Want a really unique digital assistant for your home?
You might go to a garage sale, thrift shop, or your grandmother's house and end up with an old chair. If this happens, you might choose to breathe some new lift into that furniture by reupholstering it. Upholstery is basically just replacing the fabric covering of furniture with a new fabric and it is a fast and low cost way of making an old piece of furniture look brand new.
Here is Robbaz, an excellent streamer, reupholstering his chair.
Well, something that has absolutely nothing to do with fixing up second hand furniture is the trend of covering consumer electronics products in fabric. The biggest names in tech are all getting in on this design trend: Google with the Home Mini and Daydream headsets, Amazon with the newer Alexa devices, Microsoft with its Surface Pro keyboards, and IKEA with the Eneby speakers are just a few examples of fabric covered gadgets on the market today.
You might see where this is going (especially if you read the title of this Instructable). If reupholstery works for old furniture, why can’t we reupholster these kinds of fabric-clad electronics? Well we can and we will do exactly that.
In this Instructable, we will be stripping a Google Home Mini of its default (and not particularly exciting) fabric covering and replacing it with a much more... interesting… material. This simple, quick project should take under an hour to complete and by the end you will have a totally unique digital butler for your home, covered in whatever type of fabric you enjoy the most.
Let’s get started.
You will not need much to complete this project. The first item is obviously a Google Home Mini. These are available in three different colors available: chalk, charcoal, coral, and aqua. These colors determine both the color of the fabric on the devices, and also the color of the plastic bases. The color of the fabric does not matter at all since we will be replacing it anyway, but you should choose a color that coordinates well with the new fabric you plan to use.
Speaking of the new fabric, you will need to get that as well. You will only need a small amount (150mm square). I simply went to my local craft store so I had the opportunity to see a number of different types of fabrics. The only qualification for the fabric is that it not be too thick or it could interfere with your ability to reassemble the Google Home Mini after gifting it with your attractive new fabric choice.
In addition to the Google Home Mini and the fabric of your choosing, you will also need some super glue (for attaching the new fabric to the Home Mini).
Step 1: Peel Off the Rubber Base
With all the materials in place, let’s begin the project. We will start by disassembling the Google Home Mini and the first step in this process is removing the rubber base of the device.
This is actually one of the most difficult parts of this project because the pad is glued onto the rest of the housing and we want to take it off without causing any damage so that it can be reinstalled later on. So, using a thin metal instrument like a paint scraper, butter knife, or one of these things, very carefully work the tool underneath the rubber disk and the thin plastic sheet that acts as its backing. Then, still being careful not to damage the pad, pull the rubber pad free of the Home Mini.
If you have one, it makes this job a little easier to gently warm up the adhesive using a heat gun.
Step 2: Remove the Lower Housing
You’ve probably already noticed that there are four screws on the now-exposed bottom of the Google Home Mini. Let’s remove those using a T6 screwdriver. Make sure to keep track of these screws because we are going to need them later. You should arrange some kind of system that avoids confusing these screws with any of the others we will liberate from the speaker later.
Once you’ve removed all three screws, do not just split the speaker apart. You will need to do this carefully. There is a thin, fragile ribbon cable connecting the USB port on the bottom half of the device to the rest of the unit. This little cable does not have much slack so you will want to avoid breaking it.
To completely free the base, we will need to remove a few more screws (that are fortunately the same size as the ones we already took out). Rather than try to remove the ribbon cable, which is a bit hard to plug back in, we will just disconnect the PCB to which it is attached. So, take out the three screws that hold the board in place.
Step 3: Unscrew the Actual Speaker
The next part we need to remove before we start working with fabric is the actual speaker itself, which is housed inside a cool enclosure. There are four more screws holding this part on, this time T9 screws.
As before, don’t just rip the speaker out after removing the screws. There is once again a cable underneath that connects the speaker to the top half of the speaker (which contains the controller for the Google Home Mini). This time the wire is both more durable and easier to remove. Simply unplug it from the upper section of the Home Mini.
Step 4: Cut Out the New Fabric
Let’s take a break for a moment from disassembling the Google Home Mini and instead prepare the new fabric covering for the speaker. We will need to cut a circle of fabric that we will use to replace the regular Home Mini fabric. Here’s a template that you can use to cut a circle of fabric with a diameter of 150mm. If you have a particularly stretchy fabric, you may wish to shave 5mm off the diameter of the fabric circle so that it does not end up too large.
Step 5: Apply the Fabric
Now that we have the fabric cut out and the Google Home Mini disassembled, we’ve arrived at the point where the project will really start to take shape. In this step we will apply the new fabric to the Home Mini. Start by placing the top part of the Google Home Mini in the center of the circle of fabric. If you are using a fabric pattern that has some discernible directionality, make sure to orient the fabric correctly. The little PCB with the micro USB port on it is on the back of the Google Home Mini.
We will work on attaching the fabric by first gluing it to four opposing points around the Home Mini, forming a kind of square, and then gluing down the fabric in between the corners. After a couple attempts, I found that it is best to start by gluing the fabric to the outside of the bosses into which the screws go. This avoids accidentally covering the screw holes with slack in the fabric later on.
So, start by picking one of the screw bosses and glue the fabric behind it.
Do the same thing for the opposite side of the circle, then two more sides until the fabric forms a square around the Google Home Mini.
Last, and this is probably the trickiest part, fasten the fabric in the areas between the points you tacked down. The trick here is eliminating as many wrinkles in the fabric as possible. This is easier with more stretchy fabric. If you take care though, you should be able to get all the fabric stuck down with minimal folding.
Don’t worry too much about how ugly the fabric looks from the bottom. When we reassemble the speaker, the upper portion of the casing will “hide the crimes,” as Adam Savage would say.
Step 6: Reassemble the Google Home Mini
Alrighty, we’ve arrived at the final step. All we need to do to finish the project is put the Google Home Mini back together by reversing all the previous steps. Start by plugging the speaker module back into the top of the Home Mini that you just reupholstered.
Then, place the speaker module back in its place and secure it with the four silver screws.
Next up is the PCB with the mute switch and micro USB port. There is also the dark grey plastic part that reinforces the mute button. First put the PCB in its place and install the screw next to the USB port. Then, put the grey plastic part on top of the mute switch and secure the whole lot with the two remaining screws.
Secure the bottom half of the enclosure with four screws.
Lastly, place the rubber pad back onto the bottom of the speaker. Note that there is a button on the bottom of the speaker that must line up with the small dot on the rubber disc. The adhesive should still be sticky enough to hold the rubber pad.
All there's left to do now is sit back and marvel at your beautiful Google Home Mini.
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