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Toolmonger reader Russell Jones posted this great metalworking project on his blog. When the cheap-o plastic case of his USB key broke, he didn’t buy a new drive — he milled himself a new case out of aluminum. He ended up with a great industrial looking tech gadget that any Toolmonger would be proud of.

Russell started out with 1/4″x1.1″ aluminum stock that he milled on a Bridgeport milling machine. He made cavities for the flash memory innards and the LED activity light, and he cut a hole so he can attach it to his keyring. Then he drilled and tapped six screw holes to hold everything together. Finally, he polished everything up to a brilliant shine.

With some simple tools and a lot of ingenuity, he created a great looking finished project. Check out Russell’s blog for a better idea of how he did it.

USB Drive Armor [rj3labs.com]


8 Responses to Reader Project: Metal + Tech = Awesome

  1. Joe says:

    I keep thinking about doing this for a couple thumb drives & my ipod. I just need more time to get to techshop.

    Oooh, I really like that continuous flow sanding thing.

  2. Russell says:

    I think it’s a really ingenious idea. (The continuous flow sanding blocks)

    I don’t see why an ambitious toolmonger couldn’t buy a few surface plates, and adhere the wet/dry paper to it.

  3. Mike says:

    My friend did something similar, except he cut a Lego piece in half and put the flash drive inside and glued the halves back together. It is not nearly as cool as this one, though!

  4. T says:

    We start out with this:

    Russell started out with 1/4″x1.1″ aluminum stock that he milled on a Bridgeport milling machine.

    And transition to this:

    With some simple tools and a lot of ingenuity

    Okay, when the hell did a Bridgeport move into the “simple tools” category? Still, nice work on his part.

  5. Marc says:

    Aluminum is a conductor, right? Can I mention the wee problem that it’s not smart to attract static electricity to highly-sensitive memory chips? No doubt there is insulation on the inside, but anyone doing this needs to be very careful about the total gap between the aluminum and the electronics.

  6. Eric Dykstra says:

    T – Ok that mill might be overkill for your average guy could have a smaller bench top mill in the garage. I know i’ve thought of getting one.

    Marc – While Russell doesn’t mention specificly how he secured the usb chip inside the aluminum case i suspect a liberal application of epoxy would fix it in there as well as prevent any grounding issues.

  7. A metal cover, connected to the USB connector shell, is the best possible arrangement. If the whole case is conductive and grounded, you’re not attracting static, you’re impervious to it.

  8. Zathrus says:

    Nate’s right… on top of that, good luck frying flash memory with an ESD. Yes, it’s possible, but you’re not going to do it by accident. Probably not even if you try.

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