Picture of Pimp Your USB Drive
You like to store data. Sure you do. But when you take it out on the street, people are laughing at you! Yeah, I know, they just don't get you, right? Well, maybe you need to help them. Give yourself a little street cred by building a sandbenders-inspired case for your USB drive.
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Step 1: Gather Materials

Picture of Gather Materials
Basic list:

-USB drive
-carving tools + saw
-Casting house

This can be tricky. You're going to need a block of wax to carve (actually some woods will work too, as long as they burn away cleanly and don't leave too much ash residue.) Wax by Kerr or Ferris is designed for carving and clean burnouts, it's what i'm using here. There are different hardnesses, in this project I'll be using green wax, which is both hard and brittle, but takes detail well and allows for very thin walls.

You will need a USB drive. You probably won't ruin it during this project, but you could, and it will probably void your warranty. Feel free to try it with an old 32mb drive or something first if you're unsure. I'm going ahead with my 1G drive because what can I say, I'm fearless.

You will need a place to have this cast. You can take it to a casting house (easy, fast, and pretty inexpensive) or you can cast it yourself. I won't cover that here.

You will need carving tools. You can make do with some scrapers, pointy utility knives, or dental tools, but the real king of speed and flexibility here is a rotary tool like a dremel or a foredom. You'll want some ball burrs, but try not to get anything too fine-toothed because it will gum up with wax pretty fast. A jeweller's saw frame with a spiral wax blade is reccomended, but if you've got a bandsaw or something that can do it, by all means use that.

That should be it.

Step 2: DE-STROY

Picture of DE-STROY
Or, carefully take apart your usb drive. I pried mine apart with the bottle opener on my leatherman. Use something thin and strong, and please be careful. You don't want to stab yourself or ruin the drive, at least not this early on. Don't become a failure like my father always said you would.

Step 3: Cut some wax

Picture of Cut some wax
Use the pre-existing case as a guide to decide how thick you need your new case halves to be. Go ahead and cut a slice of wax off the block, keeping the thickness consistent. You can use a strip of masking tape to help keep your cut straight. Cut it to size, and mark the dimensions of your drive's board on the wax so you know where to carve. Layout is probably the most important step in wax carving. Keep adding layout lines as you carve away old ones.

Step 4: Cut to fit.

Picture of Cut to fit.
We're working with the interior first, because it's the more important stage. Sure it needs to look nice, but if you can't assemble it without smashing your drive, you haven't really won, have you? That won't stop them from making fun of you.

Remember to re-check the fit every so often as you carve, making sure not to get too carried away. You'll want to leave the drive a little breathing space, however, because we're going to add a non-conductive liner later.

I started by making thin boxes that just fit the board, and added a layer on top of that afterwards to carve my design into. This helped to control the warpage i experienced when hot-working a one piece shell.

Step 5: Carving

This step is up to you. I worked with beetle shell inspired designs and tried to shoot for something that fell between natural and technological.

carve up the top plate and attach it to the case. I attached them by heating up a wax carving tool blade and pushing it through from the inside of the case to about halfway into the top plate. This draws them together. Then i went around the edges and melted them together, adding wax where i needed it.

The cap is hollowed out from a small block, with enough thickness left on the top and bottom to match the carving with the rest of the case. To merge the two halves of the drive case, i wanted to extend the cap over the body, with a wingcase looking flange. I covered the top of teh drive body with tinfoil and worked the hot wax directly over it, ensuring a great fit.

Step 6: Wax Cleanup

Picture of Wax Cleanup
The smoother you get your wax, the easier it will be to clean up in the metal. Also, anywhere it's too thin or you have missing areas, FILL THEM NOW. It's practically impossible to add metal, but it's so easy to add wax. Do it now, or regret it FOREVER.

take the wax to a finished stage, and then take it to a casting house. This set me back about $50 i think.

Step 7: Drill and clean up metal

Picture of Drill and clean up metal
This is really the tedious step.

First, tape some emery paper (i used 220 grit for this brute task) to a desk or piece of glass. Grind the inner face of the drive case until it is flat, using a figure eight motion to keep the wear even.

