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Modding Project COMTAR: Acoustic Guitar, meet Mini-ITX [project complete!]

Discussion in 'Modding' started by dragontail, 7 Sep 2009.

  1. dragontail

    dragontail 5bet Bluffer

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    Update: Finished the whole project! Clickly for pictures and a video!





    I'm looking into the viability of a guitar PC mod. Looks like it's been done before. This is actually good because this is my full case mod - it's reassuring that the concept is solid. The PC itself is intended as a backup/file server/iTunes server so a powerful setup is not needed. The main aims of such an project are:

    • to run the PC 24/7
    • to still function as a guitar
    • to be built as cheaply as possible

    Initial thoughts involve mounting an mini ITX system inside an acoustic guitar:

    • Atom CPU on mini ITX mobo
    • 2GB RAM
    • 250GB 2.5" laptop (SATA) HDD
    • some kind of PSU
    • some kind of lighting
    • slimline DVD RW (SATA) (?)

    Here are some initial diagrams I messed about with on Sketchup: (thanks to jezmck, models were excellent)

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    Some thoughts:

    (1) Can I install Windows through a Flash USB drive? (Linux is no problem). If so, the DVD drive is not needed.

    (2) I'm thinking of mounting everything on 2 sheets of MDF or similar material (shown by the orange blocks); first one as a base for everything and second between the DVD drive and the motherboard. Velcro anyone?

    (3) There are two different cuts I can make to insert the MDF base (see pic). Cut 1 involves taking the whole back off and gluing the MDF onto the board. This needs a method of reattaching the back of the guitar. Cut 2 just removes the back panel, but gluing the MDF board onto the guitar will be a pain. Any suggestions?

    (4) PSU: Currently unsure what PSU to use. Was thinking of a 1U 250W, but can I get away with a smaller picoPSU? Will it have long enough cables?

    (5) Cooling: No addition cooling fans. Am I being optimistic? :lol: Should I include at least a 80mm somewhere?

    Any thoughts, ideas, suggestions welcome!
     
    Last edited: 10 Oct 2010
  2. dragontail

    dragontail 5bet Bluffer

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    Slight thread necro, but the project is still alive! Since the last post, there have been several big changes. Firstly, I have adjusted the planning and design of the components inside the guitar:

    [​IMG]

    1. Decided to remove the DVD drive. This simplifies the layout, as well as reducing the overall costs. It would be cool to see a DVD pop out of a guitar, but being a sever, it wouldn't have been used much anyway.

    2. New dual 60mm fans for a push/pull config to cool the main mobo and CPU. the 2.5" laptop hard drive is close enough to the sound hole, so it should be fine cooling wise.

    3. Decided to use industrial strength velcro to hold the mobo and PSU/HDD to the MDF base. This way, upgrading remains possible.


    The only real uncertainty is how to cover up the hole in the back of the guitar to fit the components in. This may require some skill dremeling? Anyway, ordered the components over the course of the last few weeks. The whole project has cost £250 including absolutely everything. The final setup looks something like this:

    Intel Atom 330 (2x1.6GHz)
    Intel D945GCLF2 Mini-ITX
    2GB Corsair DDR2 667
    500GB WD 2.5" Scorpio Blue
    FSP 180W 1U power supply

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    More to follow.
     
  3. PureSilver

    PureSilver E-tailer Tailor

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    I always figured the best possible combination would be with a keytar where you could actually use the keys to input data. Plus I think it may be impossible to get a keytar to go out of tune. Still - I watch!
     
  4. GuyInTulsa

    GuyInTulsa Dremel Molester

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    I love the concept.

    I would think vibration noise might be a problem. Everything is being mounted to a sound board designed to amplify/enrich all the sound it hears.

    Very slow fan speeds and silicon mounting might help.
     
  5. PyROZen

    PyROZen New Member

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    this seems like a cool idea if your just gonna be displaying the guitar on a wall mount or something. But once you fill the insides with all that hardware, it's not gonna sound good at all. Your gonna lose your deep tones and muffle the highs since you've basically removed a large portion of air space from the guitars body. Stuff some socks in the body of an acoustic to see what i mean.

    Don't get me wrong, it'll still be playable. It just won't sound all that great. But since your even considering the project i'm willing to bet you've got alot more guitars than just this one.
    I still want to see it completed!

    lee
     
  6. dragontail

    dragontail 5bet Bluffer

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    Yup, a very good point. The vibrations from the HDD are the worst. This is exactly why I decided to use a smaller, quieter laptop 2.5" HDD. I'm thinking about a bubble wrap caddy for the drive as well, although this depends on temps. temps are pretty important, as if the thing overheats, it's BAD inside a wooden guitar! For the fans, I have 2 Zalman Fanmates which should do the job.


