[How To] Making Your Own Car Mount (Video Added)
Home Made Kydex Car Mount
See second post for an updated version
A Chief Geek How-To
I’ve worked Kydex in the past for conceal holsters and large knife sheaths and thought it would be an ideal foundation to make a custom made vehicle mount for my phone. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the stuff, Kydex is a thermoplastic, which is a fancy way of saying you can heat it and it becomes extremely pliable. Think of it as being a wet noodle in consistency when heated to about 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Typically things this easy to mold have extensive drawbacks as being susceptible to heat and cold, but this is not the case with Kydex, in fact it’s quite the opposite in that is highly resilient, can be reheated to rework a botched job, and does not become brittle as it is very impact resistant. It is implemented extensively in the firearm industry and likewise in the blade industry. Keep these qualities in mind as you read through, who knows what you can make with the stuff. Oh and if the above isn’t enough, a few more great things about Kydex is that it comes in lots of colors, can be dyed, it’s plentiful, and best it’s CHEAP. There are lots of sources for it, but I typically just grab a sheet off eBay. A sheet of 12x12x0.093 black Kydex T will run you about $15 shipped to your door. I chose the thick stuff this time, but as it turns out it wasn’t needed. The thicker you go, the harder it is to get precise folds. Think of folding poster board versus folding cardboard. I already have a request in for quote for a few sheets of 12”X12”x0.06 which will be a bit easier to work as it is the same as the stuff I have used for other projects in the past.
My mount will be made for the Samsung Galaxy Note AT&T Version, however these instructions can be easily modified to make a mount for just about anything you want. The reason for doing this instead of just buying one is that I use the Seidio Active case and there is no case specifically made to hold my phone. I am not a big fan of the generic one size fits most as they tend to break after a year of use whether it was $10 or $30. ProClip makes amazing mounts, however they are quite expensive. My goal is to make something comparable to a Proclip, but at a fraction of the price.
Now, For A Few Words Of Caution
1.) Kydex is easy to work with, but easy to screw up if you aren’t careful. Pay attention and have a plan going into the project, especially if this is your first venture into molding plastics.
2.) Safety should be your number one concern. What’s it matter if you produce the best gadget holder known to man if you chopped a finger off or burned your house down in the process? I’m not exaggerating here, either of these can easily happen if you’re not paying attention to what you’re doing. Because it’s such a versatile product, your required tools can be as simple as a hacksaw and heat gun, or as complicated a variety of saws, presses, crimpers, rivet tools, and so on. But in any situation, you will be heating and cutting, both have great potential to teach stupid people lessons in caution. Everyone likes a good story about stupid people, but no one wants to be around or associated with that person. Heat guns stay very hot for awhile after they have been used. In the video I comment about laying my forearm across it. As I type this I am holding my right army up slightly because of the nice blister that formed last night. Be careful folks.
3.) Take things slow. Drawl out what you want then make a mock up out of poster board. Kydex is cheap only when you don’t go through 5 sheets trying to figure it out as you go and end up with a pile of scrap.
So let’s see if covered our bases. Be careful. Know what you’re doing. Don’t be “that guy”. Good, let’s get started here.
What You’ll Need:A Mold Of Your Device
I will be doing a Samsung Galaxy Note. This is a large phone, but very simple in design. It has no bumps or dips or serious curves, just rounded corners. If you want to leave it in a case, take this into consideration. I will be using mine in a Seidio Active case, so I will be sure to make a mold reflecting these measurements, not those of the actual phone or else it won’t fit. There are different ways of going about this. You can wrap your device in saran wrap (cellophane) then make a mold, then fill said mold with plaster. This is a lot of work, but tends to get a dead on mold. However, I passed on this as purposely introducing liquid to a $700 device is not something I wanted to do. Choose your battles, as they say. I have opted to carve out a wooden mold as the simple flat on all sides design of my phone will make this easy. A phone such as a droid or Razr would have me thinking of the plaster method. This is quite simple, take measurements, find a block of wood that is close, and cut down to a close replica, but it doesn’t have to be perfect nor pretty, just the right size. You will be working with hot plastic, so the block of wood may serve other uses as you go.
