Dec 5, 2016

DieselPunk Cellphone - Walnut Case, Powered by Adafruit Feather Fona: Overview

Wait, what? DieselPunk. What's that?

You know what Steampunk is, right? Roll forward to the era from the 1930's until the end of World War II.  It got its start in Science Fiction and crossed over to other media: Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Crimson Skies. It can be a retro-future mash-up of Art Deco, Industrial Design and Military aesthetics, among other influences. 

An example of dieselpunk art. Created by artist Stefan Prohaczka. Used under Creative Commns License.

So, here's my take on what a  cellphone might look like if Motorola made one in 1940. 

As Seen on Adafruit Show & Tell 12/07/2016

Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear...that never were.  It's a telephone...without wires. It has push buttons instead of a rotary dial! It has a tiny little screen like that television contraption.  You can place a call from anywhere, even an automobile! Fits in a businessman's valise or a lady's pocketbook... We're living in the future.

Build Level: 
Difficult! There's a lot going on here... This is fitting a lot of components in a small space. Alignment of parts is also an issue.

Required Skills:

  • CNC Milling - the wooden case is milled from 1/2 inch walnut
    • VCarve files supplied on github
  • Laser Cutting/Etching: Cutting for speaker and microphone acrylic bezels; etching for case and bezels; files supplied
  • Soldering/Mounting circuit boards
  • Desoldering header pins
  • Craft Skills: cutting, glueing
  • Coding: be able to upload an Arduino sketch, supplied

Adafruit Parts:

Tools & Supplies:
  • Access to CNC milling machine
    • 1/8inch down-spiral dual flute mill
  • Breadboard for testing
  • Micro SIM Card! Adafruit sells the TING
    • I used one from T-Mobile, special plan: $10 USD for the card, $3/month for 30 minutes text/talk; don't know if T-Mobile still offers this
    • The T-Mobile Pay-as-you-go plan doesn't offer Caller-ID! That also means you can't ID SMS senders
  • Various 22AWG and 26AWG, solid
  • Multi-meter for checking connection continuity
  • Solder/Soldering Iron
  • Solder Sucker, desoldering tool
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Diagonal Cutters
  • Rotary Tool 
  • Helping Hands and/or Panavise
  • fine-tipped tweezers
  • Vinyl electrical tape - any kind
  • Vintage Speaker Cover material
  • TAP Plastics Transparent Yellow and Green 8in x 8in
  • TAP Plastics Light Panel - Smooth Matte cut to size, available in-store only, for light diffusion
    • Or, whatever you can improvise - card stock might work
  • Hobby Knife/Xacto
  • Loctite Gel Super Glue
  • Loctite Fun-Tak (mounting putty) or similar
  • Hot Glue and Glue Gun
  • DevCon Epoxy or similar - for metal inserts
  • 4/40 Brass Inserts 0.375in (4 needed) long: Amazon
  • 4/40 Screws (4 needed) 0.75in 
  • Bead Landing Found Objects Antique Silver and Brass Bezels 
    • (for Motorola badge on back of case - optional)
  • 1/2in x 24in x 5 in (1-2) from Rockler's Woodworking


  1. I love it. Built one, 3-D printed a case. I do have a problem: the ringtone was too quiet and the call itself too loud, and in trying to fix that, I lost all ringtone volume [using Adafruit 'Test' sketch]. I was wondering if you encountered this, and had any solutions to try. I have spent mucho time on this from the other end, with no progress.

    1. I did find a solution: add these two lines after 'fona.setaudio(FONA_EXTUDIO);' in Setup():
      fona.println(F("AT+CRSL=50")); // Set ring volume to 50% for example
      fona.println(F("AT+CLVL=50")); // Set talk volume to 50% for example

    2. So, I designed a 3-D printed case and dig my 'new' phone. Thanks for the guide :-) New builders should note that that they need to power the two proto-board rails before soldering on the FONA (red wire on left in 2nd picture under 'Soldering for the perma proto'). It helps to not solder a header to the '3V' pin of the FONA, which is why the illustration in the 'Breadboard' diagram shows the wire going to the top.

    3. Thanks for the clarification on soldering - good points. I always miss something. Sigh. Me be gud Maker some dai!

    4. If you'd like to publish your 3D case on thingiverse, github or other web site, leave a link here and I'll publish the link.

  2. It’s approaching two years since I worked on the code base, but you can try the following. You’ll need to use the Adafruit Fona Test Sketch to issue AT Commands.

    DieselPunk Cellphone Ringer Volume
    Download SIM800 Command Manual:

    Look for:
    AT+CRSL Ringer Sound Level