Wooden playdate charger

I'm working on a wooden dock for the playdate. After seeing folks 3D print charging docks I wanted to give it a go but I don't have access to a 3D printer so I decided to use wood.

I've made 2 prototypes so far and have some improvements I will make to the third.

The first prototype was hacked together from a hardwood engineered flooring sample.

Testing magnets with USB wire jammed in from behind - 10mm diamater

This was fine so I cut it out (previous attempts to drill the holes from an already cut piece smashed up the wood around the corners) and after many days of laborious sanding and sawing and gluing ended up with the first box

Various problems with this one:

  • Playdate doesn't charge reliably - you gotta wiggle it around until the magnets which are way larger than the corner screws on the PD make contact
  • Really rough around the edges, several corners broke on the front and back from drilling and screwing
  • Box just sits square on the table and doesn't incline
  • The magnets are hella strong and you have to use 2 hands to remove it
  • Hard wired

On to prototype 2...


After I posted this stuff to Twitter someone said they'd like to buy one and how much would it be, so I was encouraged by this and figured I'd need a better design and process before making any for sale.

For the second prototype I ordered some wood veneer, 3mm walnut from an etsy seller.

Turns out walnut isn't that hard a wood! Oh well. I have some 5.5mm ply lying around so I made the inner box from that and stuck the walnut on top. Overall it was much easier but still a pain to saw it all by hand and sand it just right and glue it.

I didn't take many WIP pics...

Problems with this one:

  • Still no incline; still hard wired
  • The linseed oil I used to treat the wood doesn't protect it much and takes an absolute age to cure
  • The little 5mm (1mm thick) magnets are great for contacting the PD screws but were really fiddly to put in

Resolutions for the next prototype:

  • Get the wood cut properly by a professional with a table saw and a laser cutter (can also burn a logo into the front panel then)
  • Get some USB-C components and use those instead of butchering an old micro-USB wire
  • Get some longer 5mm magnets to make installing them in the wooden frame easier
  • Use dark varnish instead of linseed oil to treat the wood
  • Get some 10mm dowel or thereabouts to add a couple of legs to the front of the base so it can incline

great work!! this looks awesome.

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Looks great! You might also make the incline by cutting the bottom of the wood on a slant. (Both styles look good in my head!)

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Thanks both!!
Morgan: Yeah, I thought about that, but it creates some annoying angles to cut/sand. Also I kind of didn't want it to look too retro, like one of those old 60s desk intercoms :sweat_smile:

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Joining the others - this looks great!

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So cool!
The wood gives so much power!
So much it charges the Playdate!!
(kidding of course.) :yellow_heart:

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This looks great!

Maybe you could also drill in a pen holder :wink:

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Thanks folks!!
@Vachi - this got me thinking about putting solar panels on it...
@orkn this... is a more appropriate idea than you imagine, as given the wood theme I'm sure it would be a pencil holder, and I'm making a game about sharpening pencils for the playdate!


:thinking: :thinking: :thinking: :thinking: :thinking:

could easily be some other kind of more portable add-on like that oneil camera

I was thinking about a crank-able power charger. Unsure how small one can be for such a thing.

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I ordered some usb 2.0 C-type receptacles, hoping that they'd give me a steady 5V. Seems like it! Wired it up and now my second prototype has a port instead of a wire.


Finally picked up the laser cut pieces for the next prototype.

Playdate logo came out wonderfully!


These pieces aren't as accurately cut as I'd have liked. Some of the cuts aren't square, vertically. I'll see if there are any other people with a laser cutter around for the next one.

Gluing them together isn't wonderful either, I should have put some joints in to make it easier. I also forgot a hole in the inner back plate for the usb receptacle and the holes for the screws in the rear veneer plate are not in a great place either (my fault again).


Where I live, universities and libraries sometimes have free public "fab labs" or "maker spaces" where you can do 3D printing and cutting of all kinds. I made a 502-piece wooden board game at one—using what SEEMS to be your same plywood—and I can report the laser would always cut wider at the top than at the back surface, causing slightly slanted sides.

On the bright side, burning sap smells like pancakes.


Great info cheers. Seems like the best thing might be to do the long cuts with a table saw then. Or use thinner ply. I got some of these wooden assembly kits for kids that are obviously laser cut and their cuts are nice and straight (and also less charred). I guess there's good laser cutters and less good laser cutters

Also different woods respond very differently. And you can set the laser to different combinations of power vs. speed. Choose wrong and you can light the wood on fire! Or fail to cut.

I picked my power and speed values by educated guesswork, one small test run, and a crumpled reference chart taped to a wall :face_with_open_eyes_and_hand_over_mouth:

Also, a BIG factor for me is that this plywood had a very slight curve. Didn't sit totally flat. Which means the laser was hitting it closer (resulting I believe in a wider cut) on the elevated portions. My game has some unwanted variation from that, plus the very MOST elevated places did not even cut fully. I had to use an Xacto to finish.

But I just couldn't find a totally flat piece of wood as thin as I needed (.25").

If you don't have to operate the laser cutter youself, that's hassle saved!

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Main thing I wanted from the laser cutter is to do the holes, which are difficult to do with a drill. Might be worth just getting just those lasered and then doing the cuts with a nice mitre hand saw. Will have to buy one first though

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Laser cutters can also engrave—the cutter I used for my board game first burned grayscale images onto the pieces at low power, then switched to higher power to cut them all out. So maybe the place that lasers your holes can, at the same time, engrave perfect lines for you to saw along. (Weaker power than your logo even.)

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That's a really good idea!!!

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