I love the look of a vintage rotary phone and had a couple of them lying around begging to be brought back to life. In a fit of inspiration, I decided to marry form and function. Thus the Retro Phone Phone Charging Station is born.
Step 1: Gather Tools and Materials
Tools you will need:
1. Soldering iron
2. Drill with a bit slightly larger than your charger cord
3. Miscellaneous screwdrivers
4. Wire strippers
5. Scissors or something else that will cut through cable ties
6. Helping hands or lots of patience
1. Obviously you need a phone. Mine is a desk model rotary, but I see no reason a touch tone, wall, princess or any other kind would work. Look on craigslist, ebay, garage sales or post on freecycle. Maybe grandma has one in the attic. You never know.
2. The wall charger that works with your cell phone. I have a Samsung Gravity, so I had to buy an adapter specific to it. I got lucky and found a nice slim one at "The Shack" that has folding prongs and an additional USB port, which as you will see increases the usefulness of the device.
3. Any ol' car charger with a coiled cord. These are a dime a dozen.
4. Shrink tubing and solder
5. Cable ties and/or twist ties
Step 2: Take Her Apart
Because I didn't want to completely destroy the phone, I took the time to remove all of the components, leaving only the stand that holds the dial assembly in place. This was remarkably easy because back in the day they made things so the parts were easily exchanged if they broke. What a concept, eh?
Of course all phones are different, but generally speaking they are dead simple to take apart.
Use a flat head screwdriver to remove the phone housing from the base. Detach all of the wires from the ceramic block, then pull the coiled cord free. If it is a newer model old phone, you will only have to unplug the handset. You won't be using this, so put it somewhere else.
Carry on removing all of the bits and pieces - bells, transformer and so on. Or just leave the stuff in there, too - there's plenty of room.
Next, unscrew the covers for the microphone and earpiece. The microphone just slips out. There are two wires and a plastic housing at the earpiece, and again remove all of the wires so that you just have the empty handset.
Step 3: Cut Your Wires
Here's how this goes:
1. Cut both ends off the coiled cord of the car charger and throw them out or save them for something else.
2. Cut the wall charger cord in half.
Sorry if this is redundant, but what you should have is a freed coiled cord and the cell phone charger with it's cord cut in half. All we are doing is putting the coiled cord between the two ends of the charger.
Step 4: Make Room for the Cable
In this step you are making sure that your wall charger cord fits through one of the holes in the earpiece cover. I drilled the center hole ever so slightly larger so that the cord would slip through, but still have enough friction to keep it tight.
Make sure to check the length of the cord a few times to make sure it will slide neatly in and out, and cut off the excess, leaving enough to solder your connections. Test the lengths a billion times if you're a spaz like me.
Step 5: Thread the Needle
Next it's time to get all of the cables in place:
- Fit the end of the coiled cable into the opening where the cord of the telephone handset went in.
- Push your charger cord though the enlarged hole in the earpiece cover that you drilled in the previous step, then thread it though the length of the handset, pulling it through until the ends of both cords meet, Make sure you leave enough slack to be able to solder these together. At the same time, gauge the length of the other end of the cord so that you have enough to pull out the bit that goes into your cell phone, but not so much that it will bunch up inside.
I tied a lamp knot to assure the cord wouldn't put stress on the soldered connections.
Also, for me this got a wee bit confusing, so I double checked that I'd put the right ends of the right cord in the right place.
Step 6: Stripping and Soldering, Part A
Strip the ends of the coiled and charger cord shielding where they meet in the handset. Strip the two wires on each of those, and write yourself a note like this:
White goes to black, red goes to green (or whatever colors you find when you strip the cord shield). It doesn't matter what you solder to what, as long as the connections are the same at both ends. Basically this is just an extension cord.
Now it's time to solder. This part took me a long time because I'm still a noob at soldering, but for everyone else it will probably take less time than the other steps put together. Don't forget the shrink tubing.
When you are done, you'll have a neat little connection that looks like the this.
Step 7: Soldering Part B
Time for the rest of the connections. This is super easy because lots of room, and there's no threading to do. Just strip and solder, referring neurotically to the "white-black green-red" note.
I added an outer length of black shrink tubing just to neaten things up a bit.
Step 8: Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down, Put Me Back Together
All you need to do here is secure the cords. I used cable ties and a twist tie, just so things won't move around.
Then put the cover back on the base.
My goodness, we're done!
Step 9: Revel in the Glory of Your Beautiful Thing
As you can see, when the USB cable is pushed into the retro phone earpiece and the handset placed on the cradle, it looks like a good old phone.
(Lest you all think I published my phone number for the world to see, anyone who's an avid texter will be able to figure out what it spells.)
Isn't it pretty?
Step 10: Enhancements
What I'd really like to do to polish this off is add a retractable cord to the wall charger, but I was unable to find one that had enough integrity for my comfort level. Some day I'll figure out how to make one.
It would also be wicked cool to combine this project with Make Magazine's "Retro Blue Tooth Handset." Link here: http://www.make-digital.com/make/vol20/?pg=153
Another way to make it more subtle would be to cut an opening in the back of the rotary phone. into which you could shove the charger. I was unwilling to make that modification to my phone, but go ahead and do what you want!
The fact that the charger I found has an additional USB port means I can use the Phone Phone to charge other stuff - iPods, GPS, cameras etc.
Go find a phone!