The quest for the perfect charging station

I have a few more portable electronic devices than I probably should. The numerous incompatible chargers for my iPod, mobile phone, Nintendo DS, and digital camera create what I consider to be an unacceptable amount of unsightly cable clutter and lately I’ve been trying to find a good solution to the problem.

I would just buy a charging station, but almost all the ones I’ve found look like cheap plastic or wooden junk.

On the other hand, the Rotaliana MultiPot (pictured) looks great, but at over $200, I consider it unjustifiably expensive.

Then I found these directions to make an attractive charging station out of an archival photo-box, a surge protector, and some silver oval bookplates. I think the results look quite nice, and this solution is considerably cheaper than the MultiPot. But I’ve also found this thread about the project over at Make. Several commenters express serious concern over the safety of the design, and this makes me reluctant to go this route. So, readers, we would like to know how you deal with your birds-nests of device chargers?

14 Comments for “The quest for the perfect charging station”

  1. posted by Jenny on

    Mine is just the opposite of the one debated on Make – http://www.flickr.com/photos/jenny_boom/270858920/ Cords go into the back of the library case, are ziptied together and plugged in to a strip on the floor or the back of the computer. I keep it open while things are plugged in just to make double sure it stays cool.

  2. posted by Jamie Phelps on

    If available, I buy charging cradles for my devices. A dock for the iPod, a charging cradle for my cell phone (I had one for my Sony Ericsson T637 that charged my phone and spare battery, but can’t find one for my W600i. :\). If not available, I buy either a very short cable or a retractable cable. I use Keep-a-Cable (http://flickr.com/photos/jxpx777/485567510/) to keep my cables (!) from falling off the desk.

    The other thing I would suggest is looking for adapters. Almost every device out there can be adapted to charge via USB 5-pin. This is my charging interface of choice if I can get there.

    That being said, I only carry three devices that require charging: iPod (If you count the shuffle, then four devices), cell phone, and bluetooth headset. What I charge most frequently, though is my phone and headset. I charge them in the car when I think about it.

    I guess this isn’t a lot of help, but I think that buying adapters or cradles for your devices and copies of your adapters (No sense removing your adapters from your charging area at home all the time.) can go a long way to relieving some of this.

  3. posted by Luanne on

    An item similar to Jenny’s charging station was featured in Martha Stewart Living magazine a while back. I’ve tried to find a link for instructions to no avail.

    I like it because when it’s closed you can’t see the items being charged.

  4. posted by RadiantMatrix on

    My solution is the iGo (http://www.igo.com/) line of products. They’re a little on the pricey side (the wall power adapter is $20, and tips are usually around $10 each), but it allows me to keep my clutter to a minimum. Advantages:

    Always have a backup charger (the original) — sometimes it lives at the office, as it does for my cellphone.

    Only have one cord (a little box with all my tips in it is nearby) to manage.

    Makes it very easy to travel with my devices, because I only have to carry one bulky transformer for all the little stuff.

    For another $20, the car charger takes all the same tips, meaning I can charge any of my portables while driving.

    When I buy a new device, the outlay to get it on the iGo is just a tip at about $10, and that also enables the car charging.

    — Disadvantages:

    Doesn’t solve trying to charge multiple devices at once. It doesn’t bother me, but might be a deal-breaker for some.

    High-draw devices (like notebook PCs) require a much more expensive setup that isn’t worth it unless you have several of those devices. You’ll have an extra cord and transformer regardless.

    Some tips do wear out (the iPod tip is a notable example), though most simple tips seem to last a good long while (+3y for me so far).

  5. posted by Colin on

    The cords are kept in a drawer; I recharge everything overnight in the kitchen (open counter space and away from small hands), and then put the cords away before I go to work. Not exactly high-end, but it works.

  6. posted by Modern Minimalist on

    I’ve tried two solutions and I like them both: I attached a wire in-basket to the underside of my desk (using cup hooks a la Martha Stewart) and use it to hold a power strip and all the charger bricks. Then I ran the device plug-ends of the cords up over the back edge of my desk and attached them with some blue painters tape so they don’t fall down again.

    At my “landing strip” by the front door, I have another charging station. I drilled a hole in the back of a credenza and put a power strip inside, then devoted a shelf to the power strip and all the charger bricks. (It’s adequately ventilated.) I need to drill another hole so I can run the charger plugs up to the top of the credenza, which will prevent me from leaving the house without my phone when it’s on the charger.

    You can make nearly any desk, credenza, or bookcase into a charging station. Just make sure to position the power strip so that’s it’s easy to flip the switch when nothing is charging.

  7. posted by SpiKe on

    Nice idea, I’ve been trying to come up with a way of making all the recharging kits more efficient. Currently I just chuck them together all in one drawer. Hardly the best approach but at least I know where everything is :/

  8. posted by warrenpeace™ on

    I have the Multipot and love it. I didn’t pay for it (4 wonderful friends pitched in and got it for me for my birthday), but it’s worth it and I would have bought it. I have the chrome one and it’s beautiful, let’s me charge my stuff without having to look for an empty outlet and the light is nice to have on when you’re watching tv in bed and want enough light on so you’re not stubbing your toes or stepping on the cat. The top is a nice, smooth rubbery material that won’t scratch things and keeps them in place.

    And it’s a nice conversation piece ’cause most guests have never seen it before. Sure I could have crammed a power-bar into a breadbox, or some other container, but then I’d have to find a place out of sight for the ugly thing. Also, the plastic the Multipot is made of isn’t as flamable as the paper boxes that are used in the projects in the linked pages. That’s just asking for trouble.

  9. posted by JM on

    Whatever you do, you probably shouldn’t leave unused chargers plugged into the wall. Even if they aren’t actively charging something, they still draw a charge, driving your utility bill up.

  10. posted by NW on

    JM is right. The electricity bill adds up. Also drawing electricity creates more pollution. I recommend the ~$25 kill-a-watt meter so you can measure how many watts each of your appliances use (when on AND when off).
    http://www.google.com/products.....8;ct=title

  11. posted by Jenny on

    @Luanne, I got the idea for the box from Blueprint magazine (a MSLO pub) – I thought I had cited it on one of the photos but I guess that fell by the wayside!

  12. posted by Greg on

    I have two charging stations that I made out of those nifty wooden import hinged boxes you can get from Target (when they do the Target Bazaar thing after the holidays) or discount stores (like Marshall’s or TJMaxx). Step one: cut a hole in the box. Step two: put a power squid in the box. Step three: create a little floor with holes for the plugs to wiggle through. The devices sit on the floor/shelf and the adapters are hooked up to the squid in the “basement” — to be safe, I usually cut a few holes in the back of the box to vent. The basement often becomes a tangled mess, but at least it is out of site. I have one on my dresser for phones (mine and my wife’s) and the like and one on my computer desk for our iPods and such.

  13. posted by Anonymous on

    Materials:

    1 shadow box shelf
    2 styrofoam
    3 fabric (cloth store scraps)
    4 surge switch

    Cut the styrofoam to fit snugly into the inside of the shadowbox. Glue fabric onto the styrofoam. Stick the strofoam in the front of the box and the switch in the back, and snake the cords through. It works best if its sitting against a wall, but you can hang it if you want.

  14. posted by Unscrambled on

    My own solution is a lot more lo-fi than the MultiPot, but works perfectly for me… Label each charger, stick each one into its own Ziploc bag, and bung the whole lot into a shoe box.

    Simple, elegant, portable and cheap :)

    http://www.unscrambled.org/org.....-chargers/

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