Note: This is a difficult project that took me about a month to complete. I also had access to a full wood shop with power tools that I don't expect everyone to have at home. Finally, as the Game Boy Pocket was made in Japan, all the measurements are in centimeters (or, more often, millimeters); thus, I will be using metric while explaining the construction process. Trying to translate it to Imperial measurements is just too complicated!
Wood for Game Boy and Cartridge
Suggestions: Hickory, maple or another light wood for cartridge; mahogany for Game Boy Pocket.
Tung oil for finish
Wax wood finish
Black milk paint
Drill or drill press, with various drill bits
Chisels and gauges of various sizes
Spare blocks of wood for clamping
Safety goggles, mask
Clean cotton rags
Before constructing anything, I took a very detailed look at my Game Boy Pocket, measuring every aspect of the device and cartridge. I then made a series of detailed diagrams in Adobe Illustrator to reference for measurement. I have included these diagrams in PDF format; print them out at 100% size. You will be using them often!
Whenever working with wood and chemical finishes, always use proper safety wear and use caution when using all sharp tools.
To Make the Cartridge
1. Measure and cut your wood. The dimensions of the cartridge are 57mm wide by 64 mm tall by 8mm thick. Plane the wood to 8mm (5/16" or ~.32" if using Imperial measurements). A planer with a digital readout is very helpful here, as it can give you greater accuracy for the thickness.
Using a table saw, cut your wood to slightly larger than 57x64mm. It will get smaller as you cut and sand it down. The rule of thumb is to give yourself about 1/8" margin of error in your measurements. Always take into the consideration the thickness of the saw blade!
When cutting, make sure the grain of the wood is going horizontally across the cartridge shape; that is to say, the shorter side will be going with the grain (see photos). This will help when you are carving out the details.
2. Front Details
a) With a jigsaw or chisel, cut out the small notch on the top right of the cartridge.
b) Using a pencil, mark out the areas for the game label and Nintendo logo. Carefully carve them out with a hand chisel. To make clean, straight edges, use the edge of the chisel and carve straight down on the pencil line. Remember to always chisel with the grain of the wood.
c) Use a small gouge to make the rounded edges for the Nintendo logo area. If you can, use a real Game Boy cartridge for reference.
d) Carve out the five small lines on each side of the Nintendo logo. Do this with the smallest/thinnest gouge you can for the most detail; each line is only about 1mm in width.
e) Carefully mark carve out the arrow shape at the bottom middle of the cartridge.
f) With a rasp, file the sides of the cartridge front to 45-degree angles where marked on the diagram. Smooth them out with a file.
3. Back Details
a) Mark each othe details from the diagram on the back of the wood.
b) Using a drill press and a drill bit matching the diameter of each circle on the diagram, make small indentations on the back of the cartidge where marked.
c) With a thin chisel, carve out the two lines on either side of the dots, the small rectangle at the top middle, and the large rectangular area at the bottom of the cartridge. These are all very shallow, so only carve away a small amount of wood.
4. Hollowing Out the Bottom (optional)
Note: This is a very difficult step, and I almost split the cartridge in two attempting to do this. Be very careful! Or, skip it entirely.
a) Using two blocks of spare wood and clamp, sandwich the cartridge, bottom side up and sticking out slightly, and clamp together. Clamp this then to the table of the drill press.
b) With a very small drill bit,carefully drill holes into the bottom of the cartridge. Repeat, moving the cartridge to the side each time so you make holes across the bottom of the cartridge. Make the holes close together but not entirely touching; too close and the drill bit will slide, too far and you will have trouble hollowing that space out later. Leave as much space as possible on the walls of the cartridge, otherwise you risk splitting the wood.
c) Once you have drilled all your holes, clamp the cartridge securely to the side of a work table. With a small chisel, very carefully remove the wood left behind in between each hole to make a straight edge.
5. Finishing Touches
a) Sand the whole cartridge down, rounding out the edges on the top a bit. Fix up any rough or uneven edges with sandpaper or a chisel.
b) For a finish on the wood, I used wax so as to keep the natural look of the wood and bring out the grain without darkening the color. Wax finish can be applied with a clean cotton cloth wrapped around the fingers. Rub in a circular motion along the grain. After applying the wax, wait 24 hours before applying a second coat.
You're done with the cartridge! :D Now on to the hard part.
Creating the Game Boy Pocket
Measuring, Cutting, Planing
You will be making the Game Boy out of two separate pieces of wood; one for the front, and one for the back (where the cartridge goes). Plane the wood to _____ for the top piece and _____ for the bottom. Cut the piece for the top to ______ and the bottom to _____, making sure the longer side goes with the grain. Remember to give yourself 1/8" margin of error and take into consideration the width of the blade. From here on, I will be giving instructions for the front and back separately.
