The operation was a success, captain

Edit: Unfortunately, the images originally included in this post are gone, because of hosting problems in late 2009. My apologies.

I’ve been a bit slow on the moderating side in the past few days. I was absorbed with the project of repainting and rebuilding this ancient laptop, and I’m really happy with the results.

(For the geeks at heart, this is the same 300Mhz Pentium II Latitude CPi A-series machine I use to poke around with Arch Linux (or sometimes Ubuntu, although not often — Ubuntu’s just too chubby for it). 256mb PC133, a 20Gb 5400rpm drive, Neomagic MagicGraph 256AV, 24X CDRW-DVDROM and a Linksys WPC11 wireless. All the body parts and major components were scavenged from the recycling center.)

I used a full can of Krylon Fusion in Red Pepper to redo the entire plastic casing. (I should have taken a before picture. Why do I always forget the before picture?! 👿 ) All the parts were stripped right down to the plastic. The system board and all the attachments were removed, set aside and blasted free of dust.

All the plastic parts were scrubbed with dish soap, then dried overnight in front of a fan. I peeled off the serial number and FCC labels and pulled the rubber feet off. It was just barely warm enough for the paint to cure properly (about 55 F, if you’re wondering). It felt a little more tacky than other times I’ve done this.

I borrowed some mad Dremel skillz and removed the molded parts (the clear plastic indicator light inserts, most notably), then superglued them back together when the deed was done.

I got pretty lucky putting it all back together. I ended up with one extra screw, which I’m 99 percent sure was a spare I used to test a funny screw brace when I was reassembling it. I don’t think it was actually left out.

I made one or two mistakes, and one intentional error. I left the IR port cover on when I painted it, which I know I really shouldn’t have done. Other laptops I’ve disassembled have used clips to mount the IR port, and when I saw this one was molded into place, I didn’t have the heart to Dremel it off. No one uses IR ports any more (I don’t think I even know anyone who ever did), and so I don’t think there’s a real loss.

I also didn’t layer some of the sides enough, the problem at the end being a slight shade mismatch between pieces. For example, the sides of the bezel back don’t quite match the sides of the bezel front. I know I have that problem, and it seems like I still make the same mistake every time I do this.

But overall, it’s a heckuva lot better looking than two days ago, when it was all scratched and scuffed to hell. Now that’s a sexy Pentium II!


6 thoughts on “The operation was a success, captain

  1. K.Mandla Post author

    Yes … provided you leave it enough time to cure. The hardest part for me is waiting long enough. I get impatient and try to reassemble it before it has finished curing.

    But then it doesn’t chip unless it takes a very sharp strike. And so long as you’re not in the business of hacking at your laptop with a knife blade, it stays put. Anything that hits hard enough to chip this off will likely gouge the plastic as well.

    Krylon Fusion behaves a lot more like a dye than a paint, in my opinion. And if you strip the parts from a Dell machine down to nothing, you’re working on bare plastic, so you don’t have to worry about lower layers chipping away either.

    You should try it. Find something old and valueless and see if you like it. It only takes about an hour to paint and about an hour on either end, to disassemble and reassemble. Plus the wait time. 😉

  2. dosnlinux

    Good idea 🙂 I’ve got some old keyboards and broken mice that would make perfect test subjects. (plus, they could also use a good cleaning :P) I’d love to put some life back into ’em with the classic beige and gray color scheme. 😉

  3. K.Mandla Post author

    Yup, I found the remains of three or four different Dell machines in my local recycling center last summer, and I was able to reassemble this one without draining my bank account on ebay. It was fun! 😀


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