Make a Tablet Stand
Photos by Rob Brown; Illustration by Len Churchill
Before machining any wood, some consideration must be given to the dimensions of this stand. All tablets vary in size, and a stand must be built with a specific tablet in mind. Tablets range in size from about 4" x 7" to 7" x 10". Their thickness also varies. There are two main parts to this stand – a curved base and a vertical support arm. I suggest making the curved base so that its two outer ends are slightly narrower than the width of the tablet to be used on the stand. The height of the stand isn’t as crucial, but finishing at a similar height to the tablet makes sense. I made a quick mock-up of the stand so I could check for size and balance. I would strongly recommend taking 10 minutes to do the same.Materials
|INFO:||DIFFICULTY – 2/5|
LENGTH/TIME – 2/5
COST – 2/5
SPECIAL TECHNIQUES –
BENT LAMINATION WITH VENEER
It is possible to steam bend the curved base, but for many that’s far too difficult and involved. Cutting the curve from solid wood would leave weak short grain, which would easily break. Plywood is certainly an option, but to cover the unsightly layers you would have to veneer two curved faces.
For the curved base I opted to use zebrawood veneer for the show surfaces and maple veneer for the inner layers. I used matching solid zebrawood for the vertical support arm. Veneer easily curves to the required radius and is available in many different species. Having said this, the lamination process is the most difficult portion of the build as you want to ensure tolerances are tight and you obtain strong glue lines throughout the piece. It’s certainly not rocket science, but it does take a bit of care.
Make the form
If you make the curved base too large, the tablet will more easily fall off the stand. A curved base that’s too small will be less stable than it could have been. I glued two pieces of 1/2" thick particle core together to create the 1" thick lamination form.
I used a 1/2" diameter router bit in my trim router, which was attached to a small circle cutting jig, to create an arc in the lamination form material. I used an inside radius of 3", but you should select a radius according to the tablet to be used on your stand. First I ensured one long edge of the form material was straight and true, then drilled a pilot hole about 3/8" away from the straight edge. I then attached the circle cutting jig to the form material. Multiple passes, each cutting slightly deeper, left me with two mating halves of the form.
Do a Mock-Up – Some scraps and 10 minutes is all you need to do a simple mock-up. Brown’s initial support arm needed to be wider at the base, to offer more protection from the stand tilting over.
Rout a Groove – With a 1/2" diameter router bit set up to cut a 3" radius Brown creates the two parts of the form that will be used to make the curved base. The workpiece is screwed to the work surface from the underside during these cuts.
Theory vs. reality
In theory, the strips on veneer total exactly the width of the groove that was cut into the form. When these strips get sandwiched between the two halves of the form, the veneer takes up the gap and the resulting curved base gets formed. In practice, this may not work perfectly. Likely what will happen is the center portion of the curved base will come together quite nicely, as it is perpendicular to the clamping pressure. The two outer ends, on the other hand, might not have enough clamping pressure, or the width of the veneer isn’t perfect. If you cut the width of the female form narrow enough so you can add a clamp or two at a 90° angle to the first few clamps, you can add some pressure to the ends of the lamination.
I then screwed and glued a jointed piece of 2x4 material to the straight edge of the male portion of the form. This piece of scrap was approximately the same dimension as the long, straight edge of the form. When the two halves of the form were brought together, the scrap 2x4 ensured they mated evenly, and sandwiched the layers of veneer properly. The piece of scrap also had two notches to accommodate the excess length of the veneer strips during glue-up.
Two Directions – The red-handled clamps provide most of the pressure, but a clamp running perpendicular to it might also be needed to bring the ends of the veneer together.
Cut the veneer strips
The thickness of all the strips of veneer must be exactly the same as the groove routed by the router bit you used to split the form in two halves. If you’re going to err on one side I suggest being no more than 1/64" oversize is the way to go.
I used a straightedge and a knife to rip strips of veneer oversize. I was aiming for a curved base that was 1" wide, so I cut the strips a generous 1-3/8" wide. When I had enough strips to fit the groove exactly I was ready for glue.
