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Azariel 1st Feb 2013 20:07

Project Arc - Finally! Watercooling installed 29-07-2015

Good evening everybody! After lurking here for quite some years and having done several smaller mods on my old Stacker (the original CM Stacker), PSU for testing purposes and standalone water cooling configuration it is finally time to take on a slightly "bigger" project which has been in my head now for quite some time. So, without further ado I am presenting to you Project Arc!

As you might have guessed this will be a Fractal Arc Mini casemod in which I will attempt to cram quite a lot of components in this relatively small case and still keep it clean. Even though its not a very original goal, it will be an ambitious one :) Next to this the main body of this log will be about a whole range of cosmetic changes I have in mind.

Before I start with the images etc, a short apology for this relative long first post:rolleyes:

Lets start of with a short overview of the components which will be used in this case (mind you, these are not sponsors, just an overview of owned and planned components).

Anyway, as part of preparation I did some fiddling around in sketchup which resulted in the following image.

As you can see (I hope) the plan is to close up the drive bays (not going to use them anyway) and use the space to create an activity indicator (shape not exactly sure yet). The area behind the mesh will also be closed up and one of 2 240rads will be placed behind it with a push-pull fan configuration.

First real modding progress was stripping the case and removing the lower HDD rack which I also would not use.

Byebye drive cage

Followed by removing the plastic parts behind the mesh which had to make place for the radiator.

Small photoshoot in lightbox with the now empty front and original Mesh.

Next step was making a template to cover up the hole and cutting a nice sheet of 1mm aluminium into shape.

The all important visual inspection....Passed!:rock:

End result of the panel behind the original mesh.

Finally a fill plate for the drivebays has been made which will be glued in and made flush using filler. Also means I will have to paint the entire thing in the end, however, that also means the paint of the alu and case will match up nicely (atleast I hope)

That's it for now! Next update I will most likely fit the radiator into the front of the case and make the necessary modifications to the case and support brackets.

Any comments, feedback, questions etc are more than welcome so feel free to share your thoughts!

Mosquito 1st Feb 2013 20:45

Nice, I like the look of the removed vertical and horizontal pieces of the front bezel. I think it will look a lot better with that plate in behind the mesh for the fans too.

Can I trouble you for a measurement? I'm thinking about using this case for something, but I want to get a measurement before I go out and buy one...

If you can, I'm looking for the height of that front opening below the 5.25" drive bays:

And also the height from the floor of the case right behind that to the bottom side of the 5.25" bay cage.

Thanks if you can :thumb:

Azariel 1st Feb 2013 21:17

Of course, no problem!

Height of the opening is ~26.0 cm (top to bottom, not taking the small mid-bar in account)
Height behind the opening till underside 5.25" bay is ~27.6 cm

Underside of the drivebay has a slight bulge under it (right at the front the height will be 1-2mm more)

The 240 Rads I've got fit exactly...need a slight bit of shimmying to make the 'turn' sorta say, but it fits.

Hope this helps!

Mosquito 1st Feb 2013 21:46

Awesome. Thanks. Those are actually almost perfect lol.

If you're curious, I'm thinking of using it for my fileserver, which will use a pair of 4-bay hot swap cages. Wanted to mount them there with access to the hotswap out the front.

I will be watching this mod with interest to see where it goes :thumb:

Azariel 3rd Feb 2013 14:39

Update 3-Feb
Ok, and on to the next step, fitting the radiator, but first of all, some goodies which came in earlier this week :)

Corsair Air series SP120 Quiet edition 3x a twinpack. I had some doubts if I should go for the performance versions and just dial them back. But in the end decided that having to integrate a fancontroler somewhere would just mean more clutter and also would not make that much sense unless hooking it up to a PWM header on the MOBO (which would result in other issues).

With the red ring, as they will be used

Second part was 2x a XSPC EX240 radiator (one for the top, one for the front)

So, on to a bit more modding. As space inside is limited, I wanted to move all components as far out as possible to keep the feel of a somewhat spacious interior. This means that the push fans from the push-pull config will be slightly outside the main chassis as the plastic cover leaves plenty of space for this. However, this did mean the small metal bar had to go.

And byebye bar (will touch it up with paint later, but its atleast flush atm.

First fit with the radiator in (self supported)

As the radiator sits quite snug between top and bottom I considered to not fix it to the case. However, I noticed it started leaning forward. So I started working on some brackets.

I initially designed some extensions at the lower flap, but in the end they went out as it didnt work well with the case.

