The Mortar iPad Dock

Posted on April 27, 2012

As one of the most successfully funded projects on KickStater, the Elevation Dock found a market that was both underserved and vast. Promising to make the best iPhone dock on the planet, the project found 12,521 backers who pledged almost $1.5 million, a sum vastly exceeding what founder Casey Hopkins originally targeted – $75,000.

The key to the dock’s success lies in its ease to undock. Machined from a solid block of aluminum, every dock weighs just enough to overcome the friction induced by the iPhone’s connector when you pull the iPhone up. The dock’s good looks and high quality appeals to iPhone connoisseurs as well.

Some have already asked for a similar dock for the iPad. I know I did, and I wasn’t going to wait for Casey to come up with a solution. Like many Kickstarter projects, the Elevation Dock is being delayed due to quality control issues. The Mortar Dock, on the other hand, was ready and shipped to me almost 2 months ago. The only delay in its story was the two month wait to write about it.

Research and Development

There are two things that make undocking as Earth-shatteringly smooth as the Kickstarter video suggested – high quality connection and a heavy enough deadweight. The better the connection, the less weight the dock needs to be to unplug just as smoothly. For a weekend project, I wasn’t going to bother with the quality of the connection and instead bet on weight to get the job done. If possible, I’ll just stick an dock into a solid block of rock.

And that was basically what I did.

The plan was to get the cheapest iPad dock I could find and add weight to it until I could undock without lifting the dock itself. The first part was easy. I snatched one off eBay for $5. The second part isn’t too difficult either. I dropped by a local hardware store and bought the cheapest bag of cement mixture I could find, also $5. At 22.5kg, the bag of mortar should be more than I need for this project. I’m pretty sure I only need a fraction of it.

How big a fraction, though? To find out, I taped the dock onto a 1kg bottle of peanut butter. The iPad undocked without flinching. Next, I taped the dock onto a plastic cookie tray that happen to have a 1L volume, filled it with water and scooped it back out until I couldn’t undock the iPad without lifting the tray as well. When I hit that point, I was left with 300mL of water. The dock’s deadweight should weigh more than 300g to work properly.

How much mortar do I need to get 300g of weight? This is a bit trickier, but the mortar’s manufacturer specs saved the day. A bag of mortar covers 25 ft² at 0.25” thickness, or 13.8L. Dividing the weight by the volume, I got an approximately 1.6g/cc density. To achieve 300g, the mortar deadweight will need a minimum volume of 184cc.

How do I know I hit the 184cc mark when I shape the mortar around the dock? SketchUp to the rescue. I designed the deadweight in the program and used a plugin to determine the volume of the object. Easy as pie.

The Fun Part

1Tape up the connectors to avoid debris from screwing them up

2Build a mold with height reference points to make the shaping easier

3Block out the iPad seat to avoid the mortar from settling in and interfere with the iPad

4Lay down the groundwork

5Stick the docks in

6Top it off with random insignia

7Open sesame

8Plasticine removed, revealing a very naked dock

9Some rubber footing to keep the dock from scratching a table’s surface

The Result

The dock did its job – allowing me to dock and undock easily. How does it look? Well, its bare mortar look is a page taken from Modernist architecture. I would be more careful with the shape of the deadweight too as I had to make some corrections with a Dremel and patched up the nooks and crannies I missed.

Overall, I’m pleased with the convenience of undocking my iPad with one hand.