Cyberpunk Notebook





Introduction: Cyberpunk Notebook

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.

Make a cheap, nasty notebook into a desirable object by adding some worthless trash, in this case: an old piece of circuit board. It's not hard, just follow the steps!

These circuit boards are found inside computers and laptops and they make a wonderful, versatile material once you get all the components off.

The notebook is really quite cheap. I got it for just one euro. The nicest things about this notebook are the fake leather spine and back cover, and the snap button. I have no idea how hard or easy it will be for you to find something
similar, but try your luck in dollar stores or your local equivalent.

Step 1: What Will You Need?

Most importantly:

you'll need

  • a notebook that's easy to deconstruct and that has a nice-looking spine and back
  • a piece of circuit board: an old motherboard or expansion card that you like the colour of

Tools for taking the notebook apart:

  • pliers
  • knife
  • scissors

For putting it back together:

  • spray glue
  • expoxy glue
  • clear varnish (not pictured)

There are different ways and tools to prepare the circuit board. They'll be discussed in the next step.

Step 2: Preparing the Board

First of all, you'll need to take the components off (=desoldering). This is easiest with the more modern components that are surface mounted: they come off more easily than the older type of components that are stuck through holes in the board. So if you can find a board with mostly tiny surface-mounted components, that'll make your life easier.

There are several methods for desoldering listed on this site. I'll name two:

  • you can use an oven (that's not used for food prep anymore, because desoldering is toxic!)
  • you can use a heat gun and a paint scraper

With any method of desoldering, it's important to stay safe and make sure there is enough ventilation, because toxic fumes may be released. At the very least, always open the window!

Once your board is clean and smooth, give it a coat of varnish. Not just to pretty it up, but also because it may contain lead and that's bad stuff.

Then leave it for later and start working on the notebook.

Step 3: Prepare the Notebook

First of all, take the paper out and put it aside.

Now take your knife and start cutting the plastic inside of the front cover free from the outside. Be careful: the plastic is really soft and tears easily, and there may be double sided tape behind it.

Make sure the front cover is done on all three edges.

Now put the book face-down and cut along the edge of the fake leather. Leave the stitching in place if you can. Cut through enough layers that you'll be able to remove the cardboard inside as well as the shiny outside.

Remove the front cover, leaving the plastic inside in place.

Step 4: Cut the Board to Size

Use the cardboard to mark the right size on your circuit board.

Some good tools to cut the board to size are:

  • mitre saw
  • angle grinder
  • table saw
  • metal saw (handheld)

Choose whichever you prefer, and have at your disposal.

Finish off the edges with a metal file or sandpaper. It's nice to round of the corner just a bit, and bevel the edges in order to make them feel more pleasant to the touch.

Step 5: Combine the Parts

Put the book on the table and use cardboard or paper to cover up the parts you do not want to get glue on. You'll want to put glue on the plastic inside cover, the leftover piece of fake leather from the front cover, and also on the back of the circuit board. Spray them all evenly with spray glue. Let them dry until they're no longer shiny.

Put the circuit board on the plastic inner cover, or the other way around, whichever you find easiest; start with the two corners that are furthest from the spine, as they're the most visible. Press it all together. Now press the fake leather part in place, too.

Now it's time to put the paper back in!

Step 6: Recover the Button

Remember that ugly front cover you removed? Dig it out of the trash. You'll need one half of the snap button that's still in the cardboard front cover. First of all, cut it out with your scissors. Just cut all around it, as close as you can.

Grab the button with your cutting pliers, and try to pry the halves apart. Grab the little round 'nipple' with another pair of pliers and with a little luck you'll be able to pull the top part off.

Step 7: Glue the Button in Place

Close the book, in order to determine the correct spot for the snap button. Keep in mind that there must still be room for a pen!

Mix your epoxy glue with a coffee stirrer or something disposable like that. Put just a prop of glue on the back of the button, and place it in the right spot.

Now go and make yourself a nice cup of tea because this needs to harden before you'll be able to touch it again.

Step 8: A Result You Can Be Proud Of

Now you're done! Put a proper pen in place of the cheap, crappy one that came with the notebook. It'll make a lovely gift for friends or family.
If you're lucky, you may be able to find circuit boards of different colours for more variation. In any case, have fun!



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    38 Discussions

    Neato!! Those looks SO cool. I never would have thought of turning junk parts into something neat like that. Love it!

    1 reply

    Cyberpunk started with (or at least around the time of) the book "Neuromancer" by William Gibson, in 1984. It's a really good read...

