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Case Mod - In Progress Double Decker

Discussion in 'Project Logs' started by Aytos, 14 Aug 2020.

  1. Aytos

    Aytos Member

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    Unusual finding

    First of all I didn't plan this. I was searching through some offering for used cases. I was looking mostly for old server cases (like Sun Microsystems) , that I could get cheaply and do something with it. Instead I stumbled on this case.

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    Aerocool used to make so called double decker chassis: model M40 and later Qx-2000 (links included) with a different front. This is pretty much an oversized cube, since microATX motherboard and ATX PSU can be used. The looks are fitting for the age, nothing particular there. What I found interesting is split frame design - top deck is pretty much an unusual shroud, since it hosts PSU and drives.

    Risky business

    Original seller had asking price not too afar from original cost of the new case and couldn't be persuaded to something reasonable. Still this case hunted me for some time and after some searching, I found old PC sold with this case (Core 2 Duo generation). On the photos it looked like it was in better condition than first finding.

    I phoned the seller and he was willing to sell the case standalone to me for around $30 including shipping (cost is roughly approximated - different currency). I was willing to pay that, but there was one catch. He wanted payment in advance. Since I found the offering on website dedicated to local second-hand shopping there was no guarantee, that he would ship it after getting the money.

    After few days and some soul searching I decided to pull the trigger. Person on the phone sounded reasonable enough that I felt confidant about my decision.

    Arrival

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    I used piece of cloth dedicated for times when I don't wanna scratch or dirty my floor, since you can never be sure what you find in old case. Protective foil was still on the LCD panel and case looked very well, was just dusty.

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    Scratched feet, but I don't care about those, since I have different plans for this case (I'll go back to this later on).

    Cleaning and wear assessment

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    After taking cover off, inside of the case didn't look bad either.

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    Just some dirt at first glance.

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    Gunked up front. Unfortunately it wasn't dust only, some kind of chalk was mixed in. That could make sense, since I was informed that PC was originally used in dentist office - dental filling material maybe? Anyway chalk affected internal coating of the case and eaten it in some places to bare steel. I wasn't worried, just disappointed. I'll be painting case to black matte anyway - or dark gray, when it comes to the inside, didn't decide yet.

    On the other note I know when case passed quality check: April 2009.

    Field strip

    First order of the day was to remove all unnecessary parts. Fan was dead anyway, thanks to chalk thing I guess. I don't have any use for front panel, since I'll be making my own. Maybe I'll reuse LCD display if I can replace backlit LED to different color (it is orange right now). LCD has old feel vibe to it, but I don't mind if one prominent cosmetic element from old case will stay. On top of that it has temperature sensor that I could use for VRMs, since my motherboard doesn't have one (cheap MB what else to say).

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    Removing 3,5" bay, drive cage and fan grills was matter of touching screws.

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    Hair dryer was all I needed for removing Windows XP license sticker - glue was soften enough by temperature, that even old expired credit card wasn't necessary for scraping.

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    I drilled rivets holding 5,25" bay. I'm not throwing it away yet - it would just ended up getting in my way in foreseeable future. I won't use any optical drives, but I have HDD adapter that holds two 2,5" disks and one 3,5" drive in 5,25" slot.

    Measurements and decisions

    This took a lot of time, since unusual layout of case creates a lot of possibilities and also problems (I don't want to think about cable management even - left/right angled SATA cables will be needed etc). I contemplated idea of using GPU riser and putting graphic card upfront, right beside motherboard. I was missing few millimeters of clearance for that, so I scrapped the idea. It would be a way too much hustle - too much cutting and shaping with additional costs, since very long riser cable would be needed and those aren't cheap.

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    Another problematic area was CPU cooler. I was toying with the idea of using cooler that I got at hand - Zalman CNPS9900 MAX (got it cheaply second hand and made my own AM4 bracket, but this is for another story). This would require cutting steel sheet separating two decks and moving PSU to different placing. In the end short angled IEC cable is cheaper than new decent cooler. I dropped this idea also.

    I ordered AIO cooler, Arctic Liquid Freezer II 240 to be specific. Why not low profile downdraft cooler? Price. Something decent like Noctua NH-C14S costs as much as liquid cooler I did end up paying for. This isn't SFF build anyway, so I'm not concerned about space (this is mATX build, so it smaller than usual PC but I'm not paying premium for size). Still it will be tight fit, but nothing I can't overcome I hope if my measurements are right. This won't be RGB heavy build, so lack of LEDs on cooler fit me just right.

