Wooden tablet: Michael Castor’s PiPad

I’ve actually held this project in my very own sweaty little hands: Michael showed it to me at Maker Faire in NY last September. I’m glad he’s written the project up, because it’s a gorgeous build which really deserves sharing.


In his day job, Michael works for MAKE, and has a heavy workload around each big Maker Faire dealing with Maker Shed setup, making things run smoothly in the Shed, keeping on top of inventory (yes, they sell the Raspberry Pi), and organising a large team of people. He doesn’t usually get time to build his own project for the Faire because he’s so busy, but this year he decided to change that, and make his ultimate tablet. He gave himself two weeks, from conception to finished build.

Michael particularly wanted a device he could use on an aeroplane, and wanted it to look smooth and professional so it didn’t freak out the TSA or whoever ended up sitting next to him as he used it. (Some people are oddly sensitive about home-made electronics on aeroplanes.) He arrived at Maker Faire having used his PiPad on the aeroplane on the way over to watch movies.

 Michael’s aesthetic is minimal and classy: the finish and design of this project is one of the best hand-built efforts I’ve seen. He was lucky enough to find a large, smooth piece of carbon fibre, which he used to back the birch case he made, and so did Eben, who Michael asked to sign it. Eben was hesitant to spoil the gorgeous finish with his scrawl, but went ahead anyway – you can see his scribble in the pictures on Michael’s website.

If you’d like to make your own version of this build, Michael has made a parts list, instructions, shopping suggestions, CAD designs and lots and lots of photos available on his website, right down to pictures of the fiddly details like this scalpel-work on the ply, which he used to make room for the PiPad’s ports. It’s a great build, a great write-up and a really lovely device: thanks Michael!


bertwert avatar

This is awesome :)

Matt avatar

That is completely awesome! I want to try making one of those one day.

Cheetah avatar

Hmm … if he had to lift the ethernet and second USB port for space, I wonder how much better the battery life would get if he replaced the model B with a model A? I guess a lot of the battery life on that is going to be determined by the screen, though.

meltwater avatar

What he needs is an eInk display on the back! :)

Declan Malone avatar

What he needs is an eInk display on the back!
Most readers here are probably too young to remember this, but what I think would be perfect for the back of this would be a “Microwriter”-style chorded keyboard for typing things in.

Mike avatar

Now if he could install a Dot Matrix printer with a monochrome CTR screen, he would have it made.

Alan Gunn avatar

Wasn’t that the “Osbourne 1”? ;-)

RobV avatar

cyclists i know use these.

Ken MacIver avatar

I remember the Microwriter and it’s PDA version the Agenda…

Currently available are the CYKEY KeyPad http://www.cykey.co.uk/
Or can I suggest the GKOS standard possibly a perfect PI-project using six switches http://gkos.com/gkos/index-gkos-com.html

b avatar

my idea you @#$%&*

whatever i think of, becomes reality with few hours, days, weeks…
maybe i should start “stop thinking”
it happens, or i am with modular focus, which looks for thing around and scans only what is already in the RAM.
thankfully i have my savior leave these credits and attributions.

no one was crying wolf, so i had to

liz avatar

Making a tablet with a Pi is not a new idea: people have been doing it since we launched in 2012. But this is the very best looking one we’ve seen. And I *think* you’re joking, but please don’t call Michael a @#$%&*.

Giles avatar

At least he didn’t say ~@%**¬$ (or Belgium).

b avatar

yeah, probably shouldn’t have called him that.
thanks Michael for keeping all the original casings than going for the barebone boards and components, so better reuse-ability, more people would want to try this and hopefully more hackers, makers, tinkerers.

thank you Eben and Liz, since now i have chance to say it directly for rpi.
PS: i had battery, display though touch (my usecase didn’t need touch) bought and delivered at home.

liz avatar

Aw – thank you!

Marc avatar

perhaps you should wear a tin hat to block the scanners.

Mike avatar

The tin hat, HAHAHAHA! Love it!

stenstorp avatar

I know exactly how you feel…

AndrewS avatar

I suspect we’ll see a lot more of these after the release of http://hdmipi.com/ :-)

Mike avatar

@ $124.00 US Dollars, I think people would rather get a standard screen 15″ and just use that..

Steve avatar

How much of an issue is it carrying ‘home made’ RPi electronics on a plane? Have many people been stopped and questioned about their Pi projects? Some would require some diplomatic explanation! ;)

liz avatar

I’ve been through security dozens of times with one or more Pis (and accessories, and cables) in my hand luggage: I have never once been stopped or asked to explain. (Haven’t got one out in a plane, though, more from sensitivity to scared flyers than anything else.)

Steve avatar

That’s good news, thanks Liz. I could picture the scene at security, ‘Honestly Sir… I only use it for sending teddies into near space!’ ‘… Checking if the loo is occupied, … Monitoring by budgies water lever.’ Etc. :)

Marc avatar

Wood finish no less. Now I really want to do this one, in a fine walnut or mahogany perhaps.

Ravenous avatar

If anyone’s looking for an alternative to a carbon fibre back, try searching for electric guitar scratchplate material. I recommend some vintage style pearloid!

Jim Manley avatar

Absolutely, positively, unabashedly, unquestionably the most fantastic, beautiful, exemplar piece of hand-crafted wonderfulness I have seen in a lonnnng time … oh, yeah, and then there’s Eben’s siggy :lol:

JBeale avatar

Great project. Among other things the rotating movie shows the screen has a very good viewing angle range. My laptop screen is a whole lot worse than that.

Robert M avatar

Absolutely gorgeous. Wonderful work, MIchael!

Jonathan avatar

I need one of those!

The last time I brought my Pi to the airport, TSA thought it was a bomb. Not a sweet little pi.

Jim Manley avatar

By law and TSA/ICAO regulations, all you have to do is boot it up and demonstrate what it is and does. Of course, it won’t come up with a Windoze or Mac desktop, so you may have to explain to some goon whose union is heavily invested in those sorts of corporations what in the world “KLeenux” is … :/

Tombliboo40 avatar

Use the touch skin on XBMC and it supports touch.

Gregor avatar

what about a touch interface?
could plasma touch work? or ubuntu touch?

Haggishunter avatar

Truly excellent. Now, is the pad in the video on a rotating turntable, or is this another Pi Bullet-time demonstration?

brox avatar

Awesome, but chalk-elec is dead for some 9 months. Any other solution for hdmi & capacitive panel?

Jim Manley avatar

So, the touchscreen and interface module are out of stock in all sizes from chalk-elec.com with no estimated restock date. Does anyone have a second (preferably cheaper would be nice) source for these displays and the appropriate interface module, and the manufacturer/model number of these parts? Thanks!

Confused of Hull avatar

What does “which he used to back the I loved the carbon-fibre and birch case he made” mean?

AndrewS avatar

It means Liz didn’t proof-read before hitting Submit? ;-)

AndrewS avatar

Hehe, it’s been edited, but it now sounds like Eben found a large, smooth piece of carbon fibre ;-)

Isaiah-techtipszero avatar

I will definately make one of those

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