May 27, 2008

Project: Laptop Case

For my travels, I might decide I wanted to take my laptop along so I could keep my blog updated with my daily journal entries and upload pictures to my photo site. If so, I needed some sort of case to protect my laptop. But store-bought cases either were large bulky Humvee-like things or small foam sleeves that really wouldn't protect against anything. What to do? Make my own of course.

Not bad if I do say so myself

You know those plastic signs they use now for garage sales and political campaign signs. They are thin, sturdy, lightweight and if sealed right, waterproof. I happened to find a couple of campaign signs out for the trash (don't worry, I didn't vote for the guy) that were big enough and only 1/8" thick, but even that small amount gives a lot of protection because of how the plastic form is designed.

Already to get started

For most people, that's all you need except for some sort of cement and maybe some tape. But I wanted a nice case, so I decided to line it with brown paper from a grocery sack. Then to make the 'package' even more anonymous, I covered the outside with some sort of paper. I wanted to use a tyvek envelope but decided I liked the paper better.

1. I decided to make the long seam in the middle of one of the sides instead of at one of the corners, to increase strength and improve waterproofness. And since the laptop will ride vertical in my backpack, I also decided to put a double later of plastic in the bottom for added protection. So, lay your laptop on the sign (with the plastic channels parallel to the case long corners) and mark the outline.

Mark the outline of the laptop

2. The secret to bending this type of plastic is how you cut it. Even though these signs are sturdy, they cut like butter, so be very careful not to cut too deep. You only want to cut through the top layer. For the corners, make a cut through two side-by-side channels, then cut the divider between the channels. See diagram.

The outline cut and the channels made

3. For cuts that run perpendicular, it's much more difficult to clear the space. Make your cuts carefully through only one layer of plastic. Then slowly bend the plastic at the cuts and slip your knife in to cut all the channel dividers. I use a rough piece of sand paper to try and remove the excess plastic in these cuts otherwise the plastic won't bend.

Some parts are more difficult than others to cut

4. I used a silicone to glue paper from a brown grocery bag on the inside of the case.

The paper makes a soft interior

5. Then it was time to glue up the case. Using more silicone, I first glued the main seam. I reinforced this joint with packing tape on the outside. Also finished gluing the paper liner over this seam.

6. After gluing a second piece of plastic on the bottom along with a piece of brown paper liner, I then used epoxy to glue the entire bottom into place.

7. Using a knife or sandpaper, smooth out the edges around the bottom once the sealer has completely dried. I then reinforced this with more clear packing tape. Fold over the top and you might have to trip more plastic there too.

Glued & taped

8. And then to make it more anonymous, I a cut up brown grocery bag to wrap it. Basically, I glued the paper over the case like I was wrapping it to mail. The only difference is that I put a bit more paper to lengthen the flap.

Doesn't look like an expensive box, does it!

The velcro holds the flap closed for travel

9. Now it's time for the finishing touches: I added velcro to the flap, the kind with an adhesive back. Then put my address on the front (who knows, maybe if I loose it someone will mail it to me). An added benefit of the paper cover is I can write notes to myself if I need to. [smile]

Ready for the road...