Stylish iPad Protection Meets Original Faux Wood Art
Several of my friends and family have iPads and Android tablets. Many of them protect their devices with cases that are very expensive. I’ve seen leather, bamboo, carbon fiber, aluminum and just about every other substance.
But many pad computer cases are constructed of simple, inexpensive, hard plastic.
It turns out that hard plastic is one of the best materials for pad and phone cases because the rigid construction distributes force of impact over the widest possible area, which minimizes damage to the device when dropped.
While I’ve considered graining all sorts of things over the years, I must give credit to one of my students, Adam B. for this innovative case graining idea.
Adam applied techniques taught in the Figured Oak section of The Faux Wood Workshop. He made the grain small and tight in keeping with the size of the iPhone case.
Steps to Faux Grain a Plastic Apple or Android Phone or Pad Case
Acquire a hard plastic pad or phone case
Searching Amazon and ebay, I found that I could buy cases to fit virtually any model of pad or phone and many are very reasonably priced (Under $10 US).
You’ll find similar pricing and availability on iPhone and Android cases.
It’s important that your case be made from hard plastic, as primer and paint often won’t adhere to soft plastics. Search for clear plastic cases to ensure your case will be paintable.
Paints won’t stick to “Soft touch” or rubbery cases.
Sand: Scuff the plastic thoroughly in multiple directions using 180 grit paper, then damp dust using rubbing alcohol. Let dry thoroughly.
This will provide “tooth” for your plastic prep and primer to grab on to.
Mask Carefully: It’s important to limit all prep, primer, paint and glaze to the outer, visible part of the case, while keeping the inside of the case clean. Any build up of material inside of the case shell could cause discoloring of the pad device or phone it’self.
Use blue tape or other low-tac masking tape to block all openings for buttons, ports and the outermost edges of the case.
Plastic Prep Adhesion Spray: Over the years, experience has taught me that some surfaces need special attention before primer will adhere.
A quick Google search revealed that the plastic used to make my iPad case needed to be treated with a plastic adhesion spray before priming.
Many of you (especially auto body folks) will be familiar with this process. For the rest of us… start by getting a product such as SEM Plastic Prep. This will ensure that your primer will adhere to the plastic case.
Any auto body supply (and some auto parts and craft stores) will carry a plastic adhesion spray.
Note: Plastic spray paint available in hardware/home stores is a gimmick that just doesn’t do what it claims. The same is true of all-in-one paint and primer. Getting paint to adhere to plastic requires the preparation described above. Prep is no place to cut corners.
Once your plastic is scuffed and prepped, apply a good primer. Any good spray primer (including self-etching or 2 stage if you have the luxury of a booth) will do. I like Kilz brand acrylic primer rolled on in 2 or 3 very thin layers and lightly sanded.
Avoid latex primer (spray or brush/roll) for this project as we want to keep it as thin and durable as possible.
The wood species you choose for your grain will determine your base coat color.
Again, use a non-latex spray color (all purpose spray cans are typically Alkyd, so you’re safe with that). Apply 2 or 3 thin coats, let dry, sand lightly, damp dust and then apply a light touch up coat. Let cure according to paint manufacturer recommendations.
You’ll learn every detail of every step of graining in gorgeous faux Curly Maple in my Curly Maple and Lapis Tutorial. Includes narrated video, ebook instruction with high res images and more.
I teach Antique Brown Oak Heart grain, and much more in The Faux Wood Workshop.
In The Faux Wood Workshop, you’ll get the skills to create multiple woods that can be applied to your phone or pad cases. Maple (Heart and Birds-Eye), Antique Yellow Pine, Oak (Antique Brown, Figured and Quarter Sawn), Cherry, Macassar Ebony, Walnut and Walnut Burl.
Pad and phone cases can undergo a lot of abuse, so it’s important to protect the faux painted grain you’ve worked so hard on.
The clear coat also ads depth, beauty and realism to your grain work.
For maximum durability, apply two or more coats of a two-stage epoxy or Urethane clear such as this 2K in a can from Spraymax.
Getting two-stage clear just right can take some practice, so be sure to have a “scratch” or practice surface (an object of similar shape and sheen) ready to try the spray on before applying it to your carefully grained case.
To learn more about 2k Aerosol and other spray can technology, check out this video.
Searching on line, I found that many DIY painters are applying these 2k spray can clears over acrylics and other single stage paints. I suggest that you do your own research to be sure that 2k will be compatible with your base coats.
Most important, when using any solvent base products, protect your lungs, eyes and and skin with a respirator, safety glasses, gloves, long sleeves and pants.
Since this project is small and easy to manage, you could prep and grain several plastic cases at once: Spraying the prep, primer, base coat and clear coats on two or more cases at a time.
But I recommend that you first finish one or two to establish a process and work through any sticking points.
- Acquire some clear, hard plastic cases for the devices you want to grain. No reason to pay more than a few dollars for decent quality.
- Prepare the plastic: Sand and dust, apply plastic prep, mask carefully.
- Prime and lightly sand for maximum base coat adhesion.
- Base coat with a basic spray can color for the grain you’re applying.
- Apply Faux Wood Grain: Use the techniques from my free Curly Maple Tutorial or get in on the Faux Wood Workshop or The Car Graining Course.
- Clear coat for maximum durability, depth and realism.
Thanks for reading. Please feel free to comment or ask any questions in the comments, below.
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