Next, use a small ball burr to clean out the inside of the drive case and cap until your board fits snugly again. The case will shrink during the casting process, so remove a tiny bit of metal until you can pop the board back in there.

Drill the rivet holes in the four little leg posts.

Clean up the case a little. I had a hole in my cap, so i melted a big blob of silver solder there and filled it up (not very professional).

Step 8: Case Closed

BEFORE YOU RIVET THE CASE SHUT: make sure you coat the board in something non-conductive, because if your components short on the silver drive, your board is toast and it's going to be a messy job getting another one in there. I coated my board in hot glue.

Like me, you may have been unable to get your seams to match up perfectly. It's ok, it happens to everyone, and you don't need to feel ashamed. You're not alone.

There's a simple and elegant solution to this. Once your case is riveted shut, take your punch or chasing tools and use them to close the seam! The process is dead simple, though a little hard to describe. What the punch is doing, essentially, is just massaging the metal into a different location. Using little taps of the hammer, just push the seams closer together. This was really useful in closing up the gaps around the usb plug. Take your time and make it as perfect as possible, because when people can't find the seam they really can't figure out how you've built this.

Step 9: Polish it up

Picture of Polish it up
My polishing array included emery paper up to 600 grit, various abrasive wheels on my flex-shaft, engraving tools, and buffing wheels.

Make sure you clean out all the polishing compound when you're done, because it looks gross.

My skin is really acidic. I learned this after i finished this project. My finger prints etch metal a fair bit more than average, and if you find your polished works always look smudgy and fingerprinted, try wearing nitrile gloves while you polish. They're not as dangerous on the buffer as regular gloves because if they catch they'll just break up before they suck your hands in. Careful.

Step 10: Bling!

Picture of Bling!
You're done! Now take that drive and staple it to your face because everyone wants to see it. I promise this will net you compliments on your skillz, your genius, and probably your breath and visage. Since i made this, people can't stop telling me how great looking I am.


FrozenIce3 years ago
Very nice able man :) but for this work and money, i would hae designed the shell a bit better :P but the final product is very impresive :) love it
AWESOME coolest USb ever. the steps were a little confusing though.
leadace3215 years ago
sick man im gonna go buy a block of wax and make my usb drives
thanks for the idea
This is WAY CRAZY! I wish I was that creative!!! Coolest USB Drive I've ever seen!
ExtraMedium6 years ago
sorry for being a bit of an r'tard but what happens in the casting process? Im guessing they make some kinda mold (or is it spelled mould?) and then pour teh hot metals over and in that. I'm just not sure what to ask them to do.
Robotrix (author)  ExtraMedium6 years ago
Anywhere you take it that does casting will know exactly what to do, you shouldn't have to ask him anything. FYI, what happens is this. Starting with a wax model, the model is surrounded with a plaster. Then the wax is melted out leaving a cavity that's shaped like a negative of what you're casting. Finally, hot metal is poured into the cavity and when it cools you have your finished product!
I figured as much on the process but i wasn't too sure about how much heat plaster can take before cracking/melting/burning/rapidly expanding so i started having radical and probably heretical ideas about polymers. Thanks for the help and great idea.
Robotrix (author)  ExtraMedium6 years ago
there's a special type of borosilicate plaster you can buy for this purpose called investment plaster. It's a very fine consistency so if flows into smaller details, and it withstands all the heat of casting. You can get it from any jewellery supply house / store.
TwinEdge6 years ago
this is a very nice job but you missed a step or something...if i'am not mistaken it's the part where you make the casting...there's a step between 5 and 6,you needed to show that,so everyone here can make the casting (the mold of you casting).....thanks
adamcakis7 years ago
that is really cool. i like how it doesnt really look like a usb any more. they all look the same and urs is really unique. nice job. have you seen these: www.blingdrives.com? they are funky too, and thank god, they dont look like usb drives.but they are!
thekanester7 years ago
That's a beautiful piece of art you have there. I'd be proud to show that one off in public! Make more silvery things for us all to see! Gold & Platinum would also be nice. Go on, you know you want to...!