Make a stylish, modern and sturdy stand for your phone.
The result is a serious build, standing reliably on your desk, and catching the attentive eye.
The slant will dramatically improve the readability of the screen.
- The limited slant obtained here, below 45°, is good for intensive usage, e.g. if you are a mobile app developer.
- For, say, desk clock usage, a much steeper slant would be better.
You can complete this project in just 2 to 3 hours, not counting the waiting time. A good starter if you are new to concrete molding:
The secret resides in using a Tupperware (or similar) box as a mold.
Step 1: Choose the Right Box
It is all about finding the right box:
A - The box I chose. Quite matches the width and height of the phone, and is tall enough. Could be even a few cm taller, and a bit narrower, but that's the best box I had on hand.
B - Is like A but lower. The stand will not be tall enough, providing insufficient slant.
C - Quite ideal dimensions, but (1) is recessed on the sides, which will generate a somehow strange shape, and (2) being hard plastic, may be difficult to demold.
D - Good material (Tupperware) ideal for demolding. But, way too wide, and not tall enough.
The shape must be slightly conical (i.e. bottom area is smaller than top area) so that demolding is possible. In fact almost all boxes are conical (to be themselves demolded during their own fabrication).
Step 2: Needed Stuff
Use the finest mix you can find. Ideally, screed concrete, consisting of cement and sand (no gravel).
If you only have construction/coarse concrete, no worry, you can sieve it.
It may be challenging to buy concrete in small quantities. 10 kg bags was the smallest quantities I saw. Do not use repair cement, as it will probably not be good for this thickness (not enough sand).
Other materials and supplies
1. Very important: Oil, to allow demolding. Ideally, mineral oil (e.g. for sewing machine).
2. 20 cm of iron wire, of approx 1 mm thickness.
3. Concrete sealer. Appears as a very fluid liquid, and aims at hardening the concrete surface, making it ready for applying paint or varnish.
4. Some leftover piece of styrofoam, 1+ cm thick.
5. Optionally, (spray) paint or transparent (matte) varnish.
1. The selected box, as mentioned in the previous step.
2. Some object to rest the box tilted. I used a sanding block, but you can also use a pile of magazines.
3. A spatula, or an old knife, to mix and spread the concrete.
4. Optionally, sandpaper.
5. A sieve, if needed.
6. A paintbrush, to apply oil and sealer.
7. A cutter and ruler.
Step 3: Sieve the Concrete
Even with screed concrete, I found that the sand grains were too coarse in average, because I wanted a fine grained surface as a result.
So, with a kitchen sieve, you may want to filter away the coarse grains.
Step 4: Mix the Right Amount of Concrete, and Tilt the Box
VERY IMPORTANT: oil the whole inner sides of the box. Only this will insure a proper demolding, without damages.
Mixing the concrete
- Wear an old coat or t-shirt, as concrete splashes leaves unremovable gray spots.
- Wear eyes protection.
Then, fill the box with concrete, to approx 1/3 of the box content. Gradually add water while mixing your concrete, to obtain a quite fluid mixture, which will guarantee that the top surface will be level. After a short time, the bottom will be thicker than the top.
The top should have the consistency of a thick syrup.
Tilt the box as shown:
- The surface should be slightly below the top edge (on the left),
- and at least 2 cm (0.8 inches) above the bottom edge (on the right), in order to become sturdy enough.
Step 5: Create an Iron Reinforcement
This reinforcement will ensure that the resting part (that we will add in step 7) will be well bound to the bottom part that we just poured.
With iron wire, create a somehow flat spring, approx 2 cm thick. I used a thin chisel to roll the wire around and easily obtain the desired shape.
Insert the wire into the concrete, leaving the half above the surface. It should not touch the box.
Step 6: Let Partly Dry
Small bubbles may appear on the surface. We don't like them. You can tap on the side of the box (e.g. with the handle of the spatula/knife) in order to help them raise and pop. You may have to do this during approx 10 minutes.
After that, readjust the placement of the reinforcement iron wire, if needed.
Wait a bit
Now, let the concrete dry for approx 4 hours, or until the surface is no longer shiny but still moist, and touching it leaves no mark.
If you do not plan to paint the concrete in the end, you should not wait that long, and do the next step while the concrete is still soft, in order to avoid a visible joint mark on the side.
Dispose the excess concrete
Do not pour excess concrete in the sink, it is sure to nastily clog it irreversibly: imagine solid concrete in the pipe!
Carefully dilute the excess in a lot of water. Only then, you may throw it in the sink.
Step 7: Create the Rest, and Wait 3+ Days
Make the phone rest
Shape the styrofoam. Its mission will be to hold the additional concrete that we will use to create the rest.
One side of the styrofoam must be nicely straight. Its length must fit the width of the box, plus a little margin giving a slight compression, in order to stay well in place.
Place the styrofoam piece, so that it the iron reinforcement is free.
Mix a small amount of concrete, and pour it behind the styrofoam piece.
Really, really wait
Wait for the concrete to be completely dry.
At least 3 days. Be patient, do not ruin your work so far.
If the surface feels "fresh" (i.e. below room temperature), it means that evaporation still takes place, so it needs some more time to dry.
Step 8: Demold and Sand
1. Carefully demold the piece.
2. Remove the styrofoam with a cutter.
3. Wash the piece with water and soap, to remove any traces of oil.
You may want to rectify wherever needed, with some sandpaper. Rinsing the sandpaper often will help a lot.
Depending on your taste about the surface finish, and only if you plan to paint the piece, you may want to rectify some places with putty.
Step 9: Apply Sealer
This part should not be neglected: the sealer will stick the sand grain together, taking effect down to a few millimeter below the surface (because concrete is porous and the sealer very fluid).
Without sealer, the surface will erode very easily: just rubbing the surface would leave dust on your fingers.
It needs a few hours to completely dry.
Step 10: Paint Job
The final step is to spray paint the piece. Unless you decide to leave its natural color.
Use high quality spray paint, possibly quite sparingly: 3 thin layers should suffice. After all, the texture of the concrete surface should be still apparent.
Once completely dry, you may either find that the bottom side is smooth enough and will not scratch your desk, or decide to stick some (thin) rubber/felt pads.
Step 11: Done - Enjoy the Finished Product!
The final result appears really like a piece you can trust. After all, it's made of concrete!
Whether or not to paint the surface, it's really up to your taste. Some like the natural grayish color. I personally think that color adds elegance to concrete.
For a first-off proof of concept, I must say I'm quite happy with the results.
Step 12: Thoughts and Room for Improvements
But let's take a critical look at the results:
1. The slant could be steeper, around 45°.
2. For phones with the USB/charger plug on the bottom edge, charging becomes clumsy. Unless you grind a groove, or better, mold one, in step 7.
3. The USB cords are often way too long, creating some clutter on the desk. It would be nice to have a way to roll the cable for a few turns.
4. The shape is quite nice, but it could be even more stylish.
Anyway, for the small effort it took, I think it has the "bang for the buck".
But stay tuned, I have another design in mind!