Tool Review: iSesamo Opening Tool

Computers & Mobile
Tool Review: iSesamo Opening Tool


“Spudger” is a word well on its way into the limelight. Originally, “spudger” seems to have referred to a particular, fairly specialized implement described by Wikipedia as “a wiring tool used for poking or adjusting small wires or components, generally in the electronics and telecommunications industries.” But these days, “spudger” seems to be more commonly used, and to have a slightly different, specific meaning: a flat tool somewhere between a shim and a screwdriver, used for prying and/or propping open device cases along seams sealed with inaccessible clips.

The iSesamo, he said with a straight face, is a kind of “power spudger.” The first and most important point to make is that it is made of metal. Here’s iFixIt CEO Kyle Wiens on that subject:

A word of caution, here: metal spudgers are the double-edged swords of the iPod and iPhone repair world. They are incredibly useful due to their hard metal edge, especially for tight crevices where plastic tools are too soft to be used. However, the hierarchy of hardness dictates that “like scratches like,” meaning that everything softer than the metal spudger will be easily scratched. Unfortunately that list includes pretty much every surface of your iPhone 3G. A metal spudger can also bridge electrical connections, potentially shorting your phone’s logic board if you’re not careful.

iFixIt actually sells their own branded version of the iSesamo, for $9.95. But they’re commonly given away as schwag. The one I have is from NewerTech, and apart from the branding elements it is the same tool, which seems to actually be manufactured by Italy’s dottorPOD.

It consists of a polished spring steel shim, 0.011″ thick, 0.786″ wide and 4.685″ long. The middle 3″ has been covered with a 1/16″ layer, on each side, of some kind of comfy elastomer, which makes it a pleasure to hold and use. The tool weighs about a third of an ounce (10 g).

The name, iSesamo, with its “Open Sesame” allusion, suggests a kind of mystical experience. We’re all smart people, here, so you probably don’t need me to tell you the facts of life: there is no Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus is your parents, and the iSesamo is not a Magic Golden Key.

That said, I was, in fact, impressed with how easy it was to direct the tool into the narrow crevice between the front bezel and the backplate of my old 5th-gen iPod. I can’t think of another tool, among the many in my workshop, that would be as well suited to the purpose. For lack of a better word, the iSesamo is “nimble” in the hand, and the rubber on the handle gives a good grip, and makes it easy to bring a bit of power to bear. This is the first of the two edges on that sword Kyle mentioned—the edge pointed away from you. The good one.

Annnnnd it's open! Also, broken! Don't do this to your iPod.

Even so, opening my iPod case was, frankly, a frustrating nightmare. I was impatient and didn’t read up on the procedure thoroughly, and though it was fairly short work, using the iSesamo, to separate the front bezel from the rest of the device, turns out that’s not the order in which things are supposed to come apart. The sounds I thought were small plastic tabs “clicking” loose were, in fact, small plastic tabs breaking loose where they were secured to the frame with screws. Oops. At least replacement bezels are cheap.

But it’s a poor craftsman who blames his tools. Leaving aside my incompetence to the task (iPods are notorious PsITA to open), the iSesamo is an almost ideal prying tool for its intended purpose. But it’s a significant almost. There is that second edge of the sword.

If you don’t know what you’re doing, exactly, the iSesamo can be a bit dangerous for exploratory surgery. It’s easy to do a lot of damage, pretty quickly, using this tool, and even if I’d been more careful and hadn’t actually broken anything, cosmetic scratching along the seam would’ve been extremely hard to avoid. First-timers, I think, should stick to plastic.

If, on the other hand, you are, ah, an “experienced spudger,” I could see how the iSesamo could quickly become your weapon of choice. If you are familiar with the device you’re taking apart and/or take it apart frequently, the iSesamo will do it over and over again without wearing down like a plastic spudger, some of which are only good for a couple of uses.

NewerTech iSesamo

Avoid Marring, Open Plastic Cases with a Cut Credit Card

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I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

View more articles by Sean Michael Ragan