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Modding Desk build: Acrylic, plexi or glass?

Discussion in 'Modding' started by Tsen, 24 Mar 2008.

  1. Tsen

    Tsen Steeped In Romance

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    Okay, so I'm going to be building my own computer desk. I just got a new tablet PC, and along with my 22" monitor, three speakers and sound control station, it won't fit on my current crappy desk. I'd been putting off replacing it because I couldn't find one I liked enough.
    Now I've decided to build my own. I want it to match my theme so far--I have Logitech Z5500's, a Samsung 226 BW and a flat black and gray keyboard and mouse. I'm thinking clear (no tinting), black and chrome (with very sparse blue LEDs) as the only colors I'll use. I like the glass desks, but I'd like one with metal backing (I'm going to be doing a custom vinyl graphic on the back of the glass/plexi/whatever, and I want the (polished black) metal behind it for contrast.

    So, I haven't worked much with acrylic, plexi and glass before, and I was uncertain which to use. I've heard acrylic scratches easily, so that's out, but I'm not sure if plexi will be much better. Meanwhile, glass would work, but the desk will be 5' or 6' long, so I'd like to avoid the trouble of mounting it without breaking it if at all possible. Would plexi be sufficient? Or would I be better to go with a different material altogether? I don't know much about polycarbonate and other plastic variants.

    The good news is, I don't need to do much with it. Just a flat plate, with a grand total of six holes drilled in it (for legs and a cable management panel) and no bending at all. It does need to be scratch resistant and as clear and glass-like as possible. Can anybody give me some pointers?
     
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  2. rls669

    rls669 i can has dremel?

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    Acrylic = plexiglass. Polycarbonate is tough but still scratches easily. I don't think you have any option but glass if you need a durable scratch resistant work surface.
     
  3. r4tch3t

    r4tch3t hmmmm....

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    Glass would be difficult to work with as if you got tempered/toughened glass you would not be able to cut holes in it as it is likely to shatter. You would have to get a large sheet and build a frame to house it with support beams across the middle.

    Plexi/Acrylic would be easy to work with but would scratch easy. You could always get the plexi and sand it so it has a frosted effect.
     
  4. Tsen

    Tsen Steeped In Romance

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    The frosted look wouldn't work for the concept I have, and neither would segmented glass. I do plan on supporting the entire sheet of glass with a layer of aluminum underneath.
    Like this: [​IMG]
     
  5. r4tch3t

    r4tch3t hmmmm....

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    Ah I see, have a look here you won't be able to drill a hole in the glass as you will want tempered.

    You could possibly have the same design but with a bracket around the glass instead of having it go through.

    If you have to have it go through, you will have to go the acrylic route. There are special coatings you can get to make them scratch resistant. Also make sure you get cell cast rather than extruded due to reasons brought up in A Modder's Guide To Acrylic.
     
  6. Smilodon

    Smilodon The Antagonist

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    acrylic can be easily cut, but tend to bend easily. and as others have said, it scratches very easily. Your best bet would be to go for really thick acrylic glass, and put a thin sheet of normal glass on top. (this way the glass won't have to support any weight.) You could get some refraction patterns from the glass and acrylic touching each other. (Think oil on water). For cutting holes in the glass you would need to get a diamond hole saw.

    Another option is to go to your local glass supplier and ask if they can custom cut a sheet (with holes) and harden it. It could turn out pretty expensive, though.

    The third option is to get a thick alu sheet or use wood under the alu sheet, and then put normal glass on top. (Normal glass can be used as long as it doesn't have to support any weight)
     
  7. Tsen

    Tsen Steeped In Romance

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    Hmm, looks like I'll be going with thick tempered glass and Just switching the mounting a bit. Anywho, I get paid Friday and I'll start a project log as soon as I have everything finalized design-wise and start building.
     
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  8. Cheapskate

    Cheapskate Insane? or just stupid?

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    How about tile/stone?
    I've tiled tabletops in the past with good results, and it's potentially cheaper than plexi. You can drill all kinds of holes in them, too.
     
  9. Tsen

    Tsen Steeped In Romance

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    But I need it to be clear to match the theme. I've actually got all sorts of tiling equipment floating around my house, tile saws and everything. But unfortunately it just wouldn't work with the overall concept.
     
  10. MiLwOrkZ

    MiLwOrkZ What's a Dremel?

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    You could also use a Restraunt style epoxy, that gives the appearance of glass. You take your aluminum and make a wall the thickness of your 'Glass' and then pour the epoxy onto the aluminum and let it set. Now you have a thicker Piece of Aluminum due to the epoxy bonded to it (Assuming you roughen up the surface). This type of epoxy is extremely scratch resistant, and is a bit more rubber like. I'll try and find the website.

