Introduction: Wooden IPhone Case
So my dad got a brand new iPhone 5s (already outdated now) and I know that he would never buy a case for it so I decided to take the matter in my own hands and craft one for him, so that he would feel guilty if he said he didn't want it.
Although he has a 5s, you can make this case for any kind of iPhone at least, thanks to Apple's Case Design Guidelines — I didn't even have the phone with me when I made it because I wanted it to be a surprise so I used the measurements provided in there, which are a goldmine for any iPhone-related hardware project. I only had very minor adjustments to make when I put the phone in the first time. For this reason I will not give any measurements in this I'ble because you can find them online and you'll have everything you need and even more. You can also measure any specific phone directly.
Anyhow enough talking, let's get started !
TL;DR : We kut the wood end we maek the projekt.
Step 1: Tools and Materials (Who'd Have Guessed?)
• 3D Printer and laser cutter ; two of each. Just kidding! We'll be using real tools.
• A precise metal ruler (if you don't have one, it's cheap very useful in any workshop so no excuse! 1/2mm precision) and a tiny square
• Scroll saw
• Belt sander (Optional, you can also sand by hand)
• Drill press (Optional if you're extra precise with a hand drill)
• Dremel with various bits (diamond head, disc cutter, sand paper...)
• Variety of screwdrivers, hammers, sand papers (120 to 400 grit)
• Always have a sharp knife. It's useful to remove extra glue and robbers might barge in your workshop.
• Thin hardwood sheet, approximately 2 to 3 times the surface of the phone you want to encase. I used a beautiful 3mm Walnut sheet my granddad gave me and I think it's ideal thickness, but 2mm would do even though you'd have to be more precise, and 4mm would as well but it'd be more bulky.
• Thicker hardwood scraps, for the sides of the casing. Thickness = thickness of the phone + 1 or 2 millimeters.
• Small screws and nuts, different kinds and metals, according to taste. Mine were not so fancy :(
• Super glue, Wood glue
• I think that's it !
Step 2: Cut Out the Rough Shape, Glue.
I started by making a very precise template of the phone I wanted to encase, using the measurements I had found online. I made it out of cardboard because I'm lazy but using a piece of scrap wood a bit thinner than the phone would be a better idea. In any case, be precise and have right angles or you'll have to start all over again at some point. You can also glue around the phone and not make a template but I would not risk that !
Out of the thin sheet of hardwood of your choosing, cut out two panels bigger than your phone (1 extra cm in each direction, or 1/2 inch). They don't have to exactly match yet. Then mark the side you like the most to be the back of the case.
Then cut out the sides (0,75 cm wide) out of the thicker hardwood, make sure that it's thicker (higher) than your phone. Not too much because you'll need to sand it later, but you'll need a bit of a margin (1 mm). Arrange them tightly around your phone or template and glue them in place on the inside of the panel you chose for the back of the case. Make a nice square fit.
Before gluing, make sure the phone fits, and especially the phone's thickness fits, so put the lid on and you shouldn't have to push for it to seal.
Step 3: Screw This....
... but don't forget to tape it and cut it as well.
So, tape the front panel (referred to as "lid" from now on) to the semi-box you just made and then draw and cut a regular rectangle shape by trimming the sides. Be sure not to cut too much off : you want the sides to be thin, but you need to be able to put four tiny screws in. I think leaving 4 to 6 millimeters for the sides is good, a bit less for the top and bottom as you don't need screws in there. You can always sand them later, that's what I did.
While it's still taped, drill four holes a bit smaller than your screw thread diameter through the lid and sides. But don't go all the way through ! Using a drill press and gauge might save your project. Always start shallow, try to put the screw in and then go deeper if necessary, it's easier than the other way around.
Then enlarge very shallowly the holes in the lid with a drill bit the size of your screw head so they don't stick out. Be careful not to go all the way through the lid or it won't stay on.
