Legal

Old circuit boards become office products and household decorations

Circuit Board Pencil Holder and Desk Organizer

In the late 1980s, Dr. Joel Arem ran a small company that built PCs. When his wife Debby (who has a Fine Arts degree) saw her first motherboard, she was hooked on the artistry within the technology.

In 1992, the pair created Three Ring Circuits and has been making useful items from recycled circuit boards ever since. In addition to jewelry, the Arem's offer a wide array of office products and home decorations, such as this pencil holder/desk organizer.

Photo credit: Three Ring Circuits

For more information on circuit board items from Debby Arem and Three Ring Circuits, please check out Debby Arem Designs. For a list of currently available products, check out Three Ring Circuits' Etsy store.

About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

29 comments
admin
admin

Any inhernet danger depends on the board. They boards we have manufactured for us are RoHS compliant (no lead or other heavy metals) and traces are gold, not copper. Would make very nice jewelry, except we need them as boards. Some boards are still manufactured with lead (not RoHS compliant), but who really lets a child put office supplies in their mouths?

mouse1701
mouse1701

clear nail polish over the lead pieces will seal them just fine..don't be worry warts..it is not that serious.

pgkoko
pgkoko

I am totally un-impressed, crap is crap!

cliff
cliff

Wow. I'm pretty geeky, but that's about where I draw the line.

thisaintmyemail
thisaintmyemail

Talk about recycling; this is amazing! I'd love to get my hands on this stuff. :)

pvdcats
pvdcats

Neat idea, wish I were that creative - my one adventure into this type of artwork was to put the dead motherboard which was in my very first Everex computer (286 dos) in a shadowbox and hang it on the wall. Friends and colleagues think it's so creative -I tell them it's not so much creative as it is trying to find something to do with the most expensive item I've ever purchased besides a car, just didn't seem right to toss it out!

joelarem
joelarem

Hello to all - many thanks for all the kind comments. Three Ring Circuits started making PCB products 20+ years ago, and has the largest catalog by far of recycled PCB items in the world. These are all made using "unstuffed" boards, prior to adding components, and are totally safe to handle. We also make items using "innerlayers" which are the thin fiberglass epoxy sheets that are hot-pressed to create PCBs. Our products have been sold in the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum, the Boston Computer Museum and many other shops and galleries, and featured in dozens of blogs and articles. All sale items can be found in our shop at www.debbyaremdesigns.etsy.com We welcome comments and suggestions. Thanks to Bill Detwiler for posting about us in his blog. Joel Arem joelarem@comcast.net

jcrockett
jcrockett

Very nice. Am I the only one old enough to remember the old Honeywell ads? They featured animals and other sculptures made from wire, transistors, and other electrical cast offs.

Rick in PA
Rick in PA

Yeah, but are they RoHS Compliant? hmmmm

d.j.elliott
d.j.elliott

I played around with doing something with circuit boards, but had some problems: how do you smooth out all the sharp edges, especially the back of the circuit board with all the solder drops what tool do you use to cut or shape the board, again going for ease of use and smooth edges is there a tool you could use to punch a hole in circuit board if you wanted to make, say, a necklace pendant

Tink!
Tink!

Abstract art.

DavidDJ2D
DavidDJ2D

Very good...!!! And Creative. Excellent Project...!!! He is still Forward my Friend.

donnyboy1
donnyboy1

Kudos to all the folks who have let their imagination run.

geo
geo

With all the hazardous materials we have been told that are in these circuit boards, and in most places we are obligated to dispose of them properly, is this a good idea? I wouldn't want them in my area, especially if young children were present who may decide to see if the edges taste good. On a second note, this may encourage some people to try and make their own. In my opinion this is a very poor promotion by TechRepublic. -=Geo=- nscave.com

mgalgano
mgalgano

I bought 'Compu-Notes' by Paris years ago, with covers made from unused IBM circuit boards. Paris Corporation of Burlington, NJ seems to still be in business. Compu-Notes, Inc seems to have been a second operating company around 1997.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000 moderator

Band Saw. You also drill holes not poke them in GRP. Col

fnoy
fnoy

If you live in the UK like you and I both do, there is a company called revolve-uk.com that makes these circuit boards into covers for notebooks (paper), key fobs etc. that has an outlet through the shop at the Imperial Science Museum, Kensington, London. If you look on their website you will see that they have come up with recycling ideas for CDs, paper cups, etc. as well as these boards. Hope this helps.

Rick in PA
Rick in PA

It gives me concern too. Regardless of what's been posted, if the circuit boards were made with 60/40 solder (and they're inherently older circuit boards) they have lead in them. "Pencil holder" lead to pencil, writing, lead to hand, eat or drink lead to mouth, or pencil to mouth absently mindedly chewing pencil, lead to mouth, lead injested. It's one thing if the circuit board is buried in a device (you aren't going to handle it). It's another thing if you are handling the circuit board. I hope they are using pure tin plated circuit boards, we use to specify lead-tin overcoat all the time... Either that or I hope they seal 'em.

