Direct Input Cell Phone Cradle

Main Phone cradle photo by WoodAirGrille the Wood Return Air Grille supplier

I know.  The world needs another cell phone holder about as much as I need a hole in my head.  Shockingly enough, I could not find a cell phone holder for my truck that suited my needs.  I didn’t think my needs were that exotic, but I couldn’t find anything on the market that worked the way I wanted it to.  Here is what I wanted to accomplish:

  1. When I get in my truck, I want to be able to listen to the radio apps or my itunes collection.
  2. I do not want to have to fool with plugging in and unplugging cords every time I get in or out of the truck, but I want to utilize the auxiliary input jack. Similarly, I do not want to have to fool with clamping or releasing my phone into a holder every time I get in or out of the truck.  I just want to put the phone down and pick it up.  I realize there are a bazillion Bluetooth devices that accomplish this, but I run into two problems with Bluetooth.
    1. Sometimes, I do not want to be on speakerphone when the phone rings and it is cumbersome and dangerous to try to switch the Bluetooth off while I am driving.
    2. When I am near my truck, for example, doing something in the bed of the truck, tailgating behind the truck or standing near the truck talking to someone, the Bluetooth engages and prevents me from being able to talk on the phone.
  3. I want the phone where it can be easily seen without obstructing my view.
  4. I want the dash to be as uncluttered as possible.

My solution was to develop a sheet metal cradle with a fixed 3.5mm audio cable positioned precisely to the phone’s input jack.  This allows me to simply drop the phone into the cradle and it is instantly plugged into the truck’s stereo.  If I want to answer the phone, I simply pick it up out of the cradle or press the speakerphone button.  The thin sheet metal painted to match the dash keeps the holder compact and does not require a bulky apparatus to attach it to the dash.  Here is a description of how I did it.

A heavy black prefinished aluminum type of sheet metal, like roofing or gutter coil, would be ideal, but the prefinished lightweight aluminum flashing I had lying around was a bit thin.  Therefore, I chose a galvanized flashing material that I happened to have.  Since it will need to be painted to match or compliment the dash, in my case just black to match, the first thing to be done is to sand the surface of the sheet metal on both sides (fig. 1.)  It is much easier to do it now while it is still flat and unmarked.

fig 1 cell phone cradle from woodairgrille the supplier of Wood Return ir Grilles

The hard part is laying out the cut and fold plan on the flat sheet metal.  I have an iphone 7 with a bulky Otter Box Case so I sized my measurements to fit my phone as in the diagram shown (fig. 2).  You will need to measure you phone and size your sheet metal appropriately utilizing a square and a ruler (fig. 3)

Being careful to cut straight and precise, cut out the outer perimeter of the sheet metal with a pair of tin snips (fig. 4).

fig 4 cell phone dock by woodairgrille

The lower part of the metal has a reveal that requires inside corners to be cut without distorting the metal.  This is extremely difficult with tin snips so another process is utilized.  First, use the tin snips to cut the 2 sides of the reveal (fig. 5).  Next, using a utility knife and a straight edge, the metal is scored within the reveal point to point (fig. 6).  Yes, this does dull the blade quickly which is why a utility knife with the cheap replaceable blades is recommended.  Once the metal is scored, usually 2-3 passes with the knife, then it can be bent back and forth until it breaks away (fig 7).  The edge left is surprisingly clean and is easily finished with a little light sanding.

At the bottom right of my phone is some type of vent.  The case leaves it open and exposed, so I certainly didn’t want to close it off, especially in the hot Carolina summers.  This necessitated drilling a series of holes.  In sheet metal, it is easy to end up with ragged and distorted holes if the metal is allowed to move at all.  I have found the best way is to drill holes in sheet metal is to place something ridged with a hole in it on top of the sheet metal and a scrap piece of lumber to drill into below it.  A door hinge I happened to have nearby was ideal, but there is an endless list of things that could work (fig. 8)

fig 8 cell phone car dock by woodairgrille

The cut and finished piece of metal should look something like this (fig. 9).  After a little light sanding to remove any burs and soften the edges (fig. 10), we are ready to start shaping the metal.

Starting from the inner most bends and working your way out, fold the sheet metal into the desired shape with a pair of wide sheet metal pliers (figs. 11 & 12)

At this point, it is necessary to pull the left side of the case up enough to access the channel that was just created for the 3.5mm audio jack.  Wrap the bottom of the phone with wax paper and poke a hole to insert the 3.5mm jack.  The length of the cable you select for this part will need to be adequate to reach the auxiliary input of your car stereo.  Place the jack into the phone making sure it is fully seated and place the phone into the holder.

