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A Tuxedo-less Wallstreet

I've often thought the curvy black case on the PowerBook G3 Series somewhat resembles a tuxedo. Apparently that's not a completely unique thought, as I've seen other sites refer to it in a similar manner. Well, this site is about undressing the Wallstreet a bit!

That nice rubber insert on the PowerBook G3 Series looks great ... for about a week. If you're anything like me, during the course of daily use your PowerBook has gotten several scratches and nicks in its insert. The PowerBook is especially prone to this sort of damage if you are a college student, and you cart your 'Book around in your backpack along with all your other notebooks. Depending on the depth of the scratch, the damaged area can appear as just a light smudge, a very ugly and greenish gouge, or a bright silver gash. Such blemishes are unsightly and detract from the wow factor of the PowerBook. And to top it off, they can't be fixed. One way to solve the problem (and help restore some of the wow factor) is to completely remove the rubber from the aluminum panel.

This project has serious potential for going awry. Seriously, unless you are going to do it right, you shouldn't do it at all. Doing this wrong could make your Mac the ugliest beast on the face of the Earth. In the worst case, you could completely destroy your precious PowerBook G3. Although the Perplex G3 looks nice, the author definitely did it wrong. At least one artifact of that is his ruined Apple logo. So, please, if you don't want to completely disassemble your PowerBook G3, this project ISN'T FOR YOU!

Finally (the AlkSoft lawyers made me say this), AlkSoft takes no responsibility for any damage you cause to your own PowerBook if you undertake this project. These steps are suggestions only - if you follow them, you do so at your own risk. And if you really F it up, here's a link to current eBay auctions for Wallstreets.

The Tear-down
To do this right, you really need to disassemble the PowerBook. Get a hold of the PowerBook G3 Service Manual to do it correctly. However, it's a pretty simple procedure if you apply yourself. You can disassemble the PowerBook without the service manual. Still, I wouldn't recommend doing it without some sort of guide.

For legal reasons, I will not post a link to the service manual. Requests for it via email will not be answered. That being said, I'm quite sure you can find it on Carracho or Hotline without difficulty. And if you know the few places left on the web where you can find links to the service manuals, then more power to you!

In any case, the goal here is to completely remove the guts of the PowerBook so that you are left with just the back of the display housing and the empty bottom case plastics.... or at least as much of the bare plastics as you can manage. On my Wallstreet, part of the lower case heat spreader (is that what it is? It's gut thermal pads on it...) is not removable. The important thing is to make sure that you don't have any electronics still connected to the parts with the rubber panel inserts.

The Tools and Prep
Get your self a nice hot hair dryer, some mineral spirits, some nice and thick masking tape, an X-acto™ knife, and a steel wool pad (the kind without soap). Not counting the small Phillips head and torx screw drivers, that's all you need.

Starting with the bottom, use the masking tape to mask off the FCC label and serial number/product label. Carefully work the end of the x-acto knife under the edge of the White Apple logo (both the Apple itself and the "leaf") and slowly pry it up. The logo is basically just a sheet of translucent white plastic with adhesive on the back. While you're at it, remove the four rubber "feet."

For the top, liberally cover the Apple logo with masking tape. Use the x-acto knife to trace out the edges of the Apple logo and leaf, and trim away the excess. Don't worry about masking off the black plastics - the mineral spirits won't damage them and the mess left over can be cleaned up fairly easily. The white and translucent plastics of the Apple logos, on the other hand, are very light and are easily stained by the rubber waste/mineral spirits mixture. If you want to avoid scratching the plastics, on the other other hand, a wide strip of masking tape around the edges of the rubber insert won't hurt anything!

Take everything to a well ventilated area with a suitable workspace that you aren't worried about damaging. A drop cloth covered garage floor might be a good place, as long as the door's open... Removing the rubber takes time and effort. Prepare to invest an hour or more in scrubbing the rubber off with the steel wool.

The Removal
Liberally apply the mineral spirits to form a small pool on the rubber. Don't be sparing with the mineral spirits - it really helps to soften up the rubber. You should expect to go through a fairly decently sized bottle of the stuff. The hair dryer is a useful addition, but not really a necessity. You can use it throughout to help soften up the rubber for easier removal. Direct the heat evenly over the mineral spirit-dampened rubber. With the steel wool, press down with a fair amount of force and rub in a circular motion over the warmed, dampened rubber. Even with lots of mineral spirits and heating, it takes some effort to remove the rubber. The steel wool does most of the work, so don't be afraid to really scrub with it. As the rubber gets thinner, you can apply less pressure to try to avoid some of the inevitable scratching of the underlying aluminum panel. However, some scratching is unavoidable. If you like the scratched/brushed metal appearance, then don't bother lightening up, of course. I, for one, do like that appearance. You can touch up the metal and apply a more uniform texture when all the rubber is gone...

If the rubber is becoming more gummy and solid, apply more mineral spirits and heat. Make a habbit of doing this anytime you notice the resistance of the rubber increasing, and you'll save yourself some energy in scrubbing. Don't expect, however, that the rubber will just slough right off if you apply the mineral spirits - even with generous amounts, the rubber requires substantial rubbing to remove it from the aluminum.

Getting all the rubber out of the creases can be difficult. I took extra time and effort (using much less force on the steel wool) to remove the rubber around the top case's Apple logo. The x-acto knife can also be used to help trim back some of the rubber. But don't worry too much about leaving some rubber in the cracks at the edges of the insert. The rubber doesn't show against the black background and border presented by the rest of the case. If you use a sharp blade to remove the rubber in the grooves, you'll scratch the metal in a manner inconsistent with the marks left by the steel wool. IMNSHO, the resulting scratch marks are far less aesthetically pleasing than simply leaving rubber in the cracks.


The Final Product
Here are a couple pictures of my finished Wallstreet. Notice that my Apple logos look pristine. If you just take a little care to not damage them, they come out fine. Also, I was pretty stupid and didn't disassemble my PowerBook until I noticed that mineral spirits were spilling into the keyboard area of my Wallstreet. By then, I had already done damage to the LCD. At some point, I'll take pictures of my dirty and oil-stained LCD to show you just what can happen if you get things wrong. Needless to say, it's ugly enough that I don't like taking my PowerBook out in public, even though I've got a flashy new exterior that I want to show off...

Don't be dismayed by the quality of the finished job here. I did this procedure to my PowerBook well over two years ago and haven't cleaned the PowerBook recently. A little Windex and some baby oil helps shine it right up!

Before you reassemble your PowerBook, there is one more thing you can do to make it a bit more spiffy. My Wallstreet had a mylar sticker behind the lid's Apple logo. Removing the sticker and carving a whole in the foam pad between the logo and the LCD allows the backlight to glow through the Apple logo, making your PowerBook's logo glow like that on the Lombard or Pismo G3. It looks very nice in low-light environments...
If there's any one message you take away from this page, let it be this: DISASSEMBLE YOUR POWERBOOK before you start this project. Leaving your PowerBook assembled while performing this modification like the Perplex G3's creator did can destroy your PowerBook!


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