    Glimpse of direction

    I decided very early on (even before buying the case) that I want to put it on the side. Layout will be somehow similar to inverted PC cases (GPU on top, CPU on bottom).

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    I removed steel profile support around the hinges of the case (more drilling of the rivets). On one hand steel rod is so thin that it shouldn't obstruct view of GPU too much (I plan to cover graphic card with mesh on top), on the other I feel it is strong enough that it should support weight of upper deck (opening will have additional support, but more on that in future).

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    This is how case should look from preferable profile. Goal is to have opening and showcasing at hand. I won't be using any glass, since "shroud" (old top of the case where PSU and drives will be living) will be in a way.

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    This arrived today and with some zip tie action I can share some window into future. My first thought was to use spikes dedicated for speakers. I was concerned that case could flip, when opened - Seasonic Platinium PSU isn't light. I ended up buying cheap TV mount for around $10 (I was surprised by quality in positive way to be honest). I know it is too big (this ain't 70" TV in the end) and will require some fitting, but it is easier to cut material away than to add up more. It also solved problem of motherboard side. I was tinkering with covering it, but with this mount I'll probably go with utilitarian look on this side.

    btw. I would like to apologize for my mastery of English, this isn't even my second language. On top of that I would thank anyone who managed to read all of this, since it took a lot of time, it is very late here and I have feeling that it took a toll on quality of writing by each passing minute. I would welcome any question.
     
  2. Aytos

    Aytos Member

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    My log awaited acceptance by moderation (thanks to anyone who unlocked the thread), time for update.

    Hammer Time

    I got day off work and CPU cooler arrived, so I started making some changes. I won't be able to get case to original state from this time on.

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    I tried fitting cooler and marked some parts that needed removing with whiteboard marker, including more rivets.

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    It was time for some dremel action. First cuts were very optimistic, since I didn't want to cut too much right away. I redid some cuts few times and used metal sheet shears for less accessible places. Would be easier with whole frame taken apart, but I was fitting radiator at the same time, so that wasn't an option.

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    It turned out that cutting alone wasn't enough. There was part of the case obstructing my way that I didn't want to remove, since I was afraid that stiffness of the case will suffer. I resorted to bending it with good old hammer. I did hammer some rivets also. This doesn't look nice, but it should be covered by radiator. Some polishing will be needed, probably when I dismount case for paint overhaul.

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    Fitting is very tight and I'm happy about that, since radiator looks like it was made for this case. I'm almost certain that I'll need change one fan to slimmer version, since it will be on collision with GPU (I got 15mm fan from Silverstone with blue frame that I could use for ad hoc fitting).

    Splitting the frame

    Since it was early I decided to do more cutting. Big item on the list: splitting top cover.

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    I used masking tape to make cut line more visible - useful trick especially on black painted steel like this. It also helped that case had grove in place, where I was cutting.

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    It would be way faster with axle grinder, which I didn't have at this place and time. With some patience and multiple cutting discs ground down, case could finally be opened with top cover on. One side panel couldn't be used, since it needs holes to make a way for hinges. This will have to wait, since I need to move one hinge anyway - it hits the radiator (I was aware of this even before ordering cooler).

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    Another thing that required patience was grinding edges with file, but those turned out great.

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    I sanded top cover with P800 paper in preparation for painting, since I don't think I'll be making anymore changes to this element.

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    Fun fact I reused cardboard that case was shipped in as painting booth (foil wrapping was also useful). I don't have any photos of the process itself, since I was painting at different place and wearing gloves most of the time.

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    I painted only inside and the back of the panel. I used RAL 9011 color (graphite black matte) - it is kinda hard to take picture with this color, I may resort to using manual settings for camera in future. I'm not that happy about result, since curious neighbor screwed up my paint job, when I was gone smoking outside (some visible dust did stick to fresh paint).

    Corking the wine

    I can live with the botched paint job. Originally I was planing to use vinyl wrap with wood texture on top panel, but I decided to try different material, that I didn't work before.

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    I ordered two cork wall tiles with the texture I liked: 30x60cm each and costing around $2 a piece.