Using a 2-part epoxy, bond the 3.5mm jack cable to the back of the metal phone holder being careful not to epoxy the phone.  The wax paper at this point should be just a protective measure and not something you rely on as a barrier to push epoxy against.  Once the epoxy has set, remove the phone from the holster being careful not to allow the jack to move at all.  If the jack is not positioned correctly, the phone will be a struggle to get in and out of the cradle defeating the purpose.

With the phone safely out of the way, place a scrap piece of wood wrapped in wax paper and with a hole drilled to accommodate the jack into the holder and secure with a clamp (fig. 13).  Using the 2-part epoxy, reinforce the placement of the 3.5mm jack completely encasing it with epoxy and pushing against the wax paper covered wood to provide and additional landing base for the bottom of the phone (fig. 14).  If the epoxy is not perfect, you can file or sand it down.

Make sure the jack is clean and free of glue use some more additional 2-part epoxy to adhere the channel of the case back around the 3.5mm jack (fig. 15 & 16)

Taking care to mask the 3.5mm jack, prime and paint the metal to your color of choice (fig. 17).  After the paint has cured, a little double-sided tape secures it to your dashboard.  (fig. 18)



Rod Gunter is the Executive Director at Gunter Building Solutions and has over 20 years of experience in the homebuilding and cabinetry industries.  Rod has been responsible for building over 200 homes above the $500,000 price point.  Rod has trained large groups including all the major home centers on selling skills, construction techniques and sustainable natural wood products.  Rod resides with his family in Holly Springs, North Carolina.  Gunter Building Solutions owns which produces wood return air filter grilles and wood return air vents.


Easy Wooden Printer Stand (Universal Shelf)

It is funny, or irritating depending on your disposition, how one thing tends to lead to another.  When I was building houses, we used to joke around about how a minor last minute color change could lead to fifty thousand dollars in change orders.  In fact, I was once asked how to fix a kitchen cabinet with a very minor and easily repaired delaminating veneer corner.  Within a few hours, the couple had talked themselves into, and put down a deposit, on a thirty thousand dollar kitchen remodel.

That is how this project started.  My old printer finally died.  I should have been better prepared considering the screen had been blinking on and off form months, the chances for a paper jam were about one in six, and it seemed to have an ongoing auto-response to my computer telling it to print that is identical to my 8 year old’s auto-response to my wife telling her to take a bath.  So, when I brought in the new printer, the power cord was on the opposite side which immediately initiated a return trip to the store for a new surge protector.  It was then that I discovered that the new printer would not sit neatly on top of my safe because the feet were further out and hung off the side.

At this point, I refused to go shopping for a printer stand knowing I would never find one I really wanted anyway so I went into the shop and within 90 minutes built a very strong printer stand that fit exactly the way I wanted.  The design can be used for a printer stand, a shelf on top of a desk, stacked on top of each other to form a type of bookcase or anything else you may come up with.  The one I built is 19 ½” wide, 17” deep and 15 ½” tall, but, you can make it any size you want to suit your needs.  However, suggest staying under 30” wide to minimize the chance of bowing.  I built mine specifically to hold a wide format printer above my safe.

I started by cutting 1x2s down to the desired length.  I needed 6 uprights, 4 side cross members, and 2 back cross members.  I used 1x4s for the top because that is what I had lying around but you could use any width.  Below is a calculation for cutting based on your desired finished dimensions.

  • 6 pcs. Uprights – 1×2 = desired finished height minus ¾”
  • 4 pcs. Side cross members – 1×2 = desired depth minus 3”
  • 2 pcs Back cross members – 1×2 = desired width minus 4 ½”
  • Top = desired depth divided by width of boards. (one board may have to be ripped, substituted, or left with an overhang.  Cut number of bards to desired finished width.

Once I had all my pieces cut, I glued together my top.  Glue is the only connection I used for the top and I wanted to allow it the most time to dry.  According to the bottle it needed a half hour before I could start working with it again (fig. 1)

fig 1 printer stand by WoodAirGrille

While that was drying, I cut the dowel Holes in the sides of the uprights and the ends of the cross members with a simple doweling jig.  (figs. 2, 3, & 4).  You can use screws and glue for these joints, but I did not want to have to either see the screws or deal with plugs since some of these joints will be visible.

I now simply glue and clamp the frames together.  I used ¼” x 1 ¼” dowels.  Once glued I shoot through the back of the frame into each dowel on either side of the joint to lock it in.  This will hold the joint securely long enough for the glue to dry while I continue to work on the structure. (fig. 5)

fig 5 printer stand by WoodAirGrille

After sanding all of the frames and the top smooth using an orbital sander, I ran a bead of glue along the outer upright of the back frame assembly and clamped the back and side it into position. (fig. 6)

fig 6 printer stand by WoodAirGrille

Then, after predrilling the holes (fig. 7), I secured the back to the side with some 1 ½” wood screws (fig. 8).  The process is repeated for the other side.  I could have used dowels here, however in my application, the back will not bee seen so I went for the speed of screws.

