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Custom iPad Stand

Mount your iPad in your truck or van

A while back, Dan Broadbelt wrote an article about a computer stand he built for his work van. It was simple, but seemed like an ingenious idea. One problem, though: I use an iPad. Nonetheless, the idea was planted, so I decided to try my own version.

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Oh, and if you haven’t read it yet, make sure to check out Bill Hillman’s recent article, “iPad for Carpenters”. He’s got some great tips in there.

Anyway, as a finish carpenter, I like to use natural wood whenever possible; this iPad stand project was no exception. I had a few offcuts of glued-up 8/4 cherry and a chunk of 3/4-in. cherry ply from a past project. I also picked up a piece of scrap 3-in. ABS from a jobsite, and grabbed a 45°street elbow and a toilet-mounting ring from the hardware store. Pretty basic materials list as far as projects go.

My plan was to make a stand that would hold the iPad so it would stay securely in place while also framing the screen, almost like a picture.

Construction

I started by ripping the glue-ups right down the glue line, jointed/planed everything square, and sanded everything down to 220. I figured I should make it a little nicer-looking than just simple square stock, so I decided to give everything a 1/4-in. round-over. My thought was to make some molding that wrapped around the screen, about 3/4 in. or so.

My dimensions are based on my personal setup. I use the Otterbox Defender for iPad case (without the removable cover/stand).

After all was said and done, my stand ended up being a bit thicker than I originally predicted. The molding has to run flush to the backside of the plywood and allow for the thickness of the iPad and case plus a little under 1/8 in., so things slide in properly. And, finally, it needs to have enough thickness to lap over the case and hold it in place (I chose 1/4 in.). Add all that up and you have 2 in. You could also use 1/2-in. ply and an iPad with no case, which would mean cutting the trim to just over 1 in. thick.

The molding was easy. I just laid out the cuts and plowed them out on the table saw (see photo, right). I originally intended to install molding on two long sides and only one short side. In fact, the first version I made was built in just that way. It worked just fine, but it looked like I forgot a piece during the construction process. This time, I decided to try something different.

I laid out a long, straight center line where I could bore out the bulk of the material with a forstner bit. Since my cutout needed to be 1 1/8 in., my 1-in. bit was the obvious choice.

The bit made quick work of removing material, but I ran into a slight problem when I went to bore two holes for the charging cord. First hole, no problem. Second hole, there was no material for me to index the center of the bit to, so I thought I’d just shoot from the hip. I plunged down and immediately felt the work piece grab and scoot a little. You can see in the picture to the right that I stopped early, but I was not about to try that again!

For cleaning everything up, I knew I needed to rout off the waste, so I pinned on a small ripping of the same plywood I was using for the project, which I had cut to proper height. My Festool screw clamps came in super-handy here. I thought I would need to clamp one end and rout the other, then vice versa. The top edge of the clamps was just under the bottom of the router. Sweet! I could rout everything without screwing around.

I just needed to free-hand along a short line on each end. That wouldn’t have been a problem if I had been able to see the spinning router bit on the MFK 700. Because of the sight problem, I ended up starting with one router and finishing with another. Although the longer mortise came fairly close to the ends of the piece, it was still surprisingly sturdy.

Assembly

Assembly was pretty straightforward: Miter saw, 1 in. pins, and glue.

I left everything set up, sanded again with 220, applied a couple coats of rattle can semi-gloss lacquer, scuffed with 320, and applied one final finish coat.

I used the toilet ring for the mounting plate and left it unglued so I could rotate the orientation from portrait to landscape whenever it suits my needs.

Luckily for me, my van has a cup holder that is just wider than 3 in. at the top, and it tapers to just under 3 in. at the bottom. I cut a 4-in. long piece of ABS and hammered it down into the cup holder. Since I can still drop a “no-spill” coffee cup or bottle of water inside the piece of pipe, I didn’t have to lose one of my cup holders to the iPad stand. Plus, the more things stay fixed in place, the less chance there is for me to lose them.

I tried to use some clear caulk to help keep the new stand secure, but, apparently, vinyl-to-ABS does not have the best adhesion (was sort of a gummy mess). It actually stays very firm just tapping it into the taper, but I think I may use my angle drive and sink a couple short screws through the pipe from the inside.

