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PostPosted: Sat Nov 19, 2011 3:30 pm 
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Joined: Tue Sep 29, 2009 10:08 am
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Location: Dayton, Ohio
Hey everyone, I wanted to post about my little project.
Image

This is an x41 tablet. I've had it for years, and actually still use it for surfing the web and taking notes on things. It's a handy little machine. But, I figured my 4 year warranty is long expired, so why the heck not try and sand off that plain old black rubberized coating? Well, I'd recommend doing this if you know for sure your laptop has a metal cover like mine. All the old T series have them I think. I know the T4x did, but I honestly have no idea about any new laptops. I would also warn you that of course water is bad for your laptop. You have to use wet sanding to get this stuff off.

Also as an interesting note the material might not be titanium. Although it is possible to cast titanium, I doubt that this is. I think it's a magnesium alloy but I have no way of telling because Titanium, Magnesium and sometimes even Aluminum alloys are similar in look. It all depends on the elements that are alloyed with them. It is pretty clearly a cast piece, because under close inspection of it, I found it has features cast into it. Clearly, it is a cast magnesium piece like the frames of most thinkpads.

Well, the process I used went like this:
- I took off the IBM Thinkpad logo and the status LED light cover. The pointy end of a razor blade was enough to lift the edge and carefully peel it off. The rubber coating doesn't sand off very well. I scraped it off with a heavy sharp camping knife. You'll figure out your own technique, it's not hard. Obviously just don't put the pointy end directly into it because you'll make scratches that are hard to sand out.

- The plastic coating underneath the rubber coating is really tough stuff. To get the result that I have in the photos, it took probably 4 hours of work (all sanding!). I started with 320 grit paper. ONLY use WET paper. The dry stuff just fills up with the plastic and stops sanding. Keep it damp enough to keep the sand paper clean. I used a little pail of water to dip the paper in and that's as wet as it needs to be. I put paper towels in between the screen and also underneath the laptop to catch ALL of the water that drips around the edges.

- Once you get all the black stuff off (took me about two hours) you can start moving up to finer sand paper. Move up the respective grit size: 400, 600, 800, 1200, 1500, 2000 and finally 2500. If you buy just one sheet each of the fine grit stuff (400 to 2500) it should be enough. Any auto body repair shop or most home supply stores should have up to the 2500 grit and should cost about 50 cents a sheet. I'd buy a couple sheets of the 320 grit paper just in case, because the plastic coatings are TOUGH STUFF. On the finer stuff, I only used 1/8th of each sheet.

- It's tempting to try it, but trust me. You can't really skip the intermediate levels of sand paper and go from 320 to 2500 grit. Each step after the 600 grit is maybe just a couple minutes each. It's pretty quick if you do it right. Keep in mind that after the 1500 grit, you probably want to keep sanding in ONE DIRECTION ONLY. That way, you have a UNIFORM pattern. The 2500 grit is fine enough that with some polishing compound you should be able to give it a mirror finish or nearly so. The last few levels of sand paper are important to have only one sanding direction and NOT circular patterns because it just looks really non-uniform and messy. A machine could probably do it and have it look nice, but by hand straight lines are the best way.

- After the approximate 4 hours of sanding on my free evenings (I was watching TV while doing it!) I used some left over Automotive Clear Coat in a spray can. Any car supply store should have that for about $10-15. I'd spring for the best stuff they have, because there is a difference and the good stuff will keep a nice finish longer (I'm a mechanical engineer and do all my own car body repairs :) )

- When you spray it, make sure you got all the dust and fingerprints off the surface. When I sprayed mine, there were a few particles of dust that showed up on the surface. Also, make sure that you spray in continuous spray paths that start AND end off of the surface. Meaning, don't start spraying in the middle. Also, don't end a spraying motion in the middle. It will be uneven. Do it in good lighting and not in hot sunlight. Also, DO NOT force dry clear coat. It can turn milky (tiny tiny bubbles). On mine, the clear coat made a very nice perfectly glossy surface in one coat. When you spray it, there is a fairly fine line between just right and too much. When you spray it and are unsure if it was enough, look at the surface at different angles to see if you can see how even or uneven the spray is. There's nothing wrong with multiple coats either. You can recoat after a couple minutes and as long as the laptop is held very flat, dripping won't be a huge problem like it is on my car bumper lol.


Image

There's an interesting feature to the surface of the metal. There are scratches made by a special tool that I wasn't willing to sand out. I know the metal is pretty thin, so I didn't want to weaken it more than I already was. I am a mechanical engineer, but my best guess is that it was a scratch test to verify the quality of the cast metal cover. Thin metal structures are difficult to cast and have the properties uniform throughout.
Image
Image

I hope you all enjoy! PLEASE tell me which thinkpads you know have a metal cover! This is a pretty cool mod!

Admin note: Moved from General HW/SW forum


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 19, 2011 7:06 pm 
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Nice! :thumbs-UP:

You have a really unique X41T now with that mod. Congrats!!!

