Steampunk Tank Mouse - Recycled & Pocket-Sized

Introduction: Steampunk Tank Mouse - Recycled & Pocket-Sized

About: Arduino and Robotics Nerd, and alumni of FIRST Robotics Team 5683 (Go R.A.V.E.!). Blinking LEDs with Arduino is still one of my favorite pastimes even after years of doing it.

This is a quick project I did with an old mouse, some scrap metal, and an old soldering iron. It is intended to look something like a steampunk or diesel-punk tank, and functions as a mouse for any USB-equipped computer. The inspiration for this was two-fold, from the Steampunk Mouse by MissBetsy and from an image of a spiffed-up hover tank mouse I saw a while back on this page. Since there aren't any Instructables for tank mice like those, I thought I'd make my own with a steam/diesel-punk twist. The real kicker for me, though, was when I took apart my old soldering iron and noticed that the heater coil bit looks exactly like a muzzle break and barrel of a tank from an older retro-style video game. Since I have no use for this sort of heater, and I had some scrap metal, wire, and an old mouse, I decided to put them all together and see what I could come up with.

The old mouse I used is one of those really cheap $5 mini ones you get for travel, but since I upgraded to a Zelotes T-90 I haven't used it at all. The miniature size and the metal shell I made for it make it pretty darn robust, perfect for pocket-and-go situations.

If you like this, please do give it a vote in the Pocket Sized and Trash to Treasure contests. I'm still trying to get better tools for my shop and winning either would be a huge boost to my Instructable-ing capabilities.

Step 1: Supplies

I always say this, but you really should make sure you have all the required supplies on hand before you start a project. In this case, it isn't imperative to have the exact things I do, because this project is a scrap-build, but it is a good idea to have your alternative parts ready as well.

I used:

An old USB optical mouse (I used a re-branded version of this mouse)

18 gauge copper modelling wire

12 gauge galvanized iron modelling wire

Scraps of 0.5 mm aluminum sheeting

The metal shaft and heater coil from an old soldering iron (these are pretty standard for a cheap 30 Watt iron, and the wear from use makes it look authentic)

Old screws

The wind guard from an old flex lighter

A 2-pin RGB slow flashing LED (2.2 - 5 Volts) and accompanying 220 Ohm resistor


Soldering iron (not the one we took apart)

Hot glue gun


Wire Cutters/Snips

Pliers (You may want multiple pairs)


Step 2: Adding an LED

So, the little mouse I have has a place on the PCB for a resistor and an LED, and since I love LEDs, I just couldn't resist adding my own. Is it really that steampunk or tank-like? No. Am I going to add it anyway? Heck yes. Yours might come with this pre-installed, and at the same time it may not even have a place for it. So really, this (like the rest of this 'Ible) is optional, but I added it so I'll show you how to do it as well.

Step 1: Remove the cover (you need to do this regardless of whether you add an LED or not)

Simply undo the little screws on the bottom, and the cover should come off. Keep all the pieces, you'll want them later on.

Step 2: Solder the LED and resistor

On the PCB, there should be a little diode symbol and a resistor symbol with the typical "R" designation. Simply insert the LED and resistor in the appropriate places, and solder them in (Make sure to check the polarity of the LED).

Step 3: Test

Plug in the mouse, and if you did it right, the LED will turn on. If it doesn't turn on, either the LED is the wrong way around, or you soldered something incorrectly.

Now that we've taken care of the LED deficiency, let's move on to the actual tank part of this project.

Step 3: A Tank-like Turret-Gun-Thingy

So the first thing I made was the turret. As this doesn't have any real steps at first, I'll just type up a short description of what I did in preparation.

First, I cut the wires off of the heater bit from my soldering iron. Then, I removed the wind guard from the lighter and bent all the flanges until they were straight. I proceeded to test fit the heater inside the wind guard, and the fit was perfect. I then removed the upper black covering from the clear frame bit of the mouse. I set aside the black cover for later, we'll be using it in the next step.

As the rest of this is pretty standard, I'm going to switch over to my typical step-by-step format.

Step 1:

Carefully (to avoid breaking anything) take off the clicker pad thingies, and cut diagonally upward from the edge of each side to create an opening for the turret.

Step 2:

Cut the clear plastic frame down the center from the scroll wheel slot, and widen out a bit of it in the middle to the point where the wind guard can slot comfortably inside. At this point I test fit everything and made some adjustments, I advise you do the same to avoid problems later on.

