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Skill Builder: Fabricating Project Boxes from PCB Cladding




Here’s something I didn’t know about. Radio geeks and hobby audio enthusiasts use PCB copper cladding material to fabricate handsome project chassis. The main method of assembly is soldering. In this PDF tutorial from QRP Builder, a small chassis for a radio transceiver is built, cut from a 24″ X 36″ piece of Grade G-10/FR4 Copper-Clad Garolite sheet, clad both sides, 1/16″ thick (from McMaster Carr). There are some really good tips in this article about building such project boxes and making sure the results are sturdy and handsome.

Fabricating a chassis from clad PCB board material [PDF, 1.6MB]

18 thoughts on “Skill Builder: Fabricating Project Boxes from PCB Cladding

    1. Yeah, I’m know little about the ham scene, so it was news to me. But I assumed it was not a new innovation. Tomorrow I’m going to do a post about a gorgeous Manhattan-style circuit build inside this type of chassis.

    2. Yeah, I’m know little about the ham scene, so it was news to me. But I assumed it was not a new innovation. Tomorrow I’m going to do a post about a gorgeous Manhattan-style circuit build inside this type of chassis.

  1. I tried this once for a homebuilt synth enclosure with lousy results. It was my own fault: I was too much in a rush to bother securing the pieces properly and making sure they were square. Like everything else in metalworking (and woodworking for that matter), doing this successfully requires good fixturing (workpiece holding).

    Good rule of thumb: “measure twice, cut once, clamp three times.”

  2. I used some test fixtures crafted this way years ago, to test some aerospace electromechanical devices. Some of the test fixtures still in use today were made by old engineers familiar with old “radio shack” construction methods.

    No, I’m not referring to the consumer electronics chain.

    I think it would be perfect for some steampunk projects.

  3. Though I do see a caution about the dust, it’s worth mentioning that the material between the copper cladding is epoxy resin and fiberglass cloth.  Abrading, drilling or sawing this stuff releases tiny glass fibers, which probably aren’t good to inhale, and are even worse when they stick into your fingers.

    For the above reasons, I avoid using copper-clad for enclosures unless I have to.  When I do, I use a shear to cut the material (a standard metal shear will do) and a vacuum dust collection system when I drill. Wrap or paint exposed edges, because running your finger down one will leave you with a reminder not to do it again for a few weeks.

    For stuff that gets handled a lot, aluminum makes a much better enclosure. I use copper clad for shielding inside the enclosure, but prefer aluminum for the outer housing.

  4. Though I do see a caution about the dust, it’s worth mentioning that the material between the copper cladding is epoxy resin and fiberglass cloth.  Abrading, drilling or sawing this stuff releases tiny glass fibers, which probably aren’t good to inhale, and are even worse when they stick into your fingers.

    For the above reasons, I avoid using copper-clad for enclosures unless I have to.  When I do, I use a shear to cut the material (a standard metal shear will do) and a vacuum dust collection system when I drill. Wrap or paint exposed edges, because running your finger down one will leave you with a reminder not to do it again for a few weeks.

    For stuff that gets handled a lot, aluminum makes a much better enclosure. I use copper clad for shielding inside the enclosure, but prefer aluminum for the outer housing.

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. And he has a new best-of writing collection and “lazy man’s memoir,” called Borg Like Me.

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