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Giving the iPhone 3G a brushed finish

Who is sick of having a phone that looks the same as everyone elses? here at Base Jewellery we like to be unique, and that doesn't just apply to our mens rings. This is a modification I made to my black Apple iPhone 3G, the back was scuffed and scratched as you would expect so I decided to do something drastic and sand it down to a brushed finish. I wasn't sure how it would end up but the result is quite exceptional, the final pictures are at the bottom. Obviously don't attempt this if your phone is still under warranty, as it will most likely void it.  

The tools I used:
- A small screwdriver
- 800 grit wet\dry sandpaper
- 1200 grit wet\dry sandpaper
- A guitar pick


Dismantling The iPhone

It's best to take the phone apart to do this properly otherwise you're going to end up scratching the camera lens and getting things wet that shouldn't be wet. I'm not going to show this in depth as there's a million guides out there on how to take your iPhone apart without damaging it.

The Camera Window

This is the main reason I took the phone apart, to remove the camera window. With this out you can sand the back without worrying about scratching this important part. It is held in by some kind of double sided sticky tape, so it will just peel off if you softly wedge it out. When you put it back together make sure you clean it so there's no dust hiding in there to ruin your photos. I used the guitar pick to unclip the ribbon cables without damaging them.

The Sandpaper

This is the 2 sheets of 1200 grit and the 800 grit sandpaper. You will only need a little bit so just cut a small piece off each one.

The Sanding

This is called wet sanding, you're going to need to put a few drops of water on the surface, spread it around and then start sanding. I started with the 800 grit sandpaper, this is the courser of the two. The goal is to get rid of any scratches that exist, and to remove the glossy finish. It's going to look rough, and you're going to miss some spots, just wipe the phone down and examine how it looks then repeat the process on the areas you missed. Sand it in one direction only to keep the finish even. I also placed a small piece of electrical tape on the inside to block up the camera hole, purely to stop water and residue getting inside.

The First Result

Once the water dries up, you will be left with a white residue, just wipe this off. As you can see the finish is quite rough and a few spots need more sanding.

The top needs more work, keep at it.

Now we're getting somewhere...

Sanding With 1200 Grit Paper

Now we're going to even up the finish with 1200 grit sandpaper, this is much finer than the previous 800 grit paper we used. Higher grit sandpaper can be used, but the result will be more polished than below. I found 1200 grit gave me the perfect look. Just follow the same process as above with some water drops and even sanding in one direction, make sure you get all the little nooks and crannies between the volume rocker switch and the silent ring switch.

The Result

And here is the result, I took it a couple of photos indoors and one outdoors to show you the finish in different lighting. I'm pleased with how it turned out, it's definitely a brushed finish and I intended it to have the streaks up and down. If you want a perfectly flat finish then you would need a higher grit sandpaper, and that would no longer be a brushed finish it would be satin. It still attracts fingerprints and smudges quite easily, this could be alleviated by using a lower grit (courser) sandpaper, but I prefer this look.

Update 9/12/2010
Wow the response to this article has been huge! thanks everybody. I've had a few questions regarding the Apple logo, I did in fact sand straight over it and it has taken on a brushed metal appearance. I'm not sure exactly what it's made from or how deep it goes, but the sanding didn't damage or remove it.

Thanks for reading, I hope this guide has been helpful!

BASE Jewellery