Step 3:

Slot the wind guard into the clear plastic frame, and place the frame as it would be mounted when screwed on. Adjust the position of the wind guard until it does not interfere with the scroll wheel, and then mark this point.

Step 4:

Hot Glue the wind guard into place in the marked position.

Step 5:

Slot the heater coil into the wind guard, and find a good barrel length. Remove the heater coil, and extrude a large amount of hot glue into the wind guard from the bottom. While blocking the hot glue from exiting the bottom of the wind guard, reinsert the heater coil to the desired depth, ensuring the glue has taken hold (you will feel an increase in pressure as you push it past the glue)

Step 6: Let the glue cool.

Step 7: Reattach the clicker pads to their original mount points, and screw the clear cover frame back onto the base of the mouse.

Now that we have the artillery locked and loaded, we can start adding armor to our heavy clicker unit.

Step 4: A New Shell for an Old Mouse

Now, with this project I didn't really want to be fiddling with wiring and soldering electrical components (other than the LED), so we're just fashioning a new cover to fit in place of (and around) the old one. Since this is intended to fit in a pocket and take a beating, we will be making the outer cover mostly of metal (except for the glue). We will leave the original buttons and scroll wheel as they are, fitting the metal around them as needed.

Step 1:

Take the black cover bit from earlier, and cut off the rear portion. Glue the remaining sliver back in place on the mouse.

Step 2: Note- the sizes are an approximation and will need some fiddling to get right.

Take a squarish bit of sheet metal about 2 cm larger to either side of the top bit where the black cover was, and about twice as long as said top bit (from front to back). Fold over the extra 1 cm on each side, and slit the sides in the middle. Add a slight curve to the metal to match the top of the mouse, then fold the sheet in the middle where the slits on the sides are. Form fit the metal to the top of the mouse, until you get it just perfect. Add cool angles if and where you want.

Step 3:

Hot glue the cover you just made on top of the mouse, making sure to use plenty of glue for a firm joint. Fill in any gaps if/where needed.

Step 4:

On a second, flat bit of metal, make two identical side covers for the mouse. These can be any shape you like.

Step 5:

Glue each of these side covers to the side of the mouse.

Step 6: (conditional)

My side covers stuck up a bit on the top and back of the mouse. To smooth this out, I molded two bits of my 12-guage wire to match each of the sides, then glued these in place (again filling in any gaps with glue).

Now that we have a cover, we can move on to add any embellishments and finish the project.

Step 5: Embellishments and Finishing

For this step, you can literally do whatever you please and it will likely end up looking okay.

Step 1: A Hatch

Every tank needs a hatch, so I added a copper coil to the top. Not a hatch, you say? Well, this hatch uses top secret tech invented by Tesla to transform the entrant into a cloud of steam and re-materialize them inside the cockpit of the tank. It also doubles as an electrical shield generator.

Step 2: Additional Armor

Those clickers were looking mighty exposed, so I found two scrap triangles of metal and glued them on, along with a sleek copper embellishment.

Step 3: De-burring and a Label

For the final touch, I very carefully scratched the designation SM-1 onto the left side. (Standing for Steampunk Mouse, Model 1). To finish the whole thing off, I sanded down all the metal edges to get rid of any burs, and i lightly sanded the rest of the metal for a slightly worn, brushed look.

And now we're finished! Next step, the finale!

Step 6: The Grand Finale

So, now we have a fantastic, recycled, tank-ified steampunk mouse that fits in a pocket (look, I even tested it!).

It feels pretty good to use, as the coolness and weight of the metal really adds that satisfying feel to the whole experience. Best of all, it glows in a full RGB spectrum that no good mouse could be without. Oh, and having that turret sticking out, ready to blast any button I click on, that's really cool... (you should use yours to blast those Vote buttons (-; ).

I'm going to wrap this one up here, feeling a bit better about that slowly shrinking scrap pile I keep around for these sorts of things.

Please don't forget to Vote, comment with questions and suggestions, or leave tips for how I (and everyone else) can do things better the next time around.

As always, these are the projects of Dangerously Explosive, his lifelong mission, "To boldly build what you want to build, and more!"

You can find the rest of my projects here.

Pocket-Sized Contest

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Pocket-Sized Contest

Trash to Treasure

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Trash to Treasure

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