Foam is used to “squash” the pliable heated kydex onto it’s mold. This does two things. First, it protects you from 300 degree sheet of plastic, and secondly, and just as importantly, it presses the plastic down tightly on all the dips and curves. This is especially important when making a firearm holster. This is where the retention aspect comes into play. My past holsters are snug enough that I can turn them upside down and jiggle while holding the holster and it will stay in place, yet a firm upward tug snaps it free. This can be applied for the retention of anything, even a phone. If your mold is the appropriate dimensions and you make a nice snug mold, your phone wont go flying out of it when you hit a bump and wont be rattling around going down the highway. Foam is typically used when making a “sandwhich” mold where you are taking the mold and wrapping it in hot Kydex then squashing it with foam to get a nice tight fit. I won’t be utilizing this method so you will not see future references to it, I just though it would be worth mentioning as it may be handy if you alter these instructions for your own use.
You want a good pair of heat resistant gloves. Use your noggin here. You want to keep from burning your hands, but still be able to manipulate the tools and plastic. A pair of welding gloves will likely to be overkill, but a thin set of knit gloves may not be adequate protection. I like using a pair of “Mechanix Wear” gloves. They are a tad thin, but if you don’t loiter you’ll be fine. Keep a clean rag handy for extra insulation when shaping the Kydex.
Typically, I like using the kitchen oven although this time with all the intricate and numerous folds, I will be using a heat gun. I am doing this project while my wife and kids go to her parents house for vacation for a week. She won’t even know what I’m up to. If you are a newlywed, or just haven’t traveled this road, be aware that wives do NOT like their husbands using their ovens and other kitchen assets as a shop tool. I learned this lesson when I baked enamel on a firearm for the first time. Since then I’ve learned my lesson…not to let her know when and what I’m doing.
You’ll be heating your Kydex to about 300-400 degrees Fahrenheit. You’ll want to keep a watchful eye on your Kydex, too hot or too long and you will burn it. Obviously heat guns are hot, the nose end where the heat blows out gets very hot and stays very hot. While doing this project, you will be concerned with the Kydex, be aware when you lay your heat gun not to burn something or someone. A decent cheap heat gun can be picked up at Harbor Freight, Lowes, or Northern Tool for $20-$40. You must be careful with these. If you choose to use an oven, it is advised to have a heat gun anyways as it allows you to fine tune your holster.
You’ll want a variety of tools at your disposal here. I used a table saw to make my initial two cuts removing the flat I was going to be working with from the rest of the plastic. You can also score the plastic with a box cutter and snap it. As mentioned, I went too thick so if you use thinner Kydex then you will find cutting it easier then I did. See the video for a better idea of what all was used. If you have access to a jig saw, band saw, or scroll saw then use that as it will yield far superior results and leave you with a lot mess clean up with a Dremel later.
Speaking of prettying it up, you’ll want some files or a Dremel to clean up the edges afterwards. You can even use your Dremel to cut if you feel comfortable doing so and have the right bits. But you’ll need to clean up some of your edges after cutting if they are sharp or jagged, but don’t go crazy, you may find yourself doing some detailed cutting and trimming after the molding process so don’t cut too tight of tolerances right off the bat.
This is a buddy that can help you out. These are generally easy to find. They will be there to hand you needed tools, open doors and move stuff out of the way as your moving with your heated plastic. They also serve a roll as reminding you not to do something stupid inadvertently. A single 12”x12” sheet of Kydex is more than enough to do 2 small projects. If your buddy has the same phone, make him one for $10 and recoup some costs of materials or trade him for a 12 pack of your favorite brew.
Ok, let’s get started. Have your drawling ready and handy, just in case you need to reference it. Be sure that you have made a poster board mock up first. This will verify that your mold is right in comparison to your phone and when you unfold/untape your mock up back into flat form, it will then be a template for the cuts your about to do on your Kydex flat. You can now mark up your Kydex sheet with a carpenters pencil or other marking device in preparation for the cuts. On some projects you’ll want to leave excess material for fine tuning it later. Again, holsters are one of these as you will be test fitting. You can always trim a little more off, but can never put it back. For this project though, as it differs from the simple fold over and smush method used for holsters and sheaths, you won’t want much left over depending on your design as it may be difficult to make all the folds if there is too much in the way. You can always stop the folding, let it cool, make some trims, heat back up with heat gun and continue on. Always error on the side of safety folks, always always always.
