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Picture of Wooden iPhone 5 Case
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The contrast with the high-tech phone and its materials (glass, aluminium, ..) and the natural look of solid wood, makes this an impressive case.

Cases like these can be bought at webshops, some examples are :
  • http://www.grovemade.com/product/iphone-5-case/#plain-bamboo-iphone-5-case (79$)
  • https://www.miniot.com/webshop/?portlet=miniot&page=iwood5&state=maximized (79$)
But of course it is much more fun and rewarding to make such a case yourself.
Just as much as the iPhone is a precision device, manufacturing this case will require precision.
Apart from that, with basic tools and very little materials, you can build a really impressive protection for your phone.
 
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Step 1: Warning

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Before you go ahead, I must warn you about a few things :

an iPhone is a delicate thing, and as such does not really belong in your woodworking shop : It doesn't like dust.

Also when working with glue, make sure everything is dry and clean before touching the phone

Finally, when you make this case, be very careful towards scratching your phone's display


Having said this, you will need to measure, try, proof, etc. from time to time with the real phone. The wooden case needs to be very precise in order to function well, and this precision can only be achieved through regular testing and proofing while building it

If you feel unsure, you can make an iPhone dummy (a wooden piece with the same dimensions) and then proceed with this dummy.

Step 2: Tools & Materials

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Tools :
  1. Caliper
  2. Router, with following router bits : straight 12mm router bit
  3. Sander (Belt-sander for rough work, Orbital sander for finishing)
  4. Jig saw, with precision cut saw
  5. Clamps
Materials :
  1. A piece of solid wood, preferably a nice piece of tropical wood. (as this is a very small object, that will hopefully last a couple of years, it is ok to spend some tropical hardwood for it) I used Bamboo, as I found a nice and cheap piece of wood in the outlet store nearby : 1.60 euro
  2. Some fabric, eg from an old jeans, ...
Other :
  1. Wood glue
  2. Contact glue
  3. CAD Drawing with Iphone5 dimensions

Step 3: Building the Jig

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Precision routing cannot be done freehand, So you need something to support your movement. It's called a Jig.
In general a Jig is a self-made support tool, that enhances the capabilities of other tools.

Some will serve you a lifetime long, some others you may need only once..
Usually you will build them from some scrap materials, their quality matching the life expectancy of the Jig.

The jig shown in the picture is one that I use regularly when routing small pieces of wood. I will add more instructables in the future that are made using this jig.

Step 4: Routing the Piece

The case will be assembled from 2 halves that will be glued together at the end.
The two halves are symmetrical, although one will have an extra opening through which you can 'push out' the inserted phone
  1. Mount the bamboo in the Jig : see image : I use pairs of wooden wedges. Make sure those will not run away from the vibrations of the router
  2. Adjust the guides so that you will rout a rectangular area out of the center : this area should measure 130 mm * 62 mm and 4.5 mm deep. Remember that you can always make this cut-out  wider and deeper, but never the other way. So you may start on the safe side, then try with the phone, then adjust...
  3. Cut the piece down, length-wise to almost its final size. The last mm will be trimmed on the belt-sander.
  4. Route an extra opening on 1 piece only, to allow you to push out the phone with your index finger. So this needs to be slightly lwider than the width of your index finger.
Tip : regularly clean your workarea as even tiny chips of wood can make your work inaccurate.

Step 5: Adding the fabric - Testing the dimensions

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The most difficult thing about this project, is making it so that the phone slides in and out easily (without causing any scratches to its display) while at the same time preventing that the phone falls out just by gravity.

Both objectives can be reached by adding a piece of fabric at the inside. In step 3 we made each half-shell 4.5 mm deep, resulting in a total of 9 mm. The iPhone is 7.6 mm, so we can add 1.4 mm of fabric. I used some jeans, of which four layers (2 on each side), provide exactly the right friction.

This will need some experimenting : tentatively stack up all the parts : under shell, fabric, phone, fabric, upper shell and join them with small clamps. Then test the friction. Take your time and again be carefull with the phone.

When confident that the friction/protection is perfect, glue the fabric inside the wooden shells. I used an extra dummy piece of MDF in order to be able to press the fabric in place while the glue dries.

After the fabric has been glued, cut away 2 mm at the 'entrance' of the box. This can still be done after assembly and sanding, but it is easier now.

Step 6: Glueing

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Avoid excess glue dripping to the inside, check with a flashlight the inside of the box after assembly.
Let al glue dry long enough in order to avoid wet glue onto your phone..

