Introduction: Plywood Flash Drive Case

So, I have had this case-less 8GB flash drive hanging around for a while. It is a perfectly usable flash drive, but it is lacking a case, quite simply because my dog chewed it off of the drive itself, but managed to not hurt the underlying circuit board.

I chose to remedy this situation by making my own custom case. However, one thing I do not like about most custom cases is the fact that they do not have a cap to protect the jack of the flash drive. I have had a flash drive jack actually bend back and eventually make the whole flash drive unusable.

So, with some scrap plywood and a few simple tools, I set off to make my case.

Step 1: Tools and Materials

To make this you will need the following materials:

  • Flash Drive (in my case, without an external enclosure)
  • Craft Plywood (this is actually from the same sheet of plywood that my previous project used)
  • Wood Glue

And the following tools:

  • Handsaw with miter box
  • Box Cutter or X-Acto Knife
  • Clamp
  • Power Sander or Sandpaper
  • Pencil and Ruler
  • Hammer and Screwdriver (a chisel would probably work even better)

Step 2: Laying Plans

Now, to preface this, I apologize for my rather crude drawings. I am no Leonardo Da Vinci. However, the basic idea is that we will have 3 pieces of cut plywood, one cut in a "U" shape to fit the body of the flash drive within. We will then glue a piece of plywood to the top and bottom of this piece to trap the flash drive inside. The cap we will make is a similar design, but just meant to contain the outer jack of the flash drive

For the body of the flash drive, it ended up measuring about 1" by 1.5" (or 2.54 cm by 3.81 cm), while the cap measured 1" by 3/4" (or 2.54cm by 1.91 cm). I got these measurements by laying my flash drive on a piece of wood and adding 1/4" to all sides to serve as "buffer zones". This will help make the case tougher, as well as giving us some space to sand off rough edges later.

Also, before you embark on this project, make sure your flash drive actually works by plugging it into a computer. I have used mine several times before, so I know it is working just fine.

So, with this goal in mind, its time to get cutting...

Step 3: Cut Pieces

So, with our goal in mind, we start to cut out our pieces for the body and cap of the flash drive. The outer pieces, which are simply rectangular, are not too hard to cut out but the inner piece with the "U" shape can be rather tricky.

So, I cut out 3 rectangles of wood that were 1" by 1.5" inches, and marked one with an inner "U" shape, the outer edges all being 1/4" wide. It wasn't the easiest thing in the world, and I think it would have been impossible without a miter box, but I held the middle rectangle up against the side of the miter box and cut down the inner sides. Clamping the miter box down to your work bench may help make this easier.

This left me with one problem, which was how to cut the "bottom" of the U, which I definitely could not get with a saw blade. To solve this, I used a box cutter to score a deep line along that line on both sides. Then, once you think you have it deep enough, you should be able to gently bend the piece of wood to snap the middle piece out entirely. It may need some light sanding, but this piece will be on the inside, so it doesn't need to look super pretty.

A similar process is followed for cutting out the pieces for the cap.

Step 4: Body Assembly and Decoration

So, as you can see, the flash drive fits within our U-shaped piece rather nicely. While I was cutting, I also cut out two small spacers, which were 1/8" by 1/2". We use these for something rather important later.

Note that, if you want to woodburn or paint a design onto the outside of your wooden pieces, it is probably best to do it before you start gluing the pieces together, so messing up doesn't mean ruining the entire flash drive case. Also, in the case of woodburning, direct heat can sometimes completely ruin sensitive electronics. So do it now, before you get that flash drive in the case.

So, get your main body pieces together and start gluing. I decided to glue two pieces together at a time, and put them in the clamp to dry. After each gluing, I suggest waiting 20-30 minutes for the glue to dry before gluing the other piece.

Step 5: Oops...

Now, for the body, all you have to do is slip the flash drive in the case and...

Well...this is kind of awkward...the flash drive jack is just about a millimeter taller than the inner cavity of the case...hmm...

In hindsight, I probably should have put the flash drive within the case BEFORE gluing it together to give it a naturally tight fit...Oh well, nothing that we can do about that now.

Okay, this is where you will need the screwdriver and hammer. If you take a look at that first picture, you will be able to see that each ply of the piece of plywood is actually rather thin. So, put the case in the clamp and use the screwdriver and hammer to break out the innermost ply of the plywood so that the flash drive will actually fit. You may need to do this multiple times on this innermost ply, removing the broken pieces of wood as you go, to give your flash drive the room to go in completely.

If you have a thin chisel, that may work even better at accomplishing this task.

Step 6: Glue Spacers

Remember those really small spacers we cut earlier in the process? This is where we use them.

So, now the flash drive fits inside of the case, but it can easily slip out. So, what we will do is glue our spacers to the left and right of the USB jack to keep the USB drive inside the case. This is also why it is important to cut the outer pieces a little bit longer than the inner piece, to make spaces for these to go in. Simply dip them in the glue and stick them in the gaps. Don't worry about clamping them, since they are so small.

However, before you allow this to dry, make sure you USB jack is straight. This will make the final product much cleaner. You can see that, in my case, my USB jack is slightly crooked because it was glued in that way by those two spacers. The spacers may be slightly longer than the case, so you can cut them off by scoring them with a box cutter and snapping the extra off. A small standing vise (the one in the picture is my PanaVise Jr.) can
help to keep the flash drive stable while scoring these lines. These will leave some rough edges, but we can easily sand those off later.

Now, past sanding, the USB body is done! Now it is just the cap, which is much simpler.

Step 7: Cap Assembly

Okay, now it is just time to assemble the cap in the same way. Make sure the USB jack fits into the inside piece of the cap before gluing it. If it does not, you may have to take some more material off.

Anyway, glue the pieces together as before, and you will have a nice cap for your wooden case. This step is much easier than the body, simply because it is a smaller piece. At this point, you could finish, but I prefer to sand it down to take off any sharp edges and even out the edges in general.

Step 8: Final Sanding and Finished Flash Drive Case

Now, you could just as easily use a piece of sand paper to do this step, which would probably be cheaper and easier for those without access to power tools, but I chose to use a power sander to sand off all of the rough edges and make the edges a little more even. Also, if you have any pencil markings on the case left over from when you were making cuts, the sander will easily take those off too.

Now, I would suggest that, when sanding the edges of the case, keep the cap on the flash drive. You really don't want your hand to dip down and mar the edge of your USB jack.

After that, you have a fully cased USB flash drive, with a cap. Plug the drive into a computer to see if it works. If you didn't do anything extreme to the drive, like sand off the jack, or burn the crap out of the case with a woodburner, it should work just fine. This one did, and you can even see the red LED shining from the inside of the wooden case.

Go ahead, build yourself one. See you in the next instructable.