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G-gnome's Orac³ - Part 2

Discussion in 'Project Logs' started by G-gnome, 1 Sep 2003.

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  1. G-gnome

    G-gnome Peter Dickison

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    View any part of the entire project log (Parts 1 & 2) or jump directly to the first post of any update by clicking on the images below:


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    Part-1 of the Orac³ Project (Original Project Log)
    Introduction, PSU, Junction Box, Cables, Reservoir Mounting

    [​IMG]
    Part-2 of the Orac³ Project – First Update
    VFD Module, Fan Controller, Front Bezel, Front Switch Panel

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    Second Update
    Wiring Cables, Plugs and Front Switches

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    Third Update
    Fan Controller Rear Cover, DVD and DVD-R/RW Mods, Front Grille
    Drive Covers, Radiator and Fan Mods, Case Feet
    Plug-Wire Separators, Light Diffuser Strip

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    Fourth Update
    Hard Drives and Rack, Pump Mods and Housing, Side-Panel Insert,
    Water Blocks and Mobo

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    Final Article
    Motherboard Stealthing, PCI Cards, Junction Cylinder, Side Panel, Finished Case!



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    :dremel: It’s Update Time! :dremel:

    Welcome to the first update in the ORAC project.

    After the initial shock wore off (err…is still wearing off) from the reaction I got when I posted the project a week ago (over 240,000 views in a week!) :eeek: , I have been a busy wee G-gnome. Following along in the ‘Vintage British SciFi’ theme’ of the project I started work on the front panel, VFD display housing and Fan Controller and finished some more of the front switchbay. With one of my prime goals being to make the case look good when viewed from any side (notice how with most modded cases the windows, etc only go in the left side because of the motherboard?) you will start to see an even distribution of wiring, etc down both sides.

    Here are some shots of what I have been working on during the week (and a marathon modding session on Saturday!):

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    VFD in action in it’s housing along with the fan controller and a neon plexi front cover. Before anyone says anything – the knobs normally would have a glowing ring around them and I have installed fibre-optic position indicators in the knobs, but I accidentally shorted it just before taking the pic heh. Tried to plug it in round the wrong way, eheh. Luckily nothing melted, I’ll just order a new one this week and change the PCB over.

    [​IMG]

    The rear of the VFD module – chrome housing, Indicator LED that lights up the neon green plexi rear mounting panel, chrome jack plug power and serial cable inside chrome shower hose. Polished stainless steel fasteners and a row of LEDs wired up in chrome holders (these will be connected to a chaser later).

    There are an additional two 3mm white LEDs inset into the rear mounting panel. These are connected to the General Purpose Output of the VFD. When activated there is an effect much like a car tail light at night when the brakes are applied – a sudden increase in brightness of the back panel. I can program these to notify me of nearly anything, such as: New email, computer about to melt down etc. I don't have any pics of these working as yet - I need to have more of a play with LCDC to get them going.

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    Extra bright when the lights go down!

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    Where the serial cable enters the back of the VFD module. The rubber surround is stepped, with the narrow step fitting neatly into the hole in the plexi panel. This rubber surround is yet another piece salvaged from the hand shower kits (complete with dog-hair I didn't notice til later :hehe: , is gone now).

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    The rear of the VFD module. The big screws in the sides of the bracket will be replaced with socket head cap screws when I can get to the supplier.

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    The front switch bay with bolts now the correct length and a new rear cover.

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    How the case is currently looking overall.

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    Top front of ORAC from the rear.

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    I was pretty happy with how the glowing ring framing the VFD turned out. You’ll see how I did it later ;)

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    All yummy and glowing. Pity about the fanbus knobs :sigh: , I’ll post a quick pic update as soon as it’s fixed.

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    Going to my ‘happy place’ :) .

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    I am halfway through making a cover for the rear of the fan controller which should improve the look of the front panel a little.

    Now that you’ve seen the overall look so far, I’ll take you through the various parts. More (larger) candy shots follow at the end of the update.

    Anyway here’s what I did…
     
    Last edited: 14 Jun 2004
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  2. G-gnome

    G-gnome Peter Dickison

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    The Front-Panel Switches…

    I needed to make and fit a cover for the rear of the switch-bay, fix up the bolts and wire up the switches and LEDs. I got to work:

    Taking some 3mm (1/8”) Neon Perspex, I fashioned an ‘L-shaped’ piece that I will be using as my rear cover.

