Intro: Circuit Board Earrings
This Instructable is for a simple little set of stud earrings made from something we all use daily, but we don't often see - the circuit boards in our myriad gadgets. You might even have a dead computer (or several...) sitting out in your garage, waiting to be scrapped at the recycling yard. Here's an opportunity to make something pretty before you haul it off.
Step 1: Materials
- Circuit board (obtainable from dead computers and various other electronics)
- Flat earring backs (obtainable at most craft stores or online, be sure to choose a metal that will not irritate your skin – I am using stainless steel here)
- Ear nuts (the part that slips on the back of the earring while you wear it, often sold with the backs but not always, so make sure you have both components or your earrings won’t stay in very well)
- Glue, E6000 is strongly suggested (available at just about any craft store, also online – superglue will work, but I’ve found its brittleness makes the pieces prone to popping off when earrings are removed, so the durability will be affected)
- Optional: clear nail polish OR two part resin, for sealing (nail polish available at drug stores or probably your bathroom, resin available at most craft stores or online)
Step 2: Tools
- Circle template (available where drafting supplies are sold, often in craft stores, or online; or you could always trace a round object in your house such as a marker or bottle top)
- Fine tip permanent marker
- Needle- or chain-nose plyers (I don’t know why I put the round nose ones there, you won’t need them)
- Small angle cutters (if you have nice sharp, expensive ones for jewelry work, get a pair of cheap beaters, the hard wires and silicon bits will nick and dull the blade of even the fancy ones)
- Tiny screwdriver set (most commonly Philips, Torx and square drivers, and these are generally sold in sets specifically for computer work as computers have itty bitty screws)
- Files (I suggest a coarser one for shaping and a finer one for the final pass to smooth it out)
- Jeweler’s saw
- Optional but highly recommended: ring clamp
- Optional: beeswax
Step 3: Strip the Board
Strip your circuit board. Use your screwdriver to remove any screwed on cases or bits, if there are any, and a combination of the angle cutters and needle nose plyers to pull extra bits off. What exactly you remove is up to you – if you like the look of some of the chips and resistors and such on there, leave them.
Warning: it is nigh impossible to saw through any of the silicon components (the microchips, basically any of the black/gray pieces, from the big ones in the process of being pulled/cut off in the first photo to the little ones in the lower left), it will just dull your blade and frustrate you. So do remove any from the edges of where you’ll be cutting.
Some boards have one mostly flat side and one side with things attached, some have things jutting out of both sides. The back of your earring needs to be flat, so either plan to use the unadorned side for that or remove everything from at least one side. In this particular case, I thought the flat side was the nicer looking one, so I wound up removing everything from the other side (pictured here) so it would be flat enough to act as my back.
Step 4: Cut It Down to Size
A jeweler’s saw can only cut things of a certain length, or your material will bump in to the back edge of the ] that holds the blade. Many circuit boards are larger than this, so you will need to cut yourself a usable piece to work from. You can cut the corner off of a large piece, or slice a strip off, it all depends what shape your starting piece is. Mine has this convenient cutout, so I just sliced off the one side of that, the part that’s visible within the saw in the above photo.
This is where the beeswax comes in. Swipe your blade through it before starting to lubricate and ease cutting. It’s not strictly necessary, but it does make things go a little smoother, especially with harder, denser boards. If you took apart a computer, and you’re using something like the motherboard or hard drive or what have you, that is probably going to be on the harder end. In my experience, those from simpler electronics (like say, a car stereo) tend to be softer, especially older ones.
Step 5: Lay It Out
Use your template to pick the coolest looking area on the board and trace it out using your marker. I went with the 19/32” circle on my template, but the exact size is not critical, as long as it is larger than the glue pad disc on your earring back.
Step 6: Cut It Out
Just like the title says! Follow the outline and cut both pieces out with your saw. This is again a good place for beeswax, if you are using it, as a well lubricated blade makes it easier to navigate precisely and thus follow your line with greater accuracy.
Step 7: Filing
This is where the ring press is very handy. It’s possible to file without one, but it can be hard to keep a grip on small pieces with your fingers, and the pads of your fingers are soft so it’ll shift as you put pressure on it with the file. However, you will wind up filing your nails as you go if you just hold the pieces in your fingers, which could potentially be viewed as a bonus.
Start by cleaning up the shape, any little inaccuracies from the cutting process. Once you are satisfied with the shaping, run your fingers along the edge and feel for any sharpness or burr, and smooth/round that down with your finer file. You don’t have to go so far as curving the whole edge, but you want a nice smooth finish, or it could irritate the skin when they’re worn.
Step 8: Smooth the Surface
The final bit of filing is to smooth the surface. This is the part where it is easiest to mess up all your work, so be very careful and move slowly. First, check your back – you want this nice and smooth so the earring stud stays securely. If there are little sharp bits from cutting components off, those need to be filed away. Place the earring flat on your table, hold the edge with one hand and run the file across the surface a couple of times. It shouldn’t take much. Rotate to get any bits that were sticking up where you were holding it.
If your file is not flat to the surface, if it’s tipped at an angle, it will cut into the surface of the board and there isn’t much that can be done to fix that. On the back, that won’t matter all that much as it won’t be seen, so I suggest doing that side first as practice, then smoothing out the front. If you left any chips or resistors or such things, work around them.
Step 9: Optional Sealing
This step is not strictly necessary, it depends on the texture of your board and what finish you want. This is actually a posed photo for me, I felt this particular circuit board had a nice sheen to it, so I did not clear coat it. However, some are not all that shiny, or maybe you just want a little more to it, and in that case, you can use either nail polish or a craft resin.
The nail polish is straightforward, just brush a thin layer on, making sure to go all the way to the edge, and let it dry. One layer is generally sufficient.
For a little more substantial coating, a few drops of resin can give a nice, polished finish. Mix the resin according to the instructions, then drip a small amount, just a drop or two, and spread it out with a toothpick. Be sure to pull all the way to the edge, and do not go too thick. I have found that the resin has a habit of dripping down the sides and puddling around the earring, gluing it to the table (or, if you’re smarter than I am, the piece of scrap paper or other disposable surface you put it on), especially if anything more than a whisper coat is used. It can be done, and the results do look good, but expect to have to keep an eye on it.
Step 10: Glue Everything Together
For this step, it is important to have all your mise en place, your ducks in a row if you will. Set things up before even opening the glue, you will be far less likely to glue your fingers together and your face to the table.
Use a scrap of paper to dispense a little glue on to, as the tube tends to continue to spew it out as long as it’s open, and you only need a few drops. From there, you can use a toothpick to spread a thin layer on the earring backs, then squish them on to the backs of your circuit board discs.
E6000 is fast tacking, meaning it will hold things together within a few seconds, so position carefully. It does take a full 48 hours to completely dry and come to full strength though, so once you’ve glued, leave them alone. It’s tempting to cheat this, but it will invariably end in tears.
Step 11: Wear Them!
Once the glue is dry, slip on the ear nuts and you’re done! Wear your allegiance to our soon-to-come cyborg overlords with pride.