Intro: Disposable Plastic Salad Tongs to Tablet Mount
I decided to build this after I suddenly became the owner of a large tablet. It was an upgrade from my old one, which I use almost exclusively for displaying song lyrics and chords while playing guitar. I used the old tablet mounted on a modified sheet music stand, but the new one won't fit on it. In fact, my new tablet was too big to fit on a standard tablet holder. So rather than buying a standard holder then modifying it, I decided to build another one.
This time I wanted something portable. I realized a selfie stick standing on a small tripod would make a folding setup that would fit in a bag. All that was needed was a tablet holder with a 1/4" mounting nut to connect it to the selfie stick.
To make the tablet holder I used one of my preferred building materials: disposable plastic salad tongs. They're free and I have an inexhaustible supply left over from office parties of long ago. They're strong enough for most uses, and they're easy to cut and shape.
The design is simple: use the tongs as arms to hold the tablet, attach the arms to a center plate, mount the plate to the selfie stick. I dug into my pile of junk for parts, then started building.
Step 1: Gather Tools and Materials
Tools and Materials:
- A couple of plastic disposable salad tongs
- A piece of flat, rigid plastic to serve as the center plate
- A 1/4" anchoring nut
- 1/8" foam padding
- Glue gun with glue sticks
- Super glue or similar
- Hacksaw or any tool to cut plastic with
- Small screws
- Small piece of wood about 1/4" thick, same size as selfie stick head
- Drill and drill bits (or similar tool for cutting hole through aforementioned wood piece)
What I used as the center plate was the plastic piece used by stores to display a hammer. I figured if it was strong enough to hold a hammer, it should be strong enough for this. It didn't hurt that it had an interesting shape, which I kept.
Anchoring nuts are easier to work with because unlike a regular hex nut they stay in place without glue.
Step 2: Prepare the Design
The plan is to glue them together from the body where the nut was. Two arms will form the sides, the other two the bottom support.
With nothing to guide me I decided it would look best if all the arms radiated from the nut itself. Also, I would get a better hold on the tablet if the arms were splayed out like a star (rather than either perfectly vertical and horizontal).
I traced out everything on paper, then laid out the angles of the arms. Again with no exact design in mind I just laid out the arms such that the edges of the arms intersect the corners of the weird-shaped center plate. I figured I can find the best setup only after I assemble the parts and test the result.
Step 3: Form the Arms
I just cut the arms off the two tongs with a hacksaw. The spade-like ends of the arms would then be folded to follow the sides of the tablet.
To fold the spades, I first marked where the folds would go. I estimated the slot for the tablet thickness should be about 1/2". I kept the folds to the flat areas and avoided the spines on the arms because I don't know how the spines would respond to the folding. There was enough space anyway on the spades for the slot to hold the tablet.
After I marked where the folds should go with a marker, I used a candle to bend the plastic. To do this I just moved the linear area to be folded back and forth, top and bottom, along the flame until I could feel the plastic give way. I then folded the plastic until I got a 90-degree angle.
From experience this step takes a little patience and concentration. It helps to heat the plastic slowly because if it melts there is no restoring the shape. There is some room to adjust a bad fold, but there is no flattening back.
The great thing about the design is that the folds don't really have to be perfect. Everything can be adjusted during finishing.
Step 4: Trim, Assemble, Test and Trim Some More
To find out how the arms should be cut, I laid them out on the center plate, marking where the arms would start and how much to trim. I tried to keep as much of the arms as possible to add rigidity to the mount.
After cutting, I used a glue gun to put everything together with a little glue to test how everything fits.
The most important adjustment was on the lengths of the bottom arms. They were too long in my original cut, making the tablet lean forward. Although the system stayed upright, it felt unstable. I then removed the arms, then cut a little more. The right length was when the tablet is at my preferred angle and, viewed from the side, the selfie stick points very close to the center of the tablet. Since the center of mass of the tablet is almost exactly over the selfie stick, the tablet tends neither to lean backwards or fall forwards.
Step 5: Finish
I trimmed the ends of the spades so that the screen is completely uncovered, plus clearance for fingers. I also added a pair of small screws to each arm to reinforce the connection to the plate.
I also installed a rectangular piece of wood to serve as a "washer" on the nut. This piece is useful for two reasons. First, it tightens the connection between the tablet holder and the head of the selfie stick. Also, because it is exactly the same size and shape as the head of the stick, I can easily tell if the tablet is horizontal by checking by touch if the washer and the head are perfectly lined up.
I glued foam pads to the ends of the holder. This is necessary to ensure a good grip on the tablet. Without the pads, the tablet can fall off the mount if the adjustment bolt on the selfie stick is loose.
I now have a music stand that's a lot more portable than my old one, practically for free.