The average price for a laptop sleeve is about $30. I will show you a quick and easy way to upcycle an old three ring binder into a laptop sleeve.
Step 1: Measure Your Laptop
For this project the most important item you need is the binder. The brand and style of binder you select will largely depend on the dimensions of your laptop. To ensure an optimal fit, you will need to measure the footprint of your laptop. You will need to make sure that the overall width, depth and height of the binder will accommodate your laptop. I took measurements of my laptop and a small measuring tape with me when I went looking for a binder.
Step 2: Selecting a Binder
Now that you have the proper measurements for your laptop, you need to find a binder. I did not have any that fit my laptop, so I had to go hunting for one. Garage sales and thrift stores are great places to find binders. I found 2 binders at a thrift store for $.25 each.
I liked them both for different reasons. The first binder is a nice rugged looking binder with a heavy duty zipper and a nice camouflaged canvas cover. The cover has lots of pockets and pouches on the outside. This is something that I would take on longer outdoor trips. The pockets are handy for all of the peripheral gear that one uses with their laptop (mouse, usb hub, memory stick...).
The second binder is more streamlined. It has a nice heavy zipper, but does not have any exterior pockets. There is a nice interior pouch. This is the sleeve I will use for bumming around town. It is compact and provides a fair amount of protection.
An added bonus of using a binder for a laptop sleeve is obfuscation. Laptops are stolen all of the time. On the other hand, I do not see many notebook thieves out there prospering. I also liked the irony in using a binder to hold a "notebook" computer.
Step 3: Preparing the Binder
During this step you will need to clean the binder if you choose too. Mine had a few papers left in it, and some sticker residue on the cover. I cleaned the papers out, and scrubbed off the sticker goo. The binders were ready to be modified.
Step 4: Modifying the Binder
Now it is time to perform the modifications that will turn your binder into a laptop sleeve. I used a cheap Leatherman knock off because that is what I had on hand to work with. You might find these modifications easier to make with a different tool.
The basic premise is to remove the rings and hardware of the binder from the spine of the binder without removing anything that provides support or protection. The method you choose will largely depend on the type of binder you have, the tools that are available to you and how much work you want to make for yourself.
I removed the metal 3 ring assembly of the camo binder by snapping off the rivets that hold that assembly to the spine. You may have more work on your binder to get it to where you need it so you can fit your laptop inside.
Step 5: Introduce Your Laptop to It's New Sleeve
Now you can put the laptop in the sleeve! If you are upto it you could customize the sleeve more with some lights and perhaps a solar charging panel!