|Project by sandflea||posted 07-25-2008 06:13 PM||1665 views||4 times favorited||10 comments|
I recently published this as a regular project, but the story behind it completely qualifies it for this contest I think.
So here it is. My younger brother works as a high end cabinet shop and they had just finished a job that used mostly Spanish cedar. They used enough of it that they ordered a whole skid. Well, the pieces that were at each corner had indents from the metal strapping so they were just going to throw them away. My brother, knowing me for the wood rat that I am, rescued these boards from the trash bin and gave them to me.
At this same time the IT department at my office was getting rid of a bunch of old laptops that were ‘too old to be useful’. They were purchased when the company first started hiring for the sales department in about 2001 and they had been gathering dust in their equipment closet for a couple years. Because of some accounting rule they couldn’t just give them away so they sold them for $35. I picked one up. These were very unimpressive machines. The one I bought had an 8gb hard drive, 384 mb’s ram, Pentium 3 500mhz cpu and a 14” monitor. I most use computers for video editing which is a big resource hog, so from that point of view this machine was useless. But for just scrolling through pictures it would be perfect with the addition of a larger hard drive.
Well, remembering my first wood project, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. My idea was to build a digital picture frame (that’s what my first project was, but with desktop components). You’ve probably seen the commercial interpretation of this idea at Walmart or BestBuy where they have a LCD screen mounted in what looks like a picture frame and you insert a flash memory card with your favorite digital pictures and presto, you get a couple hundred pictures all in one frame.
So given the ‘beefier’ (by comparison) hardware that I had just picked up I wanted to do the same thing with this laptop and the Spanish cedar.
I started by removing the hard drive and replacing it with a 20gb hard drive left over a previous computer project and then formatted is and installed Windows XP. I chose XP because I had a license that wasn’t being used and I like the My Pictures screen saver that comes built in. Eventually I am going to replace it with Linux, but that will be another story. Anyway, after getting the OS installed I wanted to come up with a way for this machine to boot up when I get to the office and shutdown when I leave all on its own. Well, lucky for me this Dell laptop had a setting in the BIOS to boot up at whatever time you choose. So I set that for 7:58am. Then I found a freeware app called shutdown.exe that when run it just powers down the box and I scheduled that to run at 5:02pm with Windows’ Scheduled Tasks manager. I tested it a couple times and it worked great. I also removed any unnecessary software since this machine would only be displaying pictures.
With that done I copied my first batch of pictures and played with the screen saver settings until I was happy with how it was displaying the pictures.
Then I got to the fun stuff. I removed the guts of the laptop from the chassis and began removing hardware that would not be needed like the speakers, keyboard, battery, cd-rom drive and modem. I left the NIC for one way of adding pictures later. I also stripped down the receiver for a wireless keyboard and mouse (also left over from a previous project) and plugged it into the USB port and then secured it to the remaining hardware.
With the strip down down I started rearranging pieces of the laptop to get it as thin as possible but still leave room for a little airflow so it wouldn’t overheat. When I was happy with that I was able to secure some of the pieces to the motherboard plate with existing screw holes and for a couple other things I had to use HVAC silver tape, not pretty, but it works well for the task and wouldn’t be seen. With that all down I started on the frame.
I was lucky that the strap marks on the cedar were far enough apart that I was able to get the lengths I needed without having to worry about a big dent to deal with. Then after I got them planed down to the thickness I wanted I started working on the frame design. Yeah, this probably should have been the first step, but I don’t always do things the smartest way. Who does?
So I started measuring my frankestein glob of laptop parts and figured out how bit the whole piece would need to be. Then I started playing with what I wanted it to look like. I didn’t want it to look like a regular picture frame, because it is quite different than a regular frame. This guy will hold thousands of photos. I decided to try and give it a bit of what I think of as a traditional oriental look mixed with cubism. The top and bottom extend out past the sides, but it lacks the slight curvature you would expect on a more faithful oriental style. I had also just bought a bunch of Kreg screws for another project and really like the look of the finish of these screws with the grain and color of the Spanish cedar. So instead of hiding my fasteners like I normally do, I used them as part of the design and look. Three on each piece of the frame to hold it to the laptops new ‘chassis’.
I made the back of the frame out of some hardboard that I had laying around and cut slits in it so there could be some airflow over the laptop components. Then I used a pen blank of cocobolo that I had in my goodies box to make the legs since this would be on my desk and not a wall-mount. I finished the whole thing with a couple coats of Watco Natural Danish Oil. I decided against a regular topcoat mainly because I was very happy with the look and it would not get any handling other than the occasional dusting since it would just be on my desk.
Once I got the guts all mounted in the frame, then came the moment of truth…would it still boot up. Well, lucky for my and my hackery, it worked. And it still works. It’s been running at one corner of my desk booting up and shutting down on its own for the last couple months like clockwork. If I were to do it again I would have added an external USB port so I don’t have to remove the cover to connect my flash drive when I add new pictures.
For those of you that have seen this frame already in my projects list, yes, its the same one. I just wanted to give a little more of the back story of how this thing came to be.
-- Sawdust is life