(Added 4-1-02 – Thanks for all of the emails everyone. I’ve enjoyed hearing from you. I just thought I would add one or two comments since I have had several people ask me about them. First of all, I painted the iBook on the inside of the clear case. I apparently didn’t make this clear enough, but the advantage of using the ibook for this kind of thing is that you can paint the underside and the painted surface is protected by the clear plastic. Secondly, the clear plastic palmrest cost me about $60, but the person who made them is not selling them at the moment, so I’m afraid there is no way to get them right now. Thanks!)
Ever since the new iBook came out and it was revealed that the top and bottom were actually clear plastic painted white on the inside, I have wanted use it in some kind of modification. Up until now the only thing I had done was to change the color of the Apple logo (to blue, of course) but it seemed to me that there was more a lot more that could be done. Still, many things (not the least of which being that the only iBook I had access to was my wife’s and she might not look too kindly on me ripping it apart) kept me from doing anything.
I recently went to Macworld Tokyo and met a Japanese guy who had made his own transparent palmrest parts for the new iBook. He then removed the paint from the top and bottom to make a Transparent iBook. He was selling a few of the parts that he had made and I found myself buying the last one. When I bought it I thought that I would keep it for some time in the future when I might get my hands on a used iBook, but I found myself haunted by visions of translucent iBooks, so I decided to go for it.
What follows is not really meant to be a detailed set of instructions for this kind of modification, but I thought I would provide some pictures of the process as well as the finished product. There are quite a few good take-apart guides for the iBook (generally for upgrading the hard disk) so you should definitely use one of those. Just remember, if you do try something similar you are doing so at your own risk and you will almost certainly be voiding your warranty and could even break your machine.
The first and probably easiest step is removing the top cover. You have to remove the four hex screws and then pry it off. It is basically just snapped on there.
Here is the top of the iBook without the cover. As you will be able to tell, the Apple logo is actually a frosted piece of clear plastic and appears white because of the white plastic behind it (behind that is the back of the LCD, which is why the logo lights up). The white stuff is a sort of foam that seems to be a shock absorber for the screen.
You will need to pop the Apple logo out before continuing. It is just held on by some glue.
You can remove the paint with a variety of things. Some have said that alcohol works. I used a kind of paint thinner that was recommended by someone else I know who has done something similar.
First mistake I made – you must put the parts on a towel or something else soft to protect them from scratches. I ended up putting some nasty scratches on mine.
Basically the paint will come off relatively easily if you let it sit long enough. I think I might have had an easier time if I had let it sit longer, but I had heard that it could cause frosting of the plastic, so I was reluctant to do that. You just need to wipe itoff with tissues. Hard scrubbing with Q-tips was needed for some of the really stubborn parts.
One of the hardest parts is where there is glue or tape. The cover is held on by a kind of plastic frame that is glued on. You have to pry it off and then get rid of the extra glue and then thepaint underneath. Maybe I should have removed this piece first, but I was hoping the paint thinner would weaken the glue and make it easier. Anyway, here you can see the remainder of the glue and paint left after removing the frame.
Once you get the paint off, you have a completely clear cover, which is pretty cool by itself. You can’t see the scratches, but there are some nasty ones.
I then did the same thing with the bottom. It has a lot more nooks and crannies than the cover, and it is much harder to get all of the paint off. You will have to remove the battery lock (you basically have to snap it off and then glue it back together later. There were a couple of places where I just couldn’t get the paint off. I don’t know why, but it seems like it had somehow bondedwith the plastic. There are several places with a kind of thick tape as well, and that made the paint underneath very difficult to get off.
The FCC info and so forth is done with a different kind of paint underneath the white, so if you are careful you can remove the white without touching the lettering. The same is true of the lock icons by the battery lock
The plastic cover on the battery is glued on and you will just have to pry it off.
Here is a very good example of how not to organize your workspace. How embarrassing...
Once you have finished removing the paint from all three pieces, you need to mask everything you don’t want to get paint on (in this case, the outside, since you are painting the inner surface). This can be time-consuming, but this is also the stage that can make the difference between a sloppy job and a professional-looking one, so take your time. In particular, you have to be careful about theedges. Again, the bottom was much harder than the top.
I gave a lot of thought to what color I wanted to use, but I was somewhat limited by what I could find in local stores. I thought it would be neat if I could use a transparent color, since I had never seen anyone do that before, and I would be taking advantage of the special characteristics of the ibook’s case.
I ended up using this paint, which is actually made for coloring lightbulbs. It is transparent. The only blue available was much darker than I had originally had in mind, but I decided to try it anyway. When I was painting the cover (outside, of course) a gust of wind came up and blew some leaves and other junk right onto the wet surface. I was not happy! However, I was able to respray it and it didn’t look too bad.
I can’t seem to replicate the actual color either in the camera or with software, but it is actually a deeper blue than this. It really looks amazing when the light reflects off of the metal underneath, although it looks a little too dark for me when seen from other angles. I didn’t reglue the plastic frame (see below), but at the moment have just put it in place and screwed the cover on.
Mistake number two – I tried gluing on the battery cover without testing the glue on the painted surface first. I don’t know if it was because the paint wasn’t entirely dry or if it was because the glue reacted badly with the paint, but it completely ruined the paintjob and I had to remove the paint with thinner. I ran out of the blue paint, so I haven’t yet been able to do the battery.
Anyway, here it is from the bottom. Since there is a particularly large amount of shiny metal underneath, the bottom looks very cool in the right light.
Maybe this gives you some idea of what I mean.
You can also see that the FCC/copyright info came through very well.
Now for the inside...
I replaced the standard palmrest with the transparent one I bought. You have to take off the speakers and power button from the top and then remove the trackpad and button/latch assembly and transfer them to the new piece.
Not exactly easy, but not quite as hard as I had imagined.
I had to remove part of the metal shielding to reveal the hard drive (otherwise it is kind of boring inside). You can see the battery on the other side.
You can see a lot of the wires inside in this closeup of the power button section.
Here is a view from the side.
From the back...
And the front. I also put some of the blue paint on the white sleep LED so it glows light blue (although you can’t really tell here).
Well, that’s about it. It came out a bit different from how I had envisioned it, but I think it looks pretty cool. I have dubbed it the TronBook, since it seems like the kind of iBook that people from the world of Tron would use. Ok, maybe it sounds a little stupid...
I’m not sure that I can recommend the kind of paint I used. It seems like it hasn't bonded to the plastic as well as I had hoped and it may eventually rub off at certain places on the body of the machine. Still, I sort of wonder how it would look in red...
I may end up putting it back the way it was with some used parts, but in any case it was a fun experiment.
Comments or questions are welcome.