How to: Visual restoration of the classic IBM Thinkpad 710T - PART I

This is the top of the line laptop/tablet for 1993(1994). All the components are first class and expensive. On my unit the hard disk is the original 60mb IBM, the memory is upgraded to 16mb. Because of the rubber coating all the plastic and magnesium are extremely well protected and preserved, and because of the decay of the rubberized finish it looks terrible.

Some thoughts (they are mine, and are not necessary correct)

The body top and bottom as well as middle plate are magnesium composite.
To begin the restoration of the outside appearance of the ThinkPad you want to remove the rubbery coating but leave intact the underlying powder coating or paint. We need to use this underlying paint as base for our faux rubber coating. If the underlying paint coating is damaged the paint we spray will chip and flake as the magnesium parts need to be chemically treated to accept paint. If we remove the base coat we could inadvertently remove the chemical coating as well and our new paint won't stick.
The good news is that the base powder coating is very tough and will stay put even if we use strong paint thinners to remove the rubbery coating (this is one reason I assumed it is powder-coating, which is chemically very stable). You should know that removing the rubbery coating is a simple job on the plastic parts, but is really involved on the magnesium parts. I had to use two different paint thinners as well as a scuff pad to remove the rubber from the body. Use the scuff pad last, this way you will also clean and prep the base powder coating for paint. Do not use any thinners on the plastic (ABS/PC) parts, this will destroy them, use thinners only on the magnesium parts. For the plastic I used “Mr. Muscle” which has ammonia to melt the rubberized finish and remove it. On this note: I think the rubber coating decays because of ammonia, which is used in cleaning supplies and chemicals, probably mold will produce ammonia as a bi-process of its activity, but have not research it. I also found that some of the plastic which was not cast in black is metalized then painted (this could indicate that it was powder-coated).
After you get all your panels and doors painted, and you are happy with the result, let them dry for at least a day, then wash them with hand soap and lukewarm water again. You need this final step to wash away all the over-spray from the texturing process that has build up under the parts (on their bottom, which was not painted).

Metalized door, see the copper under the old paint.

Front bezel

The ThinkPad logo is aluminum foil, use the hair dryer to remove it, then place on sticker paper for later. My ThinkPad logo left all of its glue on the front bezel, I will use basic rubber glue to put it back on. After heating the logo with the hair dryer you have to be gentle and lift it up without too much bending. If bent but not creased the logo can be straightened easily afterwards.

The stickers on the sticker paper, all of them look great.

The front bezel (LCD) cover is two part - ABS and magnesium stuck together with thick double sided tape along the groove between the two parts (seen from the front of the assembly) and on the inside. I used cooking oil plus hair dryer and applied gentle to medium force with my fingers to separate them. This is a tricky operation as too much force on the plastic or magnesium could bend or brake both pieces, so proceeds with extra caution and patience. I used the cooking oil to melt the rubber glue, but it takes time. I did not want to use the rubber glue solvents that are sold in the hardware store as I was not sure what effect they would have on the plastic (they are probably safe, but cooking oil experiment is always more interesting). However you should not use cooking oil on any sticker, especially if you are not sure that the sticker is not paper based and laminated afterwards, you will destroy it.

The place where the original parts were glued together.

The inner plastic bezel (the ABS/PC part) has the rubber coating and stickers applied at the same time. However the rubber comes of really easy with “Mr. Muscle” while the stickers stay a bit longer. Initially I made a new set of stickers, but after cleaning the plastic bezel and seeing that the stickers stay I decided to keep them original, even if not perfect after 20 years. I collect banknotes, and same goes for coins - you should keep them in the state they are, don't clean or alter in any way or their value goes down.
If you need the stickers file here it is. The stickers are 100% accurate, made from a very large scan of the originals. Those are the sticker files in Illustrator and PDF files.

Picture of the front bezel before and after the inner bezel has been clear coated (note: this bezel has stickers so do not use black undercoat on it, just the clear).

See how pretty the inner bezel looks after the clear coat :)

You can see the difference in finish between the unpainted and painted LCD bezel parts.


I also had to make new door and latch, as one of the doors was broken and another had its latch broken.

And these are the reproductions I made in Solidworks.

And the ready parts at the CNC shop. Cant wait to get them here and try them on :)
The parts are machined from black ABS so they are as close to the original IBM parts as possible. If I could find these parts new or used in good shape I would prefer to use them, but since the Thinkpad 710T is from the ancient computing past and parts are hard to find, I think this option is real and acceptable.

The stickers on the bottom of the casing/body were removed with hairdryer and placed on the sticker paper. The large sticker come off with the rubber coating, which will have to be removed before mounting it again.

Note: all the files I've made are uploaded HERE, so you can get the stickers in .PDF and .AI format and Solidworks and STEP files if you need them. You can also get the Thinkpad 710T service manual with all the error codes and disassembly instructions and Win for Pen computing if you cannot find them on the net.

These are the pictures from the reapplication of the stickers back to the body shells.

This is the repainted door for the CMOS battery and its warning sticker.

The IBM Thinkpad logo is made from thick Aluminum foil.

The front bezel, which is comprised of two bezels (one plastic and one Magnesium) are glued back together. Originally it was with a double stick foam tape, I used rubber cement instead. The plastic front bezel touches the LCD monitor, there is foam tape between them that has to be replaced. I will use camera repair foam kit I bought for my Canon cameras. It is made in Japan so will fit nicely with the Thinkpad, which is also manufactured in Japan.
I should note here that the application of the foam on the plastic bezel has to be even and flat. The foam will touch the digitizer on the LCD and if there is uneven pressure on the digitizer it will not calibrate and will never work properly. Also, you will have to use very thin foam tape so the pressure on the digitizer is not great, but gentle and even.

And a picture from before the resto.

Part II of this tutorial is here

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