Introduction: Dashboard Phone Holder (version 1)

About: I make things so you can make things. Out of stuff.

Note to Small Spaces Contest viewers:

The ultimate small space is on your dashboard, and your phone is, for better or worse, the way you stay in contact with your whole life. Having it where you can see it is a critical part of using it at all, and this Instructable helps you get there from here for less than $5. Enjoy!

Note to On a Budget Contest viewers:

This Instructable costs less than $5 if you buy everything I bought, and you can build it for free if you don't care anything about covering the wire (which is a mistake, but I was in college once, too). Please enjoy this Instructable, and please VOTE FOR ME TO WIN! :-)

I have had an iPhone 4S forever, and this week my employer upgraded me to an iPhone 6+, and it felt like getting a raise. However, the big downside of the upgrade is that the 6+ is the size of a sandwich and it doesn't fit in the dashboard holder I had for my 4S. However, the old holder (while functional and reliable) did not accommodate the power cord.

So I decided rather than spend $30 (or more) on a new dashboard holder, I decided to make a stop at Harbor Freight and make myself a new dash holder (and a new Instructable).

Note that my design is scaled to the iPhone 6+ in the Otter Box Defender (required by my employer), but with a ruler you can measure your phone and scale this design to whatever phone (or even a tablet) you might want to use.

Also note: this version has inspired me to make a Remix version, and I will link it here when the Instructible for it is complete.

Step 1: List of Materials

The great thing about this project is that it doesn't require a shop full of tools. Here's what I used:

  • My half-yard ruler (literally: a 36-inch metal yardstick cut in half)
  • a leftover wire hanger from my dry cleaning
  • my medium wire-cutting pliers
  • an 8-foot spool of the small (3/16") shrink tubing from Harbor Freight (about $3)
  • my craft heat gun (you can use a blow dryer that can blow really hot if you don't have a heat gun; you can also pre-heat your oven to 200°F and bake the project for about 8-10 minutes if you lack this tool)

Step 2: Cut and Straighten the Hanger

To start, simply cut the curved head off the wire hanger, and straighten out the wire so you get a reasonably-straight piece of wire which is about 36" long.

Step 3: Mark Up Your Wire

Now you're going to make the basic measured marks on the wire to assist you in bending it to the final shape.

Start with the first mark more or less at the center of the wire. If you have a 6+ like mine, you can use the measures in the RED MARKED drawing above; if you have another phone, the marks in the BLACK MARKED photo above tell you which dimension of your phone to use to scale the marks.

After marking to the right of center, repeat your marks to the left from the center out.

Step 4: Bending Wire (1)

In a fancy shop, you would probably use a fancy metal bender to make sure all your angles are crisp and going in the same direction and plane. In my house, we use the floor as a flat plane and line up the bends to the floor so they are more or less parallel.

We will start by bending the span which sits against the back of the phone first (the two marks closest to the center mark). The trick here is to use the pliers carefully and hold the bending point as firmly as possible, bending against the jaws of the pliers. This wire is pretty pliable, but that means you have to make sure you are bending where you mean to. After you make the first bend, hold the elbow in the wire tight to the floor and pinch the next bend point so that the two angles are on the same plane and the extra wire is not pointing off in two random directions in space. When you have made these first two bends, it should look like the second picture, above.

Continue this bending process on the next marks out from the center so you get the result in the third picture, above. You can do your first test of your work here by sliding your phone through the rectangular gap you have created. If your phone is bigger than the gap, or if the gap is more than 1/4" bigger than your phone in either dimension, just start over with a new hanger and revise your measurements.

Step 5: Bending Wire (2) and Forming Up

You're going to move to the third set of marks now, and these bends are pretty important as they begin to create the 3D space your phone rests in. They also create the space at the bottom of your phone where the power cord will fit into the phone.

Hold your rectangle flat on the floor and bend the next mark at 90° to the floor on both arms. You should get the result in the first image above.

Next, hold the new legs you have just made flat on the floor and bend at the next mark to get the result in the second image above.

Last, bend the last set of marks on your legs as in the third image above, and your bending is complete.

What you have right now is the right shape, but structurally dubious. You will notice that the long legs are OUTSIDE the original rectangle, and for this to work well you need the legs to rest on the INSIDE of the rectangle. This takes a little patience and finesse, but you have to take each long leg now and bend it around the structure so that it is INSIDE the rectangle. When you have completed that, your form is going to be a little out of square, so feel free to break out your pliers again and square up your angles to get something that looks like a little pocket (again: like the third image, above).

Step 6: Pull the Shrink Tube and Shrink It!

This step for me proved more challenging that I expected as pulling the shrink tube over the 90° angles was not as smooth as I anticipated. However, even though I had to cut the tube half way and start pulling from the second leg, I did get a good cover of the shrink tube over the wire.

I can hear some of you asking the question, "why use the shrink tubing?" Honestly, it's not necessary. You might decide that, for example, you like plastic dip better because it is more grippy or more colorful (it's yellow at Harbor Freight; I have seen red at Home Depot). You might like paint better because you are a fantastic spray-painter and (again) you want a more interesting color. I chose the shrink tube because it is no mess, and the raw wire frankly will deteriorate in appearance over time. Feel free not to cover the wire, but you won't like it in about 6 weeks.

After the wire is covered in tube, fire up your heat source and shrink the tube. If you don't have a gun or a hair dryer which runs hot enough, you could even put it in the oven at 190° and give it 8-10 minutes to contract all the way -- just make sure you have given the tubing enough over-hang so you don't have bare ends of wire hanging out. Also: when it comes out of the oven, the tubing will be hot and soft -- handle with care! My advice is to simply put it on your kitchen counter for 5 minutes until it gets firm and cool before handling it further.

Step 7: The Last Measured Bend

Before you take this gadget out to your car, we need to make one more bend. In my build it was at 3" above the original rectangle on the long legs. For you, it should be at 3/4 the height of your phone. When you make that bend, you are going to get the final long leg stems which we will need to install this in your vehicle.

Step 8: Installing in Your Vehicle

In my Nissan Altima, I have a nice set of air ducts right above the radio which are totally suitable for installing this phone holder. The tricky part was determining how deep the fins were inside the vent to create a bend to hold the whole contraption up in a way that doesn't fall off when you add weight.

The solution I came up with was one final bend. I trimmed the long legs back to about 2", and bent them one final time at 1" as in the second picture above. This allows me to insert the leg and then lay down the holder on the face of the dash, creating a vertical stop across the back of the vent fins. (you can see it in the third and fourth photos, above).

Step 9: Add Phone. Drive Like You Stole It

You can see the final result, above. For those who are thinking about other ways to make this work, I did try using the 32" Gear Tie bendable tie system. That looked decent, but it was too unstable, too wobbly. I have found this version more rigid and stable for the phone.

Hope you enjoy this project. Leave comments and improvements below!

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