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Recycle Old Computer Motherboards As Placemats, Jewellery, Notebook Covers & More

Christian Cawley 24-10-2012

recycle computer partsHow do you dispose of your old computer hardware? Some people take their old PCs to the local landfill; others wipe the devices and donate them to schools or relatives. I prefer to make as much use as possible from the components. Some can easily be reused, such as optical drives, switches, USB devices, and slot cards. Power packs can also be repurposed after a clean, while fans and heatsinks can often find their way into other computers.


Motherboards, however, are another matter entirely. While it might be comforting to know that you have an old mobo lying around that can be used in the event of a massive system failure, there are plenty of other ways in which you can use old mainboards around the house and office.

What would you say to a key fob, or perhaps a motherboard used as a notebook cover? Add to that list placemats, jewellery and basically anything you can think of!

Preparing The Motherboard

Of course, a motherboard with all of the PC components unplugged and removed isn’t going to be suitable for these crafty recycling projects on its own. Once you have removed the board from your desktop tower or laptop, you will need to remove the various components that are soldered onto the motherboard. This will leave you with a flat surface with which to work.

There are several ways in which you can remove components from your motherboard. Probably the best three are as follows:

recycle computer parts


Put It In The Oven

Set the oven for around 200 degrees and place the motherboard above an old (or foil lined) baking tray atop two or more egg cups. Leave it in for at least an hour. The solder should dry out, making chips and components easy to remove. Note that this is the slowest method.

Heat Gun

A faster method, this tool will quickly desolder connections, enabling you to quickly remove components with your pliers.

recycle your computer electronics

Use a Soldering Iron

Not as slow as the oven, this method means methodically desoldering components and removing them one by one.


With the heat gun technique, you can fix the mainboard into place and pull at the components with pliers or prise them apart with a screwdriver while applying heat. With all of the connectors, chips and other motherboard components removed (from both sides), check that the board is smooth; you’ll need a flat surface for the majority of crafting tasks.

Note that if you can remove chips successfully in one piece, these can make interesting keyfobs or jewellery items on their own. Memory modules can also be used in this way.

With your bare motherboard ready to be used, keep in mind that once it is cut to size you may need to smooth any sharp edges.

What You’ll Need For Crafting With a Motherboard

Now that the main material is stripped, you’ll see how the green (or blue, or brown, etc.) material with the silvery strips running along it can be used for a wide selection of crafting purposes.


recycle your computer electronics

In order to cut the device, I would recommend a multi-purpose handheld rotary tool such as those popularised by Albert J. Dremel. This is preferable to a jigsaw, as the thickness of the motherboard (usually made up of several layers) can sometimes lead to the edges splintering – not a pretty sight and something that results in additional work sanding. Rotary multi-tools are perfect for any sanding, and should be used to smooth any corners when appropriate.

On top of this, you’ll also need the additional materials required to convert what was a motherboard into your chosen item. For instance, if you’re planning on creating a placemat or drink mat (above), you’ll need to apply a layer of 1mm cork roll or perhaps some foam or other non-slip substance.

For notebook covers you’ll need to drill holes along the edge to match the spiral binding, whereas jewellery may require drilling and smoothing to remain comfortable.


For Your Own Safety

recycle computer parts

There are so many possibilities for using motherboards as crafting materials. The main problem is stripping the board down so that there are no (or very few) components and solder remaining.

To do this safely, note the following:

  • Work in an aired space. If you are using a soldering iron, heat gun or oven, ensure that windows are open.
  • Use goggles. Whether you’re removing items from a mainboard with pliers or cutting the board, make sure you have taken precautions to protect your eyes.
  • Wear a mask. Similarly, protect yourself from inhaling solder fumes by wearing a mask.

The creative possibilities of a stripped motherboard are endless, so go and have some fun!

To help with your recycling, find out where your nearest recycling plants are 5 Ways to Find Recycling Plant Locations in the US Recycling is always better than chucking it all in a landfill. Here's our look at Earth911 and several other recycling sites. Read More .

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  1. Adrian Rea
    October 25, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    These are great, and I have seen them for sale in many environment conscious shops. Nice Cyberman mug too!

    • Christian Cawley
      October 25, 2012 at 4:48 pm

      Thanks Adrian - it has Daleks on the other side too :D

  2. Edwin Williams
    October 25, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    Ingenuity at it's greatest! Thanks!

  3. Alex Perkins
    October 25, 2012 at 1:54 pm

    Awesome. A great use for this would be for making a tabletop, but leave the LED's in and power them somehow?

  4. Gerald Derricutt
    October 25, 2012 at 5:47 am

    I thought you could;nt fide a pan for your chips

  5. Endrit Zeqiraj
    October 25, 2012 at 4:11 am

    Cool idea, now I know what to do with all that junk :)

  6. Nguy?n Tân
    October 25, 2012 at 2:22 am

    Can't be more excited, great idea!

  7. Michael Shinkawa
    October 25, 2012 at 1:44 am

    Interesting use of an old motherboard. Don't think this is something I would do or recommend.

  8. Javier Vega
    October 24, 2012 at 10:38 pm

    I have some Motherboards i want to strip from each component, the oven would mean that the components are going to die, so i can't take that option, heat gun or soldering iron is a lot of work, but i want to reuse the components for electronic purpose...
    Taking away the electronic value of a motherboard, the creative use of the parts is quite charming...

  9. Achraf Almouloudi
    October 24, 2012 at 10:33 pm

    Sorry, but this isn't something a geek would do, plus, it is "extremely" dangerous to deal with electronic dust without superior protection and sometimes a dust free (controlled) room .

  10. Yang Yang Li
    October 24, 2012 at 8:42 pm

    The motherboard is in the oven as a last ditch effort to get it working again. You are hoping the 200C heat will melt the soder and reconnect any broken signal pathways.

    • Anonymous
      October 24, 2012 at 9:30 pm

      jajaja exactly that is wat i think at first, does it work?

      • Yang Yang Li
        October 24, 2012 at 10:38 pm

        People have reported that it works. But only use it as a last resort. I wonder if putting my broken PSU in my oven will get it working again.

      • Muo TechGuy
        October 25, 2012 at 7:32 am

        Not an over, but I used to use a heat gun to fix xbxo 360s that had red ringer. I'd say it worked about 50% of the time, but wasnt a permanent fix.

  11. Muo TechGuy
    October 24, 2012 at 8:41 pm

    I looked into this kind of stuff a while ago when I was in a "cybergoth" phase (lol). Gave up in the end; from what I read, the dust from cutting up electronics is *extremely* dangerous, and a regular dust mask isn't good enough to protect from such fine fibres. This thread seems to have a lot other ideas though, like scoring it first, then snapping it by hand: http://electronics.stackexchange.com/questions/1151/how-do-you-cut-pcb

    • Yang Yang Li
      October 24, 2012 at 10:36 pm

      Can't you just hold your breath or is the dust so fine that it homogenous with air?

      • Muo TechGuy
        October 25, 2012 at 7:32 am

        Probably even more dangerous to hold your breath, since you might suddenly need to gasp for air, and then get a lung full of the stuff.

  12. Dmitriy Haralson
    October 24, 2012 at 8:41 pm

    very interesting... and i happen to have a candidate or two for this