Steampunk IPhone Station




Introduction: Steampunk IPhone Station

About: I like to read all about the creative ideas everyone has here. I love to make "one of" projects, learn something about doing it and then move on to something new. Hope you like my ideas. email me...

Here's a steampunk iPhone station that functions as a night light, charging station and audio station. 

The unit can charge the iPhone with or without playing music.  The night light functions independently, and if the phone rings while playing the music you will hear that through the speakers, so it is a great unit for the kitchen, bath or nightstand.

It basically is a project that repackages new components (except the DC Ammeter)  into a handmade enclosure.  It takes some rather basic woodworking & finishing skills, basic circuit understanding and intermediate to advanced electrical circuit board soldering skills.  The copper nameplate utilized the Muriatic acid & Hydrogen peroxide etching process using a laser printed mask technique.  If you really want to bring together all of these medias into one project - this is it!.  Ready?  Let's get started with the components used:

Step 1:

I bought a basic speaker set that plugs directly into a iPhone ear bud jack for $20 at Best Buy.  They come with a small built in amplifier with a volume and on off switch you will need to relocate to the front of the new box you will build.  There are a number of options & costs for these - check your local Goodwill, Craigslist site, etc. for some low cost suplus stereo equipment - but be sure they have an amplifier as your iPhone can't drive large speakers.  But the larger the amp, the larger your cabinet needs to be to house it!

The power supply wall plug for the speakers had a strange triangular socket screw holding it together.  I didn't have that kind of screwdriver, so you will see how I dealt with it later!

The DC ammeter will only work when connected correctly, in series on thepower  wire from the supply to the load (what is being powered).  Plus (+) connects to the power supply, Negative (-) connects to the amplifier board incoming power lead.

The iPhone power cord was a cheap one but it works and was chosen because it was really small on the power supply end.

The night light is an Aerolux neon bulb found on eBay - a great touch for my girlfriend's nightstand.  You can get these in a number of configurations and at a number of places - just search aerolux figural light bulbs.  Be forewarned that the real antique ones are quite expensive!!!

Step 2:

Ok now start to open up all of the electrical components!  But here are some helpful tips first:
 - Take photos before you take everything apart - it will save you a ton of time if you get confused on how things were when they worked!
-  Draw up a sketch of how things were connected.  I needed to do this on the volume knob because it needed to be replaced with something more heavy duty - this still made me think a bit even when I had the drawing in front of me.
- safety first!  Use eye protection.  sometimes these plastic cases crack off corners and they go flying.  Not worth losing your eyesight over huh?
- use masking tape to label how things have to be connected. 

Step 3:

Develop your plans!  Now layout how all the parts are going to go together in your new cabinet.  Label all the connections so you know what goes where.  Then sketch out the connections as your 'blueprint" to follow.

Note the parts that have to be replaced or relocated like the volume and the power switch on the side of the plastic speaker cabinet.  This requires careful desoldering.  Use a lighted magnifying light, and a good pencil tip soldering iron.

I also use braided desoldering copper wire to pull off the solder cleanly.  Be careful with doing this as excessive heat and adding the wire can start to pull the copper traces off the board.  This happened twice and i had to patch in a new piecce of wire to not have to replace the entire board (that is... buy a new entire speaker set !)

The volume knob (50k pot) was desoldered off the board, then new wire was soldered into those holes in the board and labeled.  The wires were then in turn, soldered to a new 100k pot (which was all I could find locally) - but it still worked and also makes the range more smoother while turning up the volume.

The original amp board power switch was also replaced with wire to place a new toggle out on the cabinet front. 

I also added in a completely NEW toggle switch to be able to charge the iPhone without having the amp board nor the fairy light on.  That way, my girlfriend can charge her iPhone and not worry about the amp board needlessly buring out or consume energy.

Step 4:

Build your cabinet!  It is a great idea to use a blueprint here too!  I laid out mine on some software i have but you can do the same with a ruler and paper - full scale works the best as you can get an immediate idea how bigh things get easily.  One thing to note is to try and keep woodworking parts on the thin side.  Think thin and you won't be disappointed because the thickness of the wood can lead to problems.  Note the back routering i had to do to allow clearance for the switches.

