Introduction: How to Steampunk a Firewire HDD

Picture of How to Steampunk a Firewire HDD

This is my first instructable, so please be patient with me... also, since English is a foreign language for me I will not take responsibility for any spelling errors...

I want to show you how to transform a Western Digital "My Book" Firewire/USB hard disk into something that really resembles a book, using just some rather common strong glue, a bit of old leather, a couple of glueing clamps and some gold spraypaint...

Step 1: Take-Apart

Picture of Take-Apart

First, in order to play around with your case without endangering your HDDs, you have to get the case open. I found a couple of plastic clamps holding the thing to the metal case inside when I first took out the screws... I needed some help to get them off without damaging the case...

The LED/button assembly is connected by a convenient plug - I am lazy and forgetful, so I usually just snap a picture of something to remember how it was assembled when putting it back together again. However you do it, just remember to plug it in again after you`re done....

The HDDs will neatly slide out of the case, leaving you with a robust metal case that houses all the essentials and a plastic show-case which is largely superfluous :-) any casemodders dream!

Step 2: Leather

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Cut a strip of leather of appropriate size for the "book cover" . I did this project mainly because I already had a bit of old leather I had removed from an old chair I reupholstered recently... Of course which part of the old leather you choose has a great impact on the look of the book, so I chose a very used piece from the front of the chair, where the leather had been squashed, torn, whetted blank, besmudged etc...

The LED on the Western Digital HDDs is not really well suited for steampunking - maybe if you got a white or red LED edition, you might be more lucky... but fact of the matter is, it really is convenient if you`re backing up 3 servers simultaneously to just have to watch the flashy LEDs to see if the backup is already complete while you`re already juggling 5 ssh-connected other machines upgrading them to lenny on the fly whilst spawning new technological solutions to problems most people outside the hacker community will never have..... I guess you see where I`m going with this.
I did not like it, but I had to integrate the LED/Button on the front into the design... If you are merely annoyed by it, feel free to completely cover it up and ignore the rest of this step.

To mark the center I simply folded the leather in half both ways and marked the crest with a pencil. Then, I found myself a fitting template for the button, drew a circle around it after placing it roughly in the middle and cut out the circle with ordinary scissors...(btw:not really the way to go! If you got a good work surface and a sharp knife I would recommend you use those, instead)

Step 3: Spraypainting

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Now It is time to pack out the good old gold spray, so handy in steampunking anything even remotely resembling plastic... Make sure you thoroughly cover all areas you don`t want painted and give it a couple of layers of paint... In my case, I gave it 3 layers of paint. Only the sticker carrying important product data like serial number etc. was saved from spraypainted oblivion by covering it up - I figured the connectors would be self-explanatory....

Step 4: Glue!

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Now its time to start the glueing action... Start with the spine of the book, making sure the hole for the LED/button is centered. After giving it some time to set (read the instructions of your preferred glue carefully) you may release the clamps and start glueing down the sides. I used a hole punch for the holes in the leather where the case screws go - but I would have used some more appropriate equipment if I had found it in my mothers sewing-room...

Don`t worry if your holes, be they for screws or the center LED are slightly off - you can simply stretch the leather to fit....

Step 5: Re-Assembly

Picture of Re-Assembly

After giving the glue some time to cure, it is time to re-assemble the case. This step should be the easiest but I will remind you, nonetheless, to re-plug the LED/button connector! (I never tried it, but if you covered it up during step 2/4, you may try if the thing works with the connector off... I`d try it while you haven`t fully re-assembled the case, though, as it is such a pain in the arse to take apart)

Add the case screws, and you`re done!


otoupalik (author)2009-07-22

Thats really cool I have a couple of the smaller Mybooks so I will have to try that on the cases.

If you do, please let me know how it went... I have one of the smaller Mybooks waiting for a mod, but I`m not quite sure of what kind of leather I should put on it...

petrino (author)2009-07-20

please... my connectors wont explain anything to me... would you mind explaining it for me? :D

petrino (author)2009-07-20

but...but...but you lose THE WARRANTY! :O

cirano (author)2009-05-27

This seems to be an active cooled unit. I'm not sure if this would be a good case mod on most passively cooled HDD enclosures. I'm sure the leather will take longer to dissipate heat generated by the HDDs. (i realize there are exhaust holes on the side panels and that is where the air is supposed to flow) However, if you don't keep your HDD on (and in use) for a long time. You may still be able to get away with it. Otherwise, good ible.

Spaceman-Spliff (author)cirano2009-06-01

Thanks... I haven`t encountered any problems so far, but it`s true I never thouroughly tested it for long-term use. I hope It`ll hold... but then again, if I hadn`t already bought a new disk for the next backup, I `d never have tried this mod :-) I just hope you guys don`t go modding stuff you still desperatly need or can`t afford to replace - any of these operations could go terribly wrong...

