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Most iPods are shaped like tombstones. Coincidence? We’ve buried our share, but the strong music-playing interface keeps us buying more. When an iPod is finally ready for that great silhouetted commercial in the sky, recycle it to fill a new purpose. It’ll be much more useful than a taxidermied pet, yet still remind you of the good times.
Three of our projects reuse dead devices: making a magnetic picture frame, growing a desktop garden, and constructing a fashionable box for coins or trinkets. And don’t forget to check out MacLife.com for directions on how to gold-plate the back of an over-the-hill, working iPod. It might not be as thin as the latest ’Pods, but the extra flair will make it eye-catching again.
Follow our steps literally, or use these projects as starting points and get creative. Mix and match different ideas, iPods, and creations for unique results—nobody’s forcing you to make a picture frame out of a nano instead of a dead video iPod.
Just play it safe as you play it by ear. Wear a heavy leather glove when prying open cases. (A slipped screwdriver jammed into a hand is never fun.) We didn’t need power tools, but wear goggles if you do. And consider the iPod’s safety, too. Mask the displays and exposed areas if you’re concerned about scraping them while opening the case. And a thin, soft towel on a work area will protect the iPod and your workspace from more scuffs.
Nano Picture Frame Magnet
Hold up kitchen coupons and photos.
Apple’s thin, snack-sized iPod nano is our favorite to be remade into a magnetic picture frame. The photo window may be the size of a locket necklace, but the finished project looks great on a refrigerator. It’s just a matter of opening the iPod up, digging out the old parts, attaching a magnet, and putting the case back together. The recipe is simple, but the results always impress.
Parts: iPod nano, small photo, powerful magnet
Tools: Guitar picks or other plastic prying device or a tiny flathead screwdriver, Phillips 000 screwdriver, hot glue gun
Degree of difficulty: EASY
After you wedge a guitar pick into the seam, work your way around the iPod to pop open the plastic tabs.
1. Open the nano case.
Flip the nano’s switch to Hold, locking the iPod into the off setting. Gently work a thin, flat tool into the tight seam between the metal backing and the case. We like to first aim for the section on the iPod’s side adjacent to the clickwheel, as seen in the image. Try to wrestle a guitar pick between the parts so that the pick points down, alongside the metal lip of the back. If you need to use a screwdriver to get started, use the thinnest, smallest one possible—any metal tool will likely gouge the plastic. Work the guitar pick around the iPod, unlocking the plastic tabs that hold the two halves together.
Once you can crack the case open about this much all the way around, unplug the ribbon cable and separate the two halves.
2. Separate the halves.
After lifting the back and front apart, don’t pull the pieces more than about a centimeter away from each other. Working with this slight gap, remove the ribbon cable connecting the parts. Pry or pull the circuit-board plug from its socket at the socket, not by yanking on the fragile ribbon cable.
Pulling the circuit board and battery out of the case.
3. Remove the iPod guts.
Use a Phillips 000 screwdriver (most eyeglass-repair-sized Phillips screwdrivers should work) to remove the four screws from the circuit board. Lift the part including the battery straight out of the case. Underneath, gently lift (or pry with a medium-sized flathead screwdriver) the screen off its glued position. Separate its ribbon cable and set it aside.
Once the screen is gone, replace it with your favorite picture.
4. Add a picture.
Print and attach a small picture to the LCD window. The iPod will show 1.25 by .88 inches of a photo. We like to print one slightly larger and trim it as needed. Tape it into place.
Be careful when using a hot glue gun.
5. Attach a magnet.
Use a conservative amount of hot glue to place a small, strong magnet inside the metal backing. We tried several kinds of magnets and had our best luck with a powerful, thin one salvaged from an old desktop hard drive. The slick backing of the iPod needs extra force to stay still on a fridge, and a hard drive magnet holds it tightly.
Stuck to the fridge, it’s one eye-catching magnet.
6. Close and hang the nano.
Leave the clickwheel alone and close up the iPod by gently pushing the two halves back together. The tabs will snap into place, locking up the nano tightly. Place the nano on a fridge or other metallic surface—just keep it away from any still-in-use hard drives that the magnet might erase.