Ruggedizing a Notebook, the Jersey Way!

Introduction: Ruggedizing a Notebook, the Jersey Way!

About: In short, I’m a diesel-driving double-clutching Jersey girl who spends too much time fixing boats and trucks, sailing, writing and not behaving according to expectations. I live in northeast New Jersey with ...

My large cat has a fondness for napping on top of my closed notebook computer, and past computers have not fared well. My HP has a plastic cover and I could see it flex under the slightest pressure. A true ruggedized computer was beyond my budget but I needed to beef up my notebook. While I tossed around the idea of grabbing some sheet-metal and the welding tools to build the HP an armor case, I glanced around for a faster, simpler solution. And there it was, hanging on the garage wall… an old license plate. License plates are aluminum, so they are light-weight yet fairly rigid.

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Step 1: What You Need...

All you need for this project, except for vise (in garage), some ‘foamy’ that I decided to add in the end and scissors/razor to cut foamy.

One computer in need of ruggedizing/aesthetic improvement. Pictured here: HP/Compaq NC2400 running Windows XP. The already defaced cover is plastic and flexes alarmingly every time my oversized (not overweight, he’s just plain BIG) cat decides to use it as a heated bed.

One license plate of your preferred state. If you don’t have one or two hanging on your garage wall, there are sites online selling retired plates from everywhere imaginable. This particular plate is a bit scuffed due to a run-in it had with a Subaru while attached to an old Mercury wagon, which gives it character and street cred.

One ruler for measuring your marks.

One Sharpie for marking your measurements.

One rubber mallet for tapping out Subaru inflicted dents as well as shaping plate to fit laptop.

One pair of needle-nose pliers for further shaping corners.

Eight 3M Command Strips for attaching plate to computer.

Step 2:

Is the plate wider than the computer? This model is a small notebook with 12” screen. The cover measures 11” wide; a standard license plate is 12”. I could have trimmed the edges but I decided folding them over would offer more strength and protection for the display. If your laptop is larger (most are) then you can skip the next few steps. However, if your lid has any curves, find a similarly curved surface, place the plate over it and give the plate a few taps with the rubber mallet until you’ve matched the shape.

Step 3: Mark the Plate...

I flipped the computer over on the plate and traced a line with a Sharpie to indicate where I wanted to bend it, which not surprisingly measures 1/4” in from the edge.

Step 4: Vise Time...

Place plate in vise along measured line. Gently tap outer side of the plate to bend it over at a right angle. Flip and do the same to the opposite.

Step 5: Pliers...

With the needle-nose pliers adjust the corners until the plate fits the shape of the computer’s cover.

Step 6: Some Extra Padding...

I decided a few strips of craft ‘foamy’ would give this arrangement even more protection and feline load distribution without adding measurable weight so I attached some pieces using one of the Command Strips, which I cut into small pieces to keep the foamy from shifting. I used a utility knife but scissors would just as easily cut the foamy and the Command Strips. Attach Command Strips around the upper and lower edges of the plate, as well as one or two along the center.

Step 7: And Done!

And attach plate to computer. That’s it. You now have a computer that can withstand the sustained pressures of snoozing cats and you’ve turned an unremarkable old notebook into a distinct and amusing conversation piece wherever it’s seen.

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