Using your chosen cutting method, cut out your Kydex flat that will be made into the mount. This is a step that you must use upmost caution, lobbing a finger off here will get blood all over youre soon to be mount. Also, keep in mind that saw blades remove material as they cut so cut on the outside of the template or you’ll come up short which could cause your phone to drop out. Check your template against your cut Kydex to be sure everything looks good. Now is a good time to make sure all your cuts are straight and squared, this will make for a more professional looking end product. The mount at this point will be known as a flat before it is bent.
Now get your work area prepped for work. I use a large wooden cutting board for my work as I will be doing this inside on a desk because it offers easy access to electrical hook up and great lighting which is essential. Have everything ready to go. Make sure the area is clean and clear of any grit, dust, dirt, and debris. Hot Kydex will pick these up and will be embedded for good, we don’t want that.
Heating Things Up
Just like a real firearm, you must be sure of your target and what’s beyond it. Sounds silly right? Do you want to melt the finish on your dining room table, or possibly even ignite it those papers laying nearby? Better to be safe then explain to the wife on the phone why she hears sirens in the back ground.
You will begin by applying small amounts of heat at a time. Get a feel for the material and the amount of heat produced by your heat gun. You will see the Kydex go limp all of a sudden as it hits the right temperature and it won’t take long. Use smooth sweeping motions with the heat gun heating things evenly. Go slow at first and you will get a feel for how it all works and within 15 minutes you’ll have the hang of it. Once you get the correct angle, you will need to hold it there for atleast a minute to ensure it cools in the proper position. If, or actually when, you jack something up just stay calm. It’s an easy fix, just reheat and reshape. Detailed projects like this get reworked over and over to get them just right, sometimes days later I’ll reheat and tweak it just right. Do not trim anything unless you absolutely have to until you are done. Test fit with your mold as you go.
When you have your basic mount done, test fit your actual fit and see how it feels. At this point you will likely be reheating the sides to loosen it or tighten it up some to get just the right fix. Once satisfied it will be time to get the ol Dremel out and start smoothing out lines and making it look a little nicer. This is the point that I ensured the volume rocker and power button was easily accessible. Also figure out where you will be drilling your mounting holes. As mentioned in the video, I will be doing two sets of holes in order to give myself the option of horizontal and vertical options down the road.
Now is the time where you look over your end result. Take notes on what you like and what you wish you would have done differently. Do you make your folds square and wish they were rounded? Did you remove too much somewhere? Do you perhaps want to incorporate a plug like I mentioned in the video? 1 12x12x.06 should cost you under $10 to your door. That’s ATLEAST two mounts, so play around and see what you come up with. Then when your happy with your end result, take what you learned and make a guide and/or video, post it up here, and make the community better.
Link To Video
Photos all photos from this buld will be dumped into: www.photobucket.com/kydexmountproject
Select one's will be shown below
Preparing To Drawl Up The Cuts
Take Your Time And Be Sure Your Measurements Are Double Checked
Primary Cuts Made With Saw
I Heat The Flat In Toaster Oven To Make Cuts Easier And Smoother
Time To Start Heating And Folding!
Choose a Good Pair Of Gloves. Carpenters Pencil Is Great For Assisting With Tight Angles
Almost Done- Stay Tuned For Future Updates
Two Videos Are Awaiting Upload To Youtube And Will Be Made Available Tonight.
I Plan To Update This Thread As My Build Progresses. I Have Been Using Kydex For Years, But Never For Anything This Detailed, It's A Learning Experience For Me Too!
Don't Forget To Use The "Thanks" Button If This Has Helped You And Rate The Thread So It Gets Stickied! Feel Free To Ask Questions And Make SUggestions.
G1 (x3)> My Touch> My Touch Slide > Nexus1> SGS Vibrant> Galaxy Note>Xperia Z
It drives me nuts when people beg for "thanks", if you agree hit "Thanks".