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Thread: Easy Laptop Holder for Vehicles with Cubbyholes

  1. #1
    Sheepdog rdholtz's Avatar
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    Easy Laptop Holder for Vehicles with Cubbyholes

    If you have a cubbyhole in your dash, here's a way to get your laptop up off the front seat and parked on the front of your dash. I have an ‘06 Scion xB, but this could be adapted to other vehicles with a cubbyhole.

    Design basis:
    (1) unit can take a trip over railroad tracks or through a hard corner without losing the laptop
    (2) unit can be taken out of the dash easily and stashed under the seats, leaving the car looking "stock" so the Bad Guys wouldn't be tempted to break in
    (3) unit has no permanent mounting (but you could make it permanent if you want it that way).

    The holder I came up with fits all xBs through the 2007 model; adapt it to any vehicle you want.

    It's easy to build from readily available hardware store materials: copper tubing and pipe insulation. It can be soldered or glued.
    It's this simple:


    Click on any image to enlarge it

    The holder slips into a cubbyhole in the dash. In the xB, the owner's manual calls it the “auxiliary box”, and it's under the heat-a/c controls. In the xB, it holds the laptop high enough that there's plenty of space for the driver's hand when shifting.

    Here it is in the dash, from the front and the side:



    And here it is doing its job, almost completely hidden, seen from the driver's view and the passenger's view:



    When I put the laptop on it, it's rock-solid and nearly invisible. When the computer gets warm, the foam cover gets a little grippy, and holds the laptop in place. The open design helps keep the laptop cool. When I stash the holder and the laptop under the seat, the car goes back to completely stock appearance.

    Warnings --
    (1) my laptop only weighs 3 or 4 pounds, and the dash seems quite happy with that weight. Still, I don't let children or pet chimpanzees bounce around on it.
    (2) it hasn't been tested for crash-worthiness. Don't be the first.
    (3) the laptop isn't gripped by the foam until the laptop heats up; when you first start out, be careful on fast corners.
    (4) It works great for me, and has about 20,000 miles of use on it. Your Mileage May Vary.

    The little leg at the inner end is just long enough to keep it steady against the top of the cubbyhole. Similarly, the legs at the middle section keep it snug just inside the lip of the cubbyhole. The width at both parts fits so it doesn't move around.

    For the xB, this second version of the laptop holder has a pivoting "keeper leg" that swings down and makes sure the holder stays in place. That's necessary because the xB's cubbyhole is tapered and the unit tends to vibrate loose without it. That's probably not necessary in vehicles with rectangular cubbyholes. If you don't need it, building yours is even easier.

    So, let's build it . . .
    .
    If just enough is really good, then too much ought to be perfect.

    2006 Scion xB with in-dash Atom & Lilliput 889GL -- Worklog at http://www.mp3car.com/vbulletin/work...res-links.html
    .

  2. #2
    Sheepdog rdholtz's Avatar
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    Materials cost -- under $20, buying the materials at Lowe's or Home Depot.

    Time cost –- once you have the materials, it takes a few hours, unless your paint needs to dry overnight.

    Notes --
    -- the xB's cubbyhole is tapered, wider at the lip than at the back, so this laptop holder is, too. Holders for other vehicles may not need that.
    -- the xB's cubbyhole is taller at the lip than at the back, so this laptop holder angles upward, too (see above photo). The laptop doesn’t sit level; that works well, because no one will be tempted to set their Slurpee on the laptop.
    -- the design lets the holder slip past the xB's cubbyhole door, which doesn't open all the way.
    -- the design uses the little notch in the door to retain the holder. The "keeper" swings down into that notch and locks it in place so it can't vibrate loose.
    -- I recommend soldering the joints. If you want to learn how, Google “solder copper pipe”, or try http://www.acmehowto.com/howto/homem...ral/solder.php, or http://www.easy2diy.com/cm/easy/diy_...ge_id=35720496, or http://www.the-home-improvement-web....opper-pipe.htm.

    Tool list -- all can be obtained from a hardware store, Lowe's, Home Depot, etc.
    • Small tubing cutter, or a metal saw. I prefer a cutter because it always makes perfectly square ends. My favorite is the 15mm Kopex Pipeslice pictured below, but it's hard to find. It's available at Menard’s, Hughes Distribution and Ferguson Enterprises, but I haven't been able to find it online unless I want to have it shipped from Great Britain. Harbor Freight (www.harborfreight.com) has one (their part number 90914) that appears to work the same way, but I haven't used it.
    • Metal file
    • Emery cloth or even coarse sandpaper (emery cloth works better because it has a cloth backing; the paper backing on sandpaper tears more easily)
    • Sharp knife
    • Torch system – if you solder. I used propane with a really good torch head I got from Harbor Freight; it's their part number 91061, and it was about $15.

