Monday, December 21, 2015

Last minute gifts

I wanted to make several gifts suitable for mailing to members of my family, but I ran out of time waiting for inspiration.  Out of the blue, it came to me:  desktop stands for smartphones.  Don't laugh.  If you are a committed smartphone user, as everyone in my family is, you will understand.  Go on a shopping site and you will see countless examples.

I set out to design one that would be as simple and functional as possible, letting a nice piece of walnut do the talking.  Experimenting, I knew I wanted it to angle upward about thirty degrees and be capable of supporting a smartphone of up to about 3.5" x 7".  I decided that a triangular design, like a picture frame that sits on a table, would be best.  Here's the simple concept I came up with:

The rear leg is pronounced because I don't want this to be tippy when the touchscreen is used.  To join it to the face I used a shallow stopped dado, basically to hold the leg in place while the glue dried, before I installed some dowels through the face for strength.  I did this with a chisel and router plane.  I made a block so I could use a clamp for glue-up, which worked surprisingly well:

 (Notice I am clamping on a Nicholson bench, which some say you can't do.)  I was puzzled for awhile about how to hold the cellphone in place on the face of the stand.  The problem is that the bottoms of most smartphones are full of speakers, microphones, earphone jacks and mini USB jacks.  I decided that some small dowels would be the best way of holding the cellphone up without interfering with any of these, since, theoretically at least, a circle is tangent to a line at a single, infinitesimally small point.  An additional advantage is that dowels will allow for some adjustability in how high on the stand the cellphone sits.  I drilled three sets of holes in the face of the stand as well as two on the top to support the upper sides of the phone:

This is not difficult woodworking.  One thing that pleased me is that the endgrain was finished essentially right off the plane with just a few seconds sanding.  I created chamfers front and back which I think goes well with the angle of the face.  Just for the record, I don't have a picture of myself on my own cellphone; it's my wife's.  This is a large Nexus 6.  I used the middle set of holes so the phone can be plugged into a charger while it is on the stand.  It seems to work quite well, though obviously the phone will slide back and forth on the dowels.  That's why I included the upper set of dowels.  One good use that I didn't anticipate is for video calls but it also works well for checking messages, watching videos and email.    I know some people use their phones as alarm clocks and the stand would be convenient for that as well.  

My sister and brother-in-law are creative and artistic and, though they are very tactful, I am sure they will give me some feedback on what is essentially a prototype.  Who knows, maybe I can make them version 2.0 next Christmas!

Too late for mailing, but there's still time for you to get them under the tree.  



  1. Nice xmas present idea. One thought - it would seem that the dowels would be a high lost item. Especially so if different phone/users employ the stand.

  2. Ralph,
    That's certainly a possibility, but I couldn't think of a better way to hold up the phone without blocking more of the bottom of it. The dowels fit tight and are easy to replace if they are lost.