    1 reply

    Cool notebook btw. It might be good to just take off the large components, leave the tiny ones in place. Bit more effort but could be worth it :)

    1 reply

    I don't think it would feel very nice to the touch. But sure, go ahead and try it, who knows what you come up with!

    It's always a possibility to not destroy things made for other purposes (nice, probably working circuit boards that are designed by experts and might have 4+ layers of circuitry) and instead design and etch your own boards for this purpose. Copper clad board isn't super expensive and plain old sharpies make pretty decent etch resist (the stuff you cover the parts of the board you don't want to etch with). There is also the toner transfer method as well as others for getting your design marked on the board.

    While ferric chloride etchant isn't the nicest on the environment (or the easiest to dispose of) there are other similar methods. This article/video may be informative ( If you want to make more than a couple, then it's worth investing in some gear, since you REALLY DON'T WANT to share glassware, etc between cooking and etching...

    3 replies

    Uhhm. Where to start...

    Do you have any idea how many circuit boards are being thrown out every day? I don't know either, but it's a lot.

    I'm as much in favour of making one's own [anything] as the next gal or guy, and possibly more, but I really don't see the point in making one's own circuit board if it's not going to be used as a circuit board. And I definitely don't plan to start spending money on it when there's so much being thrown out and our hackerspace's junk bin has so much to offer still.

    Honestly, I prefer to recycle and upcycle wherever possible.

    I'm sure there are a ton, but I really resent the loss of usable hardware to someone's art project. Especially when it's for a look that's easily obtained other ways. A lot of work was required to get from nothing to those circuit boards. If you're sure it's kaput that's one thing, but plenty of people toss working circuit boards because they aren't the latest thing or aren't compatible with their current computer.

    What you're doing there isn't really 'recycling'. At best it's reuse. Upcycling is bullshit, because what you produce is often of less value in most regards.It's only of more value to you (a subjective measure).

    The thing is, I can kinda see where you're coming from. Yes, this is sophisticated stuff and it's going to waste, as far as the originally intended functionality is concerned.
    But keep in mind that no one wants to use these circuit boards for their intended use anymore, and the other option would generally be the scrap yard. Because while a working 486 is functional in a literal sense, no one that I know really has any use for it anymore. And while that video player may still work, no one I know plays videos and we have all this stuff piling up. We're a hackerspace, we are like a black hole for computers and other hardware, and often the best we can to is scrap it and get some money back. In which case the value of that circuit board is something like 15 cents.
    Our storage space is finite. We keep the best and scrap the rest. And we're the ones who pick and choose. More common practice is to toss it all, often even in the regular garbage, so it gets burned.

    So either I turn it into something of greater value (and yes, that is subjective, because value is inherently subjective) or it gets scrapped. (In which case at least the raw materials are harvested and reused.)

    I really don't see the big deal here.

    I personally resent the loss of rare and old hardware to art projects (which is something I've seen happen and it hits me right in the feels). That is not what's going on here: we have a computer museum and we have saved a ton of computer history from being tossed. But these ten to fifteen year old circuit boards... there's so many of them. Yes, they're sophisticated, but they're not rare.
    I'm sorry if it bothers you, but I'm going to keep on using them for the only use they currently have: to show people how pretty technology can be.

    it's super easy to test your boards for lead. Some have an "RoHS" printed on them, indicating lead free. Also, pick up a cheap lead test kit for 10 bucks here:

    Varnish is Not a good idea for something that gets carried in your hand frequently, as it will come off easily.

    1 reply

    A good polyurethane varnish should not come off easily. And I don't know about you, but I don't go around carrying my notebook in my hand.

    But I'm someone will find your link useful. So, thanks!

    Very cool idea!

    Somewhere in the world there are stacks of circuit boards that were printed but never assembled, either due to order cancellations or mistakes. Finding some of those would eliminate a lot of the work and probably all the toxicity.

    Cyberpunk is cool! I concern that PCB board is safe to be daily used , I mean if there is some chemical toxic elements ?

    1 reply

    That's why it's advised to cover the board in a coat of varish.

    I love the looks of this! The notebooks are both beautiful and fascinating.

    Re "It's a thing if we say it's a thing," I'm going to label cyberpunk the "next generation after 'steampunk'," which I first heard of when working with polymer clay.

    1 reply

    Matstermind pointed this out below, but it deserves another mention. Use a lead-free PCB and/or coat the PCB in varnish. Lead is the heavy metal gift that keeps on giving. If you are young it makes you dumb and angry. If you are old it gives you cancer. Neither are a desired outcome.