Wood choice is always a personal preference but I wanted a rugged look and a durable wood so I picked red oak.  Other components used were: Wood glue, brad nailer, Oval head screws with decorative washers, and I used a Danish Tung oil for ease in finishing.  Tung oil is a great product as it basically is a one step oil that is colored.  It seeps in the wood and protects it without a hard secondary finsh and can be restained later if you wish.  Downsides are that it can dry out a bit if you do not keep your cabinet waxed and you really can't get really dark colors with it, for that you need a true stain followed by a protecctive coat of polyureathane or similar.

Sand as you would any woodworking project.

Step 5:

The Nameplate was a real learning process.  Even though there are great resources here and elsewhere, none didn't advise me on the most hardest thing about it - was fitting the plate to the hole already drilled in a cabinet and getting it to align up right.  

I did it exactly backwards and made a lot of work for myself.  But I will tell you the simpler method I will use next time:

1.  Don't drill any holes in the wood cabinet until AFTER the plate is done then fit the holes to match the plate - not vice versa.

2.  Draw up the plate as you want it to look like.  Turn the drawing into a negative and the reverse the image.  Print it from a LASER printer only (the ink is thermally set) not an ink jet.  Print on GLOSSY PAPER, NOT on a transparency as some point out.  The transparency melts and shifts your image around.  BAD.  Once you transfer the ink to the copper plate, use a sharpie to touch up any areas that didn't transfer well.  This works surprisingly well given how thin the marker line is.

3.  Etch the very clean plate using whatever method you want (other references exist her on this site, but the Muriatic acid/Hydrogen Peroxide worked great here.  30 minutes and it was a sweet job!  Safety Here!  Use gloves and eye protecction.  Muriatic acid is strong and can damage your cornea in the blink of an eye.  Pun intended!

4.  Then paint flat black model pain (thinner based enamel) into the etched areas & let dry.  Then come back over it with400 or less sand paper to take off the excess paint and touch up with a paper towel lightly treated  with mineral spirits.

Step 6:

The final assembly!  One stained and finished and the electronics have all been proven to check out.  Yep... that is right... connect all the electronics and verify all the circuits function correctly.  No use putting them in the cabinet only to find out it doesn't work right (like my one speaker wouldn't work) to then pull it all out to find the problem.   But honestly, mine did check out and by man-handling the wires on the volume knob, i broke two traces off the board.  I hard wired a repair.  Ugly and time consuming but I got it to work.

I like the split cabinet design as it allowed me to really access the components.  i think my next project will be more like how they build a real radio - on a skid first, then slide the entire skid into the enclosure.

That's pretty much it.  Last tips...
 - use the right tools to get the best results - especially the soldering and electrical assembly areas.
- Label everything, take pictures, and keep testing along the way so you can easily go back and undo what you did whe it won't work.
- SAFETY is the lst word so you remember the glasses to protect your eyes throughout the project and respect the chemicals - a simple splash can ruin your day.

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    6 Discussions


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Brilliant work!! And do you know anyone who wants to rebuild an existing "80's vintage JVC boom box" into a steampunked version, adding in the iPhone doc and/or generic .mp3 connectors? My ex-hubby gave me this JVC as a consolation prize after our divorce. I went back to college a few years later and accidentally dropped it, cracking the already hideous black plastic casing. It still sounds great. It just looks ugly as homemade sin. I've always thought it would be cool to basically transfer it into a nice wood case keeping same basic configuration - and that was long before I knew of the "steampunk" concept. And so with passage of time, I'd also like to incorporate Iphone/.mp3/ maybe Bluetooth connectivity, and possibly a CD player (okay so that might be going a bit retro again, but I'm an old lady ... I do actually have 33.3 vinyl records too - into a case, complete with the decorative metalworks. Something classier than the Crosby "retro" outfits you see these days (or is it Crosley? I didn't have my reading monocles on.). Not sure if there is a generic area here in instructables for a "call for builders/designers" such as for this project idea, so my apologies if this isn't the right place?


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks - It was my practice run for my Steampunk Nixie Clock / Radio / iPhone station. Always practice on your girlfriend first, then do your projects!!! :o)

    Winged Fist
    Winged Fist

    8 years ago on Introduction

    What a great looking iPhone station! Really creative, well documented and well photographed... You should consider entering this in the Woodworking Challenge...

    One suggestion: You may want to consider covering the speakers to protect the diaphragms. Maybe brass drain grills, or a piece of brass coated aluminum radiator cover, to keep with the steampunk theme.

    You got my 5-star vote!;-)