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Phone case for climbing

Many of my partners are leading with iPhones in their pants pocket. Considering what they cost, I shudder when I see them waving them around with abandon, trying to get the best angle. They do this 6 pitches up in the air…which amounts to a 600 foot drop if something goes wrong.

If the route is too hard I will leave my big camera on the ground or in the car. I have a small camera…but we often bring an iPhone for  emergencies…worst case scenarios. And considering how good they are getting, it’s tempting to jump on the bandwagon. But my phone is too big for a pants pocket, and it has a stupid glass back…so it’s fragile.

I already have a metal fronted case, but there is only one bungy snap holding the phone in the case, and the glass side is pressed up against my harness, only protected by the inner plastic case. I considered buying a hardish soft shell case with a zipper, which I have for my point and shoot camera, but I don’t like zippers…hate them with a passion actually. Every zipper is on its way to breaking…it’s only a matter of time.

I wondered if I could make a user repairable, bombproof metal iPhone case.  Yes, it turns out I can.

I started with some concept drawings. I hadn’t really thought it through…but figured if I started working all would become clear. I’m also blocked right now, I wiped off my latest painting…so I needed some entertainment on my four day weekend.

concept drawing
concept drawing

Bending the aluminum was hard because it was wider than my vise. I had to use some 1/4″ iron to extend my vise. I was able to make my right angle bends using this jig and a sledge hammer.

hammering the right angle bend
hammering the right angle bend
partially bent right angle
partially bent right angle
bending jig
bending jig
both angles bent
both angles bent

After that I sewed it together on the bottom with 1/8″ bungy cord. I considered using a hinge, but the bungy cord added cushion and avoided the case having to be overly precise regarding thickness of the phone.

My initial plan was to have the biner seal the case, like the way a binier locks down a grigri. But it turns out that a binier has such a wide bottom that the case is not held closed. I found a way to use a threaded bungy to lock the case closed, supplementing the biner. Getting all that sorted out and debugged took most of a day. Then I showed it to Sue and Clint and they both thought it was stupid…overkill was the term they used. While I think they are right, it was still a fun exercise in the art of inventing. The fact that my invention was mis-guided is irrelevant.

One of the problems I solved in my mis-guided train wreck of an invention was that the 0.040″ aluminum  was too flimsy to make a good carabinier hangar. I glued on a double layer of metal there. This is version 1.0 after all. It’s not supposed to be perfect. I’m thinking I can hang this on my rack or harness next to cams and quick draws and it will be fine.

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