Undercover Laptop Case

Intro: Undercover Laptop Case

Design Challenge:
Make Something Useful out of Whatever You Find.
We decided to create a laptop case that is functional and fun to carry. What we like most about this case is that it is not obvious to others that you are carrying a laptop.

We are using readily available materials from the recycling bin and the junk bins here at the ITP (Interactive Telecommunications Program) shop.

For materials we used a cardboard box, a fedEx envelope as a lining, packing bubbles for padding, and wire as fastiners. Some discarded nails, a pair of scissors, an exacto knife and a pen are the tools we used.

Update 11/12/06 : We got pretty worried about the Tyvec and static, so we decided we could do better and put our minds at rest. Luckily we're in no short supplies of anti-static bags here so ...
voila -- lining 2.0! check out the follow up steps at the end for the new lining.

Step 1: Cutting the Box

Take the cardboard box and break it down to a flat surface using the blade of the scissors or exacto knife.

Step 2: Measuring for Fit

Place your laptop on the carboard surface, paying attention to where you will be making folds and cuts. If you are lucky, as we were, your box porportions will be well matched to your laptop. Here we used a medium sized shipping box (roughly 17 inches tall assembled), and a 15 inch Mac ibook.

Step 3: Trim to Fit

You'll want to trim the excess cardboard, so that your laptop fits just snug when the case is folded up. Leave a little room, but not too much so that the laptop will not bump against the walls when you are carrying it. Draw guide lines so that your cuts are straight. Cut off any extra panels on the top flap. Measure the bubble sheet and the trim excess to fit the cardboard.

Step 4: Make the Edge Padding

To ensure the safety of the laptop, we created extra padding at the edges of the case.
The edge padding was made out of rolled up Bubble Tape.

Step 5: Secure Edge Padding

First secure the bubble tape edge roll to the cardboard edge using some nails. The nails will poke holes for the fasteners as well as keep everything lined up and in place. We used three nails for the padding. Then 'sewing' with some wire, we fastened the padding to the cardboard. Make sure that the twisted connections are on the outside, so not to scratch up your laptop with sharp edges.

Repeat these steps for each of the 3 edges.

Step 6: Secure the Flaps

Once the edge padding have been secured, again using nails and the wire secure the rest of the padding to the cardboard surfaces (the side flaps and the top interior).
For the top panel sew the padding 3 across in the same way as the edge padding.
For the side flaps it is easier to just loop wire along the top and bottom edges.

Step 7: Lining the Case

The FedEx envelope had a nice smooth texture that we thought would make a great lining.

The lining is important for two reasons:
1) so that it is easy to slide the laptop in and out
2) to prevent and static from the plastic material to effect and harm the laptop

We cut the envelope open with the smooth, unprinted side facing up.
Then we trimmed off the excess material and fastened the lining to the bottom panel with nails.
To secure the lining we used 4 wire in each of the 4 corners.

Step 8: Finish With a Front Flap

We're almost done.

Essentially at this point the case is ready, padded and lined.
We decided for extra safety and protection (not to mention style) to create a front flap that Anh would close with velcro later.

To do this we folded the laptop inside the case and brought the front flap over the case.
Then we lined up another peice of cardboard with the same width as the front flap.
Using a pen we marked holes for where we would be attaching the two panels.

Next, make sure you remove your laptop before poking the holes with the nails.
Secure the two panels together with wire until snug, doing so to join all of the pairs.

We had some fun with the wire. We decided to make a braided design by connecting the wires together.

Step 9: Undercover Laptop Case Finished

The new case is ready to be used.

We love how the case looks so much like a package or a book.
It's perfect for carrying around on the subway and on the street and you don't want people to know you've got a laptop with you.

The best part is that the exterior is all cardboard, so you can easily draw and customize to your hearts desire, but the inside lining keeps things pretty safe from rain.

Step 10: Living With the Case

It's been two weeks since we made the case, and so far Ahn's been getting great compliments on it. He's added a way to secure the flap with some scrap velcro and duct-tape he had and drawing on the cover to build up on the design.

