Jul 25, 2020

How to: Hack an Old Cigar Box Into a Vintage-Inspired DIY Charging Station

DIY charging station

I got this idea soon after some friends visited and forgot their charger cords for their phones. Since I had my own to use overnight, we had to fish around for other solutions. One day, in my shop I was reflecting on this dilemma when I remembered there were these new USB wall sockets that would be perfect to turn into a portable DIY charging station whenever I need it. I wasn't going to rewire up my house, but I thought it'd be awesome to have a portable gadget charger that I could bust out when needed. And it sure looks a whole lot better than a surge protector and a rat's nest of cables going every which way. 

Here's what you'll need to make a DIY Charging Station

  • A USB wall outlet with matching face plate

  • Old Cigar box that's deep enough to hold a gang box
  • 1 Gang blue electrical box
  • 4-6 feet of cloth-covered cord
  • Male plug adapter
  • box cutter
  • electrical tape
  • Wire strippers or pliers
  • 4 - #40 1/2" bolt and nuts
  • 5/8" spade or Forstner bit and drill

Start by marking out the hole you'll need to cut for the outlet. I laid down the faceplate and traced the inside.

tracing a hole on a cigar box for a DIY charging station

Next, cut the hole open. Because the box was thin enough wood I was able to score and cut it with a box cutter.

DIY charging station

Once you'd cut the hole to fit the outlet snuggly, we can wire up the outlet into the gang box. I purchased several feet of vintage-style cloth-wrapped wire. Websites like Sundialwire.com sell it by the foot.


DIY charging station

Run the wire through the back of the box. Then, strip back the outer cloth layer as well as the tri-color wires with wire strippers.

DIY charging station

Hack and old cigar box into a vintage charging station

Now you can match up the white, black and green wires as indicated on the outlet or in the instructions inside the outlet packaging. Once you've wired it all up, screw the outlet into the gang box.

DIY charging station

Set the box and outlet into the hole on the inside of the box. Using a drill bit of sharp point, mark the 4 mounting holes on the blue box, drill holes through so it will accept mounting nuts and bolts.

Hack and old cigar box into a vintage charging station

DIY charging station

Hack and old cigar box into a vintage charging station

Next, drill a hole on the side of the DIY charging station box and fish through your wiring. The hole needs to be rather large to allow you to stuff the wiring back into the box when you're not using it.

Hack and old cigar box into a vintage charging station

DIY charging station

Once you've done that, attach the plug on the end of the wire. Follow the same directions on the package, matching the wires to the proper terminals. When you cut the rayon wrapping, you'll need to tape it off with electrical tape to keep it from unraveling. 

Hack and old cigar box into a vintage charging station

Finally, we'll put the faceplate over the outlet on the lid of the DIY charging station. If you like the look of the bolts on the lid, you certainly don't have to cover them with the faceplate.

Set the faceplate over the outlet, mark, drill and fasten the mounting screws into place.  

DIY charging station

There you have it! No more fussing about not having an extra charger for your phone or computer or both at the same time! And a DIY charging station makes a great addition to your guest room. 

There you have it! No more fussing about not having an extra charger for your phone or computer or both at the same time!



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Khalid Kader on Jul 26, 2020:

Problem is that it ruins the look of the box. Try opening the box, mounting the gang box on a separate support, then drilling the hole on the side of the box where there is no marking. This way, it still looks like a cigar box and functions well too.

Art Denney on Jul 26, 2020:

Thanks for reposting this! While replacing a "normal" wall outlet with an USB wall outlet is a good idea (as suggested by a previous individual), sometimes the wall outlets are in inconvenient locations. This device will allow guests to recharge their devices without having to search for an outlet. Heading to the cigar store this week to purchase several boxes!

Jonny on Jul 25, 2020:

I'm not sure if I saw this on your site earlier (or somewhere else), but I made one of these for my brother last Christmas. My only suggestion is to add some weight inside the box or else it will be sliding all over. I filled the bottom with vinyl stucco patch I had in the basement and added felt feet. It was a hit!

Chris on Jun 25, 2019:

I know I'm late to this post but just saw it today. I've been reading your site for years. Just wanted to let you know I appreciate all of the hard work and great content you put out there for free. I love that you are offering up great solutions, ideas, recipes, etc with some style and fun mixed in. Thanks!

Chris on Aug 21, 2018:

Thanks, Randy! We're really glad you like it.

Randy on Aug 21, 2018:

That's just a very cool idea for my guest bedroom and man cave. Anyone can have a USB outlet (I have 2 myself) but now, everyone can share my love of cigars without smoking one. Another cigar box project, keep them coming. Great job!