Glue the curved base
I did one dry assembly of the curved base to ensure I had all the necessary clamps on hand and to ensure the real glue-up would go smooth. Since there were many strips of veneer, and only so much open time to make this glueup happen, I used a small paint tray and narrow roller to apply glue to both sides of each strip of veneer, short of the inner and outer show faces. Once the glue was applied I fit the bundle between
Bring it Together – With all the strips covered in glue, Brown brings everything together to form the curved base.
Flush It Up – With the dried curved base still clamped in the form, use a block plane to even both edges of the workpiece.
Make the support arm
I started with a piece of solid wood larger than required, as it’s easier to cut joinery in. Once the blank was thicknessed to 3/4" I cut a 3/16" deep rabbet in what would be the bottom, front face. I then drew the rear profile of the support arm on the blank and cut it out on the bandsaw. Feel free to shape this piece to your liking, but I kept the upper half of the piece straight, and added an outward curve to the lower half. I liked the look of this, but more importantly, the wider base provided more protection against the completed stand tipping backward, away from the user, during use.
With the support arm cut to final length I ever-so-slightly added a curve to the face of the rabbet joint that mates with the rear of the curved base. Doing this would result in two advantages: a stronger joint as there would be more glue surface area, and there would be no visible gap between the two parts once they were joined together.
Shape It – Once the rabbet has been cut into the support arm, and the piece has been cut to length, Brown uses a spokeshave to fair the curve on the back of the support arm.
Cut the notches
I cut the notches with a handsaw, and then fine-tune them with a sharp chisel.
There’s no need to cut too deep, as relatively small notches work wonders at holding the tablet in place.
Slight Curve – For the inside surface of the rabbet joint to mate nicely with the support arm, a slight curve must be cut into the support arm. A chisel makes quick work of this task.
The only joint
Drill a 3/8" counter-bored hole in the center of the curved base. Position the curved base against the support arm and mark, then drill, the mating pilot hole to accept a #6 x 1" screw. Bring the parts together with the screw then grab the tablet for use with your stand. Position it on the stand where you will be using it and mark the location. Also notice the angle or shape of the edge of the tablet, as trying to create notches shaped according to the edge profile on the tablet will go a long way to holding the tablet in place. the forms and brought the two halves together. I let it dry overnight as I wanted to ensure the glue was very dry, which I hoped would minimize twisting.
Line it up – With all the parts machined you can insert a screw through the counter-bore and locate where the pilot hole in the support arm needs to be drilled.
Shape the curved base
With the glue dry, and the curved base still in the clamps, I used a block plane to true both edges of the base. It was pretty easy to bring the first edge almost flush with the jig. I then put the clamps on the other face of the form so I could plane the other edge.
I marked the two opposing quadrants of the curved base so I knew where to trim the ends, then removed the base from the form and used a handsaw to make the cuts.
I sanded all the surfaces, except the inner, curved face of the curved base, as doing this after assembly is difficult. I also eased all edges to make the stand comfortable to handle. I then applied a small amount of glue to the rabbet joint and screwed the parts together. Once dry I added a maple plug, which I trimmed flush when it was dry. Next up is a final sanding of the inner face of the curved base, followed by a quick check for any glue squeeze-out. So the stand doesn’t slide around during use, I installed three rubber press-in bumpers, one in each extremity of the curved base, and the final one at the very back edge of the support arm. Just be sure not to drill out the rear face of the support arm if you curved it like I did.
A Bit of Glue – Glue will help hold the only joint in this project together. Don’t use too much, or squeeze-out will cause problems.
I applied three coats of spray-on polyurethane finish to the stand, sanding lightly between coats.
When the finish was fully cured I used #0000 steel wool and wax to add a soft lustre to the stand, pressed the rubber bumpers into place and handed the stand to my resident techie – my wife.
Trim it Flush – A #3 sweep gouge, or a narrow chisel, will bring the plug flush with the curved base.
A Foot to Stand On – Brown added three rubber press-in bumpers to each corner of the stand. These bumpers will allow the stand to sit flat, and will keep the stand from moving during use.