    The piece was cut out of the corner of a sheet using a hacksaw (I try and cut out of sides/corners of sheets so I automatically get 1-2 straight sides for my set-square to work off). The two ends were chamfered with a router before filing, sanding (320 then 1200 grit & sanding block) and polishing. The piece was bent by ruling up, clamping to my small worktable, heating the edge with a heatgun and folding down with a wooden block. I left the protective paper on when doing this as it helps stop the piece bubbling from excess heat, though 3mm bends readily as it is fairly thin.

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    Using a centerline as a reference, I measured and marked where I would drill the holes. Each hole lines up with a corresponding switch from the front bezel. The holes are to pass through all the wiring from the front switches. I first drilled 3mm pilot holes very carefully with a plexi-drill then …

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    … used a step-drill to drill 7/8 inch holes (after some tricky clamping and supporting of the cover). Trying to drill the holes before bending would have likely resulted in the top edge of the holes warping when bent due to heat and the bending action as they sit right next to the bend.

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    The rear switch-bay cover after final clean-up. The chamfered edge really catches the light well and gives a bright neon glow from certain angles. Not so obvious in this image but you can see it in other images in this update.


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    The front cover after I shortened all the bolts with a dremel. Fits nicely now – the two larger bolts at the top also fasten the bottom of the front bezel to the case.

    I Polished and test-mounted the vandal switches (yet again). The Switches were polished with a buffing wheel on my small bench grinder.

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    The rear cover in place.

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    Two 4mm socket head cap screws (were shortened later), with chrome spacers and rubber washes inserted through holes in the bottom of the case (secured with dome nuts) hold the rear cover in place against the LED holders. I didn’t want to glue it as I wanted it to be easily removed and gluing it (my second option) would have prevented this. The rubber also acts as a cushion preventing stress on the plastic and maintains the tension on the cover – so no coming loose :)

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    The LED holders were attached to the case. The front bezel of the holder sits nicely into the 11mm holes drilled in the removable front of the case. The LEDs that will go in these will eventually be sanded with 320 grit to even the light out and cut down the harshness when viewed from the front (those water-clear lenses can be too bright!). I placed a rubber surround made from a cut-up grommet around the rear of each holder to provide tension on the nut and to help fix the rear cover in place – plus I thought it looked cool and tied in with the other LEDs with rubber surrounds throughout the case.

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    The LEDs, once fitted, will just touch the rear of the 5mm hole in the front cover. They will retain their colour as they shine through the hole, but will light up the front panel nicely. I plan on White LEDs for the 4 control switches and Green for Power and HDD activity, the green and white fitting with my theme.

    The switches will be wired up in the near future. :D
     
  3. G-gnome

    G-gnome Peter Dickison

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    Remaining Jack Plugs/cables …

    I also got busy and wired up some more cables and jack plugs with the good old fish tank hose and Techflex sleeving. I wired up the LEDs in the PSU and the power for the VFD.


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    From junction box…

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    …To PSU LEDs (you can see the holders bottom right of pic. I also wired up the two on the other side.

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    From junction box…

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    …To PSU.
     
  4. G-gnome

    G-gnome Peter Dickison

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    The VFD Module

    The Plan...

    My plan for the VFD display involved creating a separate 'module' that would follow along with the case themes (chrome, neon plexi, stainless steel hose/fittings etc). Being inside the clear acrylic case meant that the unit had to look good from any direction. I specifically didn't want to mount it directly to the inside front of the case as I wanted it to sit back into the interior, but still be able to be read easily. I also didn’t want it to look anything like a VFD display, necessitating a fully enclosed module.

    I saw the value of tinted plexi covers to be able to make VFD text just appear on the surface of the plexi after seeing Macroman’s Macro Black case. I wanted a front cover to the VFD module that would look like a black mirror where the unlit dot-matrix characters would barely be visible, even under strong direct light, and not visible at all under most lighting.

    I also had to design a mounting system and a way of connecting serial and power to the module that fitted into the themes. After clarifying on the forums at BiT-Tech what the General Purpose Output actually did on my VFD, I knew that there had to be a way that I could incorporate the use of this in a different way to what I had seen, and one in keeping with the case themes.

