Sewing Tablet Cases

«This is my rifle. There are many like it but this one is mine.»
Marines chanting in «Full Metal Jacket»

I was looking for a way to protect a rather large Onyx Boox Tab X and a smaller Onyx Boox Nova C, esp. when transporting them.

I tried out a clip-on cover for the Tab X, but I really did not like it. It’s both too stiff and too flabby at the same time. And it increases the weight from 560 g by 349 g to 909 g. I would not notice the weight in a backpack or even a side-bag, but when holding it in one hand, it becomes too heavy quickly. Heck, even in two hands its heavy when reading for a long time. And what’s the use of having something that is easy on the eyes but then goes hard on the arms? Removing it before reading is also not an option. The clip-on-case has to fit snugly, that’s a feature, not a bug, so removing it each and every time is a no-go.

Given that I had already sewn a transport «case» to transport two iPads for product demos, I thought about sewing cases myself. And yeah, it was easier than expected.

Smaller Tablet Case

The case for the Nova C was made out of Cordura (available online), combined with some plastic foam (from a delivery), the plain side of a rectangular DVD box (cut to size with the sharp edges somewhat dulled — covers the whole display with sturdy plastic), and some cleaning fabric (usually have it around and it is the closest thing I had to microfibre — it’s the blue-white-wavy-fabric in the images — why not clean the screen when putting it in the case?).

Given that there is a plastic shield in the fabric, I did not sew it on the left side and inverted it, but instead did sew it on the right side. Works out well, the sides are not that large and do cushion the device a bit. I tried something different with a first prototype, but it did not work out well. (And yeah, I still can’t sew in a straight line, and make other beginner’s mistakes — as I am a beginner.)

But yeah, sewing it is straightforward. Just measure the size of the device, place the elements over each other and sew them in place — taking very good care never to hit the plastic screen protection — otherwise it will likely do what it is supposed to do, and that very well. Then fold it and sew the long edges. I did fold them over after first sewing them to make it tighter and the borders at the long side a bit nicer to handle.

First images from the first prototype, but the principle is the same.
I was a DVD-Box-Cover. Was the first plast-y thing I found. Could have been a bit larger but works out. Edges are rounded a bit, otherwise it would stab through the fabric.
I did not use duct tape in the final sewing, just for a moment here to get the Cordura for backside out of the way (of the needle) while I was sewing the front.
Fits snugly, and yeah, the Cordura had a crease. I could have ironed it but I am not sure whether that is a good idea for Cordura. Hmm, I could have googled it … hmmm. Hmmm … conflicting information, but risk of melting it. But could work with a towel in between. Hmm.
Did some quick and very ugly marking of the protected side. When it’s lying on a flat surface, it’s rather hard to see. Becomes obvious once you look inside. On the (here: top) side there is the blue-white-wave fabric (and plastic foam, the ex-DVD-case-material, and then Cordura), on the other (here: lower) side is only a thin layer of Cordura.

Larger Tablet Case

For the Tab X, I needed a larger piece of plastic as a shield. I thought about using the back of a plastic clipboard, but then did simply used the plastic cover of a larger plastic box (they were sold separately at the local hardware store). I cut the corners in an angle («Battlestar Galactica» style) to protect the fabric. I did not have plastic foam in that size, so I bought some heat foil with styrofoam (intended use is to make a radiator a bit more efficient by placing it between the radiator and the wall).

Sewing is the same as with the other case — Cordura, plastic screen protector (ex-box-lid), radiator-heatshield-styrofoam-foil, cleaning fabric. The device screen faces — in that order — cleaning fabric (four thin layers), radiator foil-styrofoam, plastic screen, and Cordura. That should be enough protection.

The large (about DIN A4) piece of plastic was part of a cheap plastic box lid.
Edges are cut a bit — round would have been better.
The radiator foil (with styrofoam) with the roughly DIN A4 part cut out (top right).
Combined it makes a comfy cushion for the display — at least, that’s the hope.
There likely are better ways but folding the edges and sewing them in place worked.
Makes a comfy home for the Tablet.

Sewn together it works very well. Not sure about the radiator foil, though. The styrofoam might become a hassle and heat protection is not what is needed (though the tablet does not get warm either). But it was either that or more expensive plastic foam. And at least it’s lightweight. Anyway, always a risk when using stuff for other purposes.

Remarks about the Overall Design

Both devices side-by-side. And yeah, I used the «wrong» side of the Cordura for the smaller one (that’s why it’s shiny). I did not want the abrasive Cordura working against my cargo or coat pocket when walking.
For the smaller one, I should have sewn a logo or monogram on the protected side of the case. And yeah, I should have tried to iron it.

So far, I am very satisfied with the two cases. In contrast to clip-on covers, the device is taken out before reading, so the cover is no factor in weight when reading. The cases are also lightweight (Tab X cover weighs 184 g, almost half of what the clip-on cover weighs), given that the main weight — the plastic — covers only the really important side: the display. In contrast, clip-on covers are the sturdiest where the protection is not needed — on the back.

Was a nice idea and took a few sketches to get it right.

Decided for an opening on the smaller side in the end. Seemed safer — very unlikely it falls out on its own.
Pretty tool agnostic with which to draw sketches. This time, I guess pencil and paper was nearby. And yeah, if possible, I paint over product logos with black nail polish. Works well so far. Case had a few other ideas, e.g., using velcro to make it stick in the cargo pocket. Decided against it (too much effort to sew in cargo pockets and reduces flexibility).
Yeah, I have to remind myself to think the stuff through before starting to cut and sew. 😉

Of course, I haven’t yet tested the covers with anything heavy … nor do I want to. I am still careful with the devices, given that I cannot replace them. But so far the covers work well in everyday situations (mostly the smaller tablet in a backpack).

I might also add a pen holder (to the smaller case), but not sure about it. I like the form factor and a pen holder would spoil it. Plus when the tablet is outside of the case, the pen sticks to the smaller device anyway (magnetic). And when I carry it with me, I usually have the pen in a leg pocket. Cargo pants might not be fashionable (even at a university), but they sure offer lots of storage space.

So, yeah, if nothing suiting is available, taking an hour or so to sew it might work.