Upcycled Tech: Creative Valentine’s Gift Ideas
No matter if you’re scrambling to put together a last-minute meaningful gift or intent on crafting an intricate masterpiece, this list is full of ways to give a handmade gift while safely and sustainably repurposing your old gear! Here are some of our favorite upcycled tech gifts ideas for Valentine's Day.
1. Recycled Motherboard Necklace
For something wearable, try turning your old circuit-boards into custom jewelry! This one’s a great option for the tech lover who wants to display their passion on their sleeve (or on their chest).
- Old circuit-board whatever component you want to upcycle
- Resin, resin mold (local Blick, Michael’s)
- A medallion or open pendant (like $8)
- Metal Snips/Shears
- Heat gun
- Optional: electric drill
Take an old circuit board and find the part of it you’d like to turn into a necklace. Carefully cut it using metal snips or shears, and then smooth any rough edges with a file. Fill the resin mold with prepared resin, and place the component in. To make sure the surface is smooth, use a heat gun to remove air bubbles.
Once the resin is fully cured, you’ll have a piece you can secure inside of the pendant or medallion. Place the pendant on whatever necklace chain you’d like, and ~boom~. Tiffany’s, who?
(Depending on your decorative casing of choice, you may need to drill a hole through the piece of resin coated motherboard to attach the two together.)
2. Custom Knife Block / Magnetic Organizer
- Old hard drive magnets*
- Wood plank
- Wood spacer
- Wood glue, superglue
- A saw
- Wood finish
- Hand drill (optional)
Placed between two wooden planks, the magnets from hard drives can be transformed into a knife mount! If your significant other isn’t much of a chef, you can use this as a mount for organizing drill bits, turn it into a magnetic rack with some small j-hooks, or really, whatever your heart desires. No power tools required.
Cut two identical lengths of wooden planks for the two sides of the bar. Add a spacer, by cutting down four narrow strips. Attach them to one of the planks using wood glue. With superglue, secure your hard drive magnets to the underside of that same plank, then switch back to wood glue to seal your block with the other long wooden plank.
When you’re ready to put it up on the wall, attach keyhole brackets to the back of your mount, leave room for hanging screws, and secure it to the wall. (We would recommend checking if your recipient likes the gift before making it a permanent fixture in their home.)
(*Hard drive magnets are ideal for this, but if your planks are thin enough, a different strong magnet would also do the trick.)
3. Hard Drive Persistence of Vision Clock (Ian Smith)
This one’s definitely more ambitious and elaborate. It’ll cost you about $60, but if you want an unforgettable homemade gift, this hard drive clock will steal the show.
POV is a phenomenon where an object appears to be present even when it is no longer in view. A POV clock is a device that uses POV to display time information by spinning a hard drive at high speed and illuminating its disk platter with LEDs.
To make a POV clock, you will need:
- A hard drive
- A motor to spin the hard drive
- LEDs to illuminate the disk platter
- A circuit to control the LEDs
- A microcontroller to control the motor and the LEDs (Arduino, etc)
- A power supply
- A casing to mount the components
One of the methods to build a hard drive POV clock relies on using a hard drive’s spindle motor. Spindle motors rotate the platters in a hard drive and are driven by a motor controller that regulates speed. To make the clock, you’ll need to disassemble the hard drive, attach the new motor to the spindle, wire the LEDs and the circuit to the microcontroller, program the microcontroller to display the time, and mount the components in the casing.
Alternatively, you can use the hard drive’s data access time. By measuring the time it takes for the hard drive’s read/write head to move from track to track, you can calculate the current time. (Note: you would have to modify the hard drive's firmware to calculate the time based on the head's position.)
Whichever method you choose, building a hard drive clock can be a very rewarding project. For a more detailed walk-through, check out this great instructables tutorial.
4. MP3 Mixtape
Have an old Mp3 player you’re not using anymore? Maybe an iPod nano you haven’t touched in over a decade? Before you take it straight to an electronic recycling center (never a landfill, of course), make a mixtape! That way, instead of just sending a Spotify link or a QR code, you can give a physical gift with much more of a personal touch.
Okay, fair, this one’s more of a “reuse” than an “upcycle”, but we thought we’d include it because it’s sweet and simple. Making this one is pretty simple. Clear the device of its old data, curate a playlist that reminds you of your sweetheart, and load the songs you want onto your old MP3 player!
5. Hard Drive Caddy Picture Frame
If you have a hard drive caddy that’s a different size from your new gear, consider using it as a picture frame. Measure the caddy, size and print out a picture of you and your special someone, secure the picture with a bit of glue or some pins, and voila! Caddies can be beautiful pieces of gear, but if yours doesn’t match the Valentine’s mood, you can customize it by writing a message on the frame or painting it a new color.
6. Motherboard Custom Placemat / Coaster Set
For a more practical decorative gift, consider making a custom motherboard placemat or set of coasters. Though simpler and relatively niche, you’ll be left with a very durable piece that is likely far more unique than something store-bought.
- A used motherboard
- Foam backing
- Scissors / utility knife
- Some glue
Clean your motherboard thoroughly and remove any components that may get in your way, such as stand-off screws, heat sinks, and connectors. Then, cut the cork to a size that is slightly larger than the motherboard. Cut the foam backing to match the size of the cork, then glue the foam to the cork and attach the motherboard facedown to the other side. For an even more refined, polished look, you could coat the final product with epoxy resin, but make sure to use it safely. And for coasters, simply cut smaller pieces, with similar ratios of motherboard size to cork/foam size.
7. Belt Buckle
Making this one follows the same principle as the motherboard necklace, but with a practical twist. The trick here is to attach your component of the motherboard to an existing belt buckle and use screws to keep it in place. (The motherboard, that is. We can’t really speak for a foolproof method for keeping your belt in place, aside from maybe adjusting the notches.)
None of these doing the trick? If you still want to find a gift for your techie that’s good for the planet, just get them something from TechMikeNY that’ll *drive* them mad. Or that will make them *short circuit*. Or that they *can’t resist*. You get the idea.