SinAmos (author)2009-04-02

Where is the steampunk? I like the leather, but leather alone doesn't operate on steam.:)

tchiseen (author)SinAmos2009-04-02

This is 'steampunk' enough imo, It's got the plastic painted to look like brass, and the leather is really really great. I'd love to find a piece of leather like that.

SinAmos (author)tchiseen2009-04-02

What is steampunk? Go watch the city of Lost Children to get a better idea or watch Steamboy. The idea is to have mechanization via steam and though leather is the garb of many goggle wearing characters, it in itself is not steampunk. That is all. People call things steampunk because it draws eyes, but that is not steampunk. It does not have one gear or vile or pipe.

8bit (author)SinAmos2009-04-02

Steampunk is an ill-defined but aestheticly distinct genre of design originally centered around certain media such as you have named, but has since evolved it's own complex habits apart from it's roots.

SinAmos (author)8bit2009-04-02

Actually, you are mistaken for it has only been perverted by those that don't understand it, complexity lost on anyone that doesn't understand "the roots." Steampunk is STEAM and PUNK. Check out the roots. Steam, what has to do with steam powered engineering. Punk, which is derives from the anti-establishment movement. You combine those two to create a STEAM technology society that BUCKS society, which has gas combustion and electrical power RULING. The idea is that the STEAM replaces these two in a rebellious fashion. Please don't distort what steampunk is, which is something internet trolls often try to do. I've noticed a lot of trolls trying to pervert steampunk in order to label their work, but I won't let it stand.

eleraama (author)SinAmos2009-04-02

Steampunk is an offshoot of cyberpunk and retains the "punk" to keep associations with it. It's a movement that has less to do with steam power as a medium and more to do with the Belle Époque science fantasies of Jules Verne. It was first and foremost a literary genre, not a physical movement.

SinAmos (author)eleraama2009-04-02

Jules Verne was all steam powered technology and cyberpunk was way after The Wild Wild West. To think that anything CYBER came before STEAM is completely delusional. CYBERPUNK wasn't invented.

Spaceman-Spliff (author)SinAmos2009-04-02

I`d go with the definition of the honorary Jake von Slatt here : "Steampunk is Goth, Punk, Geek, and Maker Culture whipped into a delicious melange with a healthy seasoning of political and environmental activism. It's the intersection of science and romance, it's sustainable rebellion."

8bit (author)Spaceman-Spliff2009-04-04

How is that rebellion?

Spaceman-Spliff (author)8bit2009-04-08

I`d much rather ask "How is that environmental activism?" - but that is one of the benefits of those long-strung definitions - you almost have to just pick out the meaning you like and ignore the others :-) I would say it represents a rebellion against the usual computer/tech design... But to be honest, I figured it would be a convenient way to end the discussion about what is or isn`t steampunk ... by quoting the "Pope" of steampunk casemodders, Herr von Slatt himself.... that part obviously didn`t work out.... ;-)

8bit (author)Spaceman-Spliff2009-04-10

Sometimes a social movement goes beyond its founders intentions. Its pretty clear how its environmentally friendly. If you wanted to persue it, I guess I could ask why its activism, but that might be a short and boring argument.

8bit (author)8bit2009-04-10

Now that I think of it, I could make a very good point that it is NOT environmentally friendly.

Spaceman-Spliff (author)8bit2009-04-11

my point exactly ;-) I think we can agree that art and clear definitions don`t go along too well...

SinAmos (author)8bit2009-04-05

Again, read the posts in order to gain understanding. Gasoline beat out electric vehicles early on. Steam power lost to diesel and electricity. If you rebel against the standards, you are in a state of rebellion.

8bit (author)SinAmos2009-04-06

So by choosing the weaker of two options, I am rebelling? That is stretching the definition of the word quite a lot. To the point that a different, less political word would be more accurate. As an idealology, punk is at its heart, vitality. By choosing the weaker of two options, you essentially forfeit any claims to punk.

SinAmos (author)8bit2009-04-06

Electric was superior to gasoline, but it lost out. Gasoline was dirty and dirt cheap. The best rarely wins out, as in the case of BetaMax. Anyway, punk isn't even real. How about that? All states of unrest are as normal as conformity. Everyone is just fooling themselves into thinking they are one way or the other.

8bit (author)SinAmos2009-04-06

So your argument is that the words you use have no meaning?

SinAmos (author)8bit2009-04-06

The point is that I win and you win and everyone wins, but in that winning, we all lose.;)

8bit (author)SinAmos2009-04-10

You know, that kind of politically correct everyone wins philosophy that is becoming popular is bad for society.