Beyond that, all I do is push in the elbow, and then attach the stand.

After using my first version for a little while, I realized I had overlooked having a place to store a stylus. Easy fix. I had a U-shaped clip for attaching coaxial cable to wood. My stylus fits perfectly.

All-in-all, I think it has worked out well. The only thing I’m considering changing is the street 45°to a street 60°; I think it might give me a better viewing angle. For those of you whose fathers are not career plumbers, a standard elbow has two female connection ends; a street elbow has one female end and one male end. I chose the “street” type specifically because the female end connects directly to the ABS stub, and the male end fits the toilet flange without having a short piece of pipe between the last connections. The angle is self-explanatory. There are many different configurations you could try when laying this out. My suggestion would be to pick up some miscellaneous parts and see what combination suites your specific needs.

Conclusion

My dash-mounted clipboard is now gone, and has been replaced with something much more efficient. I can read emails, go over bids, take notes…
…or read my favorite online publications.

I have yet to use the GPS capabilities while driving, just because I’m not sure about safety. Obviously, you have an interface that is at least five times larger than your average Tom Tom or Garmin, but I don’t trust all my connections enough yet.

I can also use a short 3.5mm cable to connect the iPad to my stereo, so now I essentially have the worlds largest iPod. Or I can turn the screen to landscape mode so my three-year-old helper can watch his favorite movie, or play Angry Birds, if he gets bored. I’ve found it a really handy accessory, not to mention the fact that it’s kind of sexy.

Comments/Discussion

42 Responses to “Custom iPad Stand”

    • Matt Follett

      The outside dimensions are 8 3/4″ x 10 3/4″ x 2″ deep. The molding that you see me cutting on the tablesaw is of course just a standard L-shape. It’s dimensions are 2″ x 1 1/4″ with the long run being 3/8 thick & the short run at 1/4.

      I will see if I can get a SketchUp drawing attached to a public link that everyone can access. If anyone else is interested just mention it under this thread.

      Thanx for reading

      Reply
  1. Barry

    Very cool, and just think you can even buy and sell stocks while you’re waiting at a stop light.

    Reply
    • Matt Follett

      Gary, you’re right again — as usual. Can we get Tom to put one together or do you want me to bang one out. I would think we could make a public link to DropBox or something so everyone who wanted a copy could download it. WuDoU think?

      Reply
    • Stan Peares

      Gary, this is why you are a progressive! Recently a nationally known contractors magazine (you have written for them) ran an article without providing dimensions. I suggested on their forum that their drawing should have included this and in return I was….let’s say…publically flogged by an editor and someone else.

      BTW…it was great meeting you in San Francisco a year ago December during one of your shows.

      Reply
  2. Jeff Saul

    Leave it up to American ingenuity! That’s great the only problem is that our ipad
    belongs to my wife!

    Reply
    • Matt Follett

      Hahaha! I have as similar dilemma. My 3 year old thinks it belongs to him :)

      Reply
  3. NYC carpenter

    I don’t know about this one. Does Matt have the discipline to never look at his iPad while driving? Does he always pull over to write notes? When the new mail signal rings does he ignore it? We are facing a national epidemic of smart phone use while driving and this seems like dangerous temptation. I often drive with my iPad and I have realized that doing anything but ignoring it is potentially disastrous.

    Reply
    • Matt Follett

      Is there potential for disaster with this setup? Heck yes there is; let’s not be naive. But there is potential for disaster every time I stand at the mitersaw. The reason we all still have our digits intact is because we use safe practices.

      So far I can say with all certainty that I have “the discipline”. It may be a bit easier for me to ignore my iPad because I don’t use a constant (or 3G) connection. I rely on home network connectivity. This means I’m not getting emails/updates while I’m driving. It would be virtually impossible. If you do use a 3G plan it would be no different than getting emails on your phone while driving — you just ignore it. I don’t what the laws are in NY but in WA we have a ‘no cell phone’ law; BlueTooth or hands free ONLY. Your statement about smartphone usage it very legitimate and everyone should use caution regardless of state requirements or the lack thereof.

