From the DIY drawer: iPad mini dock and shopping list for making your own accessories
From the DIY drawer is my article series about DIY accessories I make. I’m generally more concerned about functionality than design, so I tend to make my own accessories that do exactly what I need, even if they end up looking rather home made. I know that a lot of people would never glue a combination of cardboard and hot glue to their PC tablet to make a phone holder, but I frankly don’t care. The DIY lifestyle allows me to make what I need when I need it, and not be a slave to official and third party accessories.
The latest contraption I made was a simple holder for my new iPad mini. Since it’s so much lighter and smaller than my iPad 2, I wanted to create a mount for it so that it would have a place to rest on my PC table. My PC tablet currently has two 24-inch monitors on it, a ground pad DIY dock for my phone, and just a bunch of random flash drives, styli, and other gadgets floating about. I went with the same ground pad-based dock for the iPad mini, throw a tripod nut on the back, and grabbed a suction cup windshield mount from my stock of those things and glued it to the underside of the tablet. The result is a ball joint pivoting adjustable mount that I can unscrew the iPad mini dock from when I get parts to make a better actual dock but – which I’ve ordered. I can also unscrew it and use it on other tripod screw-equipped equipment, like the flexible mount that it’s shown being mounted to in the picture.
Since I’ve already covered this type of dock, I thought I’d instead do an article about what you might want to shop for if you want to do this yourself. When I say I grabbed a windshield mount from my stock, it’s because I literally have a stock of those – they’re very cheap if you know where to buy them and do it in advance, so that the month long shipping time doesn’t bother you. I tend to end up using the same types of “base parts” for most things I do, and they are as follows.
- Windshield mounts with tripod screws. Tripod screws are key to making your own accessories. By using accessories designed for camera tripod nuts, you suddenly have compatibility between the things you made, as well as the ability to change things out. Dx.com, while slow as heck to ship lately, has a bunch of such products that are dirt cheap. This and this are two great examples: one uses a ball joint, the other a flexible arm. They both have tripod screws at the end, meaning that you don’t have to modify them at all to use them with tripod nut equipped accessories!
- Tripod nuts. You can get these in a standard hardware stores, as they’re just 1/4″ nuts, but I’d advice getting some that have a bit more gripping surface than standard nuts, so that you can easily attach them to something. Wingnuts work great.
- A large thick ground pad if you want to always have the option to make a dock in mere minutes. Also a way to make sure you can make docks that fit cases.
- Cheap hard plastic cases. This is the preferred alternative to ground pad docks, but requires that you don’t use a case. I just ordered this for my iPad mini. When it gets here, I will attach a tripod nut to the back, and replace the ground pad dock with the hard plastic case “dock” by just using the tripod screw system.
The basic idea is simple: Attach a tripod nut to the hard case, ground pad dock, or whatever else you’ve come up with (like my Galaxy S II tripod adapter). Make sure everything else you have has a tripod screw, and you’re done. At the end of it all you’ve likely not paid $15 total, you get something that’s often more flexible than ready-made accessories, and you don’t have to wait months for something to come out.