Introduction: Making a Steampunk Portable Harddrive Case

About: I currently am working as a software quality assurance tester. I have enjoyed woodworking since I was a kid and have started to build up my tool collection. I love to make all kinds of things and enjoy all of …
Making a Steampunk Portable Harddrive Case
So you already have a steampunked monitor and keyboard and hate that your portable harddrive doesn't match, well here is a way to make that important piece of equipment match and protect it to boot.

Materials Needed:

-Portable Harddrive - I used a WD My Passport
-3/32 x 4 x 36 in Balsa wood piece - bought mine at Michaels Craft Store
-1/4 x 4 x 36 in Balsa wood piece - Michaels Craft Store
-Sheet of medium thin Brass - Hobbytown USA
-Bag of Brass Rivets - Michaels Craft Store but Tandy Leather Brand
-Piece of Tooling Leather - Tandy Leather - Tooling Shoulder
-Black Heavy Thread - Tandy Leather
-Gilded Plastic Gears/ Brass gears - I used plastic ones I gilded from Hobbytown USA
-Leather Dye - I used Tandy Eco-Flo Briar Brown
-Small Digital Clock with fake gold setting - Rockler Hardware
-2" Quartz Brass Fancy Clock - Rockler Hardware

-Drill preferably drill press
-Dremel Rotary tool
-Rivet Setter - Mine came with the rivets
-Rotary Leather Punch
-Sharp Ultility Knife
-Forester Bit set
-Black Sharpie
-2 ziplock bags

Step 1: Cutting Things to Size

We are going to form a wood and leather case that will protect the harddrive.

Place your drive on top of the thicker balsa wood and trace around it staying as close to possible to the actual size of the drive.
Repeat with the thinner wood.
Now use utility knife to cut out the wood. Should go easy.

Place the thinner piece of wood on the bottom of the drive and the thicker one on top. You should have a wood/drive/wood sandwich. Use this thickness to determine the wrap around size your leather will have to be. Make the height of the leather piece several inches longer then the drive size as you will be making a flap to cover the top.

With the leather now temopary wrapped around the drive as well use that size to cut another piece of the thick balsa wood to become the wooden bottom "plug" of the case. Round the corners with the knife to fit the curve of the leather wrapped "sandwich"

Step 2: Cutting the Brass

My chosen brass shape goes around the larger clock face. I'm not going to tell you how I did this step as it was dangerous and unsafe. Figure out a way yourself or change your brass to not need a blind hole.

Draw a shape on the brass with the sharpie.
I used a Jewler saw with 0/2 blades but a scroll saw or bandsaw would work as well.

Set your Jewler saw blade under tension and the teeth pointing down.
Clamp the brass with the line overhanging the table or use a V block.
Cut out the shape using the saw.

-Tip make sure you keep the saw blade at 90 degrees when cutting otherwise its easy to break the blades.

I used files and sandpaper to debur and smooth the brass edges.

Step 3: Casing the Leather

Leather can be molded when damp and will dry in the molded shape. This is called casing the leather.

Take the gallon ziplock back and add some water.
Place the leather in the bag. It should soak up the water. Drain excess water.
Leave leather in sealed bag for several hours or overnite.

Leather will now be super pliable, but watch out handeling it as any mark or scratch will show up later.

Place your drive in a ziplock bag.
Add the wood like before to make a wood/drive/wood sandwich.
Now wrap the leather around the "sandwich" and temporary secure it with staples at ends.

Let dry untill leather returns to original color.

Step 4: Making Some Holes

Remove the now dry leather from the sandwich. it should keep its shape.

We will eventually attach the leather to the wood with the rivets and will sew some of the leather together. So we need some holes.

Rivet Holes:

Take the thick piece of wood and the brass. I used rivets to hold the brass to the leather/wood.
Place the brass on the top(thick) piece of wood. You can drill through the brass and the wood at the same time. Forget about the leather at the moment. This allows your holes to match up. Drilling small holes in brass is easy and safe if you clamp your piece to the drill press table.

Bottom Case Holes:

Fit the bottom wooden plug into the now dry leather. Keep the leather tight around the plug. Drill small holes though the leather/wood leather spaced about 1 cm appart. These will later be threaded together for durability.

Back Case Holes:

Use the rotary punch to add a matching set of holes on both  edges of the leather seam on the back of the case. These will later be sewn together.

Watch holes:

I used a forester bit to drill the clock hole in the top wood piece. Only the bigger clock has a hole that goes through.

Gear Holes:

First drill a singe hole the size of your gear shaft, where you want the bottommost gear situated. Add the shaft bushing and the gear. Now place the second gear with its teeth meshing with the first. Mark center of 2nd gear. Now drill shaft hole for this gear. Repeat with all other gears to ensure a good mesh. Then I used a forester bit that matched my biggest gear and drilled halfway though the thickness of the top wood aligning the bit point with the shaft hole. Forester bits leave a flat bottom so are needed instead of a hole or spade bit. I then used a rotary cutter bit in my dremmel to cut the other gear blind holes so the gears set flush with the top of the wood.

Leather Holes:

I also used the forester bits to cut the leather to match the clock hole.

Step 5: Dye the Leather and Wood

Use the leather dye to dye the leather and the wood.

Use the sponge to apply the dye to the leather and wood. Make sure to use light coats and to cover the whole side of the piece. If a darker coating is required apply a second coat. Make sure any excess is wiped away as it will stay a sticky mess if left on.

Let dry for an hour or two.

Step 6: Putting It All Together

Add the Gears:

Add the gears and bushings/shafts to the holes. I had to use a cut off wheel to shorten the shafts that came with the gears.

Rivet the layers together.

Using the rivet setter connect the three layers together: wood on bottom then leather then brass. I also added another rivet in the corner to help the connection.

Sew it up.

Wrap the loose leather ends around the back of the wood/drive/wood sandwich,trapping the bottom wood plug along the bottom edge. Put super glue IN BETWEEN the holes and allow the edges to dry in place. Now use the thread and a thin needle to saddle stitch through the wood and back up the next hole.

Knot the thread and saddle stitch the back of the case togehter. Super glue can also be used to attach the back to the bottom piece of wood.

Fit the clocks

Remove the clock portion of the small clock. You only want the ring and glass portion. It should friction fit the leather hole and make the gears viewable. Fit the large clock with rubber O ring into the large hole, it should also friction fit. Don't glue the large clock in as you will need to remove it to change battery or set time.

Cut flap and cable hole

Trim off the excess leather from the top's back and sides. Round the edges of the leftover top flap. Cut a rectagle hole for the usb cable to pass through. Insert cable and tuck flap down inside back.

Bend the Brass

Remove your hardrive from the case. Bend the brass around the back side of the case. You may need to use a mallet depending on the thickness of your brass.....Reinsert the hard drive.


Step 7: Enhancements

The original plan was to have the gears powered from a second USB cable. I have drilled and ready a hole for a small motor that will mesh with the gear train. I'm using a tiny motor from Radio Shack little RC cars called ZipZaps. I need help making a circuit to power the drive from the usb. Looks like I need a small current boost. Tried modifing a solar engine circuit from BEAM robots but it didn't work. Any help with this would be appreciated.

I also plan to tool the leather for the 2.0 version as well.

The brass would also look good if it was etched of engraved to mactch the clock center better.

Thanks for looking at this instructable!


I now have a working motor circuit for this. Thanks to all of the people who helped me make it move. Here is the circuit I've use to get the gears to run.

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