      I have driven around town with it a few times just to see how it holds up. So far no issues, but like I mentioned in the article, “…I’m not sure about safety”. I’m considering using it for listening to music or GPS but I usually know where I’m going before I leave. I was concerned with the legality of this practice so I talked with a local police officer and a Washington State patrol officer. They both told me essentially the same thing. “As long as you aren’t watching videos OR interacting with it (imputing information) you are good.” So put in the address BEFORE you leave and don’t take notes WHILE DRIVING. Who does that anyway??

      Finally, check out the photo I posted below in the comments. This is how I’ve stored it while underway. Try interacting with it now.

      Thanx for the comment and for bringing up a valid concern for all of us.

      Reply
      • BobH

        Every police vehicle I’ve seen for the last 10 years has a computer with monitor in it. It seems if the goose can have one the gander should be able to as well.

        Reply
    • BobH

      In New York, I think I would not want it mounted where I could see it while I drove, but here in Texas (with the exceptions of the interstate highways and our 4 large urban areas) I wouldn’t worry over much about the distractions.

      Safe driving is a matter of personal discipline, IMO, which includes not allowing distractions. I’ve got into much trouble over the years by shushing my wife while I’ve concentrated on driving. I don’t recommend the shushing, but we’ve been married for 50+ years now . . . and she hasn’t killed me yet. :?

      Reply
  4. Matt Follett

    Thanx for the comments everyone :)

    -UPDATE-
    Already using an iPad with an OtterBox cover like Bill and I? Want to add a little more ‘cool’ factor? I was sitting in a classroom bored out of my gourd with my iPad and a few of my business cards on the table. It occurred to me that my logo might just fit in the little window on the back of the case. It’s snug but it fit perfect. If you have a letterhead or whatever, give it a try.

    I know that I find my clients LOVE this thing. It’s so interactive. Plus, I have all my contracts in PDF so they sign it on the iPad and I email them a copy right in front of them. I’ve had nothing but good feedback from it.
    [img]http://www.thisiscarpentry.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/iPad Custom Logo.jpg[/img]

    Reply
    • s. donato

      What progrM are you using to have your clients sign on the ipad? I want to do this too but have yet to find a easy to use app. Tia

      Reply
      • Matt Follett

        I use eNote Taker for iPad. I’m not sold on it yet, but it’s the best I’ve found so far. All I do is save a .pdf of my estimate/contracts in DropBox and it’s really easy to download a copy of it, go to “Edit” mode to have them sign and then I email or “Export” directly from the app. I really don’t have it setup like I feel it should be but it seems to have potential.

        There are some cool notetaking apps which also so serve as storage place for catalogs, forms, pdfs, or any text file you’d like to access to show to customers. I’ve tried a couple others but this seems to suit my current needs. Hope that helps :)

        Reply
  5. BobH

    Brilliant solution! Well done!

    You can even swing the mount to the right and have your navigator use the device.

    My vehicles don’t admit of that sort of arrangement. The pop out tray drink holder just will not bear the weight and my ’90 F150 doesn’t even have one, but I could probably make a floor mount that would work.

    Thanks for sharing a great idea and showing us how you executed it.

    Reply
    • Matt Follett

      I’m sure you could get a floor mount to work. If you decide to build one please post it. I’d love to see what everyone else comes up with to take this idea to the next level.

      Posted from my iPad

      Reply
  6. NHSchreiner

    You know it’s great when woodworkers think alike. I must compliment the designer and builder. Thumbs Up on all accounts. I would like to be copied on the Sketchup link, my truck needs another toy.

    Reply
    • Matt Follett

      Hey NHScheiner

      Link is up thanx to Gary and the team :)

      Reply
  7. James

    So I’m in the Mac store yesterday looking at iPads and trying to justify to myself the cost of a large smart phone that doesn’t make phone calls and then I see your outstanding build 12 hours later.

    What! no more clipboards in the car with lists, or trying to read my laptop while it sits on the passenger seat, or trying to read emails etc on my smart phone in the car because it’s so convenient to carry, if not use…

    I think your great build just pushed me over the spending edge!

    Thanks! (I think, lol)

    Reply
    • Matt Follett

      Sorry (not really :).

      If you or anyone else is struggling with the price, look into refurbished models. Apple has them available for 10-20% off, not to mention ebay or craigslist has them for below that occasionally. I would have bought mine that way but it was under the tree last December with my name on it.

