Simple DIY tablet stand made from reclaimed wood

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For this project, I wanted to create something simple but useful while giving myself an opportunity to test some different wood finishes that I would ultimately be using on the custom guitar I’m building. The final product is designed to be used with an Apple iPad, but works with the majority of Android tablets as well.

A video of this build will follow, so check back!

Cutting

I started with a piece of reclaimed oak. The wood was originally from a spinning wheel and was approximately three inches thick at the thickest point. I was happy with the depth of the wood from the start, so my first cuts were to square the corners and find a length I liked. I chose to make the stand thinner than the width of my iPad, so I measured and subtracted 1 inch from the width of my tablet.

After comparing the tablet with my stock, I decided it was too high for my liking, so I took the piece over to the table to cut 3/4 of an inch from the bottom. I raised my blade to almost its full height and pushed the piece through slowly, listening to make sure the blade wasn’t slowing down too much as I fed the piece through. I typically use a thin kerf blade on my table saw which helps the small motor cut through thick material. The blade isn’t high enough to cut through with a single cut, so I rotated the piece and pushed it through again. This leaves a relatively flat bottom, but rough along the point where the two cuts meet. A quick sand with 60 grit on the orbital sander brings everything flat.

My first cut is to create a channel to hold my Apple Pencil when not in use. I chuck up a triangular bit in my router and using my custom router table, I fix a fence at the distance I was the channel to sit back from the front of the piece. I take two passes at routing, setting the bit deeper for the second pass.

Because I’ll be cutting a slot in the wood to accept the iPad which obscures access to the home button, I will use a forester bit to create a half circle cut-out to give my finger access. Since this is a offset cut, you can’t make this hole with a paddle bit. Clamping the work piece to the drill bit table will keep things from moving as you plunge the bit.

The final cut is to create the slot to hold the tablet itself. First I set the angle of the blade to 20 degrees. I find this angle to work well when the tablet is a little closer to eye level or you’re sitting back from your desk. If you’re more likely to be viewing the tablet from a higher angle, 22-24 degrees might work better for you. If you’re not sure, cut the slot in a test piece before the final to be certain you’re happy. I cut the slot about 3/4 of an inch deep which seems to hold my tablet well. For a 12 inch tablet, I might cut it a full inch. Moving the fence to make 3 or 4 passes opens the slot enough to accept my iPad.

I felt like the stand was a bit plain, so I took it over to my chop saw. I angle the blade at a shallow angle and holding the piece carefully, made a number of cuts to give the back a faceted look. Because of the lines in the grain, this gave the piece an almost digital feel.

Finishing

I only sanded the faces I cut. I started at 100 grit, then 180, finishing with 220 grit paper. A sanding block keeps the facets flat and doesn’t round edges.

Previously I had experimented with one piece using tung oil with a polycrylic sealer and another piece with paste wax. For this piece I wanted to try Tru-oil. Tru-oil is a drying oil finish originally formulated for gun stocks. The oil goes on easy and is hard to mess up, but it does take a number of coats to build up thickness. The ends of the oak were especially thirsty. This is just a characteristic of this type of wood. I put on 3 coats in fairly rapid succession (3 hours between coats) then allowing 24 hours of dry time before a final coat. This did make the curing time take longer. I should have let the first thick coat sit and dry before starting on the next coats.

The Tru-oil hardens as it cures. It changes the feel of the piece and resists scratches but isn’t suited for a lot of rough treatment. This finish is better suited for items that don’t get a lot of handling.

Wrap-up

Overall, this project took me a little over an hour of work if you include the coats of finish. The drying time worked out to 48 hours before I could use the piece. After 2 weeks, the smell of the Tru-oil went away which would indicate that the oil has cured. The wood itself has its own smell which is either good or bad depending on how you like oak. It’s a fun little project that can make a nice looking accessory for your desk or kitchen in a small amount of time.

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