First off I'd like to note that there are tons of really nice nook & nook color cases out there for cheaper than the material costs for this project. They're designed by professionals and made by companies who do lots of testing because they don't like being sued when customers return broken electronics. If you're looking for something to protect your android tablet, buy one of these. If you're interested in learning some new fabrication techniques, making something beautiful / unique, and enjoy having fun in the shop please read on :)
I've had serious gadget envy for the nook color ever since it was announced and as tinkerers, hackers, and developers work on it it just keeps getting better & better. Check out the nook devs wiki here: http://nookdevs.com/Main_Page
The inspiration for this case comes from the iPad case made by DODO ( www.dodocase.com/products/dodocase-for-ipad ) which is absolutely stunning. When I looked at the standard Moleskine sizes though, it was apparent that I wouldn't be able to use the same bamboo wood type frame and decided to use aluminum instead because I needed something very thing, strong, easy to shape, and I had it laying around my shop.
Step 1: Materials & tools
- 5x8.25" Molskine sketchbook ( red or black ) - $18 barnes & noble
- 6x18" sheet of aluminum ( 1/32" ? ) - $8 home depot
- 8.5x11" red craft felt - $0.30 michaels craft store
- 5 minute epoxy - $15 michaels craft store
- Bondo body filler - $11 home depot
- Adhesive backed felt ( green 1/64" ) - $23 mcmaster
- white primer spray paint - $3 home depot
- fiberglass - $7 home depot
- Super 77 - $5 home depot
- metal shears
- xacto knife
- metal file
- needle files
- drill & bits
- pliars / vice-grips
- dremel with sanding drums & cut-off wheels
Step 2: Moleskine dissection
The nook is just barely smaller than the 5x8.25" sketchbook so I had to tear out the entire blank page 'folio' along with the pages glued to the front and rear covers. You can still use this bound bunch of pages as a notebook, so it's not really that wasteful. Take care not to tear the 'leather' when you're picking off the paper - it tears pretty easily.
With the cover removed you can stick the nook color inside to see how it fits. I took measurements off the sketchbook pages to make my template and printed out multiple different versions to check the fit before I cut any aluminum. The file is available as a PDF download below. The pattern is larger than an 11x17" sheet, but the parts that are cut off are easy to extrapolate.
Step 3: Sheet metal forming
I used shears to cut most of the aluminum but needed to dremel the curved areas of the bezel. Neaten up the edges as best you can and then start folding. I'm not entirely sure where you should start, I ran into problems fitting folded parts into my vice, but the size of the parts will probably make that an issue no matter how you attack it. It's easiest to clamp the smaller edge down in a vice and then bend the large part. I also hammered down the corners to make them a bit more crisp, but you need to be careful not to over-flex the metal. In aluminum, the more you bend, the more brittle the metal becomes as it fatigues. This really becomes an issue in the corners where it's just a small band of metal which gently curves to connect the larger ares. It takes a lot of finicky bending & twisting, test fitting, and bending again to get everything square, but the pattern should fold up nicely around the nook.
To secure the metal assembly I used epoxy & fiberglass simply because I had that available in my shop. Aluminum is notoriously hard to weld and you need special equipment anyway. Soldering might have worked, but I've never tried that before and the large areas of aluminum might just wick away all the heat, or screw up the temper. Epoxy worked well and if you don't have fiberglass to reenforce that joint, just gluing the metal into the back cover may be enough to keep everything together. Just remember to be careful when you're putting on bondo & paint with those loose bendy areas.
I spent a considerable amount of time working on the surface finish before gluing the metal case into the back cover. Epoxy, then bondo, sanding, painting, more bondo, sanding, and then final paint. Remember to mark and drill out holes for the ports & buttons you want to have access to before spraying the final coat of paint. I used a 1/4" drill bit for the headphone jack but needed to drill & file out the holes for volume control & the USB jack.
Step 4: Felting & assembly
Once you have a finished metal frame it's time to add felt to the areas where it may rub against the nook. I used 1/64" adhesive backed green felt because I had it in my shop. While I would have rather used all red felt for this project I do recommend using adhesive backed felt because the parts here are too small to spread or spray glue on. It was also fortunate that I had extremely thin felt in some places since the case is such a tight fit.
You want to have a strip along the inner rim of the case with holes for all the ports / buttons and 3 very thin strips to go under the bezel. You'll always want to be careful when you insert the nook into the case, but these strips give it a little scratch-proofing.To attach the aluminum case to the back cover of the Moleskine I just used epoxy and spring clamps / weights, just make sure you're careful positioning the case and to look out for any extra epoxy squeezing out.
The last piece of the case is the main red felt lining. Just cut it to size and double check the fit before you spray glue and everything becomes permanent. Super 77 is a good adhesive but make sure you use it with plenty of ventilation & leave the finished product to outgas somewhere you won't be breathing the nasty fumes for a few hours. I was having trouble making things fit smoothly so I really pressed the felt down as hard as I could and even tried ironing it once the glue was dry.
Step 5: Final thoughts
Although I'm very happy with how the case came out, I do have a few problems with it. First off, there's a little gap between the edge of the aluminum & the spine of the book. This was due to the fact that my aluminum sheet was only 18" long and the perimeter of the sketchbooks pages is more like 18.5". It wouldn't be that much of a problem, but I would have liked to have a little more stiffness in that area and the power switch is along the spine. The flex in this area means you can press the button through the case which is bad because it means it can be turned 'on' for a few seconds if bumped or jostled in a bag. I suppose if I tore off the felt & ran a strip of metal down the spine that would keep that button from being pressed, but it's not really worth the trouble at this point.
My second gripe is that the volume buttons are pretty deep within the case. You almost need a little stylus to reach them. I suppose I could eventually carve some moving button covers that are part of the case, but it might be hard to get that to work well without always hitting the buttons by accident.
The last issue is something that may work itself out as things stretch & settle but right now the cover doesn't close nicely. Basically the red felt added too much thickness and the whole thing bulges like an overstuffed suitcase. I cut the perimeter of the felt on the front cover in enough that the white aluminum part hits the black leather of the cover, but that felt in the center is still pressing against the front of the nook. Hopefully the felt will wear down & deflate over time because without the nook in the case it closes perfectly.