I would like the make the Pi Zero W smaller and cut off the part of the PCB that holds the GPIO pins. What tool should I use to do so? Is a Dremel/rotary tool too destructive?

I'm thinking an XActo blade might be more precise, and then I can score it and break it down the line I scored.

  • 1
    You will probably kill the Pi by cutting traces that should not be cut. – CoderMike Jan 26 at 16:13
  • The way I figure it, if the Pi is OK with the GPIO pins not connected, it should be fine if they are also cut off and not connected. – YetAnotherRandomUser Jan 26 at 16:18
  • The question is, will it be fine without the tracks that might be embedded in the part of the board you've cut off. I believe the board is at least 4 layers so who knows what traces are inside the board that you can't see. – Roger Jones Jan 26 at 16:33
  • @RogerJones That is a very good ancillary question. Once I try chopping it up, I will know for certain. I will try the Xacto method first and see where that gets me. – YetAnotherRandomUser Jan 26 at 16:35
  • OK. The circuit board is made of essentially fiberglass so I think that careful use of a rotary cutting disc will give you the best results, be sure to wear a face mask as the dust is not nice :) – Roger Jones Jan 26 at 16:42

I believe you will kill your Pi Zero. Good luck missing important tracks as seen in these X-Rays:

enter image description here

enter image description here


  • On first look, I don't see "important tracks" on the headers part, except from 2 tracks just under the 2nd row of headers. But we can't be sure :P – GramThanos Jan 26 at 16:47
  • That's a 1.3 and I'm asking about a 0 W..... – YetAnotherRandomUser Jan 26 at 17:40
  • I realise that - it was the only x ray images that I could find. So did it work or did you kill it ? – CoderMike Jan 26 at 17:43

Before you kill more boards, consider that the mechanical stress applied during the cutting may be enough to kill a PCB, even if you don't cut through any traces. I have successfully cut populated PCBs, and the trick is to make a scratch-like cut on each side with an Xacto knife, then gradually deepen the cuts until they meet, without trying to bend the PCB.

To find out if you can cut without destroying any traces, you'll have to check every via on the part you're cutting off. If a via is not connected to any GPIO pad, it's an unrelated signal you likely want to keep. Even then, there's no guarantee that you don't cut any "buried" traces this way. You need to see a complete PCB layout to be sure.

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