Oolong’s Zoo

Friday, March 14, 2008

USB Sculptures

CyclusbI’ve been having great fun lately customising USB sticks ((thumb drives, flash drives, whatever you want to call them…)) using epoxy putty. The putty doesn’t require any baking, and it seems to be hard enough and strong enough to survive in pockets full of keys for long periods without any visible scratching – although it does accumulate smudge marks very quickly, they’re easy to wipe off.

USBmonkeyIII 002It’s an interesting challenge to decorate a USB drive, because you start out with a sort of rectangle a few millimetres thick, and it’s probably best not to make the final product very much bigger than that, so that it doesn’t take up too much space in pockets and can still be plugged into computers which might not have much space around their USB sockets. That means you’re constrained to subjects which can be plausibly fitted into a long, thin cuboid with a minimum of protrusions. You also ideally want things with a head or some other part which can be unobtrusively removed, with a join just at the right distance from one end…

USB Monkey HeadlessThe basic technique is pretty straightforward – you just mix up the epoxy putty with the hardener, roll it into a sheet and cover the drive in it. Leave space for anything you don’t want to obscure, like the LEDs most pen drives have that light up to show when they’re active, or loops for keyrings. There are two approaches you can take at this stage. One way is to use a thin sheet and add more putty to that – freshly-mixed epoxy putty sticks extremely well to almost anything, but especially itself. The other way is to use more putty to begin with, and extrude or carve from that.

USB Monkey II (headless)There are many different varieties of epoxy putty available. I’ve been using Sylmasta A+B (formerly SuperCarve), and so far I’m very happy indeed with the new reformulated version of this – the colours are pure and vivid, where before the blue and the yellow were both slightly greenish ((I’m told their white has been reformulated to be brighter, too, but I still haven’t used up all of my 500g block of the previous formulation so I haven’t tried that yet.)). They’ve also extended the range to include brown and black, so it’s now possible to mix almost any colour from those available. For about £50 I got 250g of each of five colours, which should go a looong way. I have also had good results using metallic powders you can rub into the putty while it’s still soft. Most of the powder sticks well to the putty if it’s rubbed in well enough, but it’s worth varnishing these afterwards to be safe.

A Dead Badger So far I’ve made three USB monkeys, a couple of aliens, a zombie badger that runs Linux and a fish that really didn’t work the way I wanted it to. I might make a crocodile next. Any other suggestions are welcome, whether or not you want to buy them yourself! As ever, I am very happy to take commissions…

posted by frm at 20:14  


  1. Fantastic! I think that a turtle could be flat enough to work well for this. If you make one, please contact me, I would definitely consider buying it from you! -Vera

    Comment by Vera — 14 March 2008 @ 21:14

  2. This has been submitted to Engadget for a possible news item. Very cool

    Comment by Richard — 15 March 2008 @ 10:36

  3. love these! great work.

    Comment by sarah elizabeth — 15 March 2008 @ 17:37

  4. These are absolutely adorable. I’d love to buy two, one for my brother and one for my father. Maybe you could try making something video game oriented? I’d love to discuss this with you, please contact me. Thanks. 😀

    Comment by Ri — 19 March 2008 @ 00:08

  5. Since there are now USB versions of Linux that will boot and run right from a USB thumb drive, a cool idea would be to make one look like the linux penguin. I bet that would sell well because most linux enthuiests are fanatic about Linux. Personally, I’d like to have one shaped like a thumb.
    Hope you find a way to mass market these before someone steals your ideas.
    Best Wishes
    Dan Gray

    Comment by Dan Gray — 23 March 2008 @ 23:28

  6. That USB Headless monkey II looks pretty cool and kinda cute – it’s definitely something I might consider buying if you were to make it retailable.

    Comment by asia'h epperson — 2 April 2008 @ 11:48

  7. This is very creative indeed… thank u for sharing 🙂

    Comment by SLB — 4 April 2008 @ 18:41

  8. A very intuitive idea, these things gonna sell like hell. And now that the prices of the pendrives going down… it’s not a big ivestment and the prices can be kept low too…
    well done

    Comment by Sculptor — 12 April 2008 @ 10:57

  9. Love the creativeness. A frog would be interesting…

    Comment by Amber — 12 April 2008 @ 19:57

  10. Oolong I got a question for you two parts

    1. Do you like what you do???

    2. If you do would you like a job

    check out my website http://www.uniquestyledrives.com

    email me bryancolligan@uniquestyledrives.com

    Comment by bryan colligan — 23 July 2008 @ 01:37

  11. Awesome items!! Give us the full lowdown along with loads of pictures when you get back.


    Comment by Fredi — 25 July 2008 @ 06:30

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