    One last consideration for this part of the case was where I would place my row of LED chaser lights (hey, it 'aint vintage sci fi without a flashing light or two!(or 32 :D ). The lights would have to fit between the VFD and the Fan Controller located just below it. These lights are white LEDs diffused and placed behind the neon front panel so as to light it up – I also have a special plan for these that will be implemented when I put the finishing touches to the finished case. :naughty:

    Once I knew what I would use as a mounting bracket the idea of where to place the LEDs just came to me out of the blue - (in the words of the New Zealand poet Sam Hunt) ...like Seagull S**t on your shoulder mate!

    *hears the screaming for more pics*. Okay, here's what I did...

    The victim – a Matrix Orbital 20x4 VFD. I chose MO after reading reviews and because I wanted to use LCDC software which works well with the MO displays. I wasn’t disappointed when my package winged it’s way from MO to my doorstep – It’s a quality unit.

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    It came with a ‘nice’ *shudder* beige 2-up housing. So the first thing was to rip it out of there (i.e. I carefully unscrewed it). I then set to work on the parts that would make up the VFD module:


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    A backing plate – cut from 3mm neon green plexi with a hacksaw and then filed/sanded/polished to size.

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    Scrap piece of 3mm tinted plexi from the suppliers offcut bin – taped and marked for cutting.

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    90 degree plastic hose fitting from a Boating supplies shop.

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    ‘U’ shaped bracket made from the 2-up plexi drive bay cover that came with the case – marked for drilling.

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    Chromed project box – Masking taped and ready for drilling.

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    First Thing was to drill 8mm holes for the LED holders and drill and check the fit of the rear mounting plate.

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    I got a hacksaw and cut off the threaded end of the hose fitting from the marine shop. You can see it here with a non-vandalised, err... cut, fitting for comparison.

    Continued Next Post ...
     
  5. G-gnome

    G-gnome Peter Dickison

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    [​IMG]

    Tinted plexi cover – cut with a hacksaw (I’m beginning to love that hacksaw!), filed/sanded and polished, with countersunk holes drilled in the corners.

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    Test-fitting and marking the box for drilling.

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    I drilled the box with a step-drill and inserted the hose fitting from the inside. It locks in place nicely.

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    Using a hole-saw in my drill press I drilled a clearance hole for the shower hose fitting I am using for the VFD serial cable.

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    Another test fit – Perfect, woot!

    I had a problem with the module in that if an actual serial plug was to be inserted into the back of the VFD, It would have protruded out the back of the box and required a huge hole, etc. Also it would have looked like a serial cable! To save on space and aesthetics I came up with a plan:

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    Using some multicoloured ribbon cable (the stuff left over when I stripped out my paired silver/white wires from before) and a cut apart 9 pin serial plug I came up with this. The wires are soldered to individual pins from my old serial plug, covered in heat shrink and then inserted into the VFD. The value of multicolored cable and numbered holes on the VFD really showed!

    Continued Next Post ...
     
  6. G-gnome

    G-gnome Peter Dickison

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    [​IMG]

    Here’s my home-made serial cable – pins on one end and a plug on the other.

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    I wired up 12v power (to a 3.5 jack socket) – 12v as I got a ‘Wide Voltage’ model VFD. I also wired a 3mm white LED to the 12v in and a pair of 3mm white LEDs to the 5v GPO (all with appropriate resistors). There is an in-line resistor on the GPO but I bypassed it by soldering a bridge on the PCB as I wanted to use the resistors I already had for the hi-brightness LEDs I was putting in.

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    I snipped off these protruding bolts with a pair of pliers.

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    A black permanent marker was used to cover all the beige plastic around the inner edge of the box. This was all part of the plan to make the plexi front a black mirror.

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    Here I am starting to wire the display into the housing.

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    All wired up! I used hot-glue to secure the LEDs and then covered them in black gaffa tape to prevent any spillage of light back into the housing. While I was hot-gluing I also glued the serial cable pins in place extra securely.

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    A cable tie applied around the serial cable serves to prevent the cable being pulled out once the chrome fitting is screwed on.

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    To get this effect I first attached two rubber o-rings (seen in previous picture to this) and then slid a stepped rubber ring over the top. The o-rings acted to secure the step-ring where it inserts into the neon plexi hole. It’s kind of difficult to explain. Basically the rubber surround cannot be removed.

    Continued Next Post
     
  7. Snowshadow

    Snowshadow New Member

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    :eeek: Just Completely amazing G-Nome :eeek:

    The aesthetics and quality of your workmanship really shows. I personally hate acrylic casses but yours is just to irresistable!
     