After test using for about two weeks here are a few notes to keep in mind:
- the tyvec from the FedEx envelope (though wonderfully smooth) is very airtight and perhaps not the best choice for airflow. Ahn's been careful to let his ibook cool before putting it in the case. Next time we'll use paper instead.
- the wires should be carefully considered as to not have any stray ends at gripping points

Total $ spent = 0

Step 11: Lining 2.0

Today Ahn and I scrounged around for some anti static bags for the new lining. We found 1 big bag and a bunch of the smaller chip bags. We decided to do a simple weave to make the most of our materials.

Take a look at these steps to include the woven lining:
1/2 of the black bag was enough for the central panel.
The rest we cut into strips for the side.
We had enough to cover the top, but to give a little more space to address the heat, we opted just to remove the padding on the top completely.

The case has been working out pretty nicely, but it’s nice to address that nagging feeling about the static. Ahn will test drive this some more and we'll report back if there are any more issues.

Hope to see more examples of what people can do with Trash!



    • Tiny Home Contest

      Tiny Home Contest
    • Audio Contest 2018

      Audio Contest 2018
    • Fix It! Contest

      Fix It! Contest

    18 Discussions

    Dom Toretto

    4 years ago

    You could also use a pizza box and pad it to fit after wiping it down


    11 years ago on Introduction

    No one will think that it is a laptop bag, but then again, some tidy soul may just throw your treasure away!

    1 reply

    10 years ago on Step 9

    Excellent! Kudos!!!


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Clever Idea! Heck, as long as it looks like a package, you might as well address it to yourself :-) Perhaps if you leave it behind, some kind soul will drop it in the mail.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Just slide it in a FedEx Bag And... BAM just a package and you can smuggle your laptop into school


    11 years ago

    Great Project, I liked it so much that I made one for my macbook. For padding, I used the foam from a yoga mat and for the lining I took the padded bag that protects the macbook in the retail box and turned it inside out. It's slick and has no static.


    11 years ago

    Hi all, Thanks for the feedback. Yes, we realized afterward that the Tyvec would cause some worries. Thanks westfw -- your comment prompted a search on Google and I found some pretty worrisome stats on Tyvec and static. Everything has been working fine, but since a laptop is quite an expensive thing to fry, even a small chance of it gave us a really uneasy feeling. We spent some time today looking for a new lining and we just posted a redesign with a new lining made from anti-static bags. We'll continue to test drive things and report back if any issues arise.


    11 years ago

    I would be "slightly" worried about the lack of anti-static materials in your lining. (a laptop SHOULD be able to withstand a fair amount of static from outside.) But isn't it amazing the useful stuff that gets thrown out in high-tech society?

    5 replies

    Reply 11 years ago

    Hi westfw, We were worried about the static issue as well, which is why we added the paper lining to keep the plastic from rubbing against the computer too much. We’ve been test running it for a few weeks and so far things seem OK. Perhaps some tin foil could take care of that? Yes, there is a lot of stuff in the trash!


    Reply 11 years ago

    But FedX envelopes are usually Tyvec, a spun polyethylene "fabric" that is essentially made of plastic (the same plastic, more or less, as the bubblewrap.)


    Reply 11 years ago

    but he/she said they used a PAPER lining


    Reply 11 years ago

    You need to read past the introduction ;)

    From step 7:
    The FedEx envelope had a nice smooth texture that we thought would make a great lining.

    I can build up a charge using a FedEx bag on my arm (hehe - I just tried :P). You'll probably be fine - it's just for that 1 in 1000 scenario that may cause problems. Something that could have been avoided with better materials selection :P


    Reply 11 years ago

    Hi, Thanks for the response and the tips. After some reading on the web, we got super worried about the Tyvec ... so yep we thought a redesign was in order. We found some anti-static bags and have added the updates. cheers!


    11 years ago

    I've never seen an anti-static laptop bag... I [b]really[/b] doubt it's an issue.

    2 replies

    Reply 11 years ago

    I doubt it's an issue either. I believe that laptop bags pay SOME attention to anti-static issues, though I don't know how much. My concern was that non-anti-static bubble wrap and tyvek envelopes might be particularly prone to static buildup. It's a good instructable. Next step: add all those little extra compartments that tend to be useful in laptop bags. I haven't gotten a new laptop bag in quite a while, but I don't think I've seen one with compartments sized for USB drives or other flash media...


    Reply 11 years ago

    If you've never seen it - that means that it's doing its job well ;) I'd think the purpose is not so much to prevent outside static - but instead to prevent build up while sliding in/out and slight motion while in transit.