Realvdude
Realvdude

Unlike another article that I saw on TR, these also don't appear to be sealed. Given some of the older boards I saw used in items on their websites, I have concerns about whether the safety of someone handling/wearing these things was thought of. I can't imagine heating these boards by using them as a candle holder, regardless of RoHS conformance of the materials. To those considering these safe, keep in mind tinned contacts and the like, not to mention residual chemicals from the manufacturing process. Anyone is the US remember when fast food containers changed from styrofoam to paper and cardboard? There were two main issues, one environmental and the other hazardous manufacturing materials and processing.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000 moderator

The problem materials are in the actual IC's that are placed and soldered to the Circuit Boards. They are full of nasty chemicals and what can be used as Dangerous Drugs. These are the reasons why they have to be disposed of safely not the circuit boards themselves, it's what is placed on them. When you remove the problems parts there is no issues to be addressed other than the very basic one of working with GRP, or as you would know it as Glass Reinforced Plastic the substrate of the Circuit Board itself. This is just like a car Fiberglass part totally safe provided that it's not broken at which time it has sharp edges which cut people. Not the type of thing you would let a kid suck on. Besides as Office Products there are not supposed to be any Young Children in the Business Office where these things are aimed at. There is a very big difference between an Office and a Home. In case you missed the point. :D Also if you look closely these are new unused Circuit Boards not used ones with the Components removed. What this place appears to be doing is buying up any Unused Circuit Boards from the Production Places who make the bare Circuit Board so the only things used are GRP and Copper, the GRP being the substrate and the copper being the tracks. Hardly a reuse of Old Circuit Boards but a reuse of New Unused Circuit Boards. OH BTW most of the nasties are in the Very Large Scale Integration Integrated Circuits. They need to use a lot of chemicals to manufacture these things which are part of the actual Integrated Circuit. I'm not really sure that much of this would leach out over time by far the most dangerous things that kids could be exposed to are the screens of TV's. The CRT type are downright dangerous if the Cathode Ray Tube gets broken and the LCD/Plasma are even worse. Your concerns about children should include removing any Televisions from their presence. They have the potential to be very dangerous with the ability to kill hundreds by something as simple as knocking them off what they stand on. ;) Col

fnoy
fnoy

I think these are brilliant ideas ! We have items like this in the UK. There are no hazards attached to these used circuit boards - all have been cleaned and de-toxified. Your objections are valueless. I could not disagree more - an excellent promotion by TechRepublic.

cjshelby
cjshelby

after helping my best friend work on an engine! We never imagined that materials like this could be poison. I suppose what I'm trying to say is to use common sense. Lead is not particularly harmful in solid form, nor is asbestos. I suppose if you insist on grinding up these PC boards with a food processor and snorting them with your coke straw, then you are going to have a few problems :)

danekan
danekan

if you know, a lot of people would probably be very happy!

cjshelby
cjshelby

If I had any respiratory ailment I would be hesitant. You're going to create a lot of dust, asbestos or not. I'm not sure about the mask, maybe someone else? Here's how I understand it. Asbestos in natural form is a rock. Just like granite, quartz, etc. What makes it so dangerous is that it's crystals are thin and have sharp edges at a microscopic level. When the dust from products containing asbestos is breathed these crystals become lodged in the lung tissue. Over the years they continually cut the tissue at an almost microscopic level, causing scarring, re-injury, re-scarring, on and on. This constant state of "wounding" eventually can lead to lung cancer and (as seen on TV) the ailment called "Mesothelioma". Lead is kind of similar, in that if you know it's there and just leave it alone you'll be fine. It's the hidden lead , particularly in paint, that is ingested over years and causes lead poisoning with the victim being unaware of the hazard. I suppose if you swallow a solid lead fishing sinker and it makes it all the way "south", the worst that could happen would be an interesting trip to to "little girls room" :).

riceski
riceski

I have asbestos walls - i want to put in a new medicine cabinet. Will using an n9 mask [ the simplest ] be ok? Will wetting the wall board i need to cut - help ? I have emphysema and I don't want to aggravate that but I know little about asbestos in the wall board form - it is yellowish and 1 inch thick and very dry. Thanks Gary

fnoy
fnoy

Very straightforward and sometimes easy. First - don't use it in the first place. Second - cover it with something that is not toxic.

Who Am I Really
Who Am I Really

all of the solder points in these products where the circuits etc. would go are just open holes with all the solder, ICs, Caps etc. removed