This instructable outlines the making of a wooden smart phone holder that's fully adjustable, and has a magnetic base. The inspiration came from needing a way to hold my smart phone for shooting video in the workshop. This holder can be stuck to tools with steel parts and adjusted to any angle. I haven't included any dimensions because you can size your version around your phone, and the scrap wood you have on hand.
Step 1: Selecting Material
I tend to keep a lot of the small pieces of wood left over from other projects. So when a fun little project like this comes along, it's a great chance to utilize some of my favourite little scrap pieces. Design your holder to have extra space on the sides, and plenty of leeway on the sliding mechanism. Once you've decided on the pieces you're going to use, mark them with a cabinetmaker's triangle so that you can easily keep their orientation straight.
The sliding mechanism can be held under tension with whatever you find on hand, springs, elastic bands, or maybe you want a locking piece that tightens with a bolt. That part is up to your own ingenuity. Mine is made with two framing nails as guides, and some springs from the auto parts store.
The holder is made up of the 4 frame pieces that surround the phone, and the two base pieces that the frame pivots on. The only other hardware required are two rare earth magnets and steel cups I bought from Lee Valley, and a 1/4" stainless carriage bolt and nut for the swivel adjustment.
Step 2: Laying Out the Dovetail
I'm using a half blind dovetail at the top for strength and because it looks nice with the contrasting woods. Using a marking gauge, lay out the depth of the tail all around the tail piece (make sure it's square) and on the endgrain of the sides of the frame where the socket will be cut.
Next lay out the angles of the tail to your own liking and put square lines across the end grain. I then hold the tail piece in the vise and cut just outside the layout lines all the way down to the shoulder mark made previously with the gauge.
Step 3: Clean Up the Tail
Make a small shoulder for your saw to ride against by chiseling down into the layout line at the shoulder gently, then removing material from the waste side. This little shoulder helps guide the teeth of the handsaw at the beginning of the cut. Once this piece has been cut away, use a sharp chisel to square everything up and make the tail uniform.
Step 4: Transfer the Layout
Use a sharp little knife to transfer the angle of the tails to the side pieces by holding it in place and gently tracing the angle with the blade. Set a marking gauge for the thickness of the tailpiece, then transfer that depth distance to the inside of the frame. Now connect the marks with square lines from the end grain down.
Step 5: Cutting and Fitting the Socket
Saw at an angle on the waste side of the layout marks until the saw just reaches the layout lines. Next create a small shoulder with a chisel to act as a guide for clamping a chopping block on top of the pieces. The chopping block guides the back of the chisel squarely down into the joint a little at a time. After every gentle chop a little more material can be cracked out of the waste wood inside the joint. Alternate slowly back and forth until reaching the layout line.
To fit the joint, apply a little pencil to the leading edge of the tail and assemble the joint until it gets tight. The areas where wood needs to be removed will show with a pencil smudge. Continue until the tail enters the whole way down snug to the bottom. The joint shouldn't be so tight that it needs persuasion from a mallet. It should assemble and disassemble with hand pressure alone.
Step 6: Cutting the Mortise
Next you need to cut the long mortise or groove that the bottom of the frame slides up and down in to hold the phone. I'm using the router table and a fence to accomplish this.
Remember a few important rules here. The cutter spins counter clockwise so you must feed the piece from the right to the left so that the cutting action of the bit forces it against the fence. Use stops clamped to the fence for the exact start and stop points, and most importantly, make the cuts in several 1/16" passes for safety. This groove is around 1/4" deep.
If you don't feel comfortable doing this, then try on scrap pieces first, or simply chisel out the slots by hand. NEVER do anything in the workshop that makes you feel unsafe, and always put safety above all else. Going outside your comfort zone can be rewarding, but take lots of precautions and think things through first. Imagine what can go wrong and plan for it. It goes without saying to always protect your eyes, ears and lungs in the shop.
Step 7: Cutting the Tenon
To cut the tenon I clamp a stop block on the fence of the crosscut sled of the tablesaw, and set the blade to the proper height. Cut all four shoulders.
Set the bandsaw for the cheek cuts of the tenon. The fit here should be a little loose so the frame piece can slide up and down freely. These steps can also easily be done with hand tools, a saw and chisel are all you need. The most important thing is accurate layout.
Step 8: Dry Fit the Frame
Assemble the pieces and make sure your phone is going to fit nicely in the opening with a little room to spare. Start thinking now about how the tension mechanism you want to install works. I drilled holes vertically through the tenons, and cut a nail to enter the slot. The spring is then trapped on the shaft of the nail. This setup is shown in various pictures of this instructable.
Step 9: Make the Base
The base is a pretty simple affair, consisting of the block that the magnets are mounted into, and a cross piece that's glued into a groove in the base block. The crosspiece has a 1/4" hole drilled through it lengthwise that matches holes drilled into the sides of the frame. I modified the head of a carriage bolt so that it keys into a rectangular socket cut into the side of the frame. The bolt travels all the way through the crosspiece in the base and out the other side of the frame where a nut can be tightened to lock the frame at any angle.
Step 10: Setup the Hardware
I bought several different springs at the auto parts store to get the tension just right. Also, instead of using a plain wing nut, I thought I'd make my own wooden version by inlaying a regular nut into a piece of wood, then glueing a cover over it.
Step 11: Carving and Shaping
Next I carved the pieces to allow for the phone to be plugged in and taken in and out of the frame easily. I also carved a recess in the wood top and bottom that capture the phone. I was careful to make a hollow where the power button is on top so that the phone would not inadvertently be turned off. Sand all the pieces and ease the corners.
Step 12: Glue Up
Once you're happy with the setup, glue the dovetail joint together with all the pieces assembled. After the glue has dried, flush up the joint with a woodworking file or sandpaper.
Step 13: Finished
Now you can apply whatever finish you like, and begin using you phone holder to take cool videos while mounted to your shop tools, handplane, motorcycle gas tank, or wherever else you can think of. You could even make an alternate clamping base for other applications, like in your car.
Thanks for taking the time to read this instructable, and let me know if I can help clarify any of the procedures. Now go take some cool videos!
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