If you're like me, you occasionally get attached to some sort of electronic device. In my case, it was my Mac LCII, which finally died after only 12 years of trusty service. Honestly, I used it until the end - the printer kept working and it was super for word processing. When the hard drive finally whirred to a halt and the time came to put in the dumpster I just couldn't - it was the first computer I'd ever had and it felt wrong to throw it away when I could probably re-use some of it. So I brought it back into the house and took it apart. Then put the pieces in a box for a couple years.

After moving the box for the millionth time it instantly became clear to me that it NEEDED to be art. If your tastes are similar to mine you'll hang random electronics on your walls as well.

Heavy collage style art like this needs a heavy medium to hold it, so I used encaustic. Encaustic is a wax based paint that is one of the oldest paints around. For your reading pleasure:


I've documented all of the steps I took to go from box of parts to wall art. Make any changes you want, because as with any art it's all about what looks best to you.

Step 1: Supplies and Equipment

This list looks long, but you probably have a lot of it around the house already.

You'll need:

- encaustic medium/paint
You can either make some or purchase some. I make my own, but my materials come from Daniel Smith and you can buy medium/paint from them as well. I mostly use clear medium, but you can use any color(s) of paint you want. You'll probably want some clear medium either way. http://www.danielsmith.com/subcat~cat~100210301401.asp
- electronics parts (or other collageable parts) In my opinion you should take apart your electronics down to the pretty basic components. Be smart - there's probably sharp parts, possible electrocution risk (if I have to tell you to unplug it before taking it apart you should probably stop now), and any number of other dangerous elements to this. You've probably already done more dangerous stuff, but don't say I didn't warn you.
- a board
Mine is a chunk of plywood that I got from a local cabinet maker. They (apparently) make mistakes all the time and have an outlet to sell off their random pieces. I paid 50 cents for this piece. It is important that the material you work on is very rigid and porous - if it flexes the wax can pop off of it, especially if it's very cold.
- an assortment of brushes
Natural fibers are best because you'll be working with hot wax and synthetic brushes can melt. I like Japanese watercolor brushes because they hold a lot of wax and are cheap (which is nice because encaustic tends to shorten the life of brushes.) Two inches is the widest brush I ever use.
- an electric skillet
You basically need some sort of heat source to warm the wax. Candle warmers/coffee warmers can work, I prefer the skillet because I can adjust the temperature. Be sure to keep the cord protected and accessible - you don't want anyone tripping over it and spilling the wax, and in the unlikely event of a fire you'll want to unplug your heating element.
- a heat gun
The less air it blows around the better. You'll use this to fuse your layers of wax together and give the whole thing a nice smooth finish.
- small metal containers
For melting the wax in. Muffin tins, individual pie pans and condiment cups are just a few of the things that will work. You can also cut down soda cans, but be careful about sharp edges.
- wood lath
I picked this up in the moldings and rails department at the home improvement store.
- small nails
For framing it.
- hammer (and pliers)
For framing it.
- obvious art making things
Newspaper or tablecloth to protect your table, paper towels for cleanup, masking tape, surface you can cut on, water, that sort of thing.

I included a few optional steps at the beginning, and these require:
- canvas
Any cotton canvas will do - you can get it at art stores and fabric stores. DO NOT get pre-gessoed canvas for this project. Cut it 2 inches longer than the board (so there's a 1 inch or so margin on each side. This is not an exact science, just make sure it's bigger.)
- gesso
White acrylic gesso. Basic art store stuff, but avoid the student grade - the artist grade is a lot better and usually minimally more expensive.
- pigment
Dry pigment is a must to tint encaustic medium (though oil paint will also do the job.) If you choose to color you canvas as I did you'll need either dry pigments plus water or water based pigments. http://www.danielsmith.com/subcat~cat~800201301.asp
- rotary cutter or knife
To trim the canvas after applying it to your board.


