Introduction: Wireless Charger Hidden in Antique

About: I like to explore with my hands, but I trouble choosing one area of focus. I have completely renovated my house, but nothing I do is craftsman quality. I want to build an electric car, hack computer hardware…

When I was a kid my dad came home from work and dropped his keys on a little wooden box we had hanging on the wall in the kitchen. It was next to the rotary wall phone and it hung and served that purpose for the two decades my parents lived there. Later, I learned the box was called a "candle box". My father had built for woodshop when he was fourteen in 1947. It is an important memory piece that I now have.

Now a dad myself, the modern equivalent of unloading keys when I enter the house is dropping off my smartphone for charging. The candle box sits in the corner of a window seat next to my charging cord, holding a drawer of junk and a pile of coffee cards I forget to get punched. And keys.

Now that I have finally upgraded to a phone that allows wireless charging I wondered if I could incorporate it into the candle box itself.

There are plenty of projects where people build their wireless chargers into table tops. They're good and I encourage people to seek them out. I made this Instructable because a) it's not a table, b) it can bring new life into objects with emotional attachments, c) my build is a bit low tech. I only hope to add to the canon of diy hidden wireless charger instructions.


Antique. Mine is the heirloom candle box. You might have an old coffee table, wooden trunk or even a grandmother clock! Now that I think about it, a big wooden clock would be cool.

Drill and bit. I don't own a router and so I made a circle of shallow holes that I later chiseled out. I also drill a hole in the back of the candle box for the wire to go in.

Chisel and flat head screwdriver. Again, no router so I chisel an impression the size of my wireless charger.

Qi charger. I bought one cheap on eBay. It had LEDs that let up when it charged. I went in and disabled those because I found them obnoxious. In my case, hidden in a drawer, it wouldn't make any sense.

Innertube. I use a piece of old rubber inner tube to hold the wireless charger into the recess. It's low tech, but it allows me to remove the wireless charger without taking the whole candle box apart when I want it elsewhere.

Two very short screws and washers. To hold the innertube that holds the Qi charger.

Wood glue. I found this antique needed to be shored up. A little wood glue as I reassembled made it stronger than it has been in decades.

Step 1: Cutting the Recess for the Charger

I bought a circular Qi wireless charger a couple of years ago, so I'm making it to fit that. With some finesse and a bit of difficulty I managed to take the shelf off of the candle box. It was the only way I could cut the recess.

Flipping the shelf with the bottom up, I put the wireless charger face down and traced a circle. Then, I cut a recess larger than the charger.

Without a router or laser cutter I had to go old school. I picked a 1/4 drill bit with a shallow tip so the depth of the hole would be relatively flat. Carefully, I went on the outside of the circle and drilled to a depth I thought was deep, but not too deep. Putting a piece of masking tap around the drill bit where the bit meets the depth you want to will guide you, stopping you from going too deep (see photo). I drilled the next hole beside the first and repeated until holes circles the trace. Remember: You can always drill deeper but you can't undrill.

Next, clamped the shelf to a table so it would not move when I took a chisel to it. Starting on one end of the circle, I carefully knocked off shavings until I got to the other end. Tap, tap, tap. Again, don't go too deep because you can't undo it.

Because the drill holes created points. I used a flat headed screwdriver as a chisel and knocked off the points. You can see the difference in the photos.

Step 2: Test the Charger

Wireless chargers will go through wood and other materials, but only so far. Before you move on, now is the time to see if it works. You will save yourself work and frustration later.

I put the charger under the shelf, plugged it in and put my phone on top.

It connected. Kind of. When I moved it slightly it disconnected. Then, I could not get it to connect again.

Clearly, the recess was not deep enough. I went back out, chiseled a bit more, and retested. Success!

Check yours. Fix as needed.

Note: When I got it all together it, of course, did not work. I needed a new charging cable. Frustrating.

Step 3: Cut Drawer to Fit Charger

A bit of the charger hangs down from the shelf. Fine, but the back of the candle box's drawer needs to move below the hanging charger.

I had to cut the back a bit to accommodate. For this, I cut two vertical slots and used a coping saw to go across.

This is also a great time to shore up your antique. As I reassembled it, I used a lot of wood glue to make the joints hold strong. Apparently, 1947 woodworking projects relied entirely on tiny nails.

Note: In the next step I installed the wireless charger. When I put the drawer back in one of the screws was now in the way. I needed to recut. Be prepared and test everything out with each new step.

Note: Shoring up the candle box was important, but it also made it tight. Suddenly, the drawer was not as loose as it had been. Adjustments might need to be made.

Note: This is a great time to clean out your junk drawer! Besides keys for cars I no longer own, you can see I have a wireless transmitter from over a decade ago. It is designed for an iTouch 3 that would transmit on a radio frequency so I could send my music to my car radio. Ah, the memories of old tech!

Step 4: Hold Wireless Charger in Place

As the wireless charger will be under the shelf it needs to be held in place.

I used a piece of inner tube instead of a strap of metal. Once I had the whole candle box together, I knew I would be unable to unscrew any hard restraint. Inner tubes are a) sturdy, b) flexible, c) free. Stretching one over the recess, the wireless charger slides in without fuss. More important, it slides out without fuss, too.

I used two short screws and washers. The screws need to be shorter than the thickness of the shelf so, when screwed in, the tips don't peek through. Washers spread the surface area and use friction to hold the inner tube flat. They also stop the screw head from going through the inner tube when under stress over time.

Note: I use inner tubes for holding things in place often. My wifi router, for example, is tucked on a shelf in the cellarway, kept in place with an inner tub that makes it easy to take it out when needed.

Step 5: Cut Access Hole for Charging Wire

Putting the wireless charger fitted shelf in place (temporarily), mark a hole where the power wire will need to go through the back panel in order the plug into the wireless charger itself.

I made my hole much larger than needed, but I wanted to have (literal) wiggle room and the ability to plug and unplug the charger without removing it from the candle box itself. My hole is kind of ugly, but no one will see it.

Step 6: Reassemble and Charge

Now it is just putting the shelf back into the candle box. I did it with a little glue and new nails, and the wireless charger not installed.

When the glue was dry, I inserted the wireless charger and tested it. Success.

Some issues that came up during the build (some of which I mentioned):

  • The recess needs to be deep (read: the thickness of the shelf needs to be thin for the charger's field to reach the phone's receiver).
  • Shoring up the box, the wireless charger and various bits of hardware might make the drawer not fit or slide as before. Be ready to cut and shave as needed.
  • Watch for saw dust in the charger's female power spot.
  • My power cord was going, which I kind of knew but hadn't addressed. When I put everything together the whole thing didn't work. At first, I was worried. Then, I remember the cord and replaced it. Success.
  • Charging is slow. I'm not even sure it is charging, even though it says it is. The thickness of the wood? My cheap wireless charger? Fate?

Unfortunately, I hadn't realized I put a lot of other junk on the candle box itself, including keys! Now the phone needs a clear surface. Ooops. I'll need to figure something out, but I do like not having the wireless charger just randomly sitting there.

Legacy: I have some concerns that my family will be upset that I altered my dad's iconic candle box. I'm unsure what he would think (he passed a few years ago). On the one hand, he'd think it pretty clever. On the other, he'd be mad that I hacked his project. His mood swings, but I think the mechanic engineer that he was would appreciate bringing his archaic project (candle box!) into the 21st century.