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iSesamo: Building a Better Spudger

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 and Other World Computing’s Install Videos. 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 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. 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 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.


The iSesamo currently costs $8.79 at Other World Computing, 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 — 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.


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Comments about iSesamo: Building a Better Spudger
(Comments are closed.)

Anonymous  An apple icon for a TidBITS Contributor 2012-02-14 14:34
Thank heavens Marshall Clow explains exactly what a "spudger" is!

When I first saw the word, I took it to be a home-made implement sheep-farmers in the Yorkshire Dales use to convert their rams into wethers:-).
sknowles  2012-02-14 14:34
In a pinch I've found that plastic collar stays work pretty well as a spudger if needed.

I replaced my iPhone screen using a couple I had when I snapped the tip off one of those $1 spudgers and didn't want to wait for a new one to come.
Derek Currie  2012-02-14 16:46
I've made my own spudgers for various tasks out of old plastic toothbrushes. I first make sure the plastic is soft enough to whittle with a knife but strong enough to use as a pry wedge. I like using the back end to make a wide spudger. I then like to use the neck end for a smaller width spudger. This is a free method for creating a custom device but may not be your best option as it takes time and a bit of practice to create good and useful edges. With the right toothbrush and patience, it works! ;-)
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2012-02-15 07:48
Hey, that's a fabulous tip, Derek, thanks. I'll definitely try whittling down a toothbrush the next time I need to poke around inside a Mac (I could have used one when removing the insanely small cables inside the Mac mini).