The photo shows my finished case. It has a belt loop and the phone rests horizontally at my side. Yes, my phone would be more easily accessible if I my stomach were smaller, but I am working on that with a calorie counting app on the phone.
I made my case a few weeks ago and did not document it with photos as I made it. So, some drawings will be used to recreate steps that would normally have photos.
Step 1: Tools and Materials
- Sheet steel (about 20 gauge)
- 1/8 inch steel rod
- Angle head grinder with a cutting wheel, grinding disc, and a flap wheel
- Marking pen
- Drill or grinder and paint removal wheel
- Vise Grip Pliers
- Needle nose pliers (for bending the edge band to fit the side pieces)
- Clamps to hold pieces until they can be tack welded
- Wire feed welder
- Dremel tool and a grinding stone
Step 2: Measure the Thickness of the Phone in Its Cover
The edge band must be a uniform width along its entire length. The length needed to cover the three side of the iPhone case is about ten inches.
After the top metal sheet and the bottom metal sheet are ready, bend the edge band to fit the curved corners of the top and bottom metal sheets.
*Users of iPhones are encouraged to add a non-metallic protective cover to their phones because the shiny band around the phone is its antenna. Holding the phone in the user's bare hands blocks much of the signal. Complaints about dropped calls and low signal were solved when Apple gave customers a plastic protective cover.
I wondered if my steel case would block tower signals, but the case is open on the top and I have had no problems getting the phone to ring when someone calls. I have used my new phone case in several states already, and it has worked fine everywhere.
Step 4: Assembly of the Main Pieces
My welder is a flux core wire feed welder, so I cannot dial down the heat intensity enough to make a continuous bead without burning holes in the sheet steel. I made a series of tack welds. I kept moving the area where I was welding to prevent so much heat from building up in one area that there might be danger of burning a hole through the sheet metal.
After welding was completed, I ground the welds as smooth as possible without removing the metal sheet. Where there were pitted areas, I cleaned the area and filled them with the welder. That meant more grinding to make those fill welds smooth, too.
Step 5: The Belt Loop
The process for bending the belt loop is described in this Instructable.
See the second photo. It shows a bend I added to the belt loop (yellow line) compared to where the belt normally contacts the belt loop (blue line). The purpose of this bend will be explained in step 8.
Step 6: Cut the Finger Opening
Step 7: Polish the Case
Step 8: Safely Removing the Phone From Its Case
Step 9: Raise the Phone in Its Holder
Step 10: Grasp the Top of the Phone
Putting the phone back into the case is a matter of tipping the case outward as shown in step 3, gently inserting about a half of an inch of the phone into the case, checking to be certain both ends of the phone are inside the case and the phone is aligned with the case's opening (not cocked with one corner of the phone in and one not really in), and pushing the phone the rest of the way down into the case.
Practice helps to learn to remove and insert the phone safely and smoothly. I like to be cautious. I do not want to drop the phone because I was too hasty. The upper corners of my case are somewhat sharp, and I did get a scratch once when I was fumbling to remove my phone from its case while belted into an automobile, but, under normal usage the case's corners are not a problem.
After using this phone case for several weeks, I found little things about the fit and appearance I wished had been better. A couple of times I have done a little touch up surgery with my welder and grinder. (These photos were made before those improvements.) If at first you do not get exactly what you wanted, you can tweak the phone case and no one but you will ever know.
The phone case could be finished with a clear coat, or even powder coated. I am leaving mine unfinished (other than the swirls from the flap wheel) because I believe daily brushes with my hand and my clothing will keep the metal bright.