Let’s turn an ugly Lightning cable into a much prettier dock!
If you’ve been part of Apple’s Lightning ecosystem you’ve most probably seen one of these:
And as expected, there are lots of tutorials out there to fix a fraying (but still working) cable but I’m going to take a different tack and turn my cable into a dock for my Lightning devices.
What I used
- Frayed (but still completely functional) Lightning Cable
- Drill and Wood Bits
- Sandpaper + Spray Paint
Part 1 – Woodwork
When selecting the wood, the main concern is that it’s thick enough to fully embed the lightning connector and accomodate the radius of curvature of the cable bending back. I chose a thickness of 20mm but you can go thinner if you force the cable to sharper angle and let the connector stick more out of the wood.
To get the length of the wood and the tilt angle of the connector I looked at the official iPhone Lightning Dock (R899 at iStore at time of this post, ouch) and used that as a reference.
Official Apple Lightning Dock
Getting the tilt angle dialled in
The next step was to get the right drill bit. I used a Bosch 8mm bit that was identical to the width of the Lightning Connector. Having a drill bit the same size lets you easily build in the tilt angle because the oval connector will naturally fall to a small angle in the circular hole.
I first cut the length of the wood (60mm) and drilled it for the position of the connector.
Since my idea was to mostly hide the cable in the wood, I drilled a second, angled hole to meet the first. All good so far.
Then I took it off the vice, sanded it and added some bevelled edges
Front 3/4 view
Rear 3/4 view
Looking good so far! What could go wrong?
Part 2 – Cabling
To prepare the cable, the thicker rubber behind the connector was removed…
…and the sides and edges of the connector were carefully filed down to reduce the force needed to insert and remove any Lightning devices.
Now its finally time for the connector to be mounted! It was placed into the hole, held at the required angle and glued in place.
Q-bond powder and more glue was added to completely seal up the hole and permanently bond the connector to the wood.
Then I flipped over the wood block to see this.
They always say “measure twice, cut once” but I’ve now coined “think twice, glue once”
I was supposed to have threaded the cable from the back first before gluing it in and in my excitement I messed up. Oh well, since the bottom was going to be hidden anyway I just cut a channel in the wood for the cable.
Part 3 – Finishing
Testing time and it (still) works!
After masking off the connector the dock was spraypainted with matt black paint (the other can, not the gloss black one) …
…and the cable was glued into the underside using Q-bond powder.
That’s it, it works (and matches the black wood veneer on my desktop speakers!)
I’m 90% happy with this build. That 10% comes from inexplicably not being able to charge my Airpods case using it. I’m not sure whether this is due to me shaving down the connector or if there was an existing issue with the cable. Upon further testing, it’s not charging my Apple Pencil either but charges my iPhones and iPad perfectly well. No idea what’s going on here!
For the build process, shout out to Q-Bond Filling Powder because it merges the quick-dry nature of cyanoacrylate glue with the ability to build up and/or fill gaps that you’d normally associate with a slower drying glue. Instantly setting the connector at that specific angle would have been really hard without it.
To extend this project to replicate the full functionality of Apple’s Lightning Dock, you can buy a Lightning audio and charging adapter and build a dock around that. This will give you a Lightning in as well as a 3.5mm audio out. For me though, the point of this project was to resurrect an unused cable and since I use Airplay and Bluetooth to stream audio I’m unlikely to go this route in the future. That said, it is tempting to make a feature parity DIY Lightning Dock for a third of the price of Apple’s one!
If you have any questions/would like to share your experience with DIY Apple Lightning accessories, please leave a reply below. Thanks for reading!