How to Build Your Own IPad Case.




About: I earned an art degree from the Art Institute of Seattle and became a official Graphic Designer and Electronic prepress expert. To add to the tricks in my bag I have added Sign Carving and Wood Working.

I know we have all seen and drooled over the new iPads and a few of us have shelled out the big bucks to get one.

If you are like me you want to protect your investment and make it look nice. If it can fit your personality and you make it your self, well that's a plus.


Step 1: Things You Will Need for This Project..

1. iPad (or other such thing) 1a. If you are not doing a iPad a good ruler and other measuring tools.

2. Wood/Bamboo for the protective ring.

3. Hand tools (Drill, Drill bits, Saw, Files, Rasps, Dremmel tool X-acto knife, and glue.) Or you can do what I did and use a home built Cnc (a computer controlled wood router). Use what you got. 3a. If you are using a Cnc you can download the code however it is set for Mach 3 software and might need some adjusting if you don't use this program.

4 Old coat from Good Will (something that you like the fabric). You are going to destroy it so a few holes or elbow patches are ok.

5 Did I say Glue.. Get spray Super 77 and Elmer's. Double sided tape is nice to have as well..

Step 2: First Step, Measurements

First step get the measurements of your new expensive item. For demonstration purposes we are going to use the iPad but any such device will work. All my settings are in Inches.

The iPad's measurements are 8.5 by 9.5 The corners are .5 radi and the thickness is .58 the edge is .25

Step 3: Second Step the Blank.

Second step The Blank. This is where the fun began for me. I have scrap wood all around my shop from past projects and the like. I ripped down some old bamboo flooring for my first iPad case. The second I got some walnut and cherry from a woodworker friend's scrap bin.

You don't need much... 12x12 by 3/4 is more than enough for this project. If you have a larger item add 1/4 to 1/2 inch all the way around to get the blank size you need.

I just ran the edges I wanted to glue, through the table saw and glued them together with old fashioned white glue. Nothing special. I did clamp it down to a chunk of glass to keep it flat and stable and not sticking to anything You can never have too many clamps..  

Step 4: Third Step the Programing..

Third step The programing.. While the glued dried I started on the program for the Cnc (my homemade computer controlled wood router)..

If you don't have one you can skip this step.

1. I entered all the measurements into my software program. Including the blank size and centered it. I added 1/32 of an inch to each edge for spaceing around the edge so the iPad would fit nicely. Then I offset it .25 to the left because there aren't any buttons on that side. I didn't like the way there were holes around the edge when the book was closed so I modified the edges to hide them as much as possible.

 2. I calculated my tool paths. On this project I started using all of my bits three or 4 times but I kept adjusting and modifying until I got 3 tool changes and all of the tool steps were together.

 3. A tip to save time I left the center as a block. I don't know what I am going to do with the scraps but they are cool.

 4. I left space around the buttons so I could get my fingers in For my hands I needed a half an inch to activate the buttons and be able to plug in and remove the cables and wires.

Step 5: Fourth Step, the Milling.

Fourth step the milling. Each Computer Controlled Routing machine is different so I will show you what I did.

1. I made a flat board by milling it down with the largest bit I had.. This is not really part of making the case but you need the surface flat and true for this project.

2. I used wood screws to hold down the blank. I measured this 4 or 5 times to keep my expensive bits from nicking the wood screws. Some people have edge clamps and tape to hold down there work pieces.. Do what ever works for your table.. This works for me.

3. Mark the zero point. I do this with a chisel. This will help you set up each bit when you are setting up the next step.

If you are not using a Cnc you can still make your own case with a wood chisel. A drill press and saber saw will help speed the process along make sure to check your fit often.

Step 6: Fifth Step, Cutting of the Blank.

Fifth step is the cutting of the blank.

 1. I started smoothing the blank with my machine's largest bit. If I had done a better job setting up my blank and had better wood I think I could have skipped this step. (that is why it is not included in the software steps.

 2. The first bit is the .25 flat bottom spiral cut bit I used this to hog out most of the wood then to cut out the edges. I was worried that the part would break loos if I put too much stress on the part while milling. So I did most of the hard work while the edges were secured then I moved the screws to the middle for the next phase.

 3. I put in the .25 ball nose bit for the finishing. This is a nice bit and left a soft wave pattern on the bottom of the cut. I like this effect so I left it in and didn't sand it out.

 4. I spent quite a bit time making little engravings around the edges inside the pockets but after the first one looked poor I stopped the process. Live and learn.

This wasn't the fastest processes in the world. It takes almost 2 hours to complete so I started on the next step the cover while the blank was milling out.

Step 7: Sixth Step, the Cover.

Sixth step the cover. No book is complete with out a cover.

I made mine out of a leather coat I got from Good Will I think the next time I will get a dress coat.. They are cheeper and the wool looks really cool but I went with leather this time. It took a hour and a half to strip out the back panel with a X-acto knife. I would recommend a seam ripper from the fabric store if you are going to do this.

