Introduction: Gadget Charging Station

Most households now have a few things with batteries that need charging. Cell phones, mp3 players, bluetooth headsets, etc. With that proliferation of gadgets comes a proliferation of charging stations--places to keep your gadgets while they suck juice while hiding all the unsightly wires and wall warts. Goody! An example is shown here.

But they are not free; in fact, they can cost from $50 and up. The one you are admiring below (and I admit, it is beautiful and functional) costs $129, so you can spend as much as you want. I thought I could do up something real nice for less with some stuff I bought and had lying around.

There are lots of other charging stations on this site. Take your pick!

WARNING: This project involves working with mains power. It's pretty basic stuff, but if you do it wrong or thoughtlessly, you will end up in the hospital or worse. Follow the directions that come with your materials carefully, and you should be fine.

Step 1: Gather Your Materials

I had a stainless steel box with handles on either end. It was in my garage when I bought my house. I have no idea what it's for, but it'll do for our charging station.

I also had some carpet tiles. One of these, trimmed to fit, would make an excellent place to lay my phone, etc. while they were charging.

Other materials:

Strips of 1/4" plywood
sandpaper (100 grit or less should be fine)
hot glue and glue gun
3/8 carbide drill bit (for drilling into stainless steel)
cutting oil (mineral oil might work, too)
drill (I used an old corded drill for this--cutting stainless means pushing hard on the drill)
1/4" wire grommet (inside diameter = 3/8")
Extension cord (the kind with a 2-prong plug and 3 outlets on the other end)
wire cutters
3 add-a-plugs (aka add-a-tap. These enable you to add a plug in the middle of a 2-wire lamp or extension cord--here's an example:
1 add-an-end (just like the add-a-plug, but designed for the end of the cord)
small drill bit to match diameter of one of the two wires in your extension cord
utility knife
locking pliers

I'm not sure how much I spent on this project, but I had to buy a new drill bit (~$5 at Menards), the cutting oil (~$4/bottle, of which I only used a half-ounce), the grommet (~$3 for a pack of six, of which I used only one), and the add-a-plugs/end (~$1.80 each). Less than $20 bucks, I guess, even if you don't count that I didn't use all of what I bought of each item.

Step 2: Cut the Carpet Tile for the Lid of the Box

When finished, your charging gadgets will lay comfortably on a bed of nylon carpet fibers. The first task is to cut the carpet tile to size. I used the box as a template, and cut around it carefully with my utility knife.

Once you have your lid cut to size, put a short slit in the middle. The wires will leave the box through this slit, which will also prevent them from falling back into the box when they are not plugged into your gadget.

Step 3: Cut the Plywood to Support the Carpet Lid

The plywood will be glued to the inside of the box, and the carpet lid will sit on top of it. I chose to support only the long sides.

Trim the plywood to size, perhaps an inch shorter than the sides of your box. This is the one detail I'd do differently--my lid sits flush with the top of the box, leaving no lip to prevent items from sliding off the lid if jostled. Alternatively, you could cut your carpet lid a bit wider than the box, so that it's concave when installed, nestling your gadgets in the depression.

Step 4: Glue the Plywood Strips to the Inside of the Box

Use the sandpaper to scuff the inside surfaces of the box to make a better bond.

Using a hot glue gun, coat the backside of your plywood strips with liberal amounts of glue. Clamp the strips to the interior of the box and let the glue set. I left it overnight, but that's only because I was tired.

I think I would try heating the stainless steel box in the oven for a minute or two before I applied the glue. It was cold last night, and I think the glue, once it contacted the cold steel, cooled too quickly. I had to do this step twice because the first time the glue didn't stick well.

Step 5: Drill a Hole in the Box for the Extension Cord

Using your carbide drill bit (sized according to both the width of the power cord and your grommet's inside diameter) and your corded drill, drill a hole in the stainless steel in an appropriate spot.

I'd read that drilling into stainless was hard--it's very hard, and if you go too quickly the steel heats up and becomes even harder. Lubrication with a cutting oil (or probably mineral oil would work) will prevent this, as well as using a very slow drilling speed (if you're drilling so fast the bit blurs, you're probably going too fast) and a lot of downward force. I used a screw and hammer to make a small divot in the material to keep the bit from skating around while I started drilling. In the end, it wasn't that difficult.

Clean off the oil and shavings when you're done.

Step 6: Add the Grommet to the Hole

Those metal edges are sharp, so use a grommet to prevent your power cord from abrading and showering you with sparks or putting you into an early grave.

Push the rubber grommet through the hole you just drilled until it slides into place.

Step 7: Prepare the Extension Cord

Snip off the female end of the extension cord.

Step 8: Wire Up the Box

Push the severed end of the extension cord through the grommet until you have enough wire inside the box.

Use the add-an-end to terminate the extension cord. This handy device clamps onto the extension cord, and pierces the insulation making the connections.

Use the add-a-plugs to (drum roll, please) add the plugs. You'll want to space these out a bit from each other and the add-an-end so that the wall warts can fit.

The only difference between the add-an-end and the add-a-plug is that the add-a-plugs have two holes--one for the wire to enter and another for it to exit. In my case, I could only find add-an-ends, so I had to drill out the other side so the wire could exit.

Plug the extension cord in and test each plug for juice. I didn't bother testing for polarity, since the chargers I have don't seem to care about polarity--but I was careful to follow the directions for the add-a-plugs so that proper polarity was maintained.

Step 9: Finishing Up

Feed the ends of your chargers' wires through the slit you made in the carpet lid in step 2. Then plug your chargers' wall warts into the new plugs on the extension cord. Tuck the wires into the box and then pop the lid on. Et, voila! Your charging station is complete.

Step 10: Is This Green? Nope.

This is pretty, but it's not particularly green. If I had any knowledge of electronics, I'd have the box turn itself off when it senses that nothing's being charged. Sure, a simple manual switch could do that, but I'm lazy and think that my tech should take care of itself. If anyone knows how to do this, let's hear about it!