    Here are the Pipeslice, the Harbor Freight cutter, and the torch head:
    ---- ----

    Materials List -- all from a hardware store, Lowe's, Home Depot, etc. This is for the xB-style unit, and it should be close for other vehicles.
    5 feet of 1/2" rigid copper tubing (not the soft tubing that comes in rolls)
    6 - 1/2" copper 90 degree elbows
    4 - 1/2" copper tees (only 3 without the keeper leg)
    2 - 1/2" copper caps (only 1 without the keeper leg)
    30 inches of foam hot water pipe insulation for 1/2" copper tubing (you'll probably have to buy a whole 6-foot length).
    Flux and solder – if you solder
    JB Weld, or epoxy, or any other metal-to-metal glue you prefer – if you glue

    Cutting schedule for tubing -- This is for the xB-style; to build just like mine, you can probably use the lengths here. The result will extend about 9-1/2 to 10 inches from the dash.
    2 @ 9" (outer sides) -- vary this dimension based on how far you want it to extend from the dash. In the xB, the system will extend approximately 1/2" more than this dimension.
    1 @ 6" (outer end)
    2 @ 4-3/8" (inner sides)
    2 @ 2-11/16” (middle cross tubes)
    2 @ 2-9/16" (inner end tubes)
    1 @ 1-15/16” (“keeper” leg) (not required if you build without the keeper leg)
    3 @ 1" (middle cross tube legs and inner foot)

    Important Note: Remember that copper fittings vary, depending on manufacturer, so yours may not fit exactly like mine. Also, your cutter makes a difference; some cutters produce rounded cut ends, some produce square ends; this affects how far the tube goes into the fittings, and that affects the lengths in the assembled unit.

    Okay, now it's time to assemble.
    .
    If just enough is really good, then too much ought to be perfect.

    2006 Scion xB with in-dash Atom & Lilliput 889GL -- Worklog at http://www.mp3car.com/vbulletin/work...res-links.html
    .

  3. #3
    Sheepdog rdholtz's Avatar
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    Note: make it easy on yourself: This can be built for a lot of cars, and, for some, you can do all the fit checks right at the workbench by pulling out the cubbyhole part of your dash that it fits in. That way you don't have to run back and forth to the car every time you want to check it. You can use it in your workspace and reinstall it when the project is complete.

    Here are the Scion xB-specific instructions for removing the "auxiliary box" in a couple of easy steps: First, pull the knobs off your a/c controls. Under them, you'll find two Phillips-head screws. Remove them. At the very bottom of the bezel, on both sides, you can pull the bezel away from the dash (you may want to start by using a flat-blade screwdriver to pry the bottom of the silver edge strips). Swing the bottom of the bezel out and up, pivoting it from its top; when it's at about a 45-degree angle, pull straight back gently. There are two tabs and two snaps at the very top, and these should slip out. Go by feel, and be gentle -- it's really pretty easy. Once the bezel is off, the auxiliary box is just snapped into place. Once you release the electrical connections (lighter and airbag indicator), it can be pulled out, door and all. Be careful not to lose the door springs. Reverse these steps to reinstall.

    Assembly -– You’ll want to do lots of fit checks as you build. Test fit BEFORE you solder or glue. Test fit between steps. Do fit checks compulsively -- you won’t be sorry.

    Here are all the pieces assembled, with the tubes labeled:


    Click on any image to enlarge it

    (1) Put the parts all together. Remember, for the xB, this is narrower at the inner end – it's NOT a rectangle. Luckily, there’s a little “slop” in copper fittings, and we can take advantage of that here.

    Note: the 1" middle cross tube legs and the inner foot are so short that the fittings they connect actually touch. That's no problem for us; once the fittings are hot, the solder will suck right into the joints.

    (2) Measure the width at the inner end and be sure it is no wider than the back of your cubbyhole; for the xB, that's 7". This should just fit between the back walls of the cubbyhole -- tight, but not a force-fit. Adjust the inner cross tubes as necessary. NOTE: It's hard to cut off small amounts with a tubing cutter. It's easier to use a file, emery cloth or even coarse sandpaper. Just lay the abrasive paper on a flat surface, and rub the end of the tube around on it until you have the length you want.

    (3) Measure the overall width at the middle cross tube and be sure it is no wider than the lip of your cubbyhole; for the xB, that's 7-3/8". This fits just inside the lip of the opening. Adjust the inner legs and middle cross tubes as needed.