It's always a good idea to use safety glasses. You'll want oven mitts for sure, but I prefer the 'ove glove' for it's increased mobility. Breathing protection is important when using powdered pigments, and encaustic can create unpleasant fumes so you'll want some ventilation. It's possible to overheat the wax and cause a fire. You'll need to smother a fire like this rather than using water - it's like a grease fire. Anything that touches encaustic or pigments should never, ever touch food again.
Some of these old boards glow really nicely under black light. The colours are not always quite what you expect either.
Looks like something I would do. Very nice.
This is cool. I was wondering what to do with the leftovers of a hack that I have been working on. I feel badly about throwing stuff away.
I like this. There's beauty in the complexities of circuits. There's also sadness and pain in the potential of its component molecules.
Here's what I did with my old LC (18 year old LC):<br/><a href="http://www.instructables.com/id/Extreme-Makeover-Macintosh-LC-Edition/">http://www.instructables.com/id/Extreme-Makeover-Macintosh-LC-Edition/</a><br/>
I guess art truly is in the eye of the beholder. Then again I have yet to see a PCB that inspired me. I was however prepared to purchase both an early Chrysler Hemi and a flat head V12 at an auction for purely display purposes outside my garage. For that reason I understand varying tastes. Unfortunately it was the sort of auction that attracted deeper pockets than mine, the only thing I went home with was a sunburned scalp.
My brother did something like this, but he made a working computer on the wall. it was kind of cool to see (and use)
That would be cool - it reminds me of some of the great science center exhibits I've seen over the years. There would be SO much room for an art/tech overlap doing that...
Awesome idea But you might want to be careful about what you have hanging around because most old circuit boards use lead solder, which isn't exactly good for you're health.
Thanks! As far as lead goes, I'm not really planning on licking it, and considering the amount of lead paint that's still around (school bus yellow still has lead in it, at least as of a few years ago) I'm not too worried about living with it. As an artist I do think about keeping my health protected, but I worry a lot more about the solvents and resins I use. It is a good thing to keep in mind, though, especially if you were making something that encouraged touching more (like some sort of sculpture).
I have a neighbor who is a painter, and uses that fused wax technique...he has a giant ball of wax in his studio about a foot and a half across--he says it was baseball sized when he moved there... Utterly random ramblings aside, nice Instructable! The trash-rescued Apple Performa 630CD sitting beside me on my desk still works fine, which is amazing, considering that it's spent the last 10 years or so in a fifth grade classroom (my mom's), and who knows where before that.
Those old Apples were built like tanks - I think they were really aware of how much they were used in classrooms. I think it's kind of nice to stay aware of technology past in a world where there's so much emphasis on 'the next big thing'. And I can't imagine how creepy a giant ball of wax like that could get... <sup>_</sup><br/>
i have my wall of nerdiness.... a wall with like 20 oldschool motherboards hung with ...picture-hanging-nails.... it works for me, though i like the abstract artsy look you have with the background on them.... nice work
I was tempted to do what you did and just nail some parts to the wall but I'm glad I did this instead. I'm really working on doing a bunch of them in different sizes to put together on a wall together. The wall it's intended for is a blue/green color (similar to the background on this one) and very, very tall. I thought it could be a nice, updated version of the 'Victorian picture wall' idea. And thanks for the compliment ;-)
I like it. I remember I have somewhere the Chipset of my first Linux Server, "Vectra Sama" and thought about enbedding it in a ceramic sculpture. Would be nice :)
That would be tricky - it wouldn't (probably) hold up to firing, and clay shrinks about 10 to 15 percent when it's fired so you'd have to make a place for it, then expand that space by 15 percent, then attach it after firing. Or just use polymer clay, because it would likely hold up to 275 degrees. It would probably look awesome if you could pull it off, though ;-)
It does indeed, but actually my idea was to fire up the clay to have the clay kilned right ( reduced and all) and only after that put the glazes on it and do a Raku jamming the chip in a prepared space on the sculpture. I have two major comcerns, one I do not know if the feet would hold the temperature and not melt, two if the chip can hold 900 degree C. Hummm
That looks sweet! I've got lots of old electronics lying around, I might try it.
Thanks for the compliment and good luck on trying it!

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