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    End result is a bit different than I planed. I hoped that I could do 45 degree cuts, so corners match up nicely, but material is too fragile and bending it is out of the question. In the end I glued cork the way you see it - I didn't have much material to spare or toy with. Painting side walls of the cork (so seam is less visible) is tricky, since it could make the it even uglier (I tried on leftovers). This will be top cover for this mod in foreseeable future.

    Next order of business

    I bought some mesh that I plan to use for side panels and front grill. I'm not sure if holes won't be too big, but I liked the look of it. I also ordered control panel dismounted from some case for around $5 including shipping. I was searching for USB/audio panels and some power/reset switches, but stumbled upon this offering (by the looks of it it has USB 3.0) and took the gamble. When those items will arrive I'll probably work on the front next.
     
  3. Dot_Kappa

    Dot_Kappa 100% Puppet

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    Interesting progress so far, I am waiting for the next update.

    What a pity for the Zalmann :sad:
     
  4. Aytos

    Aytos Member

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    There is huge update, just awaiting moderation. As for Zalman I'll throw some photos in separate thread, when I disassemble it. Using occasion, I can share small update.

    Small victory

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    I did some tryouts for darkening the seams. I even used coffee mixture, but it was too light. I borrowed some coloring markers from kids - first tryouts weren't convincing, but then came eureka moment. Marker soaks into cork after few hours and lightens up, which I did notice occurring on waste material. I painted seams and wiped excess, so it won't be too dark. I'm quite happy with the result.
     
  5. Aytos

    Aytos Member

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    I'm going on holidays next week, so don't expect anything soon. I didn't do too much modding, but ordered plenty of stuff I needed. Another small update below.

    Cleaning the top deck

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    I didn't know what to do with upper deck, especially section under PSU. I even contemplated cutting the part out that was marked, but decided first to enlarge holes and see how well it goes (I was quite pessimistic to be honest).

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    In the end I didn't use step drill (thanks to advice on Bit Tech discord). Original holes were 6mm in diameter, first I used 7mm drill and then 8mm one. Tubular wrench worked as support under each hole, so material didn't bend too much.

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    This is how holes look after cleaning them up - working with metal filers took longer than drilling itself. It turned out better than I hoped.

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    I also removed some necessary metal parts.

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    Like 3,5" bay that was sticking out bellow - case wouldn't close with water radiator.

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    In this place small leg was mounted, which for one I won't need, two it was bad anyway.
     
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  6. 4LIEN

    4LIEN Active Member

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    Man i can't believe! :eeek: i've just found in the trash the same case! And will be also my next project! :rock:
    Good start for now, i'm curious to see your project!
     
  7. Aytos

    Aytos Member

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    There is a lot you can do with this case, just not on my budget. With SFX PSU you could fit whole PC using mATX motherboard in lower deck (possibility for dual PC?). If you remove 5,25" and 3,5" bays you can squeeze additional water radiator in upper deck (double 92mm radiator or some X-Flow type). Airflow and cable management can be tricky in my opinion - we will see how it goes.

    Progress

    I'll keep this short and just post some photos. I forgot to take USB-C cable with me and my smartphone died after first photo, so I can share only end result.

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    I obviously painted whole case black - ended up using different black than originally planned, since I did run out of paint and local shop had limited assortment.

    I did cut part of front panel for radiator exhaust - opening will need some adjustment (once again I did not want to cut too much).

    I made new hinge, I'll fasten it tomorrow.

    TV stand was cut to size and I loosely put everything together, so I could share progress on this mod.
     
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  8. Cheapskate

    Cheapskate Insane? or just stupid?

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    I'd trim the side panel brackets on that stand down to make it look less adjustable. -Say, leave just enough of the U part to hide the bolts, and fill it in with wood. :D
     
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  9. Aytos

    Aytos Member

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    I know it would look way better this way, but motherboard backplate isn't that strong. Right now most stiffness comes from mounting brackets. I did fasten TV stand in such a way, that U-shape profiles are flush with exterior and inside screws won't touch motherboard or take space occupied by front radiator. Some photos:

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    As for height adjustment I'll probably hang case way higher than I originally anticipated. With original feet I had ~5 cm in mind just for ventilation (bottom intake). Right now case is about ~11 cm above ground and I'll probably go somewhere around 15cm, so I can fit console, controllers etc underneath.
     
