How To Build A Tiny Wooden USB Drive

How To Build A Tiny Wooden USB Drive

I have been wanting to make a wooden USB drive for a while. Recently the plastic housing on one of my USB drives got bent, rendering it hard to use. So I tore it apart and got to work. The thing that appealed to me about this one was that the critical component didn’t have the metal sleeve around it so it started out super tiny. I could have made this even smaller than it is, but kept some length for a keyring hole.

You don’t need many tools to do this, so have fun!

What You Need

PartsYou don’t need much! You’ll need a USB drive, obviously; for this guideline you can see the size of the drive I’m using, sans metal housing. But the steps will be the same no matter how big or small the drive component itself.

You’ll also need:

  • a saw (the smaller and finer, the better)
  • a chisel
  • sandpaper
  • drill (optional) – for the keyring hole

Umm…I think that’s it! Let’s get started.

Shim It Up

Skip this step if your drive already has the metal sleeve around it.

Shiming 1

Shiming 2

As I mentioned in one of my comments in the previous step’s picture, the USB drive as it is, in its bare state, is too thin to make contact with the USB port. So you have to glue a shim onto the bottom of the drive in order for it to make contact with the port.

Shiming 3

Shiming 4

So clamp up a piece of wood and then use your saw to slice off a thin piece for your shim. I use Japanese saws myself, love ’em!, but use whatever works for you. I cut my piece way too thick as you can see in the second picture, so I sanded away, testing in the USB port from time to time until the USB drive + shim fit well.

Cutting the Stock

So now you need to prepare the wooden housing for your USB drive. Let’s start with the most delicate part first, the recess for the USB drive. In the other wooden USB drive Instructable, you drill into a wooden block and fit the USB drive into the slot you created from drilling. In this Instructable, you will chisel out a recess in one piece of wood and then glue a second piece on top of it. This will create a tighter, more seamless fit if done correctly.

Cutting the Stock

Cutting the Stock 2

Take your chisel and score your lines for the recess (with hand pressure or a light mallet tap). Be sure you are leaving enough of the USB drive sticking out so that it will go all the way into the computer! Always err on the side of not going far enough out – you can always expand your slot outwards later if it’s not big enough. When checking for depth, try to get the USB drive perfectly flush WITH the shim in place (picture 2).

Cutting the Stock 3

Cutting the Stock 4

Cutting the Stock 5

Next, cut out the block to the desired width. Since this is a tiny USB drive component, I wanted to go as narrow as possible. Be sure to leave a little extra for sanding and rounding off the corners, if desired (picture 3). The advantage with using a thickish piece of wood for your stock is that you can cut the second piece of wood at the same time and you’ll be sure it will be the same width as its mate (picture 4).

Shaping and Gluing

When you put your two pieces together, the USB drive should be pretty snug. It’s okay if it’s slightly loose as you’ll be gluing it all together, and the glue will be plenty strong enough so don’t worry. In the first picture, you can see that the wooden block is still pretty – ummm – blocky, but I’ll sand that down a bit. But before you reduce the thickness, round off your corners first if that’s the look you want. I broke apart my block (it’s super lightweight wood) on my first attempt because I got it super thin first and then tried to shape it. Lesson learned.

Shaping and Gluing 2

Shaping and Gluing 3

Shaping and Gluing 4

After you’ve shaped your wood as desired, now’s a good time to add your keyring hole. I did it pre-glueup but you could do it afterwards too. Then I glued my USB drive to the shim with super glue, and then the drive/shim component into the recess.. Looking back, I’d recommend wood glue for the second glueup, as the super glue discolored the wood slightly where the USB drive comes out. Then use wood glue to join the two pieces of wood together and clamp them together.

Shaping and Gluing 5

Shaping and Gluing 6

Shaping and Gluing 7

Shaping and Gluing

After the glue is dry, this is a good time to round off all those sharp edges if you want. Then I cut a thin strip of sandpaper and “flossed” the keyring hole so it had a more rounded-in look. Now you’re ready for the finish!


Now all that’s left is to add your finish of choice! I went with boiled linseed oil for this one.


Thanks for reading, and hope it works out for you!

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