Introduction: Harddisk Actuator Arm Jewellery

About: I work as a musical instrument repair technician. Outside of work hours I bury myself in art projects, work out at the gym, waste time on the Internet, play French horn in a band, play trombone in another band…

The first time I gutted a dead harddisk and got a close look at all the neat shiny bits inside, I remember one of my first thoughts was: "I bet this stuff could be turned into some cool jewellery."

So that's what I did.

Here's a write-up so you can do it too.

Time: A few hours.

Skill: Some

Caution: Requires ability to use saws without cutting off own fingers. Or someone else's fingers.

Step 1: Tools & Materials


  • Hard disk actuator arms (two were used here -- may require disassembly of harddisks to acquire)
  • Small saw, e.g. jeweller's saw, hacksaw, coping saw
  • Pliers of various types (square-jaw, needlenose, roundnose, angle cutters, etc.)
  • Bench vise
  • Sandpaper and/or metal files
  • Small glass gems and beads
  • Jewellery findings (chains, head-pins, jump-rings, brooch pinbacks, etc.)
  • Epoxy or other adhesive that will glue metal
  • Stick for mixing said epoxy, and something on which to do so
  • Safety glasses (optional if you like living dangerously)


  • Pin vise or small drill
  • Drill bits of assorted diameters (used mostly 1mm and 4mm here)
  • Belt sander or grinder
  • Dental picks or similar small, pointy tools
  • Tweezers
  • Dust mask
  • Ear protection


  • Harddisks, if you don't already have the parts. Preferably old/dead ones that won't be missed.
  • Set of screwdrivers made to fit all those tiny, oddly-shaped electronics screws OR completely inappropriate tools and lots of stubborn determination, which is how I rolled the first time I took one apart. It's so much easier with the right tools.
  • Seriously, just get the right tools.

Step 2: Gut It

The pieces I used were supplied by a fellow Hack Bergen member who'd recently taken apart a lot of old drives. If you don't already have disassembled HDD bits lying around, that needs doing. Here's an Instructable detailing how to do that, if you need it.

The part you want for this Instructable is the actuator arm from the head stack assembly. (Check out a way more detailed overview of the inside of a hard disk drive over thisaway.)

Step 3: Strip It

An actuator freshly removed from a drive will still have all the little circuitry bits attached. We don't want those, so it's time to rip them off. This is electronic waste, so dispose of the remains as is appropriate in your area.

Step 4: Cut It

An arm from a drive with only one or two platters might be small enough that the next two steps are unnecessary. Wider arms from multi-platter stacks will need some slicing up, unless you're into really chunky jewellery.

A Dremel or other rotary tool of choice with a cutting disc attachment could be used for this step too, but I find a small handsaw to be better at it. I wear ear protection for this part -- even if a handheld hacksaw isn't very loud, the noise is still very grating. Dust mask good too, especially -- definitely -- if you're using some kind of power tools to cut the aluminum. It's a lightweight metal and the particulate goes airborne very easily.

Step 5: Sand It

Unless you used a laser cutter or a water saw, there are probably a lot of burrs to clean up. Grab some metal files or some sandpaper and a flat surface, and smooth out the surface.

I ground down one of the parts a lot to get the two earring pieces looking alike. I used a belt sander for the job after realizing how long it would take to do by hand. There are no photos of that step in my process because I wasn't going to divide my attention between my camera and my belt sander while trying to use both of them one-handed. Chim likes having skin on her arms.

Aluminum is a soft metal and collects scuffs and scratches easily, so I left the finish as a coarse industrial look instead of buffing it to a high shine (also I was lazy and didn't want to pry and polish buffing compound out of all those holes).

The small holes I tapped a bit larger to fit some glass gems I had, using a pin vise and some drill-bits. This is a pin vise. It is a very useful tool and I recommend that anyone who doesn't yet own one to add it to their arsenal. (I don't have a photo of mine in this Instructable because I cleaned my room this weekend and of course I can't find the bloody thing now.)

Step 6: Bling It

Time to make it sparkly, though it does look plenty fancy on its own already.

The bearing holes in the actuator arms I used were 11.5mm in diameter, so I went to a local gem and mineral shop and found some mother-of-pearl cabochons sized to fit. Note that the bearing holes are not perfectly round (there's kind of a bubble off one side where a screw goes), so measure the diameter across a few different spots to get an accurate measurement for what size cabochon or round bead you'll need. If you want to fill the hole with something in the first place, that is. It looks just as nifty left empty.

Step 7: Done

Your shiny technologic nerd-bling is all done and ready for wearing.

If you had to take apart a harddisk for this project, take a look at the remaining parts. Lots of bits in there can be used for personal adornment purposes.

Metal Contest

Participated in the
Metal Contest

Before and After Contest

Participated in the
Before and After Contest