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Most of us have smart phones, GPS units, MP3 players, etc.
Most of us have cars.
That means most of us probably need some sort of way to achieve a hands-free state with said consumer electronics.
Some of us (well, me at least) have been less than impressed with the options that are commercially available for attempting to meet those needs.
In the process of being less than impressed, I happened across an article by Collin Cunningham in MAKE: Volume 15...The Arms of Assistance
Suddenly, I was more than impressed. The tiny little remix gears started turning in my brain...
Step 1: Suction Cups? Bean Bags? No Way!
Indeed, I was impressed. Simply put, The Arms of Assistance was the most amazing third hand tool I had ever seen. So much more robust than those alligator clip and magnifying glass things we have all had to deal with... I HATE those things (except for the ones shown here: http://www.instructables.com/id/Fume-Extractor-2/).
On top of that, who would have thought that anything made by PanaVise could be improved upon?
Anyway, the main issue I had with the majority of the cell-phone/GPS/etc. holders I found were that they were either secured by suction cup (those hickies left on the windshield and dashboard are the worst) or held in place by bean bags (not a bad idea, per se, but then again, I wanted ROCK SOLID SUPPORT for my cell phone). There were other options as well, but they were all either meh (heater vents seemed like a good idea for about 2.8 seconds) or insanely expensive.
Once I had decided to try and leverage The Arms of Assistance, my next challenge was coming up with a place to mount the dang thing. I didn't have any qualms about drilling/cutting into the interior sections of El Beetle (that's the name of my car), and so taking out El Beetle's dashboard in order to attach things was certainly an option. However, I wasn't really looking forward to taking out the dashboard. Center shift console? Nah, that would put the screen too low. Dashboard? Nope... already ruled that out.
Then, I took a closer look at the passenger side Oh, Jesus Christ Bar... and the stars and planets aligned.
Step 2: Solid Foundation
As I mentioned in the previous step, I was okay if some cutting/drilling was going to be required to mount The Arms of Assistance, but I was also okay with not cutting/drilling anything if I could manage it.
Since the stars and planets were already aligned, it was simply a matter of fabricating a fairly sturdy bracket to serve as the mounting point interface between El Beetle and The Arms of Assistance (the picture above shows the left side cover of the Oh, Jesus Christ Bar removed).
Step 3: Foundation of the Solid Foundation - or - How I Made A Mounting Bracket for the Mounting Bracket
As with most projects, there is the whole business of balance when it comes to taking-one's-time-to-try-and-produce-the-absolutely-best-high-quality-results-possible verses get-it-done-quickly-because-this-really-isn't-the-most-important-task-requiring-one's-attention-this-afternoon.
I kind of rushed through fabricating the primary mounting bracket (in case you couldn't tell from the pictures).This time around, however, it wasn't such a big deal, because all the messy bits were going to be out of sight.
Well, if I had know I was going to end up posting pictures of my handiwork on the internets, I might have taken a little more care... however, since Instructables is a judgement-free zone, I think I'm comfortable sharing.
Basically, all I had to do was loosen the left side mounting bolt of the Oh, Jesus Christ Bar, slide the primary mounting bracket into place, and tighten everything up.
Step 4: Deviations
I'm going to leave most of the details about the assembly of The Arms of Assistance out of this Instructable, since Mr. Cunningham has provided us with well written, step-by-step guides (remember, links are on the Into step). However, there were two things I did slightly differently:
1) The outer diameter of the end of the goose-neck that the clamp attaches to needed to be reduced slightly. I simply took some of the metal off with a grinder and a file.
2) Since the clamp would be holding a cell phone as opposed to circuit boards, I attached some heat shrink tubing (the kind with adhesive, as shown above) to the fingers of the clamp. My thought was that the softer material would grab the sides of the cell phone without the fingers needing to be tightened as much. This seems to be working well enough.
Step 5: Choose Landscape or Portrait Mode
The other aspect of this solution that really seems to work is its flexibility (and I'm not only talking about the flexibility of the goose-neck). There is a lot of variety in terms of where the cell phone can be positioned held, and the orientation can be changed easily.
There are only a few downsides to using The Arms of Assistance:
1) Although there is an almost unlimited variety to the widths of things that can be held by The Arms of Assistance, is certainly an upper limit. My Nexus5, with a Spiegen SlimArmor case, is about as wide as we're going to get (and, yes, the screen on my phone is a little bit broken... I plan to get that taken care of at some point over the next few days).
2) My work phone is a Kyocera Torque, and the extra buttons on the side of the phone don't leave very much real estate for The Arms of Assistance to grab onto.
3) One must remember to orient the adjustment knob of the clamp away from the steering wheel, otherwise, there is a risk of interference.
All in all, I am really happy with my implementation of The Arms of Assistance. I actually get a lot of compliments on it... well, I'm going to interpret them as compliments.
Thanks for reading, and please remember to vote!