  10. 4LIEN

    4LIEN Active Member

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    The TV stand idea it's really cool, i like it!

    Probably i will start to work on this case next year, because now i have to finish my main project!
     
  11. Aytos

    Aytos Member

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    I don't think it is cool, but I would end up with similar structure, so I did cut some corners. I wonder what you have in mind, when it comes to this case.

    Black and grey

    Couldn't decide which color use for the case (if anyone has read my previous entries), so used both. Some initial tryouts with wrap foil turned out quite looking nice.

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    I recycled old vinyl cut out for painting (tattoo from Planescape Torment):

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    Lighting is pretty bad, so picture quality isn't up to pair to the quality of the paint. Anyone I'm more than happy to share this:

    [​IMG]
     
  12. Aytos

    Aytos Member

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    One small step

    This could look insignificant, but for me it is quite the opposite. I riveted new hinge (the one on the right), so radiator can happily occupy the case without the issues now. Shaft collars arrived today, so I did put them on - now hinges don't slide on the rod.

    [​IMG]

    New hinge is tad too long, but nothing that filing can't solve. As for the covers I was too optimistic when it comes to timeframe - co-workers are too occupied to mill it right now.
     
  13. Aytos

    Aytos Member

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    New front

    I didn't want to wait, so I tried making front myself by hand.

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    I used scrap material from work called dibond - composite made of thin outer aluminum layers and plastic sandwiched in between.

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    I got some saw blades for dremel, since cutting wheel would just burn plastic inside.

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    After first cuts I switched to smaller, but thinner saw. I also rotated saw in opposite direction - trick I never used, but I did hear from carpenter that used it with plunge saw. This way cuts can be controlled easier, since saw doesn't pull.

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    I did cut this material before with circular saw, but never with dremel. As it turns out with such thin blade you must mind which side you're cutting.

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    First tryout. It doesn't cover whole case, since I want upper deck to overlap - for tighter closing. Note that radiator is mounter off-center.

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    I got myself mesh with pretty big holes and visible honeycomb pattern (it is of automotive tuning origin).

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    Reused middle part I did cut out from the cover for bending mesh, since I wanted mesh to be flush with the cover.

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    I glued mesh using two-component adhesive to the cover. I need to rethink this process, more on this later on. I also made mistake of not removing vinyl cover (I didn't want glue or scratches on the front), which I should have done earlier.

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    More filing and sanding.

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    I painted it, but had to resort to using flashlight, since it was late and light was bad. I made some scratches and also did nasty over spill when spraying it last time.

    I'm not happy with the result - paint is minor issue, since it can be redone easily. I stared with the simplest cover, since I expected that some issues will come up. I need to rethink gluing process. Sanding it in some places is almost impossible to do with the current method. Residue that I couldn't remove gives cover crocked look. I will probably leave this cover as it is for now and will thinker with another panel to check if I can get better results.
     
  14. MLyons

    MLyons Half dev, Half doge. Staff Administrator Super Moderator Moderator

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    Looks really good tbh. I've seen cases in our labs with a worse finish.
     
  15. Aytos

    Aytos Member

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    I wouldn't waste sleep if not for one major thing - it is front cover. I think I'll get back to it, but I have 3 panels more to do, including two with the mesh. I prefer to give some overall shape to the case, before redoing something. I'll try cutting mesh to the size without bending and glue it this way. I may also tilt mesh.

    I forgot to mention - with this material you need very sharp drills for holes. It is not that much of a problem, since screws will cover them. Composite nature makes drilling awkward - hitting second layer of aluminum, when drill itself is in soft plastic can dance the tool.
     
  16. Aytos

    Aytos Member

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    First assembly

    So I managed to put most of the parts inside the case.

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    There is a lot of zip-tie action, but it works. Inverted layout is way to go as far as airflow goes - I did notice temperature drops immediately compared to old case and this one is using few fans less. Cable management needs some attention, but motherboard area is pretty clean as it is. For one I'll need very long EPS cable (100cm+), which I didn't expect - extenders won't work, since cable is running under the motherboard and additional connector could make things even wore. Probably I'll make one myself - flat version without sleeving. I will also remove one connector from PCIE cable and run it bit differently. Two Deepcool GS120 fans are on the way (they have reduced thickness to 20mm) - reminding me that I have some fan frame painting on the menu. I also ordered right angles SATA cables, not sure where disks will end up.

