This article originally appeared in TidBITS on 2012-01-16 at 8:40 a.m.
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iSesamo: Building a Better Spudger

by Marshall Clow

Every now and then, I have to disassemble some electronic gadget. Sometimes it’s easy — the Mac Pro, for example, is beautifully designed to come apart with the flip of a latch and the removal of its side panel. The Mac mini — particularly the older models — is harder. [Having spent the better part of an hour installing an SSD in Tonya’s 2010 Mac mini just recently, I can attest to that! -Adam] Tougher yet are most MacBooks and all iPods; in general, they’re designed to snap together at the factory and never be taken apart other than by Apple-trained technicians.

Sometimes, however, the rest of us just gotta get inside, a task that’s a whole lot easier thanks to resources like iFixit [1] and Other World Computing’s Install Videos [2]. To break into and work on one of these sealed devices, you also need the right tools, including a collection of straight blade, Phillips, and Torx screwdrivers in different sizes. (If you don’t have a set already, Newer Technology has a $17.95 11-piece portable toolkit [3] that contains the basics.) But while you might think you could use straight blade screwdrivers to separate two pieces of an iPod case, for instance, they don’t work well. Normal-sized screwdriver blades are too thick to slip between the pieces, and thin jewelers’ screwdrivers are too pointy — they poke holes in the plastic rather than providing the even leverage necessary to separate the pieces.

The solution is a remarkably simple tool commonly called a “spudger.” It’s a thin metal or plastic blade, whose edge fits between the two plastic pieces and lets you lever them apart without breaking anything.

I had a set of plastic spudgers that I got from the discount site Meritline [4]. They were indeed incredibly cheap — $1 including free shipping from China — and they worked great… once. After using both of them on that first job, they were ruined thanks to being made from too-soft plastic (and even Newer Technology is up front about the limited lifespan of their plastic spudgers). So when the folks at Newer Technology offered to let me play with one of their new iSesamo [5] spudgers, I was eager to give it a try.

The iSesamo is a very thin, flexible piece of steel, about 5 inches long and .75 inches wide (12.7 by 1.9 cm), with a soft rubber covering in the center to provide a firm grip. One end is rounded, the other comes to a gentle (but not sharp) point. The uncovered parts on the end slide between pieces of plastic, and the metal flexes enough to pry open all the different things I tried: a MacBook, an original white iPod, and even a beer tap at my local nano-brewery [6].

[image link] [7]

The iSesamo currently costs $8.79 at Other World Computing [8], and is easily nine times better than the plastic $1 spudger that I had before. It’s a one-trick pony, but without that trick, you won’t be getting into your iPod or iPhone. Do note that “spudger” is a rather general term, and Other World Computing sells another one — the $3.95 Apple Nylon Probe Tool [9] — that won’t work as well as the iSesamo for opening cases, but will be better for levering tiny wires from their sockets without damaging or scratching nearby components.