    (4) Test fit the complete assembly into the cubbyhole.

    NOTE: The foot in the middle of the inner cross tube should just hold the top against the roof of the box. It should be a firm fit, not a force-fit. The middle cross tube should be tight against the bottom of the box – again, a firm fit, not forced. If it’s too tight at the lip of the box, file away a little of the fitting ends so they fit closer together. If you're building it with the xB keeper foot, swing that into place and see that it locks into the door.

    (5) Once you're happy with the way it fits, clean all the parts and start making the final joints with solder or glue. Start by making the keeper with tee, keeper leg and cap. This part will not be soldered or glued in -- it's supposed to be able to rotate. Now assemble everything and start making permanent joints. Be sure the assembly is aligned and level. Let it cool (or let the glue harden) and fit check. Solder or glue some more. Do LOTS of fit checks as you build. I built it upside-down on a workbench, checking often to make sure it was flat.

    Remember: The tee holding the keeper foot DOES NOT GET SOLDERED. It rotates so you can lock it into the xB's auxiliary box door.

    (6) Clean and sand, grind or trim away any excess solder or glue. Use an abrasive pad or emery cloth to clean it up.

    Here's the soldered assembly, and another shot of it after cleanup with an abrasive pad:



    (7) OPTIONAL – paint the final product. I sprayed mine with black satin-finish fast-dry acrylic; I left the part covered by foam unpainted. An alternative would be to polish the copper and coat it with clear lacquer.



    Okay, all that's left is to pad it. That's next.
    .
    If just enough is really good, then too much ought to be perfect.

    2006 Scion xB with in-dash Atom & Lilliput 889GL -- Worklog at http://www.mp3car.com/vbulletin/work...res-links.html
    .

  4. #4
    Sheepdog rdholtz's Avatar
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    Padding

    (8) Wrap the outer loop of tubing with hot water pipe insulation, and cut it to length. Mine took 27”, but cut it long and trim to fit:


    Click on any image to enlarge it

    (9) Before you peel away the protector strips on the adhesive that makes the faces stick together, twist the foam so the joint faces down. That will make the corners come out nice and smooth:



    (10) Peel away the one of the protector strips. Then, as you peel the other one away, squeeze the sides together so they make a nice flush edge. If it isn't perfect -- mine isn't -- this is on the bottom, and it won't show.



    You're done – time to slip it into the dash, swing down the keeper, set your laptop up there, and take it for a test drive. Here's one last shot -- of the xB-specific keeper leg in action:



    Have fun.

    Note -- Although I haven't tried it, it might be possible to make this device out of 1/2" PVC pipe, and just glue it together. PVC pipe is a little thicker than copper, so it would take some redesign. Hmmmm -- maybe that's a new project . . .

    Final Note -- While this laptop holder does everything I want it to do, it really made me want an upgrade to a built-in touchscreen. So I'm building a PC into the xB; that worklog is at the address in my signature.
    .
    If just enough is really good, then too much ought to be perfect.

    2006 Scion xB with in-dash Atom & Lilliput 889GL -- Worklog at http://www.mp3car.com/vbulletin/work...res-links.html
    .

  5. #5
    Maximum Bitrate FusionFanatic's Avatar
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    nice write-up.

    Warnings --
    (1) my laptop only weighs 3 or 4 pounds, and the dash seems quite happy with that weight. Still, I don't let children or pet chimpanzees bounce around on it.
    this won't work for me then... I always drive with pet chimpanzees bouncing around. I need to know it will be able to support their weight

  6. #6
    Sheepdog rdholtz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ComputerGeek View Post
    ... I always drive with pet chimpanzees bouncing around. I need to know it will be able to support their weight
    Well, I guess we could do some testing with chimps. Tell you what: you bring the chimps down to Florida -- call it a "working vacation" -- and we'll take 'em out and see how the laptop holder fares. That's assuming there's anything left of the laptop and the car when we're done . . .

    What do you suppose it will cost us, in bananas per mile?
    .
    If just enough is really good, then too much ought to be perfect.

    2006 Scion xB with in-dash Atom & Lilliput 889GL -- Worklog at http://www.mp3car.com/vbulletin/work...res-links.html
    .

  7. #7
    Mac Car Moderator kandyman676's Avatar
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    interesting and creative idea rdholtz!
    "If it works this good why F with it?" -KMFDM "Intro"

    Strive for ethical wardriving: http://faq.wardrive.net/

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  8. #8
    Low Bitrate stroths's Avatar
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    Gotta love that creativity. Nicely done.

  9. #9
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    Very cool for sure, thank you for sharing it with us.

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