Introduction: Cyberpunk Notebook

About: I like to tinker. I'm a co-founder and active participant of my local hackerspace: Hack42 in Arnhem, the Netherlands. You can also find me on under the name Moem.

Make a cheap, nasty notebook into a desirable object by adding some worthless trash, in this case: an old piece of circuit board. It's not hard, just follow the steps!

These circuit boards are found inside computers and laptops and they make a wonderful, versatile material once you get all the components off.

The notebook is really quite cheap. I got it for just one euro. The nicest things about this notebook are the fake leather spine and back cover, and the snap button. I have no idea how hard or easy it will be for you to find something
similar, but try your luck in dollar stores or your local equivalent.

Step 1: What Will You Need?

Most importantly:

you'll need

  • a notebook that's easy to deconstruct and that has a nice-looking spine and back
  • a piece of circuit board: an old motherboard or expansion card that you like the colour of

Tools for taking the notebook apart:

  • pliers
  • knife
  • scissors

For putting it back together:

  • spray glue
  • expoxy glue
  • clear varnish (not pictured)

There are different ways and tools to prepare the circuit board. They'll be discussed in the next step.

Step 2: Preparing the Board

First of all, you'll need to take the components off (=desoldering). This is easiest with the more modern components that are surface mounted: they come off more easily than the older type of components that are stuck through holes in the board. So if you can find a board with mostly tiny surface-mounted components, that'll make your life easier.

There are several methods for desoldering listed on this site. I'll name two:

  • you can use an oven (that's not used for food prep anymore, because desoldering is toxic!)
  • you can use a heat gun and a paint scraper

With any method of desoldering, it's important to stay safe and make sure there is enough ventilation, because toxic fumes may be released. At the very least, always open the window!

Once your board is clean and smooth, give it a coat of varnish. Not just to pretty it up, but also because it may contain lead and that's bad stuff.

Then leave it for later and start working on the notebook.

Step 3: Prepare the Notebook

First of all, take the paper out and put it aside.

Now take your knife and start cutting the plastic inside of the front cover free from the outside. Be careful: the plastic is really soft and tears easily, and there may be double sided tape behind it.

Make sure the front cover is done on all three edges.

Now put the book face-down and cut along the edge of the fake leather. Leave the stitching in place if you can. Cut through enough layers that you'll be able to remove the cardboard inside as well as the shiny outside.

Remove the front cover, leaving the plastic inside in place.

Step 4: Cut the Board to Size

Use the cardboard to mark the right size on your circuit board.

Some good tools to cut the board to size are:

  • mitre saw
  • angle grinder
  • table saw
  • metal saw (handheld)

Choose whichever you prefer, and have at your disposal.

Finish off the edges with a metal file or sandpaper. It's nice to round of the corner just a bit, and bevel the edges in order to make them feel more pleasant to the touch.

Step 5: Combine the Parts

Put the book on the table and use cardboard or paper to cover up the parts you do not want to get glue on. You'll want to put glue on the plastic inside cover, the leftover piece of fake leather from the front cover, and also on the back of the circuit board. Spray them all evenly with spray glue. Let them dry until they're no longer shiny.

Put the circuit board on the plastic inner cover, or the other way around, whichever you find easiest; start with the two corners that are furthest from the spine, as they're the most visible. Press it all together. Now press the fake leather part in place, too.

Now it's time to put the paper back in!

Step 6: Recover the Button

Remember that ugly front cover you removed? Dig it out of the trash. You'll need one half of the snap button that's still in the cardboard front cover. First of all, cut it out with your scissors. Just cut all around it, as close as you can.

Grab the button with your cutting pliers, and try to pry the halves apart. Grab the little round 'nipple' with another pair of pliers and with a little luck you'll be able to pull the top part off.

Step 7: Glue the Button in Place

Close the book, in order to determine the correct spot for the snap button. Keep in mind that there must still be room for a pen!

Mix your epoxy glue with a coffee stirrer or something disposable like that. Put just a prop of glue on the back of the button, and place it in the right spot.

Now go and make yourself a nice cup of tea because this needs to harden before you'll be able to touch it again.

Step 8: A Result You Can Be Proud Of

Now you're done! Put a proper pen in place of the cheap, crappy one that came with the notebook. It'll make a lovely gift for friends or family.
If you're lucky, you may be able to find circuit boards of different colours for more variation. In any case, have fun!

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