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I want to make a wood board where I can place my phone in the middle, and the screen of the phone will be flush with the surface of the board. Basically the phone would be recessed inside the board.

For example, if my phone is 10mm thick and my board is 20mm thick, I want to make a recess 10mm thick to match the phone and have a 10mm backing behind it, and preferably no other markings anywhere on the board.

I can't seem to think of a way to make the recess. Any advice?

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The recess you're looking to make is in essence a shallow mortise, much like the type used to hold the stone in a traditional oilstone box.

The most basic way to do this is with a chisel and mallet, after carefully marking out and, ideally, knifing the edges of the recess you want to make (the knife-cut lines help produce clean edges).

It must be said, this is easier said than done and getting a flat, horizontal bottom to the mortise in particular is challenging to do just with a chisel. For this reason the bulk of the material is often taken out by chisel and the final flattening of the bottom is done using a router. This is a hand router, not a modern power tool. Where one is not available the chisel router or "poor-man's router" is a cheap, reasonably effective alternative than can be made in just minutes.

The above method is shown well on this page from Paul Sellers.

If the bottom of the mortise doesn't need to be absolutely featureless a lot of the grunt work can be done by drilling away the excess wood, as mentioned by Paul above. The most-used bit for this purpose these days is a Forstner bit, which will leave a small hole in the centre of an otherwise flat circle as you can see in the link below.

This method is shown in brief on this page of the Norse Woodsmith site.

Note that Forstner bits are best used with a drill press or with a power drill held in a drill stand.

Router
If a modern power router is available it is simplicity itself to cut a recess like this, you can freehand the cut to close to your marked lines and then trim the edges by hand, carefully chopping with a chisel.

Or you can make a template and with a suitable bearing bit in the router you'll cut a near-perfect rectangle through the hole in the template. The corners will naturally be slightly rounded and normally these would be squared up, again using a chisel, but for a phone it may actually be favourable to have rounded corners.

Note: you may want to provide a cutout on one of the straight sides to allow you to lift the phone from the recess. Especially in the case of a very neat fit the phone might be very difficult to remove from a deep recess otherwise!

  • Thanks for teaching me a few things! Definitely above my skill level but I'm willing to give it a shot – Xerxes Dec 19 '15 at 21:39
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The easiest way would be to make it out of two pieces of wood. Cut an outline of the phone in the top board with a jig saw. Then attach a backing board behind that with glue, screws, dowels or however you want. Very fast and simple.

If you are determined to make it out of one piece of wood, then it would be best to use a router. If you have not used a router before, you will need to practice and experiment with it to build up the skill to make a nice clean pocket. (By the way the technical term used by machinists for what you want to make is a pocket.)

Using hand tools would probably just cause frustration and is not recommended. It takes a long time to become skilled with hand tools and they have to be sharpened which is difficult to do without a lot of experience. So, stick with one of the two methods I have described previously.

  • This is more appropriate with my skill level, though the other answer would be more elegant – Xerxes Dec 19 '15 at 21:37

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