Introduction: Wooden IPhone 5 Case

About: Learn - Make - Share --- I am a freelance Designer. If you like my designs and would like me to design or build something for you, feel free to contact me.
The contrast with the high-tech phone and its materials (glass, aluminium, ..) and the natural look of solid wood, makes this an impressive case.

Cases like these can be bought at webshops, some examples are :
  • (79$)
  • (79$)
But of course it is much more fun and rewarding to make such a case yourself.
Just as much as the iPhone is a precision device, manufacturing this case will require precision.
Apart from that, with basic tools and very little materials, you can build a really impressive protection for your phone.

Step 1: Warning

Before you go ahead, I must warn you about a few things :

an iPhone is a delicate thing, and as such does not really belong in your woodworking shop : It doesn't like dust.

Also when working with glue, make sure everything is dry and clean before touching the phone

Finally, when you make this case, be very careful towards scratching your phone's display

Having said this, you will need to measure, try, proof, etc. from time to time with the real phone. The wooden case needs to be very precise in order to function well, and this precision can only be achieved through regular testing and proofing while building it

If you feel unsure, you can make an iPhone dummy (a wooden piece with the same dimensions) and then proceed with this dummy.

Step 2: Tools & Materials

Tools :
  1. Caliper
  2. Router, with following router bits : straight 12mm router bit
  3. Sander (Belt-sander for rough work, Orbital sander for finishing)
  4. Jig saw, with precision cut saw
  5. Clamps
Materials :
  1. A piece of solid wood, preferably a nice piece of tropical wood. (as this is a very small object, that will hopefully last a couple of years, it is ok to spend some tropical hardwood for it) I used Bamboo, as I found a nice and cheap piece of wood in the outlet store nearby : 1.60 euro
  2. Some fabric, eg from an old jeans, ...
Other :
  1. Wood glue
  2. Contact glue
  3. CAD Drawing with Iphone5 dimensions

Step 3: Building the Jig

Precision routing cannot be done freehand, So you need something to support your movement. It's called a Jig.
In general a Jig is a self-made support tool, that enhances the capabilities of other tools.

Some will serve you a lifetime long, some others you may need only once..
Usually you will build them from some scrap materials, their quality matching the life expectancy of the Jig.

The jig shown in the picture is one that I use regularly when routing small pieces of wood. I will add more instructables in the future that are made using this jig.

Step 4: Routing the Piece

The case will be assembled from 2 halves that will be glued together at the end.
The two halves are symmetrical, although one will have an extra opening through which you can 'push out' the inserted phone
  1. Mount the bamboo in the Jig : see image : I use pairs of wooden wedges. Make sure those will not run away from the vibrations of the router
  2. Adjust the guides so that you will rout a rectangular area out of the center : this area should measure 130 mm * 62 mm and 4.5 mm deep. Remember that you can always make this cut-out  wider and deeper, but never the other way. So you may start on the safe side, then try with the phone, then adjust...
  3. Cut the piece down, length-wise to almost its final size. The last mm will be trimmed on the belt-sander.
  4. Route an extra opening on 1 piece only, to allow you to push out the phone with your index finger. So this needs to be slightly lwider than the width of your index finger.
Tip : regularly clean your workarea as even tiny chips of wood can make your work inaccurate.

Step 5: Adding the Fabric - Testing the Dimensions

The most difficult thing about this project, is making it so that the phone slides in and out easily (without causing any scratches to its display) while at the same time preventing that the phone falls out just by gravity.

Both objectives can be reached by adding a piece of fabric at the inside. In step 3 we made each half-shell 4.5 mm deep, resulting in a total of 9 mm. The iPhone is 7.6 mm, so we can add 1.4 mm of fabric. I used some jeans, of which four layers (2 on each side), provide exactly the right friction.

This will need some experimenting : tentatively stack up all the parts : under shell, fabric, phone, fabric, upper shell and join them with small clamps. Then test the friction. Take your time and again be carefull with the phone.

When confident that the friction/protection is perfect, glue the fabric inside the wooden shells. I used an extra dummy piece of MDF in order to be able to press the fabric in place while the glue dries.

After the fabric has been glued, cut away 2 mm at the 'entrance' of the box. This can still be done after assembly and sanding, but it is easier now.

Step 6: Glueing

Avoid excess glue dripping to the inside, check with a flashlight the inside of the box after assembly.
Let al glue dry long enough in order to avoid wet glue onto your phone..

Step 7: Sanding - Finishing

Sand the box down to its final size :
Start with P80 grain on the belt-sander
Finish with P400 by hand.

Oil with wood oil.
Again, avoid to spill oil to the inside (the fabric will be greasy forever..) and let everything dry well before inserting your phone.

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