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    I wanted to make it non-RGB, but slim 2mm LED strips I originally wanted are out of stock. Ordered some ARGB strips instead. I still need to manufacture 3 more panel covers, but I wanted some basic overview what is going on. Split nature makes measurements a bit more tricky - speaking of which, I need to find right actuators that will work with case.
     
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  17. Dot_Kappa

    Dot_Kappa 100% Puppet

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    It will be challenging to make a 180° rotation with actuators.
    You'll need some levers.

    Have you already planned the mechanism?
     
  18. Cheapskate

    Cheapskate Insane? or just stupid?

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    Actuators on sheet metal is tricky. They like to bend the sheet.
     
  19. Aytos

    Aytos Member

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    I'm aware of this. To begin with case doesn't open to 180 degrees anyway, it is more like 160° and something like that should be doable. I'm not sure if I want to go that far yet. With the stand opened case is very tall and where it will be standing 90 degrees is more likely. Another thing that is kinda problematic is PSU cable. As for mechanics I have some ideas - I came to conclusion that pushing force isn't as much needed as some breaking mechanism, which opens up some possibilities.

    Pretty much whole case will be reinforces with composite covers, so this shouldn't be as bad.

    Orders and updates

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    I ordered Deepcool semi-slim fans (they are 20mm thick). One thing I was wrong about is the color of the blades - I was sure those would be white (never trust photos provided by seller, read the description), but turned out to be light grey. I was kinda upset about this, but in the end this isn't much of the problem. In practice, when fans are spinning you can't tell different between white and light grey.

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    They fit perfectly, they slide under the motherboard - with normal fans (25mm thick) I was missing few millimeters.

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    Some cables, paint and switches. I ended up ordering whole EPS cable - found a guy on local Craigslist that was selling custom cables. It was cheaper than ordering connector and cables separately - shipping cost is major there. I got some right angled SATA connectors, which I painted with plastidip (since I couldn't get those in black) and it didn't turn out good - will try with another paint again. I settled for rotary switches - more on this later.

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    I put some temporary aRGB to check how it will look like - this photo is still with the old PSU cable.

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    More aRGB action. I'll probably have to move left strip more under motherboard or I'll cover it will EPS cable, since I have plenty of length to spare.

    I also painted fan frames black with bumper paint (which is hard to see on this photo I guess, will have to take better picture in future) without touching the blades - I used foil wrapping method. It is pretty straightforward, when it comes to airflow optimized fans - Deepcool fans were easy to wrap. With pressure oriented fans it wasn't fun anymore - Arctic P12 has very curved and sharp blades. And then there was 15mm slim fan from Silverstone, which was nightmare to wrap. In the process I broke the cable and I had to solder it back. I'm quite happy with the result, since blades are untouched - just didn't expect it would take some much time.

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    More cable rerouting awaits me, but this is going somewhere.

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    I also made right front panel.

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    Cutting out holes for USB ports took some time and then I realized I didn't test if USB/audio panel is working and with cheap parts you can expect anything. In the end it worked just fine.

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    Some more fitting will be needed, so front panels are flush - some washers and filling awaits me. I decided I'll reuse original mount for 60mm fan (ordered one already) - I did notice hot air coming out of this hole, since it is right beside GPU. I tried different method for gluing mesh and once again effects were mediocre to say at best. Maybe someone will provide some hints how to do that the better way (so the mesh is flush on the both sides with the panel).

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    USB is functional, which improves daily use. Guess now is the time for explaining why I did choose rotary switches. Top switch has double functionality, it operates both as power and reset button. Those switches are modular (meaning that actuator and switches are separate) and come in different varieties. Top switch has 3 positions - one neutral for off, which is stable and two momentary positions (left/right turns) for other things - I ended up using them for power and reset. It works beautifully. Bottom switch has only two positions and will be used for clearing CMOS (like in some overclocking rigs). I will paint yellow rings over - probably with grey paint and do some signs in black. You can find those switches by searching "ED25 switch" if someone is interested.
     
    Last edited: 21 Sep 2020
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  20. Dot_Kappa

    Dot_Kappa 100% Puppet

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    Nice switches !!
    Good Idea to re-paint the rings :winking:
     

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