Chris on Aug 17, 2018:

Hi Dean,

This is the last I'll say about this, as I don't want to highjack the original content of this post. If you'd like to continue this conversation, I'd be happy to do so with you over email.

Of course this is a portable, multi-use item for around the house use. It will work in any room, with any outlet.

It sounds like you've had success by installing several USB equipped outlets around your house and purchasing longer charging cords. That's great! Why not offer that idea in your comment? That's helpful to other people. Something like "I found some USB equipped outlets and replaced them in our walls. Coupled with some ten foot charging cords, they've worked great for my family and our guests." We love helpful, constructive feedback like this. My concern is the tendency towards naysaying. The only comments you've left in the history of ManMade are critical. They can all be summed up with "Don't make this thing that ManMade just recommended. Just buy something, like I do." (Remember the sriracha powder?) That's a legit approach to life, but it is not helpful to the point of this website.

What I am not willing to do is give negativity the last word on my website. I'm not calling you a troll, but is that what you want to put out into the world? Is "no" what you want to bring to these conversations? Because that's all you've ever said on ManMade. I am asking and encouraging you to offer something constructive. The whole point of ManMade is to say "yes" rather than no. It's what keeps me doing this after seven years...getting up every day to make content that we give away for free. We believe in making, repairing, and taking real ownership of the things we use everyday. We happen to think that's an essential part of a fulfilling, well-lived life. We'll continue to make content that encourages our readers. I'll hope you'll join the conversation to help others do that the best they can.


Dean on Aug 17, 2018:

Hi Chris,
Thanks for your feedback however, this solution is far from portable as, you are still tethered to a wall. I suggest getting 2 meter charging cables to get to where you need to go. If 2 meter isn't long enough, there are 10 foot charging cables available as well. They are not expensive.
As for portability, we also have several battery chargers as well. A 20,000 mAh block can charge 2-3 phones in no time flat.
I too live in an old house where outlets are in all sorts of places like in the baseboards or in the middle of a wall where modern furniture would be. The longer cables with the integrated wall plugs work great for us and our guests. We have them throughout our house and no-one has to crawl around on the floors to plug something in. We keep cables plugged into the walls.
I didn't mean to "criticize" as much as offer my honest opinion. If Chris or anyone else wants to make one of these, great! Go for it. Have a ball. My apologies if you got your feathers ruffled by my opinion and honest feedback.

Chris on Aug 16, 2018:

Hi Dean - Your question is fair, but your comment isn't germane to the point of this project. If you'd read the post, the idea is to make a portable solution for charging. Most phone cords are only 3', binding you to be next to the exterior of any room. Perhaps that's not a big deal in new constuction, but in my hundred-year-old house, outlet placement isn't really set up for modern needs. Secondly, if you read the intro paragraph, this was built as a solution for guests: out-of-towners who have several gadgets they need to charge for their navigation and research about town, who might not know the best place to do that. I'm sure you've stayed in a hotel with an outlet on the bedside table and thought "man, I'm glad they thought of that and I don't have to go crawling around on the floor." I would love to have one of these under the sofa or a guest bed for on-site charging. And third, we think it looks kinda cool, and is better option than boring extension cord and a surge protector from the discount store. Perhaps you disagree, and that's fine. Maybe you wouldn't use that in your house. But Bryson did, and I certainly would, and so would many of our readers. Please don't just pop in to criticize someone for not doing something the way you would, and call someone's creativity "pointless." That's unkind, and not constructive criticism.

Dean on Aug 16, 2018:

Why not just add the outlet to the wall? You are plugging this into...
wall socket.
This seems over thought and pointless.

Lance on Aug 16, 2018:

Cigar boxes are freaking great. Inexpensive, plentiful/east-to-find, and so many possibilities. I use them for so many types of storage, but I've seen other great ideas, like a hanging key box. I saw a picture where someone connected chains from the box to the lid to keep it open at 90 degrees, then attached the lid to the wall, creating a shelf.

bryson on Aug 07, 2015:

@louis I think that's a great idea if you wanted something as unique as this to be a bit more discreet. Especially if you wanted to set it up on a counter or desk instead of on the floor. Thanks for contributing your ideas! 

Louis on Aug 07, 2015:

While I do applaud the concept, I think it was poorly executed.  This basically looks like a stained block of wood with an outlet.  Hide the outlet inside to be more discrete,  Use a less obvious cable make it look like a classic desktop item not a cheap extension cord. 

Chris on Jul 01, 2015:

Bravo. Very well done. Great materials selection and perfectly executed. Can't wait to make my own.