SinAmos (author)Spaceman-Spliff2009-04-02

I'll take this. Thumbs up!

8bit (author)SinAmos2009-04-04

That makes no sense. I am not trying to argue from logic the proper definition of a word because that is not how words work in society. I am arguing by observation because society will change the meanings of words to be usefull to them. The mere combination of the literal meanings of steam and punk is useless and absurd. It is an evocative description of a modern aesthetic movement, not a litteral statement of fact.

SinAmos (author)8bit2009-04-04

Without lines or classifications, all we our are beasts with neurotic impulses driven by neuronics neuroting in pits of fuzzy-logic and derelictions. Everything can be manipulated and perceived to fit one's agenda, but the problem with that stance is that nothing is sacred and ignorance prevails. Aesthetics have nothing to do with it. You need to dig deeper, tadpole.

8bit (author)SinAmos2009-04-06

Very artistic, yet meaningless.

me (author)2009-04-04

this is one of the best 'case' mods I've seen, you should do an entire computer :-) that would really Rock!!, keep up the great work

Spaceman-Spliff (author)me2009-04-08

I did do a computer casemod for my mom... you can see it on my deviantArt account (

I didn`t do an instructable because I forgot to take pics of the build... and because what I did does not really need one - I just covered it in glued-down, stained wood and replaced the plastic panel up front by a wooden one...

me (author)Spaceman-Spliff2009-04-08

although you just stuck some wood on it, it came out really nice, I like the other projects on your deviantArt page as well

Spaceman-Spliff (author)me2009-04-08

thanks a lot :-)

Maureclaire (author)2009-04-06

Is that gold metallic paint or just the color, gold ?

I believe the color is called Antique Gold - it`s just some lacquer I picked up at the mall

Oh, ok, looks awesome !

Bigev (author)2009-04-02

Congratulations on the instructable! From reading, I could not tell that English was not your first language. Frankly, your type is better than many people's who should know better The idea is solid, and looks sharp to boot. I don't think it is exactly steampunk though, more of a bookcase information hidey-hole. I feel steampung involves gadgetey looking bits stuck to it in a functional looking configuration, usually involfing steam. But what do I know? I like it nonetheless

valhallas_end (author)Bigev2009-04-03

Most steampunk does include gadgets, widgets, and what-have-you's to look like an archaic, Industrial Revolution-style attempt at modern technology. BUT, like all other cultures (with such a large following, it really should be classed as a culture by now), it also includes background settings and items - for example, can you imagine the stereotypical 1800's inventor without a massive leather-bound-book library? So while a mod like this doesn't fit the technology-based idea of steampunk, it can fit into the background as a nice addition.

Bigev (author)valhallas_end2009-04-03

Like a scenery type of doodad.

valhallas_end (author)Bigev2009-04-03

Exactly - if you want to steampunk your room or a set, you have to go all the way! Plus, many of these HDD's have cool light designs on the front that add interest to the book binding, so they look cool when placed among real leather books.

Bigev (author)valhallas_end2009-04-03

What someone needs to do is make a steampunk room. Install a large overhead steam duct, offshoot to various nefarious gadgets and what-have-you's, do it all up in a nice mahogany or oak with plenty o' leather, alchemy set in the corner, time machine under glass in the middle on a pedestal, rich red Oriental rug, huge wooden desk along one wall with a large 19th century red leather chair, a box of (insert cigar name here) on the desk, and you're golden! Not that i've ever thought of something like this or anything...

valhallas_end (author)Bigev2009-04-03

Ahh and you can't forget the ever-present incredibly over-designed clock, with thousands of exposed gears and cool scrollwork that never manages to tell the time...I've always wanted to build one, and it would be so cool to actually run it off of steam power - some sort of turbine in the ductwork might do it. This room has potential written all over it!

Yerboogieman (author)2009-04-03

That external is huge!

valhallas_end (author)2009-04-02

I like it - nice, clean and simple, and definitely makes the WD's I'm seriously considering this with mine. It would be nice to put it up and away in my bookshelf.

thanks a bunch! I guess a remake would be the highest honor for anyone writing an instructable...

gmjhowe (author)2009-04-02

Thats great, thats a loverly piece of leather you have there, Im always trying to find leather like that. I final addition i would have made, because i love the paint effect, is a slight bit of dry brushing on the gold painted sections, to give it a slightly worn look.

Spaceman-Spliff (author)gmjhowe2009-04-02

I`ll have to try that... thanx for the tip

gmjhowe (author)Spaceman-Spliff2009-04-02

Your welcome. PS, welcome to the instructables steampunk scene!

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