 1. The wood is birch plywood (aircraft grade) from the local hobby store. It is 1/8 of an inch thick and stiff as a board (ha ha) You can use stiff cardboard for this or a old book that you have stripped the covers off of. If you use a old book check the size to make sure it will fit your blank.

 2. I added .25 of a inch to the top bottom and 1 side of the blanks final size to give it a bit of a over hang. Make 2. On the iPad I split the front cover 3 inches over from the spine so I could fold the cover back upon it's self and use it as a easel back. (I haven't used this feature much but It looks so cool!

 3. I added speaker holes in front so I can listen to the iPad with the cover closed. I haven't seen any one do this and my experiments show it doesn't make much of a difference, but there again it looks cool!

 4. The logo is mine and I cut it into the cover as well. I set the depth to 1/16 of an inch and this was too deep. I think 1/32 could work just fine but you need to take into account the fabric thickness and the boldness of your design.
If you wish to be even bolder you can take cardboard or paper and glue it to the board under your covering for a razed look. (I have done this on past projects and it looks cool too, and is a lot easer to do than carving out the wood.) If you are going to emboss your design in Keep It Bold. Fine detail gets lost... Just look at the button on the sleeve of the hook...

Step 8: Seventh Step. Finishing,

Seventh step. Finishing,

 1. Sand everything!!! Twice!!. Remove all sharp edges and tool marks you don't want. I left some "witness" marks on mine to show off but a smooth case looks nice.

 2. Varnish your wood surround. This is going to be a hard working piece that is going to be in your grubby hands a lot so apply a good wood varnish or polyurethane. 3 coats is the minimum here. Sand between each coat people will be looking at this a lot and you don't want to be shamed by a poor finish job.

 3. While the surround is drying it is time to start on the cover. This is where spray glue comes in.

3a. Lay out your fabric or leather and place each one of the board on the surface leaving .25 of an inch on either side of the spine for spacing. Mark the layout and placement of the boards and cut off the excess fabric giving your self a .5" seam allowance.

3b. Coat the covers on one side with a good amount of spray glue and set in place. Adjust as needed before pressing down firmly. If you make a mistake pull it up quickly. Add more glue before reapplying. Take your time with this. You don't have anything else to do the varnish is drying.

3c. Now if you have put a logo on the cover now is the time to rub it in with the cap from a ball point pen or your finger nail. Be careful and make sure not to rip the fabric. A little water or rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle will help with this process.

3d. Rolling the edges is the trickiest part of this process. The corners always give me trouble.. So I start from the middle and work my way out the corners. I use spring clamps and take my time stretching each piece slightly one inch at a time. You can trim the edges after the glue is dry to keep things neat and tidy.

4 The inside panels. I make up some inside panels out of card stock and fabric the same way the book's covers however I am using thiner stock and thiner fabric because this is for trim and it will not take as much ware.. These panels you will want to keep about 1/16th smaller on the top and 1 side (keep the side towards the spine full length). Spray glue the card stock, and place them on the fabric. Then cut them out, spray the back and wrap over the edges. One more hit of spray glue and stick them in place.

5 If you are lucky and your surround is dry you can mount it into your cover. I use double sided carpet tape for this incase I wanted to change or modify things later. (Don't use the foam backed double sided tape because it adds thickness and it might show).

Step 9: Eighth Step, Final Tweaks.

Eighth step. Final tweaks.

Remember that 1/32 of a inch I included in the build step. Well my iPad was rattling around a bit so I added some thin strips of black craft foam on the edges of the top and bottom and that stopped the movement and gave me a good tight fit. I am also thinking about adding magnets to hold the case closed but haven't gotten there yet.

So Good luck with your case and if you have any questions please write me. Also test the files attached they work for my machine but may not work for yours. There are no promises or guarantees.

Take pride in your mistakes because they are the only thing you can truly call your own. 

Visit my web page Blackdog Carving Dot Com



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    55 Discussions


    6 years ago on Step 9

    It's BEAUTIFUL !!!!!! Nice job!!

    It came from a need to protect my iPad but I was out of work and didn't have the money for the store bought one, but that was just the start.

    My nickname is "Black Dog" Like most nicknames it is kind of a insult..
    So I decided to embrace it and take it on as my image..
    Blackdog was a pirate that gave Long John Silver the black spot so the Pirate theme was also a natural choice.

    I have found out that if you want a really good idea you need to combine 2 or three into one, coming at it from several different thought angles.


    That is only if I add a button that when pushed it says Panic... Always travel with a towel, and the answer is 42.

    And your personal supercomputer is called Deep Thought? Didn't look at all steps but end result looks fantastic! nice one.

    HAHA - I finally found a case with "Don't Panic" on the cover - very excited about getting one.

    I need a friend with a kindle or a iPhone, so I can make other cases... I must encourage you to make a case because it is so choice. (paraphrased from Ferris Bueller's Day Off)


    8 years ago on Introduction

    When I first saw this, I thought the design on the front was Fruit Fu**er from

    1 reply

    8 years ago on Step 7

    with what did you cut out the logo in your leather? your CNC?