Introduction: The Board Stripped Bare: Circuit Board Crafts, Bare Metal Editon

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.

Circuit board is a gorgeous material and you can make an incredible amount of different things from it. It's light, strong, visually appealing and geeky. As if that's not enough, it can often be found from free sources. What's not to like?

Modern, multi-layer, SMD boards are plentiful and they are easy to desolder. But older boards, fitted with through-hole components, have a visual charm all of their own. We can bring this out by stripping the solder mask off of the copper circuitry; the result is a stunning shiny board. This Instructable will show you how.

Step 1: Your Materials

  • You will need a circuit board. These are generally found inside appliances that contain electronics. Not all circuit boards are created equal: they can be different colours, the thickness varies, and you will find larger (through-hole) or smaller (surface mounted) components. This technique is best suited for thicker, older boards with larger components. You'll find them in older TVs, video players and other appliances.
    In the pictures, you can see that I've found three nice ones; I've chosen two very different boards, for a very different result, and they'll both look great.
  • You'll need a source of heat to take the components off; I used a paint stripper in this case, but there are other options. If your board seems particularly delicate or you have too much time on your hands, it's perfectly possible to use a soldering iron.
  • You'll need steel wool. The fine type that looks as if you could use it to knit yourself some cosy steel underwear.
  • You'll need some clear spray varnish.

Step 2: Get Started

Get started by stripping all the components off. Be careful not to overheat the board, this can lead to warping, discolouration or delamination. On the other hand, make sure your components are actually loose enough to remove so you don't need to use force. It's a fine balance.

Heating up circuit boards can give off fumes that aren't good for you. Ventilate!

Step 3: Slowly Does It

Now that all the components are gone, it's time to start rubbing your board with the steel wool. You'll notice that excess molten solder will be removed fairly easily; if there's a big blob that won't come off, you can always heat it up some more so it melts, and tap the side of the board on your work surface, which should do the trick.

Scrub gently, and keep looking at your work; you want to remove the coat of varnish/resin that covers the metal tracks. Generally, they are copper, but occasionally they are electroplated in tin, which will make them look silvery instead of coppery. They'll get nice and shiny and you'll see that it really makes the lines stand out.

Don't remove too much though, or you'll remove the board's colour as well. Unless that's the effect you're after.

Step 4: Let's Do That Again...

Same process, repeated for the blue board. SO SHINY.

Step 5: Nice and Clean

Here we are. Your boards are now shiny and clean. Place them on a suitable surface, give them a quick wipe with a suitable degreaser, and spray some varnish over them; if you'll be using them in a project where both sides can be touched, varnish both sides. Solder often contains lead and it's not healthy to touch it too much.

Wash your hands, for similar reasons.

And now what? That's up to you! The board can be cut to size with a metal saw or angle grinder, you can make it any shape you like, you can file the edges smooth, it can also be drilled. Make a candle holder or a clock, make a belt buckle, make jewelry or a notebook cover... there are so many options.

Whatever you make, I'm sure it will look great. Show me a picture when you're done! And have fun.