      Reply
    • Matt Follett

      Thanx Kathleen

      Believe it or not I’ve had about 10 people ask me to make them one. It must be how organic it looks within the wood frame that resonates with people. I had no idea people would be half as excited as they seem to be.

      Reply
  8. Tim Raleigh

    Very cool.
    I have been resisting getting an iPad but your comments on how much clients like them has sold me.
    Thanks
    Tim

    Reply
  9. Matt Follett

    -UPDATE #2-

    I didn’t really touch on writing handwritten notes with the stylus within the article but I think it might just warrant mentioning really quick. My thought on the stylus design in short: They kinda suck.

    I came from using a PC based tablet with a digitized pen which worked virtually flawlessly. It felt like you were writing with an actual pen. The iPad stylus feels like you are writing with a soft eraser on the back end of a pencil. If you look at the shot in the article you can get a fairly good look at the tip. It’s not hard plastic; it feels like a small thick rubber balloon. I will say that writing with your finger feels even more awkward.

    I don’t say this to dissuade any of you who are considering buying an iPad, I just want everyone to have as much honest information as possible. If it was a dealbreaker for me I’d still be using paper and my kid would have a pretty expensive toy.

    Reply
    • Dan

      Hi Matt

      Great version for the ipad. If I wind up getting one to replace my netbook I’ll have to try out your idea.

      As far as the stylus problem goes I can sympathize. Years ago I was one of the early adopters of the PDA (pre-smart phone) and these came with a plastic stylus which worked pretty much like a pen. Back then if you lost one it was fairly easy to buy a replacement so when I got my first smart phone, a Motorol Droid, i went looking for a stylus to use on the slide out keyboard. The problem is they don’t make them anymore.

      The one thing I hate about my phone is the small letters/numbers. I never did get used to it, and it is very frustrating when you type in one letter and the “smart phone” keeps insisting you hit the letter beside the one you chose. So I needed a stylus but they were no longer made so I made my own.

      I went to Home Depot and wandered around the store looking at all sorts of things with the idea of re-purposing something to fit my idea. As you can’t by a stylus building package in the stylus repair aisle I needed to find something that would work. (BTW this is the time all of the associates come by to ask if they can help you find something. When you need a piece of plywood cut you can’t find one of these guys but now they all ask if they can help!!, and I don’t even know what I’m looking for yet, as I haven’t figured out what I can use. Sometimes I just say no but other times I’ll tell them what I need just to watch their reaction as they tell me it doesn’t exist; no kidding that’s the entire point of the excersize. ) anyway I digress…

      I call it a non-standard application, like thinking out of the box. I found this particular answer near the signage in hardware. It was one of those reflectors on a stick that you use to mark your driveway edges. The stick was about 40″ long and made of some sort of fibrous plastic. It cost about $5 and I could make 5-10 stylus out of one of these depending on the length. Making them couldn’t be simpler. I cut out a blank and sanded it to form on an oscillating drum sander. It took all of 30 seconds from start to finish. Let me know if this could work for you.
      Dan

      Reply
        • Dan Broadbelt

          I forgot to mention, chuck the blank up in a drill/driver and sand the blank across the drum sander while the drill is turning the blank.

          Reply
  10. Ross

    If anybody else is considering making one of these and looking for a simple off the shelf mounting solution take a look at RAM Mounts. Back when commercial construction was hopping I was using their gear to install displays in crane cabs and was quite happy with it.

    Reply
  11. Matt Follett

    No go on the stylus. I’m not sure how the soft tip stylus works but I’m going to find out. I just ordered a 3 pack from Amazon.com and I plan to take them apart to get to the bottom of this.

    Sent from my iPad

    Reply
  12. Robert sigurdson

    This was a great idea Matt, I saw this Ipad holder up close and in person, it functions and looks great.

    Reply
  13. Bill Luconti

    This is an awesome design, that I have been looking for over the past several weeks. I am in the process of building a freestanding display which will hold an iPad. I have had the base and post built but couldn’t figure how to build the case for the iPad. I will certainly use this design. Now, if I can just figure out a way to keep it secured inside the case without someone trying to make off with it.

    Reply

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