Want an instant upgrade for your mobile phone with a retro-looking wood panel? For about $0 worth of materials?
Wait, there's more... This model comes with an optional card compartment for carrying a contactless transit card or access card securely and discreetly.
I wanted to separate my transit card (metro card) from the rest of my wallet, to make it easier to tap in and out at the transit gantries. I figured the best place was to bundle my transit card with my mobile phone, since I'm probably reading something on my phone while walking anyway.
This could also help to reduce pickpocketing or dropping your wallet accidentally as you never need to remove your wallet in a crowded public place. Just scan your phone and walk on.
Step 1: Got Wood?
I got this pack of wood veneer samples at a tradeshow, and each sample swatch was just the right size to cover my 5 inch mobile phone with some extra. Perfect! And not to mention, FREE.
But first, I had to get rid of that green metallic product ID embossed on the sample. That came off pretty easily with a few minutes of hand sanding with 320 grit sandpaper.
Figure out where the transit card can fit on the back of the phone, and trace the outline of the card onto the rear side of the veneer. (The rear side usually has some paper backing)
The black sticker on the transit card is a magnetic blocker sheet that prevents the phone from interfering with the card-reader. I bought it online, where it is specifically advertised for such back-of-phone applications. Although I suppose it could also be used to separate cards that interfere with each other in a wallet.
Step 2: Tape and Cut
Basically the whole thing is just wood veneer and double-sided sticky tape. To get a clean edge, apply the double sided tape to the back of the wood veneer first, before cutting it to shape. This ensures a clean-cut edge.
If you just want to stick wood veneer directly to the back of the phone, then regular paper-thin double-sided tape will do.
In this case, I wanted to embed the transit card within the thickness of this veneer skin, so I used 1mm thick black foam tape on all 4 edges of the wood veneer to match the thickness of the card. The transit card should fit snugly in the frame to avoid rattling around.
Next, bust out your laser cutter (cue angry reader feedback here...). Seriously, veneer is super thin and could easily be trimmed with scissors or an exacto blade. But since I have an inexpensive 4W Emblaser laser cutter, I'm going for the high-tech precision method and cutting out the shape with the laser cutter. This helps to ensure that the design is cut out accurately, with perfectly symmetrical chamfered corners and with accurate placement of any cut-outs. (eg. for cameras or fingerprint scanners)
Oh, also since I was using my laser cutter, I went ahead to engrave a simple chevron pattern for some understated elegance. (Or you could free-hand something with whatever decorative tools you prefer... a free-hand wood burning tool, or I dunno, a paintbrush?)
Step 3: Peel and Stick
Peel off the backing from the foam tape, insert the transit card and stick onto the phone. Make sure the magnetic blocker is between the transit card and the phone, not the other way round! Take your time to make sure the alignment is correct.
In my case I stuck this wood veneer-card-tape thing to my clear wrap-around phone case that came with the phone, but you could definitely stick the veneer directly to the phone if you dare.
Step 4: Finish With Oil
I rubbed on some mineral oil to finish. It really brought out the colour of this walnut-ish wood veneer.
Step 5: Enjoy Your Retro Phone
I love how this wood veneer skin matches the black camera strip on my phone to really sell that vintage camera look. The black foam tape below the veneer also gives a slightly cushioned feel to the phone case, which is nice!