    Regards,

    Donovan
     
  11. Tsen

    Tsen Steeped In Romance

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    The epoxy would look right, but the rubbery texture wouldn't be as good. It's probably the most workable solution so far.

    Anyway, here's a quick sketch of the plan:

    [​IMG]

    I'm still thinking glass, though. Since it's all supported by the alu, wouldn't I be able to use tempered glass so long as I don't drill holes in it?
     
    Last edited: 25 Mar 2008
  12. r4tch3t

    r4tch3t hmmmm....

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    Yes, that would be fine, as long as the glass is supported it will be fine. If there's aluminium right the way underneath, it will work great.
     
  13. Smilodon

    Smilodon The Antagonist

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    Yes, Tempered glass would work as long as you don't drill holes. but you need to find a sheet that have the correct size, though. (Tempered glass can't be cut AFAIK)

    Why not get a thick sheet of alu and just put normal glass on it? You could ever get some aluminum profiles to stiffen up the alu sheet.
     
  14. Thacrudd

    Thacrudd Where's the any key?!?

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    I think your best bet would be along the lines of using a resin mixture. Lay the aluminum down, put a temporarty frame around it and pour in the resin mixture and let it set. It is very hard, crystal clear and you can get it at most home improvement establishments and I believe you can even drill thorugh it. It is very scratch resistant due to the fact that they use it for bar tops. That is the route I'd go and it sure would be cheaper that shelling out a ton of money for a really thick piece of plexi to support all that weight. You will however have to put something under the aluminum to support all the weight of you components, as you would have to anyway. I think Milworks is thinking of the same thing, but I've never found it to be rubbery at all.
     
  15. MiLwOrkZ

    MiLwOrkZ What's a Dremel?

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    Thacrudd,

    Exactly what I proposed. LOL

    Well it isn't exactly rubbery, I have always thought of it that way. But yes you are right it is very hard and for this case it is the perfect solution.

    Although,

    You can get glass precut then tempered (COSTLY) but I would not go with an UNTEMPERED piece of glass... you will be nothing but sorry IMO.
     
  16. Tsen

    Tsen Steeped In Romance

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    Well, I don't want to put it all together and then have the glass fracture a few weeks later. I'll have to see some to be sure it'll be right, but I think that epoxy does sound good--I didn't want it to be rubbery, but so long as it's fairly hard, it'll work perfectly. Looks like it isn't too expensive, either--$64 for two gallons, which should be enough for this project. Keep an eye out for the project log, I'll be starting soon.
     
  17. r4tch3t

    r4tch3t hmmmm....

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    Thats the reason to have tempered glass, so it wont break, you just can't cut it. The resin does sound nice though.
     
  18. MiLwOrkZ

    MiLwOrkZ What's a Dremel?

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    If you are still unsure of the Epoxy/Resin buy a small sample that will give you a 3/8" thickness on a 6 x 6 piece of Aluminum. However you will want to do it yourself to have the knowledge during the actual build.

    Don't want to Hijack this thread, but if you want i'll make some test pieces with different epoxy, and a 1/4 piece of aluminum as the base.

    Let me know.
     
  19. Tsen

    Tsen Steeped In Romance

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    If you want, I'd be glad to see a sample before I spend all that money on it. Otherwise, I'll probably do a small test batch first myself, to make sure I know what I'm doing before I coat a few hundred dollars worth of aluminum in it. That could be bad...

    Speaking of aluminum, provided that I can and will be reinforcing the bottom, how thick will I realistically need? 1/16? 1/8? Even thicker? And the aluminum I've seen is "3003 Aluminum" (example), 6061 Aluminum, 5052 Aluminum, etc. I'm guessing this is referring to the specification of the aluminum, but what does it mean, and is there any grade/number I should be looking at specifically?

    EDIT: Okay, google says that it's referring to different alloys. I think 5052 is the closest to what I need, but that's little more than a guess. Apparently most of the differences are in corrosion resistance, which isn't the biggest concern I have.
    ANOTHER EDIT: Well, checked the Wikipedia page. 2000, 5000 and 7000 are the strongest aluminum alloys. 2000's are less corrosion resistant, but strong, 5000 is fairly strong and fairly corrosion resistant, and 7000 is the strongest available, with moderate corrosion resistance. I can get a sheet of 7075 at the size I need for $240 in 1/16 and well over $400 for 1/8. Opinions on thickness would be nice, I'm kind of taking shots in the dark here.
     
    Last edited: 26 Mar 2008
  20. Xtrafresh

    Xtrafresh It never hurts to help

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    isn't there anyone who can cut the 6 holes in the glass for you with some specialty tools? It should be possible, right? And glass will definately be best.

    I'd really like to see this when you are done btw :)
     

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