Pimp Your USB Drive




You like to store data. Sure you do. But when you take it out on the street, people are laughing at you! Yeah, I know, they just don't get you, right? Well, maybe you need to help them. Give yourself a little street cred by building a sandbenders-inspired case for your USB drive.

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Step 1: Gather Materials

Basic list:

-USB drive
-carving tools + saw
-Casting house

This can be tricky. You're going to need a block of wax to carve (actually some woods will work too, as long as they burn away cleanly and don't leave too much ash residue.) Wax by Kerr or Ferris is designed for carving and clean burnouts, it's what i'm using here. There are different hardnesses, in this project I'll be using green wax, which is both hard and brittle, but takes detail well and allows for very thin walls.

You will need a USB drive. You probably won't ruin it during this project, but you could, and it will probably void your warranty. Feel free to try it with an old 32mb drive or something first if you're unsure. I'm going ahead with my 1G drive because what can I say, I'm fearless.

You will need a place to have this cast. You can take it to a casting house (easy, fast, and pretty inexpensive) or you can cast it yourself. I won't cover that here.

You will need carving tools. You can make do with some scrapers, pointy utility knives, or dental tools, but the real king of speed and flexibility here is a rotary tool like a dremel or a foredom. You'll want some ball burrs, but try not to get anything too fine-toothed because it will gum up with wax pretty fast. A jeweller's saw frame with a spiral wax blade is reccomended, but if you've got a bandsaw or something that can do it, by all means use that.

That should be it.

Step 2: DE-STROY

Or, carefully take apart your usb drive. I pried mine apart with the bottle opener on my leatherman. Use something thin and strong, and please be careful. You don't want to stab yourself or ruin the drive, at least not this early on. Don't become a failure like my father always said you would.

Step 3: Cut Some Wax

Use the pre-existing case as a guide to decide how thick you need your new case halves to be. Go ahead and cut a slice of wax off the block, keeping the thickness consistent. You can use a strip of masking tape to help keep your cut straight. Cut it to size, and mark the dimensions of your drive's board on the wax so you know where to carve. Layout is probably the most important step in wax carving. Keep adding layout lines as you carve away old ones.

Step 4: Cut to Fit.

We're working with the interior first, because it's the more important stage. Sure it needs to look nice, but if you can't assemble it without smashing your drive, you haven't really won, have you? That won't stop them from making fun of you.

Remember to re-check the fit every so often as you carve, making sure not to get too carried away. You'll want to leave the drive a little breathing space, however, because we're going to add a non-conductive liner later.

I started by making thin boxes that just fit the board, and added a layer on top of that afterwards to carve my design into. This helped to control the warpage i experienced when hot-working a one piece shell.

Step 5: Carving

This step is up to you. I worked with beetle shell inspired designs and tried to shoot for something that fell between natural and technological.

carve up the top plate and attach it to the case. I attached them by heating up a wax carving tool blade and pushing it through from the inside of the case to about halfway into the top plate. This draws them together. Then i went around the edges and melted them together, adding wax where i needed it.

The cap is hollowed out from a small block, with enough thickness left on the top and bottom to match the carving with the rest of the case. To merge the two halves of the drive case, i wanted to extend the cap over the body, with a wingcase looking flange. I covered the top of teh drive body with tinfoil and worked the hot wax directly over it, ensuring a great fit.

Step 6: Wax Cleanup

The smoother you get your wax, the easier it will be to clean up in the metal. Also, anywhere it's too thin or you have missing areas, FILL THEM NOW. It's practically impossible to add metal, but it's so easy to add wax. Do it now, or regret it FOREVER.

take the wax to a finished stage, and then take it to a casting house. This set me back about $50 i think.

Step 7: Drill and Clean Up Metal

This is really the tedious step.

First, tape some emery paper (i used 220 grit for this brute task) to a desk or piece of glass. Grind the inner face of the drive case until it is flat, using a figure eight motion to keep the wear even.

Next, use a small ball burr to clean out the inside of the drive case and cap until your board fits snugly again. The case will shrink during the casting process, so remove a tiny bit of metal until you can pop the board back in there.

Drill the rivet holes in the four little leg posts.

