Introduction: Reframe: Turn Old IPhones Into Wall Clock or Wall Art!

About: Artist & Designer // Follow the process on Instagram: @purincess

Do you have an old functional iPhone that’s sitting around collecting dust? It’s a completely functional super-advanced mini-computer with a wonderful screen, speakers, microphones, and a ton of sensors built in. I set out to find an elegant way to repurpose them, and one solution I found is this: building a “frame” around it — I call it “the Reframe.”

While the possibilities with what you can do with the Reframe is endless with all the apps out there (or if you are so adventurous, you can write your own app), the two basic uses I found are: 1. a really nice-looking wall clock and 2. a really nice-looking wall art.

You phone has poor battery life? No problem! You leave it plugged in — just like an appliance. It draws about 2 watts on average. It even has a backup battery in case the power goes out!

Step 1: Pick Your Weapon: IPhone 3G/3GS or IPhone 4/4S

This matters because the dimensions of these different models vary slightly.

Sorry, no iPhone 5 or 5S dimensions for now. But stay tuned for the next revision!

Step 2: Cut Out the Faceplate

No matter what iPhone model you have, the faceplate will be the same. Cut a piece of opaque black 1/16” (0.06 in) thickness acrylic (or any thin material or color you might want to try) on a laser cutter, using the below template:

Basic dimensions are:

W 5 3/8” x H 5 3/8” with a 1 3/4” diameter circular hole in the center

(metrics) W13.65cm x H13.65cm with a 4.45cm diameter circular hole in the center.

If you don’t have a laser cutter, you can use a drill press with a circle cutting tool. If you use a black matte board, you can even try cutting it by hand with an Exacto knife!

Step 3: Cut Out the Base Pieces

Cut the following pieces of MDF on the table saw. MDF can be bought at Home Depot or hardware stores. Alternatively, you can try birch plywood as well. Thicknesses might vary slightly, but that’s okay.

iPhone 3G/3GS

1. (1/4” thick MDF) - 5 3/8” x 5 3/8” (13.65 cm x 13.65 cm)

2. (1/2” thick MDF) - 5 3/8” x 3/8” (13.65 cm x 0.95 cm)

3. 2x pieces of (1/2” thick MDF) - 1 3/8” x 4 5/8” (3.5 cm x 11.75cm)

4. 2x pieces of (1/2” thick MDF) - 2” x 3/8” (5 cm x 0.95 cm)

iPhone 4/4S

1. (1/4” thick MDF) - 5 3/8” x 5 3/8” (13.65 cm x 13.65 cm)

2a. (1/4” thick MDF) - 5 3/8” x 3/8” (13.65 cm x 0.95 cm)

2b. (1/8” thick MDF) - 5 3/8” x 3/8” (13.65 cm x 0.95 cm)

3a. 2x pieces of (1/4” thick MDF) - 1 1/2” x 4 5/8” (3.8 cm x 11.75cm)

3b. 2x pieces of (1/8” thick MDF) - 1 1/2” x 4 5/8” (3.8 cm x 11.75cm)

4a. 2x pieces of (1/4” thick MDF) - 2” x 3/8” (5 cm x 0.95 cm)

4b. 2x pieces of (1/8” thick MDF) - 2” x 3/8” (5 cm x 0.95 cm)

Step 4: Glue the Base Pieces Together

You can sort of guess which pieces go where, but if you get lost, see the diagram. I used Tite-bond wood glue, but I’d say Elmer’s glue would even work. Wipe off any excess glue with wet towel. Be sure to try putting the iPhone in as you assemble these pieces to make sure it fits. Be careful not to make it too tight, as the sleep/power switch shouldn’t be pressed down permanently. Clamps or big clips can help hold things together. Wait patiently for the glue to dry (just like Max the dog).

Step 5: Sand and Paint

Once the glue is dry, lightly sand the frame with 100-grit sand paper, sanding block, or a power hand-sander. If you want the edges to look neat, you can put on spackling paste or wood putty, let dry, and sand again.

Then paint the frame black, or whatever color you want. If you use plywood instead of MDF, you might even consider not painting it at all.

Step 6: Build in Some Hanging Options

If you plan to hang the Reframe up with a double-sided foam tape, then skip this step.

Other than a double-sided foam tape, there are a ton of ways you can hang this up. The easy option is to get a picture frame hook loop, or a keyhole hook for picture frames. A sawtooth hanging technique could work too.

If you want permanence and durability, you can even drill the entire frame into the wall. Be sure to counter-sink the screws, so that the acrylic piece with the hole in it would sit nice and flat on the wooden frame.

Note: based on my experience, the clear mounting squares don’t work that well hanging the whole Reframe on the wall (it works great with holding the faceplate in Step 8 though!).

Unless you have a USB extension cord, be sure you hang this near a wall outlet. Ideally, the Reframe would sit just a little below your eye level.

Step 7: IOS Settings + Apps

On your iPhone, go to Settings > General > Auto-Lock > Never. This will prevent the phone from ever turning off. Also, under Settings > Display & Brightness, be sure to turn off Auto-Brightness and set the level of brightness you want.

Here are some ideas for apps you can run on the Reframe:

  1. If you want to use the Reframe to display a series of images, you can use the native Photos app and run a slideshow. Additionally, you can edit timing, repeat, and shuffling options under Settings > Photos & Camera.
  2. If you want to use the Reframe to display time, with your iPhone connected to the internet, go to the App Store and download a clock app. I found the Wake Alarm Clock - Free app to be the most elegant of all. The paid version has a different color ring.
  3. If you want to use the Reframe to display an endless video loop, try a free app called vloop. It’s not the best interface, but it does the job.

Depending on your iOS version, you might have to update the OS before downloading some of these apps.

Step 8: Putting It All Together

Finally, place the iPhone with the desired app loaded in the frame, keeping it plugged in to the adapter/outlet. Place 4x 3M/Scotch Removable Mounting Squares on each corner of the Acrylic piece, then place it over the frame. Hang the Reframe up. And done!

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