Make: Projects – Outlet-mount device charging pocket

Computers & Mobile Energy & Sustainability Technology
Make: Projects – Outlet-mount device charging pocket

Most cell phones are provided with a very basic wall-wart charger, and you usually have to pay extra for a proper charging dock. The bundled charger is often unsightly in use, being just a transformer with a cord strung out to an end table or something where the cell phone rests. If you have a cat who likes to chew through cords, as I do, this can be more than just inelegant–it can be totally impractical. It’s also a good project if you just hate, for aesthetic reasons, loose power cords strung out across the furniture.

A similar product is for sale at ThinkGeek, and that’s where I got the idea. The nice thing about my version is that it requires no tools to mount or demount, being suspended by the plug on the charger itself. So you can quickly move it around to whatever outlet you want or take it with you when you travel. Plus it costs all of nothing to build.

  • Appropriate empty bottle (See step 1)
  • One sheet printer paper
  • Scotch tape
  • Goo-gone (optional)
  • Isopropyl alcohol (optional)


  • Scissors
  • Utility knife
  • Paint pen
  • Printer
  • Drill with 5/16″, 3/8″, and 1/2″ bits
  • Candle or cigarette lighter

Step 1: Find a suitable bottle


Obviously, the bottle needs to be plastic or other nonconductive material. If you try this with a metal bottle, you’ll destroy everything and probably injure yourself shorting out the wall socket. The bottle should have a flat back, more or less, so that it easily fits between the charger and the outlet. It needs to be thick and wide enough to hold your device, of course, and long enough to provide clearance below the wall-wart when inserting or removing said device. The one I made is 6″ long and works well for my phone and charger, but your own equipment may of course vary. Finally, the bottle musn’t be too thick, otherwise the force on the plug might obtain a significant “outward” component, which is probably ungood. As long as the force is mainly “down,” the limited weight of the phone, pouch, and charger should be easy for the plug to bear.

Step 2: Clean up the bottle


Peel off any labels on the bottle and remove any residual adhesive with an appropriate solvent. I love Goo-gone for this purpose–it cleans up gunk like nothing else I’ve ever used outside of a chemistry laboratory. After I used it, I gave the surface a final wipe-down with isopropyl alcohol.

Step 3: Cut off the bottle top


I used my trusty swing-arm paper cutter for this, but scissors or a razor should work fine, too. I cut 6″ up from the bottom, which turned out to be the final, finished length of the pouch.

Step 4: Cut out the tab


Use scissors to cut two slits at least 3″ long at either edge of the bottle’s back surface. These cuts form the sides of the vertical “tab” that goes between the outlet and the transformer. Round off the corners of the tab to about 1/2″ radius while you’re at it.

Step 5: Draw cutting guideline


Beginning at the lower ends of the slits you just cut, draw a downward-sloping line around the bottle, which levels out about 1″ from the bottom of the bottle in the center of the front panel. Then draw the mirror image of the line up the other side. If you can, draw the line such that cutting it completely away will give the shape you want, so you don’t have to clean anything off the part you’re going to keep.

Step 6: Cut sides and front of pocket


Using a sharp utility knife, cut out the front and side profiles of the pocket. Clean up the edges by scraping with the edge of the blade. Once you’ve got the shape you want, you can “fire polish” the edges by running the flame of a lighter or candle over them briefly. This will melt away any loose frizz and round over the cut edges in a pleasing way.

Step 7: Mount the drilling template


Print out the image below at 300 dpi. It should come out 1″ square. Cut it out and tape it in place about 1/2″ from the top of the tab as shown.


Step 8: Drill holes


Drill three holes in the template as indicated, and then one more hole in the exact center of the bottle’s bottom to pass the charging cord. The diameter of this hole may vary; 1/2″ was necessary to clear the “micro-USB” connector used on my phone. To ensure accurate placement, step drill the holes, starting at 1/8″ or so and then drilling to full size in a second operation. Remove the template and “fire polish” the edges of the drilled holes as before.


Notes and ideas

Instead of drilling a hole in the bottom of the bottle, you might try cutting a slit with a razor just long enough to slip the power connector through. The sides of the slit will grip the cord a bit, and should prevent it falling out when you don’t want it to. I haven’t had any problems with this, but I’ve also got an unusually bulky connector on my phone.

Also, if it bothers you, you could splice the cord on your charger way down to eliminate the big hanging coil when the phone is in place. Cover the joint in the cable with black heat-shrink tubing to make an attractive splice, or take the transformer casing apart, make the splice inside, and put it back together. It’ll still have to be insulated, of course, but it won’t matter so much if it’s neat.

18 thoughts on “Make: Projects – Outlet-mount device charging pocket

  1. Wag T. Feet says:

    “Instead of drilling a hole in the bottom of the bottle”, you could cut off the bottom, flip the bottle upside-down and voila – hole ;)

  2. Max says:

    Great concept, yes. However, this assumes you’ll probably leave the charger plugged in which is a notorious energy vampire. I believe chargers like these will even consume power even if the phone is not plugged in!

    1. Sean Michael Ragan says:

      Curious from your comment, I tested my charger starting this morning using my Kill-O-Watt meter. Over the course of two hours, the charger plugged in without the phone drew no power and generated no detectable heat. Charging the phone over the course of two more hours drew 0.01 kWh and generated noticeable, but not significant, heat on the back of the transformer. Since unplugging the phone three hours ago, no more power has been drawn and the charger is not even warm.

      Not a definitive test, but I mean to leave the charger plugged into the meter until the next time I need to charge my phone, which should be two or three days, at which time I expect it will not have drawn any more power. I’ll post another comment here in any case. I already feel relatively safe concluding that my charger draws no power when the phone is not plugged in, but I’ll know for sure in a day or two.

      1. Sean Michael Ragan says:

        My charger drew 0.03 kWh overnight, plugged into the wall but not plugged into the phone. Bleh!

  3. power_user says:

    my only gripe is that the AC adapter is always plugged in to use this design and uses power even though phone is not attached.

  4. Gauston says:

    It’s kind of a cool idea — but a really, really ghetto solution (great solution for college use however) .

    I’ve got an idea to jack up a car — using cinder blocks, maybe I should post it…

  5. AEchinoderm says:

    The slit to pass the connector is a good idea, but I don’t think you should let sharp plastic edges eat into the cord. Cut the slit yes, but drill a small hole first (wide enough to pass the cord freely, but just so). Then you cut the slit starting from the hole.

  6. SquantoTerror says:

    You know, I think it would be better if instead of using lousy flimsy plastic, you use something metal, like a can. Perhaps some really shiny metal to spice things up like copper or aluminum!


  7. Dave says:

    If you have to worry about 0.03 kWh overnight, you’re probably in the fabulous 8 cent± tier.

    0.03 * 2 * 31 = 1.86 kWh/month, for a whopping 15 cents.

    I’ll happily unplug all my “energy vampires” if you can tell me where I can’t find the unaccountable ~600 kWh/month on *my* bill!

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I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

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