  8. G-gnome

    G-gnome Peter Dickison

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    [​IMG]

    The VFD inside the housing. It’s a perfect fit and it doesn’t move a mm – in fact, I had had to get a craft knife and shave off every one of the little ribs around the edge of the box as well as trim the corner posts to fit it in! I took a permanent marker and blacked out all around the edge of the VFD display (including the sides of the glass) to minimize light spilling and to fit in with my ‘black mirror’ effect. To aid in this I also…

    [​IMG]

    … Carefully measured and cut out a cover made from …

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    The black plastic cover of my Sketchbook! Who says gnomes don’t recycle? :D

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    The plastic cover fits in place over the VFD and, combined with the black edges of the box plus the black permanent marker on the glass edges, serves to black out the entire front of the unit apart from the dot matrix characters themselves.

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    An image taken with a bright, direct flash – you can barely make out that there is a display under there.
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    Running some tests with LCDC – works fine! (as you can see, even though ORAC will be a 3 Ghz P4, my other comp is an AMD).

    Continued Next Post...
     
  9. [Jonny]

    [Jonny] New Member

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    I read all of the other thread down to the word, and im 14, thats hard :rolleyes:.

    I love your project, damn i wish you could buy things like this.

    Oh yeh, by the time your done, you'll have alot of update threads :p

    Good work G-Nome, keep it up :thumb:
     
  10. G-gnome

    G-gnome Peter Dickison

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    [​IMG]

    After I played with LCDC I wired up some LEDs - here waiting to go under the heat gun. The 5mm heat shrink was my way of securing them in the chrome holders as when shrunk onto the cables they have to be forced into the holders – only an almighty yank would get them out of there. This keeps the connection clean and means I don’t have to use glue (able to change LEDs easily then).

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    A nice clean fit :) .

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    Black rubber surrounds complete the LED mounts. The LEDs were sanded and then the ends filed flat to sit flush with the chrome holder. Why? Because I can. ;) . Note the countersunk socket head screws holding the tinted plexi cover in place – polished stainless steel.

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    To mount the VFD module flush with the face of the front bezel I laid it flat …

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    worked out where the holes needed to go, marked them and …

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    drilled them with a plexi-point drill.

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    VFD module mounted.

    :)
     
  11. G-gnome

    G-gnome Peter Dickison

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    The Fan Controller

    The PWM Fan Controller

    The victim – A ‘Noise Isolator’ PWM fan controller. I saw this in a review at Modthebox.com and immediately like the look of it – I decided it would be great for the ORAC project. This one also has two push-button switches for general 12v power outs. It features backlit knobs and on/off indicator LEDs for the switches. Of course, when I thought it would be great for my project I had my Mod-coloured glasses on as the writing on the front is pretty cheap looking with a horrible my-grandma’s-writing italic-type text in the top left corner – Bleeeeechh! :)worried: err apologies to Macroman - it actually does look good on Macro Black!)


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    In a fit of anti-italicism (erm, anti-italics not anti-Italian :D ) I tore it apart!

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    “Make sure you get rid of that dodgy writing off the front” I said to the chroming guy – and he did!

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    I changed all the 5mm LEDs from blue to nice, clean white and changed the 3mm to green for ‘on’ and white for ‘off’. I had to use a 1mm drill to clean the pin-holes of solder before putting in the new LEDs.

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    Disco, anyone? (Starburst filter on the digicam).

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    I took some 1mm fibre-optic cable, drilled 1mm holes in the position indicators on the knobs and …
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    …Inserted the optic fibres into the hole. The ends were cleaned up with sandpaper first and superglue was used to fix them in place.

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    Clear, gloss acrylic was sprayed onto a cotton swab and the ends of the optic fibres dotted carefully. The gloss acted to smooth out any imperfections and will maximize the brightness of the position indicators.

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    The finished front of the fan controller. I am constructing a cover for the rear that will be wired up for jack plugs, etc. that should improve it’s looks a bit.

    I then had to work on finishing the new front cover for the Fanbus and the VFD display as I wanted a one-piece cover for both units.
     