1. Creating Holes for the Buttons
Mark with a pencil the locations of the buttons. With a drill press, drill out holes for the A and B buttons, the D-pad, Start and Select. Use a chisel to make straight lines where the D-pad goes. For the Start and Select buttons, use a small drill bit and make two or three holes in a row and even them out with a chisel (similar to the method of hollowing out the bottom of the cartridge).
2. Speaker Holes
This is another very difficult step that requires extreme precision. I was lucky enough to have access to a milling machine thanks to a family friend; this is how I managed to drill the holes with such accuracy. For those without access to a milling machine, I will suggest some other possible methods, though I do not know how well they will turn out.
Use the smallest bit you can find (1/32" is what I used, I think) and drill all 43 holes in the pattern shown in the diagram. Each hole is about 1mm or ~1/32" apart. If you have a milling machine, this should be fairly easy; however, with a regular drill bit it will be a little more difficult to make them even. You may also want to consider even drawing on the dots if you cannot drill them accurately.
3. The Screen
Mark with a pencil the placement of the screen on the face of the wood. Start by chiseling out the larger area, then re-mark and chisel out the smaller screen area, making it a bit deeper than the larger area. Remember that the bottom right-hand corner of the screen is rounded, not squared (I made this mistake on my own version).
4. Back and Side Details
a) With a drill press, make indentations in the back of the wood where the screw holes are in the diagram.
b.) Carve out indentations in the sides where the volume control and link cable jack are. In the original Game Boy, part of this is wider than the rest of the piece; I ignored this and just carved out a similar shape.
c) With a table saw and/or chisel, carve out a shallow indentation in the back where the cartridge goes. If using a table saw, make sure the blade only cuts an indent into the wood; do not cut through the entire block! Even it out with a chisel.
d) After carving out this large indent, make the smaller lines inside the indented area.
e) If desired, drill holes for the earphone jack on the bottom of the Game Boy using the same method as hollowing out the game cartridge.
1. Create the indent for the cartridge slot.
Mark with a pencil where the cartridge slot will go. Using a thick blade in a table saw, create an indent thick enough for the cartridge to snugly (but not too snugly) fit between the front and back pieces. It should be about 7 or 8mm (~5/16") deep. The table saw will create a curved cut at the edge, so make this straight and clean out any remaining wood pieces with a chisel.
With a jigsaw, cut out 6mm of the top wall of the wall to create a wall on each side of the cartridge slot. Refer the the diagram for details.
2. Shaping the back piece,
a) On each side of the wood, drill a hole for the screw that matches the middle screws on the front piece.
b) Now you will be filing the edges of the back peace down to an angle. Mark with a pencil the line that will be the end of the diagonal. Using a rasp and files, shave the edges down to an angle. Round out the bottom corners while angling them.
3. Back details.
a) With a chisel, carve out the lines for the battery compartment and game boy label. I only carved outlines to imply that these areas are removable compartments.
b) Carve out the notch for the battery compartment's snap/latch. This is a very detailed area, so I just carved a diagonal notch from the bottom of the battery compartment to the line where the angle begins.
Create the buttons.
D-Pad: Take some scrap wood about 3/4" thick and, using a jigsaw, cut out the shape of the directional pad. Make it as even as you can.
A and B buttons: You have a couple options. You could use a dowel just a little thinner than the A and B button holes, cut them to about 3/4" and round out the top using sandpaper or a file. I happened to have some cylindrical pieces of wood for the buttons from using a core bit while drilling out the holes, so I used those.
Select and Start: This can be difficult because they are so thin: Cut out two small pieces of wood that will fit inside the holes and round out the tops. They, too, should be about 3/4" long. Test to see if they fit by placing them inside the holes you made.
Putting it All Together
Before gluing anything, make sure the cartridge will fit in the slot you have made. If not, go back and make it larger as needed.
Apply a thin layer of glue to the wrong side of the front and back pieces. Do not apply glue to areas where the two pieces will not connect, such as cartridge or outside the area the back piece will cover. Sandwich the two pieces in between two spare pieces of wood. With four to six clamps, evenly clap the wood together. With a damp paper towel, wipe away all excess glue that seeps out from between the pieces when squeezed. Leave the pieces for at least 24 hours while the glue sets.
After the glue dries, unclamp the pieces. Sand away any excess glue showing. You do not want any glue to show, if possible. Sand the entire game boy down with increasingly fine grit sandpaper.
Apply the tung oil to the mahogany. Using a clean cotton cloth, apply the tung oil evenly over the wood. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes, then wipe off any excess oil. Apply two or three layers of tung oil, waiting 24 hours in between layers.
Warning: The rags used to apply tung oil may spontaneously combust. To prevent this from happening, soak them in water and throw them away in a metal container as soon as you are done with them!
Paint the buttons with black milk paint. Instructions for applying milk paint can be found here.
Once the buttons are dry, use hot glue to attach them inside the holes you made.
And that's it! I know this is a very complicated and lengthy process, and I may not have explained every step fully. Feel free to contact me with any questions. Good luck!