Upcycle an Old Electronic Into Art




Want to make something creative with your own hands? Enjoy disassembling things? Need some geek art that soothes your little inner computer nerd but costs you nearly nothing? Give this instructable a go!

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Step 1: Find Something Electronic That You (or Someone Else) No Longer Needs

Old computers are a great find, they are full of wires, plugs and interesting components. Old TV's or sewing machines or telephones or just about anything will work. I scrounge verge pick ups and all of my friends know not to throw away anything remotely interesting without consulting me first.

Step 2: Make Sure You Have All the Tools

You will need at minimum a couple of screwdrivers, one flat, one phillips. I recommend have a set of small screwdrivers also. Some of the screws you encounter (particularly in computers) are very small. A set of odd screwdrivers, the star shaped ones for getting through weird fastenings on hard drives etc, are very handy also.

I like to have a pair of pliers and snips or scissors handy also.

Step 3: Protect Your Work Surface!

I work on an old table. It is an old office table that used to be my kitchen table but I destroyed it by using it as a work surface. If you need to use a surface other than a shed bench then lay down and old cardboard box or at least a towel over it. Electronics are sharp and scratchy and will score your surface.

Another reason to place something down before you work is it makes clean up easier. Old computers are full of dust, old toasters are full of crumbs, old keyboards are just gross in general and full of everything known to man. a towel means you can just clear off your components when you are finished and toss all that grot into the washing machine and out of your life.

Step 4: Have at It!

This is the fun part! Start unscrewing everything you have access too. Pull off the bits you don't need and bin them (large outer casings and glass panels usually go into the trash/recycling). Keep all the screws and interesting bits and pieces you find inside your electronic object. Keep the cables too, if you like, they can add interest to an art piece. Organise things as best you can, my collection is pretty organised these days but started out as a couple of cardboard boxes full of snaplock bags with a myriad of bits inside. I just have too much laying around these days not to have it organised better.

Step 5: Find a Frame

I often use cheap picture frames I can get at my local crafting store or departments store. I grab a bunch when they are on sale. I just remove the glass and use the backing board as my crafting surface taking into account the width of frame so that it will fit back on once I am done.

The second hand store is always an option for frames but you need to purchase one with a backing board or buy a suitable board to fit the frame. You can use the large external casings of computers or laptops as a board also.

Sometimes I just use a large piece of MDF and frame it myself or use components to build a frame around the piece while I am working on it.

Its up to you, it is your art.

Step 6: Begin Your Arrangement

Start piling things on your backing board (make sure to draw a pencil line inside the frame onto the board first so that you know where your edge is) arrange things to your liking, try to build something that looks like it would work or just pile stuff up until the resulting mess looks good to you. Don't forget that you can paint this if you'd like so the colours could change.

Start gluing things in place. If you are afraid that you will disturb things that look good right now when you start gluing then take a picture with your mobile phone. You can always reference it later so that you can replace things where they were if they move.

I use a hot glue gun most of the time but also use other glues if necessary.

Step 7: Decide If You Want to Paint

Most of the time I paint my creations and primarily I paint them black and lightly brush some metallic over them to pick out the textures but sometimes I go to town with the colour an make them really vivid. Sometimes I don't paint them at all. It is up to you, it is your art and you are decoration your space. Do what works for you.

After painting I like to spray varnish my creation. This is purely personal also. If you want to then do it, if you don't then forget I said anything.

The piece here (called Emergence) was not painted but just spray varnished as you see it here.

Step 8: Replace Your Frame and Enjoy Your Art!

Fix your frame in place around your new art piece and stand it or hang it where ever it pleases you most. You have created something amazing from scrap that was going to become landfill. You can enjoy having a unique art piece that you created with your own hands. You can try to tell me that it is not addictive but I have an entire crafting room that refutes that claim! Now go and find more things to disassemble!

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    13 Discussions


    Answer 2 months ago

    Thank you. I have small tubes of metalic paints. I use a dry fluffy brush and a tiny amount of paint and just dust it over. That way it just picks up on the texture and highlights things beautifully.


    1 year ago

    OMG!! I took apart my first stuff in 1949, and I was hooked. I also learned about the danger of springs on wind-up alarm clocks. In the intervening years I've collected a lot of 'culch' (my father-in-law's word) but it's all little stuff. Now I know what to do with the electronics lying in our electronics morgue. Great inspiration!

    1 reply

    Reply 1 year ago

    I am glad to have passed on a little inspiration. It sounds like you have been a scrapper and collector for longer than I have been thought of! I bet with the culch collection and the morgue you will be able to come up with some brilliant things. Good luck!


    Question 1 year ago on Step 8

    I love your computer art. Hopefully you can answer my question...what do you think is the best way to cut used PCB? I'm wondering if tin snips or a band saw would be Ok. I'm keen to make the masks like the image attached. But would need to cut PCBs cleanly...any thoughts and ideas are very welcome.

    2 answers

    Reply 1 year ago

    Oh Wow! They are awesome! I use a hand held drill (like the dental ones) with a cutting blade. A band saw would be better I think as long as you have a fine enough blade, I have shaky hands and am inclined to wonky cuts, I think the steady base of a band saw might be advantageous. The boards have a tendency to splinter and crack so I think the tin snips might be a bit too much pressure for them. Definitely wear eye protection and a mask and be well ventilated though as the smell is pretty bad, as is the dust, and bits tend to fly off in random directions. I'm not sure any of it would be good for you to inhale or have lodged in your eye. Good luck with it, I'd love to see the finished product :)


    Reply 1 year ago

    Thanks so much for the quick reply. I think I can get access to one of those dremel drills - it sounds like that would do the trick. Thanks for the safety tips. I didn't realise it would be a smelly job! Inhaling the dust is definitely a bad thing ;-) I'll order myself some good face masks.
    all the best


    1 year ago

    Ive thought about doing something similar, I never thought about painting it. What a great idea.

    1 reply

    Reply 1 year ago

    At the time I started doing these I was primarily an acrylic artist so the painting step was a natural progression for me. I love the whole 'steam punk' aesthetic so I borrowed some inspiration from there. Give it a go, it really is a lot of fun and you end up with something cool and unique in the end :)


    1 year ago

    This is one cool way of recycling discarded electronics..great job!

    1 reply

    Reply 1 year ago

    Thanks :) I enjoy making them very much. I think electronic components are just beautiful.