Computer Upholstery: Part One


Idea: Upholster a computer in fabric or leather.

Folks have been painting or skinning cases in vinyl for some time. What I would like to be able to is cover one in suede (ok - no letters guys. You can use anything you want. It doesn’t have to be an animal product. Besides, I’m still in hot water for trying to mod the family cat). The first problem I ran into trying to cover a computer with anything thicker than paint or sheet vinyl, is that things like side panels will stop working if you wrap something thick around them. Undaunted, I got the idea that I would make upholstered panels using a stiff backing that could be attached to a case.

The second problem is that I know almost nothing of upholstery except what I got from watching my father upholster hot rods as a child. And being a child, I was more interested in mud and frogs than hot rods. Silly me.

Ok, I confess, I did pay a little attention. However, I don’t really feel good about possibly wasting suede on something I have limited experience with. And, upholstering a computer is not exactly the same as recovering an ottoman.

Solution? A little R&D - a.k.a., practice on scrap cloth and cheap materials!

EULA time: Any safety reminders given herein are not to be taken as a substitute for proper training and, if required, supervision. You (the reader) are solely responsible for any outcome, positive or negative, resulting from use of this information.

I’m doing this in two parts so I can go into a bit of detail and point out any discoveries on the way. In this first part I will get the backing panel ready.

For my backing I decided to use hardboard. The smallest and most inexpensive I could find happened to be patterned as white bead board on one side and a bit harder than the stuff I’m used to. You can find this material at most home improvement stores. It’s sometimes called “pressboard” or may go by a brand name. I will use the hardboard as a backing to attach fabric and batting to with adhesive and a staple gun.

Step one is to cut the hardboard sheet into a panel I can use. I decided to make a panel for the top of my modding practice case (a.k.a. FrankenMod). I had just installed a blow hole there, so the panel would require a hole in it. This is perfect practice!

I measured the case top and transferred that to the hardboard. Cutting hardboard requires a saw. A utility knife or rotary tool (i.e. Dremel) will only work if you want to turn this into a six month project. I suggest a jig saw, although other saws will work as well. Be aware though, you want to be comfortable and safe with your tools - and wear safety glasses!

Um, who’s manning that saw?

Cutting the hole is pretty easy. You just use a hole saw. Figuring out where to cut the hole is a bit different. I typically cheat by using the case as a pattern as much as possible. I place the backing panel (or what have you) where it will eventually be mounted , and use a permanent marker to trace out the hole. This will greatly reduce measuring mistakes. In the above picture you can see the hole in the top of the case. In the inset you can see the white bead board pattern. A bead board mod? - Stay on task!

Once you have your hole marked, just drill it out with a hole saw - after you locate the center mark. This migh be the most difficult part - be patient and measure carefully. Note - you do not need experience to make sure something important is not under the hole saw when cutting - like parts of you. I know this because I’ve had occasion to write it 100 times.

I like to drill the pilot hole first as it will center/guide the hole saw when I go to make the cut. It's very difficult to see what you are centered one under the catual hole saw. Always drill or saw on a stable surface with plenty of open space below. And, make sure what you are working on is secure! Some tips on hole saw use can be found in this entry on installing a blow hole .

Next, I need to drill the holes for the fan mounting. I used the same technique as with the fan hole. I intentionally waited to mark and drill them until after I made the hole cut. This way, I can fit the hole I cut, to the hole in the case and then mark the mounting holes. This allows me a bit of wiggle room if I made a minor error and I can still recover the piece.

And there you have it. One backing panel ready to use. Of course the exciting part will be next week when I cover it with black padded corduroy and mount it with brass hardware to my case.

‘till then, happy moddin’

Our bling for the week comes from CoolercasesUK .


Edited for minor typos.

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