  12. ZapWizard

    ZapWizard Enter the Mod Matrix

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  13. mashie

    mashie The one and only

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    Edit: Got the answer to the question when G-gnome was done posting :duh:
     
    Last edited: 1 Sep 2003
  14. G-gnome

    G-gnome Peter Dickison

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    The Front cover…

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    A few weeks back I had started on a front cover – note the square-ish hole in the front and the corners. Upon reflection I realized I wanted much rounder corners and all my earlier plexi work has since been modified to incorporate more sweeping curves. Here’s what I did to the front cover:

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    I used a holesaw at each end of the opening to create rounded ends. I ruled the straight edges to be filed away later (it eventually took half an hour to file and clean up) and cut out a piece of plexi as an insert. I also had used the fan controller cover as a template and marked hole positions for the knobs and switches. These were drilled using a holesaw (big holes) a step drill (med holes) and a plexi drill (small holes). I used the edge of the next step in the step drill, and a larger plexi drill, to chamfer the edges of the medium and small holes respectively.

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    The finished pieces of the front cover.

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    Close-up of the holes. The screw hole on the lower left is a little rough as I had to enlarge it slightly with a needle file to make the cover line up better to the front bezel – though it will eventually be concealed by a stainless steel washer. I had done all my ruling/drilling etc with the front of the case off, not realizing that there was an ever so slight curve in the front bezel plexi which straightens when it’s screwed down to the case :duh: – luckily I only had to adjust the two smaller screw holes slightly.

    Another Idea I had for the front cover over the VFD mount was to firstly use neon green plexi to alter the colour of the VFD to match the rest of the case and to create a sort of glowing ‘frame’ to highlight the actual display area – hence the hole cut out with the matching insert. When the insert is in …

    [​IMG]


    …It creates a glowing neon ring! This looks particularly nice as it runs full-thickness through the plexi and really catches the light.

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    Detail of the switches and knobs. The chrome looks great behind the neon acrylic and the edge glow highlights the controls.

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    The finished front cover in place. In some of these images, the camera only makes things look about half as good as they do in reality. The neon plexi is really difficult to photograph as to what it really looks like which is quite simply stunning - direct flash tends to make it look 'milky' when in fact it's quite clear. Also, the fanbus will eventually have rear cover with lots of plugs in it (under construction :D )
     
    Last edited: 1 Sep 2003
  15. G-gnome

    G-gnome Peter Dickison

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    To Conclude …

    Well, that was my work for the week. I still have a few things to fix up – I could spend a day or more just tidying up what I have done!

    As I said at the start, if you are wondering why there are no shots of those nice fan controller knobs lit up well … I shorted it accidentally when I plugged it in to setup for the camera (trying to push a molex together upside-down) – the things we do for art, eh?. Oh well, I’ll be more careful in future :sigh: .

    All I can say about what it looks like with the backlit knobs/indicators lit up is to quote Zaphod Beeblebrox – “…It looks amazingly amazing!..”

    Some more pics to whet your appetite for the next Update:

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    …See you next Update!

    :)
     
  16. G-gnome

    G-gnome Peter Dickison

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    Answer:

    That's because, as intended, the plexi itself is a green filter ;)

    Edit - Heh, saw you found it anyway Mashie :thumb:

    Hey Zap. I see the red x and checked it, must be a corrupt file - I'll send another to RTT later today (it's just a shot of the tinted plexi cover by itself though). Thanks for letting me know :) .

    As for cost? You're going to get me into trouble here :worried: Not counting all the system, etc - e.g 4 SATA drives and a 9800 pro etc is not cheap, the case and chrome work were the most expensive (chromework cost as much as the case itself), the plexi was reasonably cheap as were the shower hoses/plugs, etc. Most of it's just hard work and recycling bits out of everything (I even have a box for little bits of offcut heatshrink!). All I'd like to say really is it will cost about a third of the value of the components inside. You can't put a price on what will likely end up as a hundred or more hours work though.
     
    Last edited: 1 Sep 2003
  17. G-gnome

    G-gnome Peter Dickison

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    Welcome to the Forums [Jonny]!

    :clap:
     
  18. sambo

    sambo New Member

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    looks amazing m8

    cannot wait for more updates :lol:
     
  19. bee2643

    bee2643 New Member

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    jesus
    thats the nicest VFD mount idea thing i've ever seen lol
    really like that ring you created around it too, how long did it take you to get that to fit perfectly in there?
     
  20. Sid

    Sid Banned

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    Looking great.

    It's certainly going to be a very tight squeeze to get the radiator, 4 hard drives, optical drive(s), motherboard, pci cards etc. in the remaining space. I know you'll have it all planned out though.
     
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