How to Steampunk a Firewire HDD





Introduction: 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

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

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

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!

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

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!



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

    1 reply

    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...

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

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

    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.

    1 reply

    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...

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

    13 replies

    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.

    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.


    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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."


    How is that rebellion?

    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.... ;-)


    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.


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

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

    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.