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Block Dock - an easy to make iPod Dock

I constructed an iPod dock out of wooden blocks, a sync cable, a pocket knife, and some good ole' Gorilla Glue.

This is the result:
Block Dock

I think it turned out pretty well. It certainly serves it's purpose and for only 30 minutes of work and the materials I had on hand, I can't complain.

This project came about due to my annoyance with how difficult it is to unplug the iPod charge/sync cable when headphones are plugged in. I take the iPod with me to work so I can listen while I code*. With it being my job to create things that reduce effort and make things easier, I found it ridiculous that  I continued to ignore how bothersome this cable was to me.

Having no desire to purchase one of the horribly overpriced sync/charging docks that are out there I decided to use my crafting skills to create one. I have a coffee mug on my desk full of those tiny, slightly less than 1", cubes from one of those wooden block puzzles that your twist around to form into a larger 3x3 cube. It had broken years ago and I tend to keep things like that when they break due to my often using the parts in other projects.
Very few items needed.

The first topic that needed addressing was the design. The main body of the connector for the iPod was both taller and wider than one block. This meant that if I were to center it in the middle of a block I would need to carve out a section from 3 of the cubes. I felt this would weaken the structural integrity of the blocks too much and they would break too easily, especially the center cube as that one would need almost a third of it removed. The cubes each have small holes drilled in them to fit with the design of the puzzle they came out of. Some of the block have holes that go all the way through them and others go through at a 90 degree angle. I decided to use this to my advantage and took two of the right angle blocks and cut out the section between the drilled out holes.

Initially I was using the blade of the pocket knife which was not working well at all. I broke the first block I was attempting it on. On the second block I decided to try out the belt hole puncher (that tiny, almost like a flat screw driver, length of metal that is present on most pocket knives) and it worked out much better. I was able to press down on the block with the tip of it and trace out the section I wanted removed. From there all it took was pressing the puncher down harder and essentially chiseling out the chunks that I wanted removed.

Chisel, chisel, chisel, chisel. *snap*
Once I had the initial shape down for where the connector was going to sit I cut out more towards the front inside of the channel I had made so that I could angle to connector back slightly to give the iPod a pleasant tilt. This also allowed the dock to sit down closer to the top of the wood and helped alleviate that whole "connector is bigger than the block" problem. After the channels were cut to a suitable angle and the connector looked like it would sit properly I cut out a small section for the cord to travel through from the back side of the blocks. Just enough was removed from the edge where the blocks would be facing each other to allow the cable to pass through and the blocks to sit flush together.

The next item that needed fixing was the need to press in the side buttons of the connector when removing the iPod. The sync/charge cable has tiny little barbs that grab on to the innards of the iPod whenever it is connected. These barbs were easily removed with the tiny pliers and file on my pocket knife. I just pulled them out and twisted them to break them off and then used the file to remove any sharp edges.

Once everything was ready for the core dock section I glued the two connector blocks together, ensuring the cable was placed in the hole created for it before doing so (all parts will be constructed on the cable before being placed together). A couple rubber bands helps hold the blocks tightly until the glue sets.

While the connector section is drying the cable blocks can be started. I used two of the blocks with the straight through house the cable. Ideally I would have removed either the connector or the USB end and placed the cable through the hole without cutting the block. As I do not take my soldering iron to work, I made due with the belt hole puncher again.

I traced two lines along the length of the blocks, essentially marking where it had already been drilled. From there I took the puncher and cut out the section along one side creating a channel that was just big enough to fit the USB cable through. The first block i cut out in pieces as it was going to be covered up, but the second block I took care to take it out in one piece so that I could replace it when I was done to make it look like the cable passed through the block without it being cut.
Mmmm... Spaghetti.

Once the cable blocks were ready they were placed in line with the connector blocks already on the cable and I glued two more right angle block on the top of them, ensuring the blocks were placed to hide the pre-drilled holes in them. Once the two cable block sections were set I assembled the pieces into the final shape and glued them together.

The end result is a dock that is functional, looks neat, and cost nothing to make.

A few notes on improvements and things that would have made this project easier:

  • My Dremel - cutting out those channels in the blocks would have been much easier and taken considerably less time with a dremel and a cutting blade.
  • Better planning - the dock is very light, so removing the iPod generally moves the dock as well. Adding some weight or possibly some magnetic anchors would improve this dock considerably. Since it's made of cubes, adding new blocks to increase the foot print or to add more weight won't dramatically affect the look.

The next post will be a project I just finished up today, an automatic pet feeder.

* I find that a variety of music helps when working on problems. If I'm stuck on a particularly annoying bug I'll switch to a different genre and it will often aid in looking at the issue from a different angle.

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