One recent weekend, I decided that it would be fun for the family to work on some kind of fun project together. At the same time, I was thinking about the deadline I had coming up for another MakeUseOf article.
Tina recently wrote an article about 10 cool uses for old computers, so I decided to kill two birds with one stone by writing about another way you can use an old computer – an article about how to make cool bracelets (and other things) out of computer parts.
The first thing I want to point out here is that these are by no means professional grade bracelets by any stretch of the imagination. This is the kind of project that you can do with your kids by just yanking an old computer out of the basement and ripping it all apart. You would be very surprised the imaginative and funny things your kids will create with those tiny little LED lights, fans and other electronics. So, let’s take a look at how you can make some bracelets out of computer parts as a fun project with your kids.
Tearing it All Down
Probably the part of this project that’s the most fun is taking your old, broken electronics and disassembling into tiny little components that you can use for cool jewelry parts. In our case, the computer had several awesome green LED lights that could easily double as “emeralds.” You don’t really need many tools – just a few screwdrivers and small wire cutters will do. My little girls also had their eyes firmly fixed on the fun multicolored wiring harness coming out of the computer power supply as we pulled cables connections loose and wiggled free LED lights and other components.
This setup wasn’t staged by the way. My kids are well versed in the use of wire cutters, pliers, miniature screwdrivers, and all of the other tools we geeks all love – they are my kids after all. Once we were finished with the computer, we moved on to the keyboard (very cool film design underneath the keys!) and of course our old Linksys router that doesn’t work anymore.
They key to make cool bracelets out of computer parts is trying to extract those parts that are shiny, small and colorful, and don’t waste time trying to rip apart every little piece of each circuit board. Not only is it nearly impossible without a soldering gun, but there are lots of heavy metals and other materials that are best left untouched. Go for the colorful components that are easy to cut loose with wire cutters. Once we were finished, we found that most of the coolest items definitely came from the keyboard.
Our box of computer loot was collected and ready to go. We laid down some newspaper on the floor and the whole family started digging in and trying to get creative.
The Whole Family Making Cool Bracelets
While I’d love to give you a step-by-step guide to building a bracelet, let’s face it – the process is largely a creative one. You’ve got so many little components and pieces at your disposal, with a little bit of ingenuity you can make some very cool jewelry. What tools do you need? Not much. We stuck with a glue gun and regular craft glue, but you can also use string and a craft drill to string together components if you like.
My wife immediately grabbed a shiny speaker that was attached to the front of the computer – one that had a cool metallic film on the front – and started trying various configurations to attach it to some sort of material for a wristband. She eventually settled on gray ribbon cable.
My youngest daughter, God bless her for trying so hard, cut up the multicolored wires into carefully measured lengths and then twisted them into “friendship bracelets” for all of her friends back at school. A little bit of glue on the ends kept them together and dulled any exposed metal ends. Meanwhile, my older daughter was working on a “secret project,” and wouldn’t show us her bracelet until she was finished. For my part, I really wanted to keep it simple. I wanted a “manly” bracelet using computer keys, and I thought the cool circuit-patterned keyboard film would make a great base.
I cut a strip of the film and measured it to fit my wrist (so it would slide over my knuckles), and then got to work gluing letters. I used random letters, but if you break apart multiple keyboards it would be cool to spell out words or phrases. Once the glue dried, I tried it on.
It didn’t look too bad, but it wasn’t quite the look I was going for. What would make this bracelet perfect would be black keys – not tan – and spelling out fun words. Drilling holes in the sides and using string or wire might work (I’ve seen other people use that approach), but then the keys would twist and the letters wouldn’t be visible. Using a neat base is the best approach. Then, I went to take another look at the progress the rest of my family had made. As usual, my wife’s creative prowess really came out on this one as she showed me her jeweled creation.
The trick to my wife’s bracelet was the use of the slim-cut ribbon cable that really took took the glue well and firmly attached the miniature speaker. On the speaker face, my wife attached several small, shiny circuit board components and in the very center she affixed three tiny LED lights – giving the appearance of a gem encrusted bracelet with emeralds in the center. Very creative! Never to be outdone, and showing her great sense of humor, my oldest daughter showed me her bracelet.
This is a hilarious futuristic bracelet that we’ve nicknamed boingy. Basically, she used the same clear-circuit film that I used, but on the top glued a shiny large computer battery, then a large (and very springy) spring from the old keyboard we ripped up, as well as the letter “K” which is the first letter of her name. Once it was dried, the keyboard letter “K” bounced around whenever she walked with it on – very funny!
There are some places out there that may feed you a step-by-step procedure to make cool bracelets out of computer parts, but the reality is that there is no set rule to creating art out of computer pieces. Just tear the components out, and then use your imagination to fabricate the sort of bracelet that you might actually want to wear – and have fun!
Do you know of any cool computer components that might work well for jewelry? Do you know of any other cool things you can make with recycled computer parts? Share your feedback in the comments section below.