Clean up the case a little. I had a hole in my cap, so i melted a big blob of silver solder there and filled it up (not very professional).

Step 8: Case Closed

BEFORE YOU RIVET THE CASE SHUT: make sure you coat the board in something non-conductive, because if your components short on the silver drive, your board is toast and it's going to be a messy job getting another one in there. I coated my board in hot glue.

Like me, you may have been unable to get your seams to match up perfectly. It's ok, it happens to everyone, and you don't need to feel ashamed. You're not alone.

There's a simple and elegant solution to this. Once your case is riveted shut, take your punch or chasing tools and use them to close the seam! The process is dead simple, though a little hard to describe. What the punch is doing, essentially, is just massaging the metal into a different location. Using little taps of the hammer, just push the seams closer together. This was really useful in closing up the gaps around the usb plug. Take your time and make it as perfect as possible, because when people can't find the seam they really can't figure out how you've built this.

Step 9: Polish It Up

My polishing array included emery paper up to 600 grit, various abrasive wheels on my flex-shaft, engraving tools, and buffing wheels.

Make sure you clean out all the polishing compound when you're done, because it looks gross.

My skin is really acidic. I learned this after i finished this project. My finger prints etch metal a fair bit more than average, and if you find your polished works always look smudgy and fingerprinted, try wearing nitrile gloves while you polish. They're not as dangerous on the buffer as regular gloves because if they catch they'll just break up before they suck your hands in. Careful.

Step 10: Bling!

You're done! Now take that drive and staple it to your face because everyone wants to see it. I promise this will net you compliments on your skillz, your genius, and probably your breath and visage. Since i made this, people can't stop telling me how great looking I am.


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    106 Discussions


    7 years ago on Step 10

    Very nice able man :) but for this work and money, i would hae designed the shell a bit better :P but the final product is very impresive :) love it


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    As long as you don't plug a flash drive in while its still wet nearly all flash drives are actually waterproof. Ive had one of mine go through a washing machine 3 times! and it still works.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    my sandisk cruzer titanium survived a washing machine, a dryer and being taken out of the computer without "ejecting" it about 10 times


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

     I take mild offense to your comment.  

    I always eject my flash drive; I have several portable apps on said flash drive and if they're not properly closed before removing my flash drive, data on that flash drive could be corrupted.

    Besides, it takes ten seconds at the most.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    If the apps aren't actually writting to your flash drive then it should be all fine, i used to use portable apps quite a bit too, and never really had any problems because i always closed them all first and waited for the light on my flash drive to stop blinking.
    interestingly the computers at the school i used to go to (just finished :D) actually had the safety eject thing disabled (they were secruity freaks - although i figured out how to get around everything i actually wanted to lol)
    It doesn't really take that long, but its just another 10 seconds unnecessarily wasted.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

     Exactly the same here, safe eject is blocked on our school computers... but they forgot to block CMD that allows you to do about anything if you know how. 


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

     haha my school blocked cmd and also the run dialog box, but you can do pretty much anything you can do in cmd in a batch file which i don't think they actually can block


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

     Well, it isn't exactly in the start menu either but making a shortcut on the desktop to CMD (nothing else, point it to CMD) works just fine. 
    They blocked a shortcut to C:\ already but they need CMD for troubleshooting (we use terminals connecting to like 20 servers and with CMD you can see what server you're on so they know where the problem is)


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

     nah they actually did disable cmd as well lol, if you opened it up with a shortcut it would say something like "Command prompt has been disabled by your administrator. Press any key to exit".
    But like i said they didn't disable batch files which can do all the same things.
    (although i think they just blocked CMD on student and teacher accounts, im pretty sure the computing teachers still had access to it)

    and if they blocked shortcuts to C:\, try right clicking on the start menu, clicking browse and just going back a few directories - that actually worked at my school


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    damn that eject thing i have never used in my life(i have used in a pc at least 400-700 times)


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    I NEVER eject, unless you still have windows 2000 or earlier then you don't need to, your just wasting your time.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    It's not the water that hurts it, it is the electricity that goes to the wrong places when the water connects all of the components. It shorts it out, but as long as you dont put electricity through it while it is wet it will be fine. Same with other electronics. I did that with my phone.