Introduction: SmartBlock: Wooden USB Drive
Everybody has a jump drive nowadays, and there are a multitude of jump drive mods on the internet and here at Instructables. But this one is made of wood! lol. I started this project to fix my jump drive after the plastic case broke (don't ask...), but quickly found out that the process is simple, quick, and the finished product is unique and satisfying. So without further ado, I would like to share with you the steps I used to make a nice wooden shell for my jump drive.
P.S. - I apologize for the picture quality; my camera charger is broken and all I have to work with is a camera phone!
Step 1: Equipment and Materials
As always, there's more than one way to skin a cat, but here's the tools I recommend having:
--T-square or straight edge
--Jigsaw (or other saw)
--Belt/Disc Sander (or lots of sandpaper)
--Drill Press (or handheld drill)
--Varnish or Polyurethane
--Hot Glue & Gun
Step 2: Disassembling the Drive
Since we can't make a thumb drive out of wood, we'll have to take an existing one apart. Most of these drives come apart with a flathead screwdriver and a little "persuasion". Be careful not to damage the drive though!
Once you get the plastic casing apart, the jump drive should slide right out. The Cruzers have a white plastic guard around the circuitry, which you may either remove or leave on.
Step 3: Cutting the Block
To make the wooden shell, we first need a block of wood. I started with a piece of 1x4 which I sanded down to a cube with dimensions 0.5" x 2.0" x 0.75". You may want to adjust these dimensions according to the size of your jump drive or whatever you desire. I have found these dimensions fit a Sandisk Cruzer quite well and remain quite sturdy.
Step 4: Taking Off the Edge
Since we live in the future, everything is better streamlined and all curvy-like. This step requires a lot of patience and a steady hand. A belt sander makes this task very easy, but it can be done by hand as well with rough (80-120 grit) sandpaper. If you use a belt sander, round off the edges very slowly and using both hands to grip the piece against the belt.
Round off the long edges first, then make the end round, giving the piece a U shape. Finally, round off the edge to eliminate the last of the edges. Be sure to leave one end flat for the jump drive.
The best way to finish this step is with patience. Take your time and practice until you are comfortable with the technique.
Step 5: Making the Slot
Now it's time to make a place for the jump drive itself. Measure the jump drive circuit board precisely to determine how much of the block we need to hollow out. My Cruzer measured approximately 1/4" x 5/8" x 1 5/8".
I measured a 1/4" x 5/8" rectangle on the flat end of the block to see where I would need to drill. Then I put the block into the vise on my drill press and lined up a 1/4" drill bit (convenient, eh?). I made the first hole at the edge of my rectangle, drilling 1 5/8" down into the wood by using the depth scale on the press (pic 4). The rest of the shell may be emptied out by drilling again and again. You may also smooth out the final product with a file.
This step must also be done with a handheld drill, but I hope you have a steady hand!
Step 6: Make Sure It Fits!
Once you have drilled out the shell, take a minute to make sure that the USB drive fits into the shell. However, once you know it fits, remove it so it is not damaged in the following steps. As you can see below, I chose to remove the white plastic around my drive (to make it fit easier).
Step 7: Fine Sanding
Now that we've completed the hazardous steps (cutting, sanding, and drilling), we can take the time to make the shell pretty. Take some fine sandpaper (220 grit or higher) and work the piece by hand, smoothing out any edges left by the previous steps.
Step 8: Making Your Mark
This is your chance to really customize your drive. You may make a special design with paint, a file, or anything else you can think of. I chose to practice some woodburning on mine. Woodburning probably deserves an instructable itself, but here are some general steps to help out:
1.) Make a careful sketch of what you want to burn.
3.) When burning, try a couple different tips and go slowly.
4.) Lastly, wear gloves. I have a blister on my finger that can attest to this tip.
Step 9: Applying a Stain
Now this thing is starting to look good! Applying a stain is optional, but I recommend it. I prefer a lighter stain, since darker stains will drown out the effect of any woodburning. I find the easiest way to apply stain is to dip a paper towel into the stain and lightly wipe it onto the wood. Once an even coat has been applied, use a clean part of the paper towel to wipe off any excess stain that may remain. Each stain has specific instructions, but a good rule of thumb is to let the stain set for 8 hours without disturbing it.
Step 10: Shiny Time!
To finish the piece, you may also add a coat of urethane or varnish to give it a nice shiny appearance. Apply as many coats of urethane as desired, but be sure to wait at least 8 hours after applying stain to apply the first clearcoat.
Step 11: Securing Your Information
Once all of the stain and varnish has dried, put the drive in the slot (if you haven't already). When I did this, There was a gap between the metal USB dongle and the wooden gap. I filled this gap with a tiny bit of superglue (I don't think superglue or epoxy is necessary, but it's all up to you) and sanded it flush with the wood surface.
The most important thing here is to make sure that enough of the USB dongle is sticking out to plug into the USB port. Be sure to test this before applying the glue.
Step 12: Plug It In, Plug It In!
Now use your smart block to carry information, pictures, songs, or instructables.