Removed tape and they fit quite well (considering the bending was done in a very amateur way...) In the end they will of course be painted matt black to match the Rad.

And finally drilled the holes and did a test with the fans mounted on it. I will have to go look for some shorter black screws to mount the fans as I dont want to do it like the way done here and the radiator only came with 4 screws (and I need 8 for the push-pull)

Thats it for today. Thanks for watching and as always, comments, questions etc are more than welcome!

Hukkel 3rd Feb 2013 16:24

Looking good!

Azariel 6th Feb 2013 21:23

Update 6-Feb
Thanks Hukkel!

So the next step is cutting out the shape for the fans from the Alu frontplate. I actually started with testing several different designs but they just didn't quite work out. In the end I settled for something a bit more standard.

Sadly, due to the fact that the fans are mounted on the radiator, the fans aren't completely in the middle (top to bottom middle that is), However, considering the plate will be painted black and the mesh will be in front of it, I think its very acceptable.

On to the modding :) As I have no fancy CnC or lasers available (I envy you guys) it was down to the scroll saw, some fine files and me. Using some spray glue I glued the template to the alu panel using a double line to stay well clear of the edge to avoid mistakes.

Just a cool image of the plate on the scroll saw (made it somewhat by accident, but liked the composition so thought I'd share :))

Next step: taking my files and getting down to the lines.

An hour or so later (with a bit of a sore neck from hunching over) I did a short test fit (still with the template on it). It seems to fit OK, but I still need to fix the radiator in place, so there is still some freedom in lining up the fans with the front plate.

And the final results! Quite happy with it to be honest as I wasn't sure how good it would look with my limited experience of working with Alu and some good and bad examples spread across the internet which made me doubt if I would be able to pull it off. In the end I think it just takes a bit of patience and willingness....but I might be biased towards my own work :)

Anyway, as always, if you have any comments, suggestions or other words of wisdom, feel free to share!

Next step (I think) will be deciding on the shape of the LED indicator in the panel covering the 5.25"bays (see render in the first post), cutting it out and start the process of gluing it into place, filling the edges for a smooth and flush transition and start prepping the entire thing for paint!

Azariel 12th Feb 2013 20:46

Update 12-Feb
And another bit of progress! Hope you guys aren't too bored yet :)

Over the past few days I continued work on the front panel, this time the top part which will cover the 2x5.25" bays.

Anyway, as shown in the first post I wanted to create a small & subtle cut out with some (semi) transparent plexi and some LEDs behind it to serve as a power indicator. The big question however was, what should it look like? I wasn't completely happy with my first design (the one in the sketchup rendering) so thought about it a bit more and I decided I would go for a flexible setup with exchangeable cover plates.

After some fiddling around the basic shape became a slightly curved pentagon with in the end an alu cover plate with a logo/symbol of choice.

These are my first 2 designs for the logo. The first is an aperture inspired one and the second the Fractal design "snowflake" logo (as I am covering the "Fractal design" part at the top of the front panel).

Next a bit of testing to find the right size and position

After deciding the size and place it was back to the scroll saw, followed by extensive filing.

Test fitting

Gluing the panel in place using two component glue. No way back now...:hehe:

This left of course some open edges so first layer of filler was applied

After sanding down the first layer

Final result after the second layer! Next step will be using spray filler as a final layer and then spray paint the entire thing in either a satin black or matte black, not sure yet. Matte black tends to be very prone to scratching, whereas satin might not match the rest of the case completely. Will just have to do some test pieces I guess.

And already made a small test logo based on the aperture symbol. Already noticed that if I want to get this right I will need to get these laser cut as they are a tad bit too small to get nice and clean corners and lines.

If anybody knows a decent laser cutter in the Netherlands who could do these for a decent price, just let me know!

As always, thanks for watching and you are more than welcome to share your comments, ideas and suggestions!

bulldogjeff 12th Feb 2013 21:45

Oh yeah, loving what you have done with that front panel :thumb:

I really like the look of that.:D

Knighthammer 12th Feb 2013 22:17

Awesome :thumb: - subbed

Azariel 13th Feb 2013 19:43

Thanks Bulldogjeff and Knighthammer!

Not a real update, but just a small bit of activity :) Just applied the first coat of spray filler in my makeshift painting booth (I'll show pictures later) :)

Mosquito 13th Feb 2013 20:17


whereas satin might not match the rest of the case completely. Will just have to do some test pieces I guess.
Or just paint the whole thing :lol:

Looking good.

Azariel 14th Feb 2013 21:08


Originally Posted by Mosquito (Post 3286614)
Or just paint the whole thing :lol:

Looking good.

