Gumball Case – Part 3 – Acrylic to Aluminum in Two Easy Steps

Faking it is easy

While building my 2017 Quakecon Gumball Case, I accidentally came across a technique to easily create a very convincing faux brushed aluminum finish. It’s quite easy to do, and only takes a few minutes and dollars to complete!

My original plan called for a blacked-out sheet of acrylic along the back, to hide the various cables and tubes running to the motherboard and GPU. To prep the sheet for painting, I gave it a quick sanding with 300 grit sandpaper, which thoroughly scuffed the surface.

I was ready to lay down some black spray paint, grab my can, aaaaaaaand…. clogged paint stem. I’m pulling a late night work session to get everything ready for Quakecon, and all my local hardware stores are all closed. Great, time for some improvisation!

I first considered using a different color of spray paint, but that would clash with the rest of my case’s aesthetic. I considered laying down some black foam or paper underneath the acrylic, but I didn’t have any sheets large enough to cover the entire surface. Then I remembered- perhaps a piece of privacy mirror film, leftover from another project, would work?

For a little background, privacy mirror film is an affordable plastic film that can be applied to windows, to create a ‘one way mirror’ effect. This is where the side facing the bright outdoors looks like a mirror, but is translucent to the people inside.

I read through the instructions for applying the material, which included spraying on soapy water and squeegeeing out bubbles with a credit card. I didn’t have a spray bottle handy, so I instead partially filled up my tub with soapy water, and then submerged the acrylic sheet and a slightly larger portion of film. I pressed them together, lifted them from the tub, and pushed out any pockets of water with a credit card.

The film firmly stuck to the acrylic sheet, and I cut away the extra film around the edges with a razor blade. After that, I was ready to install the panel and move on with my project!

I would recommend this technique as a very easy way to make fake aluminum sheets on your build. Any thickness of transparent plastic will work, and it takes very little effort to complete. In addition, acrylic is much cheaper than actual metal, and significantly easier to work with. So next time you want a nice, clean faux metal finish, consider this technique!

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