Step 7: Sanding - Finishing

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Sand the box down to its final size :
Start with P80 grain on the belt-sander
Finish with P400 by hand.

Oil with wood oil.
Again, avoid to spill oil to the inside (the fabric will be greasy forever..) and let everything dry well before inserting your phone.
danamrox2 months ago

awesom like it i lik e how the wood looks

that's bamboo, not wood.
Amazingly awesome!
You use woodworking tools on the bamboo, so... Close enough?
strooom (author)  Jean-Valéry Thoraval2 years ago
Yes, technically you're right, Bamboo is a kind of grass. Still for this instructable, I treat it as if it is wood. For my iPod I've made the same case from Walnut
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indeed, Bamboo IS a grass. nice instructable anyways ;)
Nice work!
You really should be congratulated!
Beautiful design.
Would you also knew my work and maybe we can exchange some tips on software and 3D creation. My blog is: http://2dprojetos.blogspot.com

Thanks,


Daniel Domingos
strooom (author)  Daniel Domingos2 years ago
Hi Daniel, thanks for your message. I visited your blog! I use Sketchup for 3D design, because it is free SW, it allows me to quickly build a model and you can download many existing models. Before that I used TurboCAD. I have used Autodesk SW long time ago, but I find it too expensive for hobbyist projects...
I have no experience in going from a 3D model to CAM Manufacturing. Will try to do that in the future. Cheers !
Thank you for your response and for your visit in my blog.
I'm always interested in meeting and learning about new software.
The Sketchup seems an option very similar to Autocad, but even so I will find out about this software.
I will continue to monitor their projects because I really liked of them.
And who knows, we can exchange tips and experiences.

Thanks,

Daniel
chuckyd2 years ago
This is a great idea. For those who do not have access to a router, or who think routing out the divot will take too much time, there is another method.

Use three layers of wood, instead of two. The center layer should be just slightly thicker than the phone.

Measure the width the opening needs to be and mark it on the inner layer.

Cut on the waste side of the line with a bandsaw, jigsaw, saber saw, or scroll saw.

Sand the inside smooth with an oscilating sander or with sandpaper and a sanding block.

Glue the fabric to the inside of the outer two pieces.

Glue the three pieces together in the correct order and finish as outlined.

An alternative to the fabric is flocking, which is used in jewelry boxes.
strooom (author)  chuckyd2 years ago
After thinking about this, I actually think it is the better way to build this : this way it will be more easy to :
* test the dimensions are right...
* apply the fabric at the inside
* you could do without a router, just jigsaw and sander...
It will be a bit more difficult to find the wood, as you need a thin piece for top/bottom and a thicker piece for the middle.
Thanks for your helpful tip !

That looks awesome! Wonderful design :)
You should enter this into the Holiday Gifts Contest!
strooom (author)  Penolopy Bulnick2 years ago
It's already in the Pocket Contest. Is it possible to enter in multiple contests ?
Yes, yes. hertzgamma is right. You can enter as many Instructables as you want into a contest and you can enter a single Instructable in up to 3 different contests :)
I believe you'll be more than welcome to do that.
I forgot to mention that I love your idea and photos/explanations!
I wish I had the tools to make such a case.
Bill WW2 years ago
Excellent. Bamboo is such a good material; it's strength properties qualify it for high strength structural members. In addition to being a beautiful material. Note that I did not dare call it "wood".

In step 5, I assume the routing could also be done with a table mounted router by clamping the guides to the table top.
Thetis2 years ago
Cool. I would consider mounting a simple flat spring between the fabric and the wood to grip the phone back.
strooom (author)  Thetis2 years ago
Excellent tip ! Will try this next time.. (probably the iPhone10 or so...)
Johnkaye2 years ago
It's great to see instructions for crafting something out of wood using tools and not a laser cutter. Sort of becoming a lost art here on Instructables. Most now start off with "laser cut the wood", Great instructable!
strooom (author)  Johnkaye2 years ago
Well, I have no access to a Laser cutter... Too expensive, and TechShop is like 8000 km from here.. Furthermore, I think a big part of the joy of woodworking is in having the workpiece and/or tools in your hands. But to be honest, sometimes I dream about CNC :-)
racoontnn2 years ago
The original thing! I already have a few items on your description, I will add this one.
pinksloth2 years ago
Very nicely done and a great presentation. Congratulations!
Awesome!
Very nice
allesflex2 years ago
Very well done with basic tools! It shows that if you plan right that you can make anything.
Very nice.
artworker2 years ago
sleek and elegant! Will make one for my wife this valentine.
That's beautiful - great job!