I use my smartphone as my navigation device when I travel with my car. After having owned several commercial smartphone mounts I can assure you I was never completely happy with them. They have a tendency to wiggle around or being a real nuisance to get the phone into it. The last I had was one of these extremely sticky silicone pads with slots in it where you can put your smartphone into it so it stands upright. That one was quite good. But when my girlfriend got a booklet-style leather smartphone cover for x-mas (not very forward-looking of me...) she couldn't use it in the car without taking the cover off. So I decided to build something I had long thought of. Complaining is for everyone else, hackers should act.
What you'll need:
- Scrap wood roughly 300 mm x 100 mm x 8 mm (I had some black MDF / fiberboard lying around)
- a small hinge
- a pull spring
- some screws, glue
- a Dremel tool with add-ons or a router (with some practical thinking you can cheat there..)
- something to mount it, depending on how you want to mount the holder (I cannibalised a silicone pad)
This holder is meant to be mounted onto a roughly flat surface on your dashboard. If you're looking for a mounting option for your front window, this is not it!
I show the easiest order in which to do the steps. When you look at the pictures you'll see that I applied the silicone after I put everything together. That's because I thought of silicone too late.
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Step 1: Cut the Pieces
I cut three pieces of MDF with the following dimensions:
- Top plate: 150 mm x 90 mm x 8 mm
- Bottom plate: 130 mm x 90 mm x 8 mm
- Nose: 9 mm x 90 mm x 8 mm
The nose gets glued to the top plate with a distance of 5 mm form the edge. This distance will help you later on to use it one-handed. When the glue has set, secure it with two small countersunk screws. This part will secure the top edge of your smartphone.
Step 2: Making the Grooves
Using a Dremel tool with a parallel cutter add-on and a wood milling bit (or a router etc.) make a groove into the bottom plate that is a bit broader than your smartphone including your case. It doesn't have to be a tight fit, we come to that later. This groove will secure the bottom edge of your smartphone.
Should your scrap wood be too thin to make a decent groove, you can do the same thing as with the top board and glue two nose pieces to build a groove.
Make a second groove into the top plate (on the side where the nose is). It shouldn't get covered by the hinge and has to be a bit longer than your spring. You can see in the picture that I did a horrible job. The Dremel has a life of it's own and wants to go in a certain direction. If the force is not with you all the time, it will not do as you ask, young Jedi!
Once finished with cutting and grooving, sand everything to your liking and remove the dust.
Step 3: Apply Silicone
Tape everything you don't want to be covered in sticky silicone! Use surgical gloves to apply the silicone. Once applied, you can dip your finger into soapy water tho make the silicone surface smooth. Take care on the edges, you don't want to have any residues sticking out.
Once finished, remove the masking tape gently and you should have nice edges. Let it dry over night.
Step 4: Attach the Hardware and Put It All Together
Now this will be a bit tricky. Be careful to position the hinge very precisely. If it is tilted, the jaws won't be parallel when opened. Depending on the material you use, you can use screws and mount the hinge and the spring directly into the wood. I didn't have small enough screws, so I used bolts and nuts. I countersunk the nuts into the wood, so they wouldn't stand out too much.
Attach one side of the hinge first. Then attach the spring to both sides. Finally attach the second side of the hinge. This will make the process much easier.
Step 5: Make It Even Prettier
There was some leather left-over piece lying on the bench. I used punch letters (after making the leather wet) to make the holder look a bit nicer. There are tons of options that will make your holder unique!
Step 6: Attach a Mounting Option
I have a Skoda Yeti that has a nice flat part on the dashboard. This smartphone mount is made to be attached onto a roughly flat surface. If you don't have any, you'll have to screw it to something or even out the surface. I mentioned the sticky silicone pad I used earlier. I used scissors to cut away the notches that held the smartphone until I got a flat pad. You can buy the flat ones on ebay or at most hardware stores. I attached it to the smartphone mount with some well placed staples.
Another option is to simply drill a hole and screw it to the dashboard.
There you are. You have a universal smartphone mount that will hold almost every phone on the market. It works with no cover, a shell cover and also with a booklet-type cover. It's astonishingly easy to operate with just one hand and very low profile when not in use.
If the evolution of displays continues to grow and the phones get bigger and bigger (didn't work out so well for the dinosaurs...) you might want to make the jaws longer (didn't work out so well for the T-Rex as well... sorry, had to.), so you can use it with tablets as well. Enjoy.
And please post a picture if you replicate it/ alternate it.