Create your own USB 'Mixtape' flash drive, complete with custom J-card insert :)
Step 1: Purchase the USB Casing With Flash Drive
The first step to this project is to purchase the plastic casing that our flash drive will reside in. There are guides on the internet to making these cassette tape drives out of old, genuine cassettes, but I preferred the cleaner look of a plain plastic casing. I purchased this item from eBay for about 4 dollars (you can search 'cassette flash drive' or something similar). The item ships from China, and it took me 2-3 weeks to receive it in the United States. My item included a 4GB flash drive, but I intended to replace this with a better quality drive.
Step 2: Remove the Flash Drive (optional)
I received my item with an inoperable flash drive (I expected as much from a $4 drive shipped free from China), but my primary reason for purchasing this was for the case.
Unscrew the five screws on the plastic casing (I think I used a standard 2mm screwdriver). This will allow you to separate the two face pieces and remove the swivel piece that contains the hard drive. Use a durable, thin item to wedge in between the two pieces of plastic that hold the drive inside (it was really simple for me to open this using only my fingernails). Carefully pry the drive from the plastic, and discard it.
I had a spare 512MB Lexar drive hanging around (the capacity is big enough for my purposes), and used this as my replacement. The housing on this was not extremely difficult to separate either, though it took a little more careful prying than our cheap Chinese counterpart. I was able to work my screwdriver between the pieces and pry them apart. Carefully separate the drive from the plastic.
Step 3: Fasten the Replacement Drive to the 'swivel Piece' (optional)
Use a small amount of adhesive to securely place the flash drive in its new case. I used hot glue for this purpose. Make sure that you place the glue on the BOTTOM of the flash drive (the top side of the drive will show a small black square component, the bottom side will have a flatter, larger black component that you should apply the glue to attach the drive to the plastic) (see image for reference, APPLY THE GLUE TO THE LARGE BLACK COMPONENT). After making sure everything is secure, you can snap on the other plastic piece to encase the drive. Place the drive back into its place within the two face pieces, and screw the casing back together.
Step 4: Acquire an Old Cassette Tape Case
You may have an old cassette tape case lying around the house that you can use for this project. I purchased an old tape from my local thrift store for a quarter (making sure to choose one with a case that had minimal scratches and physical wear). It is also useful to find one that still has its J-card insert; I used this as a physical template to trim my custom J-card to size (this is explained in later steps).
Step 5: Download a J-card Template
We will be designing our own custom insert for the tape case. I downloaded a Photoshop-compatible template for a 3-panel J-card from this website: http://nationalaudiocompany.com/J-Card-Design-Templates.aspx. This site has some resources for other sizes and styles of card inserts as well. I think that the 3-panel J-card is probably the simplest, and it was the same style of card found in my donor case. This made it easier for me to compare against the card I already had, so that I knew where to score my custom card to fold it along the case properly. You can choose whichever style suits your needs.
Step 6: Design Your Custom J-card Insert!
This is the best part of the project, and you can really show off your creativity during this step!
Open up the template you downloaded in the previous step in Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, or a program with similar capabilities. It will look something like the first image (I'm using Adobe Photoshop CS4).
For the cover artwork, you will want to find and resize a photo to align with the top, bottom, and right green guidelines, and with the left border on the large red box (see second photo if this is unclear). The green bleed area just gives you a little extra leeway to make sure it is not slightly too small when you go to place the insert, giving you a white border. We will trim these parts in a later step.
To add an image, go to File > Open, and choose your image location. It will open in a new tab in the program. Click Select > All (Ctrl+ A) to select the image, then Edit > Copy (Ctrl+ C) to copy it to your clipboard. Then, click back to your template tab, and click Edit > Paste (Ctrl+ V). This will create a new layer, containing only your image. It is a good idea to create a new layer any time you add a new image or new text, so that you can make changes to any individual piece if you decide it is necessary. You can do this manually by selecting Layer > New > Layer.
If your image pastes behind the guidelines, and you'd like to have it show on top of these, you can go to the layers window on the right-hand side of your screen, select your image's layer, and drag it above the template layers. This tells Photoshop to display your image on top of subsequent layers. With your image layer selected, click on the Move Tool, and grab a corner to resize your image to align with the specified guidelines. I used this image. It did not meet the dimensions I needed, so I created a new layer, extended the stones in the picture downward with the Clone Stamp Tool, and added a blurred effect so that I could lay text on top of it (these are more advanced functions if you are not familiar with Photoshop). I used the website www.flamingtext.com to design the text on the front artwork. You can open these images into your template the same way we imported the original image, and modify them with the Move Tool. It took some measuring and trimming before I had an image that fit within the area for the cover artwork (I switch between Paint and Photoshop to perform these functions).
You will want to place some text for a 'band name' and 'album' on the spine (the middle box) and 'songs' on the larger, left-most box. You will have to use the Type Tool to type your text, and then press the check mark in the bar above to confirm it. Then, click on your Move Tool, click on the text, and set the angle (the box that displays a triangle icon to the left) to 90 degrees. This tilts the text to read properly (longways) on the finished card. With the Type Tool and Transform Tool, you can begin to fill out the spine and smaller side of the insert. I also used the Line Tool to create a line separating the 'band name' and 'album' on the spine.
The third image shows my finished product.
Step 7: Print Your J-card Insert
Now you will want to print out your insert. As you may have noticed on my previous picture, the template does not show on the final product. You will want to go to the layers window on the right-hand side of your screen, and click on the eye icons on the left of the template layers, FRONT TEMPLATE, BLEED MASK, and White Background. This allows you to see your finished design properly, and it also will tell Photoshop not to print these layers. Go to File > Print. You should not have to modify any settings. Make sure you do not scale the image to your media, as it will print too large. You can print your image on thicker card stock, as I chose to, or you could print your image and adhere it to the original J-card from your donor case. For printing on card stock, you may have to go into your printer's Properties tab and change the paper type, so that the printer knows how to print your image properly. Before I printed on card stock, I ran a test image on regular printer paper to check my dimensions.
Step 8: Cut and Score Your Insert
I used a guillotine paper trimmer and scoring tool to size and fold my insert, however, it is not necessary (though it makes for cleaner results).
I aligned my old J-card on top of the one I printed, making sure to align the left-hand side of the image with the beginning of the J-card's artwork (remember we will have a little bit of excess image on the top, right and bottom to remove). I taped the J-card in place to my card stock, so that it would not move as I made cuts. From here, you can use scissors to size your card, but I used the guillotine trimmer so that I could be sure my edges came out perfectly straight and clean.
I then used a straight edge and my scoring tool to trace over the old J-card's folds, making indentations in my new card and giving it a more precise fold. You may want to repeat this a couple of times. Remove the tape and the old J-card.
Step 9: Assemble Your New USB Mixtape!
Now, just insert your J-card and cassette flash drive. Congratulations, you've just made an awesome custom USB 'mixtape' (and for only about $5)! :)
If you have any questions or need clarification on anything, please don't hesitate to contact me! I'm pretty satisfied with the way that this turned out, so I plan on ordering another case, doing another and taking more detailed pictures of the process the second time around!