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 20, 2011 12:10 am 
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It looks amazing! :bow:

According to the ltwbook, the X41t cover is magnesium alloy.

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 20, 2011 2:56 pm 
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Joined: Tue Sep 29, 2009 10:08 am
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Location: Dayton, Ohio
Thanks guys! It was a good result especially considering the relatively little work doing it. It just took a bit of know how for getting the right finish.

I guess I should have put the "Titanium" in quotations, because in the post I deduced it was of the same material as the body of the laptop: magnesium.

I'm about to do a second coat of the car clear coat. It should be a long lasting durable finish :)


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 20, 2011 2:58 pm 
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Location: Dayton, Ohio
Oh, it looks like both of you guys have a thinkpad with a metal cover. Give it a shot! ;)


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 19, 2011 10:22 am 
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419nickjd wrote:
There's an interesting feature to the surface of the metal. There are scratches made by a special tool that I wasn't willing to sand out. I know the metal is pretty thin, so I didn't want to weaken it more than I already was. I am a mechanical engineer, but my best guess is that it was a scratch test to verify the quality of the cast metal cover. Thin metal structures are difficult to cast and have the properties uniform throughout.
Image


WHOA.

Is that present on all TP covers before coating?

I half-considered doing this to a TP, but if it's going to look like a kid with a pen knife played tic-tac-toe on my TP, I don't think I would. Don't get me wrong, you did a great job, but I would find that pattern a distraction given how the uniform nature of ThinkPads appeal to me.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 19, 2011 10:36 am 
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My guess is that it was used to test the uniformity of the metal. Scratch tests are often used to test hardness and very thin cast materials are difficult to make uniform. I would also guess that every magnesium cover thinkpad would have that. I think you could sand it off, because they are just scratches but I didn't want to be too aggressive with the sanding lol.

Thanks though, it was just a little evening project when I got bored lol. It's cool though, because if you're good with sand paper you can make different patterns in the metal. Imagine using consistent patterns with a rotary sander or masking and sanding in different directions to put a company logo on it. It would be real easy to do but I just wanted something simple.

If you do do it though, make sure you get the best clear coat money can buy lol. I supposedly got the "good" stuff but it's no where near the OEM quality that you find on real cars. The real stuff is amazingly durable, but this is not.

It's funny though, because now that it's somewhat shiny, you can see a dent in the cover lol. That must have been when I punched it at one point ;)


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 19, 2011 10:56 am 
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ThinkPadder
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Believe me, I think this is a great way to breathe new life into a TP that has a "balding" cover. Like the guy who invests in a razor that can handle his scalp, there comes a time that you have do decide to go all the way or not. That, or have your TP called "Picard". ;)

The tic-tac-toe thing is what surprised me. I half-wonder if another reason they did this was to have the coating adhere better at certain spots, or even (evilly) to prevent what you happened to do.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 19, 2011 10:57 am 
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ThinkPadder
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419nickjd wrote:
My guess is that it was used to test the uniformity of the metal. Scratch tests are often used to test hardness and very thin cast materials are difficult to make uniform. I would also guess that every magnesium cover thinkpad would have that. I think you could sand it off, because they are just scratches but I didn't want to be too aggressive with the sanding lol.

Thanks though, it was just a little evening project when I got bored lol. It's cool though, because if you're good with sand paper you can make different patterns in the metal. Imagine using consistent patterns with a rotary sander or masking and sanding in different directions to put a company logo on it. It would be real easy to do but I just wanted something simple.

If you do do it though, make sure you get the best clear coat money can buy lol. I supposedly got the "good" stuff but it's no where near the OEM quality that you find on real cars. The real stuff is amazingly durable, but this is not.

It's funny though, because now that it's somewhat shiny, you can see a dent in the cover lol. That must have been when I punched it at one point ;)


Interesting. 8)

lol Why'd you punch your X41t??? :lol:

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 19, 2011 11:46 am 
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emeraldgirl08 wrote:

Interesting. 8)

lol Why'd you punch your X41t??? :lol:


lol, I don't remember, it does have this infuriatingly slow 1.8" hard drive. That was probably part of it ;)

Three years ago a mac fan boy professor of mine was arguing with me about how his macs are superior products. He kept spewing verbal diarrhea saying how is mac is faster and I was like, I don't care, I paid less and got something I like and it's built better than your mac. So he replied "if your thinkpad is so durable, then THROW it!" and in the middle of his sentence, I threw it like a Frisbee from chest height to about 5 feet away onto a concrete floor. These things are DURABLE :twisted: :lol: There was no damage and I turned it on just to make him furious. His face was bright red and he called me infantile for actually throwing it 8) I thought he was going to explode! HAHAHA!!! Go thinkpads! :D


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 26, 2012 5:55 pm 
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MMmm, I have a partsbeast X41t. I think I'll tear apart the LCD panel so I can get an all-surface sanding of the lid.

Sexy lookin!

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