The July issue of Macworld featured an article on wooden USB memory sticks. Oooms, a Netherlands company,makes the custom devices and sells then for about $95. Since USB thumb drives are now selling in the $10-20 range, $95 is a lot to pay. Of course, the high price is not for the USB drive, but for the hand slected stick that encases the drive.
Being a Maine Yankee, I am loath to lay out money for sticks, however pretty. But, the idea of a wooden shell for a USB drive struck me as a neat idea. Of course, I don’t want to be branded as an elite, so I thought I’d make a rustic USB drive.
Being thrifty, I didn’t want to buy a new USB drive for the project. However, I did have an older USB drive that had a damaged plastic shell and decided that it would serve nicely. I would have preferred to use a much smaller USB drive (such as a DT Mini) but my Yankee thriftiness precluded that option. When I make a fancy one, I’ll use a DT Mini, but it will be for a gift (oddly enough, my cheapness really only applies to myself).
Once I had my USB drive, the next step was to find a suitable piece of wood. Fortunately, I live right next to the woods, so that was easy enough. I brought the USB drive with me so I could match the proper size. I picked a dead branch and cut off a section.
I then considered how I would get the drive into the wood. With a small drive, like the DT Mini, the ideal approach would be to use a drill to create a hollow space in the wood (a drill press makes this very easy-my Dad has one) after cutting a slice for the top of the shell (from which the USB plug would emerge via a small cut). Unfortunately, my Dad’s drill press is in Maine and I didn’t want to buy one (as you might recall, I’m thirfty). So I resorted to the crude method: I cut the stick in half using a miter box and saw. This worked reasonable well and soon I had the stick section sliced in half.
Once the stick was cut in half, the next step was to cut out a hollow space for the drive. There are numerous tools that would have made this quick and easy, but I decided to use an ancient technique: whittling and chiseling. Unlike many nerdtastic folks, I’m quite familiar with wood working tools. If you are not, keep in mind that sharpened metal can cut you. I’d suggest leather work gloves, protective eyewear and someone on hand to drive your bleeding carcass to the hospital. If you like fire, you can also use another classic technique: burn out the hollow space. This method was used to make duggout canoes. Just be sure that the burn is a controlled one. Carefully wetting the area you want to remain unburned can help. Naturally, this method takes time and some luck. Of course, there is a certain appeal to making a USB drive case using such an old method. The fire method is not usually precise enough to cut the hole for the USB plug. You’ll want to use a metal implement to cut that (watch your fingers).
Once the hollow spot was ready, I put the drive in and ended up with an ugly thing that looked quite rustic. I left the bark on it, since that makes it look even more rough. I also made the cuts at an angle, so as to add to the crude appearance. However, if you want something a bit more refined (that is, if you are an elitist techno-sissy) you can peel the bark off, sand it and then varnish or stain the wood. That is just the sort of USB drive that Obama would probably use. McCain probably doesn’t know what a USB drive is, but he would know how to look it up on Google, should it come to that. Or as Bush would say “the Google.”
The final step was to plug my new rustic USB drive in and see if it would catch on fire. Not surprisingly, it worked just fine. Since the USB drive components generate heat, encasing a USB drive in wood might cut down on its operating life. The components should not generate enough heat to actually set the wood on fire (but that could be a neat YouTube video).
As you can see from the images, the wooden USB drive looks properly ugly and rustic sticking out of the shiny USB hub. I think it creates a nice juxtaposition of high tech and low tech. Plus, it is just ugly enough to cause people to say “what the hell is that?”
If you would like something a bit more exotic than a wood USB shell for your drive, you can try various other options. For example, a sea shell can make an interesting shell for a USB drive (I tried that, too).