Here is a diary of my project which combines contemporary technology, classic materials and ancient aesthetics: Sterling Silver Thumb Drive in Barbaric Style. It took probably around 24 hours to complete it, mostly in silversmithing workshop in duCret School of Art under supervision of teacher and Master Jeweler Larry Gove.
The thumb drive's crystal lights up on read and write operations. The crystal is protected from preying hands with spikes and no, I am not planning to carry the drive in my jeans pocket!
Inside the case an universal card reader has been installed. I chose the card reader rather than an actual thumb drive to allow future memory size increase. This incarnation of the thumb drive contains micro SD card with 64GB space.
The drive is around 4 inches (10 cm) in length and 3/4 inch (2 cm) in diameter.
Note: I am not a professional silversmith so most likely there are better ways to work with this metal.
For clarity of the instructuable I omitted my mistakes and their corrections.
Step 1: Design
My goal was to build a fully functional electronic device embedded in sterling silver. A thumb drive was an obvious choice due to its ability to interact with computer, some degree of practical use and striking contrast between chosen primitive aesthetics and sophistication of electronic circuit.
One of the main design factors was ability to disassemble and assemble the drive without damaging it to upgrade the storage size in the future.
I begun with a drawing of shell plates, which were to be connected using rivets. The drawing was transferred to sterling silver sheet with some adjustments to assure that the plates would overlap correctly. Then the sheet was cut with a hand saw.
Step 2: Shell building
After the pieces were cut, I drilled holes in the corners and riveted them together with help of self-made tool. The rivets are just made of cut sterling silver wire. After corners of the plates were connected, the remaining rivets were installed along the edges couple of millimeters apart.
Afterwards, the plates were soldered together with hard solder to reinforce the connections for later bending.
Step 3: Shell forming
The surface was lightly hammered to add a texture.
The thumb drive shell was then formed using mandrel and soft hammer. To close the shell, the edges were filed to assure that they are parallel.
As an element of the design, the edges were 'stitched' with silver wire. Again, to make the shell more sturdy, the edges were soldered together.
Step 4: Crystal setting
The crystal was set in the end plate with a small bezel. It was understood that the bezel won't be able to prevent crystal from falling inside so additional support was be needed.
Step 5: Internal circuit and dress reharsal
Rather than using an actual thumb drive, I decided to use a card reader. Card reader poses less risk in case of damage because it is less expensive. In addition, the card reader would allow future storage upgrades if needed.
I picked a compact, USB card reader with small light indicating activity.
The original LED was replaced with a large one soldered on wires to bring the light source closer to the crystal.
Soldering such small contacts required a microscope and solderer with tiny tip.
Step 6: Crystal cage forming
The crystal needed to be protected against any larger forces pushing it inside so a stylized cage was built.
Following 'easy to disassemble' idea, the cage was installed with help of two pieces of threaded wires and threaded nuts. To keep the design consistent, the cage was assembled with rivets.
Step 7: Crystal cage spikes
To create more barbaric impression, the cage was decorated with spikes.
To make the spikes a simple 'lathe' was used. The lathe was made of flexible shaft mounted in a vice using a copper sheet (thanks Larry for the idea!). The spikes were formed using a file and then cut off from the main wire.
Again, to make the cage more sturdy, the connections were reinforced with soldering.
Step 8: USB connector
While I was not happy with piece of white plastic sticking out of the drive, using USB setting from original drive seemed to be much simpler. The USB setting was friction-mounted in the sterling silver plate.
Two sterling silver prongs were soldered to USB connector plate. The prongs serve two purposes:
- hold the reader in place
- support the crystal and prevent it from falling inside.
Step 9: USB plate lock
The USB plate is attached to the shell using two locks made with hinged wire loops and small half-ball of sterling silver soldered to the shell.
The half-balls are filed along the edges to allow wire to snap around it.
The wire loop are then shaped to resemble number 8.
Step 10: Final assembly and tada!
The three sterling silver elements: shell, crystal cage and USB plate were darkened and then polished to emphasize the texture including rivets and stitches.
All the parts finally fit well together and are locked in place.