Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Nexus 4 Wooden Phone Case

This was originally a present (can't afford a Nexus 4 myself) So I drew up the design with reference only to a diagram of the phone I found in the user guide (scaled by googleing the outer phone dimensions)
I had planned this as a bike mount, and was going to mill it out of black perspex. However due to time time constraints and issues with milling plastic, I had to quickly mill this one out of MDF.

I was surprised how well it worked, the phone fit the case almost perfectly, a few issues were:
- speaker and camera holes didn't quite line up
- I had neglected to add holes for the proximity sensor
- top of the touch screen wasn't accessible
- the hole I'd left for the power switch was bit awkward for larger fingers.

I quite liked the look of the wooden phone case, so I tweaked the design, ordered some sheets of thin mahogany and cut a new set of phone pieces.

The pieces are layered up to create the case, the font plate is attached via several small neodymium magnets.
I also finished the case with Danish oil to protect it from moisture and dirty fingers.
I was able to slim down the whole case by milling out a pocket in both the front and back plates. This wouldn't have worked as well with MDF as it looses integrity once you remove the face of it.

Instead of leaving a hole for the power switch I designed this hinge. The edge is thinned down and not glued to the rest of the body, allowing it to flex slightly and press the power/wake switch.
When the phone is assembled the switch appears as a slight depression in the side so that you can find it easily.



  1. Great work, although I would lose the front.
    It looks to bulky. The case itself is great but the front should be the phone. A hood example is Groove, but they make iPhone cases only.

    1. I just took a look at the cases by 'Groove' it seems to be a plastic case with the back and sides skinned in wood. This diagram is pretty cool:
      iPhones have a small lip around the edge for cases to clip to, the Nexus doesn't have this and if it did I don't think the wood would be strong enough to hold the phone with such a small amount of material. I could expand the hole in the front to expose more of the screen (although not much more) but it's always going to need a border of wood to lock the phone in place.

  2. Are these for sale? I would love to own one. Let me know: saloumphotography@gmail.com

    Beautiful work!

  3. This is awesome, are you selling these?

    1. That was the plan, but it ended up quite expensive, I might have another look at it.

  4. So the magnet doesn't have any effect on the phone itself? I thought that magnets usually messed things up (in my experience- lol oops). I'm considering trying to make something similar to this for the class I'm in as a project. So you just measured correctly, and placed the holes where they are on the phone? Also- if you have any tips about making this, I'd love them! :0 (I've just recently started my class so I'm not good yet- nor experienced. lol. I haven't officially even done my first solo project D:) Thanks!

    1. Large magnets can affect hard drives, and sometimes speaker / mics. But these magnets are too small to do any harm.
      I measured the phone using a set of digital callipers, then drew everything up in Illustrator.
      If you search, sometimes you can find phone specs that have been released specifically for designing accessories, I found plans for iPhones, but not the Nexus.
      I've made about 3 of these now, as it took a bit of experimenting to get everything right.
      - You need to leave a bit of space around the screen so your finger can get at the edges. Especially the top, so you can grab he notification bar.
      - Smartphones have a proximity sensor in the front, that turns off the display when you put it up to your ear. You need to leave a hole for this, otherwise the screen will go off every time you answer a call.
      - The sprung wooden switches I added to the case seemed to work better than just leaving a finger hole.

      In terms of making it, I cut mine out with a CNC mill, so was actually able to get it very accurate, it can be done with a scroll-saw / hand tools, if you are careful. The only problem will be getting the magnets to line up perfectly.
      If you encounter any specific problems when making / designing, let me know and I'll try to help.
      - Tom

    2. Thanks so much! :)

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