As a long time Mac enthusiast, I’ve always had an appreciation for the iconic design of Apple hardware, which was the inspiration for a recent project. The idea first started when I saw a wall clock a co-worker had made from the case of an old Airport Extreme. After seeing it, I started keeping my eye out for old bits of discarded Apple hardware.
When I came into possession of the side panel from a Mac Pro tower, I started contemplating design ideas. The final inspiration for the design actually came from the pedestal base of the iMac on my desk. A little research into the materials seemed to indicate it was a common non-heat teated aluminum alloy called 5052, which meant it should be easily workable without any special tools.
The first step was cutting the piece to it’s final width, which was easily done on the table saw. I used a piece of scrap plywood underneath the aluminium to keep it from scratching during cutting, but otherwise it was a straightforward process. The real trick came in figuring out how to bend the piece evenly. Because I didn’t have access to a brake, I decided the next best thing would be to create a simple shop made version out of scrap wood and hinges.
The top plate that’s bolted on has a radius routed on the lower side, to create the curved angle of the bend. I used the scrap pieces that were initially cut from the width of the panel to experiment with the proportions and angle of the bend. It’s important when bending aluminum to only bend perpendicular to the grain of the metal to prevent cracks. Fortunately the grain on this piece was oriented in the correct direction.
One thing I’d do differently if trying this again would be to use three heavy duty hinges instead of the two brass ones pictured. These were just of couple extra’s I had laying around the shop, but weren’t strong enough to take the pressure needed to bend the piece. In the end, it worked, but broke the hinges in the process.
Once the piece was bent, I trimmed a bit off the top using the table saw, after measuring so the center of the face would fall at the “stem” of the Apple logo. I then drilled a hole for the clock movement, which required a 3/8″ bit. To prevent the large bit from wandering when starting, I first drilled a small pilot hole. Then it was simply a matter of assembling the clock movement, which was a simple inexpensive kit purchased at a local hobby store.