When you're done, go get some food and come back for step 4.
PS: I hope you removed the phone before cutting
Step 4: Shape the Lid and Make Camera Opening If Applicable. and Sand!
Using those measurements again, I drew a shape on the lid that would allow for the home button, speaker sensors facetime camera and obviously screen to stick their tiny noses out.
Drill a hole inside the part you're about to cut out, unmount the scroll saw blade, put it through the hole and mount it back on the saw, don't forget to tighten it or it's going to be messy and noisy! Cut out the shape and do the same for the camera/flash opening in the back. When cutting the camera/flash opening I cut out the top side, then glued it back in place (see picture). You don't have to do this as the power button is going to be right underneath so not gluing this tiny part in place would give you easy direct access to it. I chose to put it back on and then add a button of my making (see later steps).
Sand the inside of your cuts, you can also use the dremel to "break" or round the angles with a diamond tip for instance. Put it together to see how it looks!
On this last picture I also belt-sanded the edges in a round shape. Do this when and only when the case is screwed together, or it won't match. This is an optional step but it reminds of the lines of the iPhone inside and reaaaaaally makes it feel and look less bulky. I also belt sanded the top and bottom down to 3 mm thick.
Sand the entire case with 200 then 400 grit to make it really smooth, although I did not put any finish on it (I would have if I had had any! Probably oil) you can choose to put any kind of non-toxic finish on it (it will be in constant contact with the face and hands and thighs so better safe than sorry. Maybe something food safe?)
Step 5: Side Holes and Buttons.
This is the fun/creative part! Make buttons that you'll like !
Always using the measurements I found, I drilled holes in the bottom, top and left sides of the case (see pictures) for the volume and power buttons, the silencer switch, the microphone, lightning connector, bottom speaker and jack plug.
/!\ Before drilling, put a piece of wood inside the case (first picture) to support the thin thin thin side you're about to jackhammer trough. It willsave your project.
Once you have your holes, tim to get creative.
The buttons (3 of them) are pretty straightforward : I filed a screw head flat, then cut the thread to size with a dremel cutting disc (you can also use a metal handsaw easily) and put a nut with a tiny bit of super glue for the looks of it ! (No nut on the (+) volume button cause I wanted to change the looks a little bit.) Before supergluing, make sure that the phone fits in there with the buttons on. You might have to sand a bit of wood on the inside where the buttons are so they don't stick their heads out and push the phone's buttons all the time.
The silencer switch was a bit more tricky : I needed a lever so I engineered a very tiny piece of scrap wood (see pics) (approx. size of a match) into a small "lever" with a notch (scroll sawed) to catch the switch. make a deep notch and a hole, then sand to finely tune the notch to size. It's tricky.
Then I bent a nail to push through in between the holes and drill holes... Wait have I lost everyone yet ? I'll try again.
You need a leverage point for your lever. I used a nail. It needs to be through in the middle of the thickness of the side. You need to find a way to drill holes and put the nail through these holes and through the tiny lever to hold it in place.
If this sounds like too much trouble, you can always cut a notch such that you can put your finger in there and grab the switch, I just like trouble very much. And tiny crafting, but it's not everyone's cuppa tea.
Step 6: Wait. Could This Be? You're Done!
Screw it all around the phone and throw the screwdriver, the phone is staying in there! Although if it does wiggle a little bit (so did mine) you can add a folded sheet of paper inside the box in the back.
Congratulations, you've made it!
Hope you liked my first Instructable, I think that it's a very thoughtful gift for someone you love and also an excellent conversation starter as well as a free advertisement for your woodworking and fine engineering skills whether you intend to make a living out of them or not.
See you around
PS: If you liked it, you can vote for me in the formlabs contest (https://www.instructables.com/contest/formlabs/)! If I get a 3D printer, i'll use it to make some of those very very tiny switches and things that my hand can't, and include them in my hand-made projects, making them even better (I hope).