off-time', RIGHT? Just a thought...
[I'm not a party-pooper...I love this jail if for no other reason than to start the conversation and agree on some ground rules. GREAT instructable!]

Mholmen (author)B-Natalie2016-04-10

Your comment reminded me of our "house rules" at dinner time when our son (now in college) was younger . Aside from the usual table manners, we also had "no hats, no TV, and no phone calls". This was before everyone had cell phones so "no phone calls" meant that if our land line rang during dinner we let it go to the answering machine. We did not allow a ringing phone to interrupt our family dinner. There are very few calls that can't wait 15 minutes to be answered. As times changed, our phone call rule just automatically extended to cell phones without even explicitly stating so. Perhaps what makes this especially notable is that we live in California - most certainly one of the most cell phone dependent populations in existence! And I too, think this is a great Instructable!

DustandDoghair (author)2016-03-19

I think you have a million dollar idea, Marsh!
You could sell these!

RockeyDA (author)2016-03-17

cell phones are still a foreign concept to me. i got a land line and a workstation/gaming rig, if im out side i bring a boom box if im gonna be doing nothing like waiting at bus stops trying to get to the other side of town.

NiaraI (author)2016-03-17

Using airplane mode on a cell phone also works well if one doesn't have one of these jails handy...

flyingpuppy (author)2016-03-15

Love that you entered this into the Pest Control contest! Awesome!

Marsh (author)flyingpuppy2016-03-15

I was thrilled when they accepted it!


zkus (author)2016-03-15

One nice thing about using metal is that it can act like a faraday cage, so you dont have to listen to any incoming text buzzbuzz. I think the gaps have to be smaller than the wavelengths though, so you'd probably need a metal mesh to get the full effect.

ctlarson (author)zkus2016-03-15

Make the sides out of expandable mesh screen ( and it will act as a faraday cage, blocking cell signals as long as the phone is in there!


mattcintosh (author)ctlarson2016-03-16

That mesh looks just like the kind they used on those 10 foot C-Band satellite dishes to reflect the signal to the feedhorn

rogue_saint_michael (author)2016-03-16

Great idea! I think I'll build one but with the purpose of a faraday cage.

Sean Cruse (author)2016-03-15

Can you scale this to fit the kids in too?

Baldilocks (author)2016-03-15

Welding it shut would be a good finish I think.

Estella Potter (author)2016-03-15

My mum will love this!!! If i show her tht is... *grins mischeviously*

UnclTodd (author)2016-03-15

Awesome for ensuring an actual "conversation" with an American teenager! With your skills, I would suggest a tiny hasp and a simple key-lock designed for a jewelry box!

GordonS24 (author)2016-03-15

I don't have any friends, but a great idea none the less :))

2419 (author)2016-03-15

Damned "eye"-phones! I was recently on a city corner waiting for the green light and saw about a hundred peds all looking @ & playing with their phones.

This little cell would be a great gift for most any teacher

ScottN27 (author)2016-03-15

Nice job. Add a little electrical current for additional deterrent. Or have a chuckle when someone tries to get away,...

DianaW5 (author)2016-03-15


skylane (author)2016-03-15


I suppose wood could be nice... maybe cheaper...maybe way more $$

I really like your "jail"

flyingpuppy (author)2016-03-15

Right? :)

dancingstar (author)2016-03-12

Haha great idea! Hmmmm, I wonder if my tablet will fit in there...

so agree. I'm an iPad junkie of the first order. It needs a penitentiary sentence. Or, I do.

Keep confessing to things you do wrong, on the Internet, that Orange is the New Black could be coming for you! Careful out there, folks!

fhhuber (author)dancingstar2016-03-15

All you have to do is scale it to fit what you want to lock in it....

Bigger phone/tablet? OK more bars that are longer and bigger plates

aalfaro3 (author)2016-03-14

a lot of effort put into something no one will ever use

ShawnS60 (author)aalfaro32016-03-15

Sh*t, just as a coffee table decoration, it's worth it. You don't want people to read your "coffee table books" while you are all conversing, yet they still market the books. Keep this fine-looking thing lying around and it will incite many conversations. With the people who aren't reading their phones while you're talking to them.

sharona9 (author)aalfaro32016-03-15

No, I agree. It'll be made with "good intentions", then not used.

Marsh (author)aalfaro32016-03-15

Based on the number of favorable comments and number of times it's been favorited, I would say that's an erroneous assumption.

Marsh (author)aalfaro32016-03-14

If you sit at my table, you'll use it!

JanetP33 (author)2016-03-15

This would be great at family dinner time! Great Project!!

AdamI1 (author)2016-03-15

seems that the bars aren't tight enought though, need to be max 5 mm.

sharona9 (author)2016-03-15


BradGreenwood2 (author)2016-03-15

I'd like to put my wife and daughter's in one of these!!!

No one calls me on mine, except these two... so it's a "win" all the way 'round.

fezzerlyn (author)2016-03-15

Love this idea. Especially for a family dinner night when we all get together again. My nephews are horrible cell phone junkies.

deswiger (author)2016-03-15

Hey, you lock up my cell phone like this and you know what I would say to you? "THANK YOU!"

Nice job.

supernoodle2014 (author)2016-03-14

You should make it a faraday cage so it won't ring when it is in there

Tecwyn Twmffat (author)2016-03-12

Voted! Nice! How about adding some kind of 'phone destructor' like a laser or hydraulic press in case it rings?

or a signal blocker!

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm an environmentally conscious experimenter who loves to bring people together, build things, and when possible...blow things up! See us on YouTube too ...
More by Marsh:My Injection Molding Project!Make a Propane Forge for $50!Round Tube Center Finder!
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