Well, can't say I didn't consider it :) However, I'm not that confident in my paint skills yet....and even if I was confident, I'm afraid would never be able to match the level of paint job Fractal did on the case...

Just for modding progress: Just applied 4th coat of Spray filler. Applying it in very thin coats, so need more than 1 or 2 :)

Mosquito 14th Feb 2013 23:02

Yeah, I don't blame you at all. I painted an old case before, but that's because it was bare metal that I added to it, and was mostly covered by the top. I'm not sure I'd want to paint my fractal design either. It is a pretty high quality finish.

Azariel 24th Feb 2013 13:19

Frustration update:

For reasons unknown the final coat of paint got messed up! Meaning all my prep work went down the drain as I had to sand it all down again.

After filling the gaps (previous update) I applied several coats of spray filler to make it all nice and smooth. Sanding it down after each coat in total I applied about 4 coats I think. After that I was quite happy with the finish so I went for the black end coat.

On a few test pieces (prepped similar to the end product) I selected the satin black (was very little difference between the matte and satin black spray cans for some reason). First coat went fine, second coat got completely messed up. Some areas became all flaky and ugly which meant I had to sand the entire thing down again.

Have no clue what was the problem though....maybe it was the room temperature which was a bit on the low side (would say between 15 and 20 deg Celsius) but that was no problem with the filler and/or first coat. Also the first coat looked fine....

Ah well, will go search for a better quality spray paint as the previous one was from a local DIY which didnt carry A-brands...

Anyway, I'll leave you with an image of my inhouse spray booth (had to convince the ms that it was OK) and the final image before the paint coat which messed it up...

Marquee 24th Feb 2013 13:53

What kind of paint was it. I was painting co2 car once and mixed a black paint with a different kind of clear coat and the paint flaked once.

You should probably be using a plastic base paint for the front of that case.

Azariel 24th Feb 2013 14:31

Well, the can states it can paint metal, wood and some kinds of platic..."some kinds" is of course rather vague hence my first tests on scrap pieces of plastic...

Maybe I should use a plastic primer first...Store I plan to go to should have some knowledge on this topic, so maybe they can help :)

jrs77 24th Feb 2013 15:53

What do you mean by "flakey"?

Anyways, allways go with grey or white primer underneath black paint. And best temperature for painting is some 20-25C, as this will make sure that the paint dries faster but not too fast. I've painted at 15C today aswell, but the result was orange-peel as expected due to the paint taking a bit longer to dry.

Additionally. Allways sand every layer with 4-600 grit before applying the next layer. Only the final clearcoat-layer will not be sanded ofc.

Here's how I paint: fillered and prepped with 400 grit -> primer -> wait 30 minutes -> 400 grit -> primer -> let dry for 24 hours -> 400 grit -> black -> wait 30 minutes -> 400 grit -> black -> let dry for 24 hours -> 600 grit -> clearcoat -> wait for 30 minutes -> 600 grit -> final clearcoat.
I also make sure that the clearcoat and the black are of the same kind of paint, e.g. both have to have the same basis like water or acryl.

Azariel 24th Feb 2013 16:07

I should have made a picture of the effect :) It just became a very rough texture compared to the smooth rest, but not all over though (strangly enough). So I was almost thinking it was something coming from the can itself...

Anyway, the spray filler stated that it would double as a primer, so I didn't add additional primer to it. However, the filler and spray can were of a different I'll redo most, trying to get everything to match.

And yeah, the 600grit sanding in between was of course also done :) Did sand the entire thing back down with 180 though, but used 600 in between layers.

But thanks for the tips! Good to see a process that should just to replicate it :)

HCP 24th Feb 2013 22:59

Clean it before you put on the primer, if you didnt. Only use acetone or thinner. Other solvents may have oils and silicones in them and not apply well with some paints.
Just the natural "oil" on your skin is enough to ruin a paintjob.

You may also have a problem with the filler, if you put on to thick it will go on a "breathe" for some time when its only cured on top and the gasses and oils releasing from the bondo/filler messing the paint up.

Use the kitchen oven (if it fits there) and you dont have a girl or kids at home (it stinks) :P
I usually paint parts and put it in the oven for some time at 30-50 celsius to cure the paint and bondo/filler. (dont use stuff you will put food on later, put in some foil to prevent dripping... you know, common sense)

You can also wait 2-3 days if you know that you applied to thick layers of the filler/bondo to be sure that its not causing paint problems.

Great build btw!

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