I attached the top in the same way by predrilling the holes (fig. 9) and securing it with a bead of glue and 2” wood screws. (fig. 10)

With a little light sanding to clean p the joints, the printer stand is now ready for your favorite finish or just leave it natural as I did.  (fig. 11)

fig 11 printer stand by WoodAirGrille



Rod Gunter is the Executive Director at Gunter Building Solutions and has over 20 years of experience in the homebuilding and cabinetry industries.  Rod has been responsible for building over 200 homes above the $500,000 price point.  Rod has trained large groups including all the major home centers on selling skills, construction techniques and sustainable natural wood products.  Rod resides with his family in Holly Springs, North Carolina.  Gunter Building Solutions owns, a leading producer of wood return air filter grilles and wood return air vents.

Three Finishing Details Homebuilders Frequently Overlook

Many builders, including myself, have few reservations about improving the basic structure of the house during the building process. The minimal cost of pre-wiring an unfinished space, a little additional sound deadening insulation between walls or a few extra LVLs under the bonus room in case the homeowner ever decides to buy a pool table certainly make for a better house, but go largely unappreciated by the homeowner. Let’s face it, the sales department has a point. If the customer can’t see or touch it, they usually don’t perceive the value and the temperamental fancy shower door will almost always win in the budget meeting.

I confess there have been times when I wanted to put a prospective buyer in his place for commenting to his wife about the cheap doorbell button when walking into a 7,000 square foot brick house built to survive a hurricane with the best of everything including the commercial 6 burner range they will never use. Of course the minor insult to my pride quickly diminishes. Look at what the perspective buyer has to compare against. At some point all of us have walked into one of those big square box shaped houses that boast hardwoods, granite tops and a lot of square footage. However, you walk in the kitchen and the floor is spongy because they didn’t add any extra floor joists to support the weight of all the entry level tile and granite. One of my old sales managers used to always say they are “just putting lipstick on a pig.”

By now, it appears that most quality custom builders have upgraded their doorbell buttons, but when I walk into a house today, there are still things that set off that little “pig with lipstick” alarm in the back of my head.

  1. Return Air Grilles  Frequently located in the main entry way or within the wainscoting in the dining room, it never ceases to surprise me how many high end homes have the same rattling stamped steel return air grilles that you readily find in any low end production built apartment, or mobile home for that matter.  The homeowner is reminded of this every time they dig their fingernails under that stubborn clip to change the filter.  To top it off, nearby is the solid wood supply register neatly molded into the floor.  Why would a builder not put in something more appropriate to elevate the quality of the home. offers wood return air filter grilles and wood return air vents that not only have the quality look and feel, but open smoothly like a door to remind the homeowner that no detail went overlooked.
  2. The garage steps    With so many garages being finished with various floor coating and storage systems, you have to chuckle when you climb up those 3 steps built out of leftovers from the deck.  I am not suggesting oak staircases with wrought iron rails, but perhaps putting a few dollars into composite treads will at least show that there was some thought put into it.  The garage steps are the ones that the homeowner is using when bringing armloads of groceries into the house, so if you have the room, perhaps make them wider with nice deep treads.  Give them a solid platform to stand on while trying rotate the knob with their elbow instead of fighting to keep their balance on something that doesn’t feel solid.  Add risers and close the sides so there is no place for dirt to accumulate.  We put wide solid stairs in my parent’s garage with low risers and the difference was dramatic.  What caught me off guard was that it was noticed by nearly everyone who went in and out through the garage.
  3. Wire shelving    It is very surprising how many high end homes are still putting in wire shelving.  It’s not even the nice wire shelving.  It’s the really cheap ones.  Don’t get me wrong, I understand there are advantages to wire shelving, particularly in certain places, but not in the kitchen pantry, master bedroom and the downstairs coat closet.  This goes back to the perception thing.  There are too many people out there who have seen these pull away from the wall.  It doesn’t matter that it was overloaded or not installed correctly.  “Those fall down” is the perception most remember.

The good news is that these are inexpensive upgrades. They are all geared to avoid the question in the homeowner’s mind “If they skimped on this, what else did they cheap out on?” On the other hand, these are all items that your sales agent can use as selling points that the customer can tangibly see and feel.

Rod Gunter is Operations Manager at Gunter Building Solutions and has over 20 years of experience in the Homebuilding Industry. Rod has been responsible for building over 200 homes above the $500,000 price point. Rod has trained large groups including all the major home centers on selling skills, construction techniques and sustainable natural wood products. Rod resides with his family in Holly Springs, North Carolina. is owned by Gunter Building Solutions, LLC.