Kyle Makes An iPhone Bulletin Board

Last year I got the privilege of building a bunch of cool stuff for the STORY Conference in Chicago.

The stuff I built was for a team called “Surprise & Delight”. Basically the point was just to come up with things that were unexpected, that made people do a double-take and either smile, laugh, or be impressed.

One of the ideas we came up with was called “Analog Instagram”. The idea was that we would make a giant iPhone bulletin board, and have people walking around with those Instax cameras (like polaroids). They’d take pictures of conference events and attendees and then pin them to the bulletin board.

I got tasked with building the giant iPhone.

Here’s how I made it:

Since the iPhone is EVERYWHERE, I knew I couldn’t freehand it and just hope to look “close enough”. I had to get the proportions just right.

So I found a vector iPhone template online, blew it up to 4′ tall, and had it printed out at a local print shop.

Next, I cut out the pattern and used it to cut out two pieces of MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) to that shape. One would be the back, and wouldn’t need any further cuts. The other would be the front, and would need a number of other cuts, holes, and other modifications to make it look the front of an iPhone.

I started modifying the front piece one cut at a time. I used a table saw, a jigsaw, a drill, and probably a few other tools in order to cut out the front screen area (where the bulletin board would go, as well as the speaker & front/facing camera holes.

The picture below shows the results. I hadn’t figured out how to cut the home button yet, but I was on a tight timeline, so I decided to start gluing the side pieces on while I figured it out.

When the glue dried on the sides, I cut two blocks for the top and bottom and glued those in place (note: the phone is face-down in this picture).

Then I glued on the back.

I finally figured out a solution to the home button problem. The problem was that I needed to cut a circle shape into the wood, but I needed the inside of the circle to remain untouched (as opposed to drilling a circle). The other problem was that the circle was pretty large (about 4 inches or so), making it that much more obvious if the circle wasn’t perfect.

Finally I stumbled across the right tool: a hole saw! Using a drill press, I used the hole saw and very carefully just sort of lightly kissed the MDF with the bit. I didn’t want to cut very deep – just deep enough to delineate where the button was.

The next step was paint. I painted several coats of white paint on the front, back, and sides, being really careful to get the paint as smooth as possible to emulate the glass front of the iPhone.

After the paint was on, I  cut the corkboard to fit, placed it in the phone, and used some trim pieces to hold it in.

In order to emulate the aluminum band around the iPhone, I bought a bunch of 3-ft metal rulers and hammered them into shape around the edges of the phone. There were more seams than the actual iPhone, and I had to use screws (which is iPhone blasphemy), but it was the closest solution I could think of.

And here’s the final product! It came out pretty great considering I had no idea how I was going to make it when I pitched the idea. It’s super heavy, but it’s built like a rock. And it holds bulletin board pins like you WOULDN’T BELIEVE.

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