It’s no secret that I make more accessories than I buy, and while that generally saves a lot of money, it does put the actual device in harm’s way more often than not. Even keeping a phone close to hot soldering irons and glue guns has potential for disaster, and there are certain things you simply can’t do with a real device, like dipping the entire thing in olive oil and pouring on Sugru, hot glue, epoxy, or something like that in order to make a mold the fits the device perfectly.

Luckily, there’s a fairly simply solution to this, one that I’ve known about for ages but haven’t actually gotten around to until now: Buy a dummy phone. Dummy phones are nonfunctional copies of a device, most commonly used in smaller electronics stores where the cost of a functional device for demo use is simply too high. They’re identical on the outside, but don’t have any internals. The best part? They’re commonly available on eBay for normally less than $10 shipping anywhere.

The dummy Galaxy S II phone I got cost me $5.59 shipped here to Norway. It wouldn’t fool anyone with its low resolution, misaligned printed screenshot, nor its raised home button and flimsy plastic screen, but it’s actually identical to the original when it comes to dimensions. I know that because I put it in one of the $1.30 cases I use for a lot of DIY projects and tests (as well as for everyday use), and it both fits and has the ports in the right place.

I use the $1.30 case on my phone all the time, which is why I make accessories that work with that case – and even rely on it. With this dummy phone in one of those cases, I have a $6.99 complete phone + case dummy that I can beat around however I want when testing out things, without risking a real Galaxy S II hot glued to my table.