Laptop and Phone Back Plate Covers

A while back I saw a post on the glowforge forums where someone provided a free pattern for a Surface Book back cover. I liked the way it looked and decided I would eventually want to make one for myself. Well I finally got around to it.

I was really happy with how it turned out and it inspired me to do something similar for my phone (a Galaxy Note 8). I set to work with a tape measure and my calipers. After getting initial measurements, I did a practice run or two on cardboard and held it up to the back of my phone to test the fit. After I was satisfied with how things were lining up, I cut it in proofgrade walnut veneer. My hope was that the veneer would be thin enough to be flexible and curve with the back fo the phone. Unfortunately, the veneer was stiffer than I expected and didn't curve at all. The result was that the edges stuck up from the phone a little bit. Not a huge deal, but made the phone feel weird to hold and I could tell the exposed adhesive backing would be a lint trap that could never be cleaned.

I decided to take another crack at it and add a living hinge on the edges to make the edge curve a little with the phone. I also made the back plate a little wider to try and cover all of the back glass. I had enough space on my veneer to make 2 more attempts, so I decided to skip cardboard prototyping as I didn't feel it would give me any additional insights into the exact fit of the veneer. I was cutting on the right end of the walnut sheet, and so knew the camera alignment may be off a little bit. To mitigate this, I pushed the veneer sheet to the left until it was overhanging the tray a little bit. I put magnets in place to make sure it wouldn't move while cutting.

After starting the cut, I realized I had been a little overzealous in how much I moved the veneer over. The arm of the laser head was just barely hitting the veneer as it moved. I felt lucky that I had put the magnets in place as the arm pushed on the veneer but didn't move it. (I use quite strong magnets to hold down my materials, available from amazon here). Well my luck didn't last. At a certain point the magnets worked against me. Instead of being able to push the veneer out of the way, the arm ran into the veneer sheet and pushed against the magnets, causing the sheet to bow up and hit the laser head while it was cutting. I frantically pushed the glowforge button to abandon the cut, but for some reason the glowforge team decided that pressing the button wouldn't cancel, or even pause a cut. As I watched the veneer flame up, I finally remembered that opening the lid aborts a cut. This feels like a scary thing to do, but it worked in cancelling the cut and my machine seems undamaged.

Well I had enough space on the sheet for one more attempt (just barely). Thankfully the camera representation of the bed was accurate enough for me to squeeze the pattern into the tight space that was remaining. I did end up having to change the direction of the grain to be vertical instead of horizontal as my other cuts had been. I'm not sure which grain direction I like better, so I'm not fretting over it. I pulled off the old flat cover that I had been using for several days. The adhesive held pretty strongly, but was removeable with some force and didn't leave any sticky residue. The cover broke several times as I pulled it off, so it had to come off in pieces, but not too bad. After cleaning my phone with some alcohol wipes I tried the new bendy cover. It worked like a charm. The feel of the phone is MUCH better and I think it looks quite a bit better as well. I didn't get the cover on perfect, so one of the edges has a little bit of gap where you can still see the glass back. If I had another space on my veneer sheet, I would consider making another one.

The top corner of the hinge did get caught on my pants pocket and had a few little pieces break off. Sorry, this happened after I took pictures, so I don't have any photos of the damage. But its not very noticeable from afar. I think if I had gotten the piece on perfectly straight, it would've been less likely to have breakage. Ultimately I'm really happy with how this turned out. If you have a Galaxy Note 8 yourself and want to cut your own, I'm providing my design for free in my shop.

Cole Jones