    Indeed, the top and bottom end will suffer greatly. Shouldn't matter too much though, as it's going to end up as a server first, guitar second :) Actually, I was hoping to get a jumbo acoustic without a cutaway so that the guitar would start with the greatest volume possible. In the end, I couldn't get one and eventually settled on a dreadnought with a cutaway (it was the cheapest). Don't think anyone would take a £3000 Taylor guitar and cut a giant hole in it to put a computer inside :lol:
     
  7. dragontail

    dragontail 5bet Bluffer

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    The Masterplan

    Stage 1: Planning
    • Preliminary design using SketchUp
    • Feasibility report
    • Cost estimate

    Stage 2: Acquire Components
    • CPU/motherboard, memory, 2.5" HDD, 1U PSU, 3" lights, 60mm fans+guards, momentary power switch, keetle cable extender, cable ties
    • cutting blades, heavy duty Velcro, MDF
    • guitar, hard case, stand
    • Test components


    Stage 3: Building the Base
    • Cut MDF to size for base
    • Mount motherboard and PSU to base
    • Create HDD caddy
    • Mount HDD and lights to PSU
    • Tidy wiring

    Stage 4: Guitar Surgery - Opening Her Up
    • Initial cut into base of guitar
    • Fan hole cut
    • Drill PSU cooling holes
    • Prepare struts for bonding with base
    • Attach fans
    • Attach base to guitar

    Stage 5: Guitar Surgery - Sowing Her Up
    • Create own struts for rear door
    • Drill holes for light switch, power switch
    • Attach light switch, power switch

    Stage 6: Finishing touches
    • Restring guitar
    • Software install
     
  8. dragontail

    dragontail 5bet Bluffer

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    [​IMG]

    Checking the SketchUp is okay. Looks good - plenty of space. Base construction pics to follow.
     
  9. dragontail

    dragontail 5bet Bluffer

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    Here are the components I plan to use:

    [​IMG]
    Intel Atom 330 (2x1.6GHz), Intel D945GCLF2 Mini-ITX, 2GB Corsair DDR2 667


    [​IMG]
    500GB WD 2.5" Scorpio Blue (5400RPM)


    [​IMG]
    180W FSP 1U PSU


    [​IMG]
    MDF Board is cut down to size, with the motherboard and PSU Velcroed down.


    [​IMG]
    This heavy duty Velcro is ridiculously strong - 7Kg/0.0025m^2.


    [​IMG]
    I may have used too much :(


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    The bubble wrap HDD caddy. The bit on the end converts the weird 2.5" output to a SATA and a molex.


    [​IMG]
    Everything stuck down and tidied.


    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]
     
  10. dragontail

    dragontail 5bet Bluffer

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    Stage 4

    Today I was able to cut into the base of the guitar.

    [​IMG]
    Masking out the cut.


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    Making the cut.


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    Looks good.


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    From another angle.


    [​IMG]
    The struts in the guitar are left uncut as this compromises the structural integrity when the guitar is re-stringed. To allow for a smooth surface for the MDF component board to be glued to the base of the guitar, raised bars are attached (shown in red). The part in green needs to be sanded down, as currently it's a few millimetres too tall.


    [​IMG]
    Test fit MDF board. Wicked!


    [​IMG]
    This is with the masking tape off. Made a few mistakes in the corners, but overall, I'm happy with the initial cut. :dremel:
     
  11. dragontail

    dragontail 5bet Bluffer

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    Masterplan updated v2

    Stage 1: Planning
    • Preliminary design using SketchUp
    • Feasibility report
    • Cost estimate

    Stage 2: Acquire Components
    • CPU/motherboard, memory, 2.5" HDD, 1U PSU, 3" lights, 60mm fans+guards, momentary power switch, keetle cable extender, cable ties
    • cutting blades, heavy duty Velcro, MDF
    • guitar, hard case, stand
    • Test components

    Stage 3: Building the Base
    • Cut MDF to size for base
    • Mount motherboard and PSU to base
    • Create HDD caddy
    • Mount HDD and lights to PSU
    • Tidy wiring

    Stage 4: Guitar Surgery - Opening Her Up
    • Initial cut into base of guitar
    • Fan hole cut
    • Drill PSU cooling holes
    • Prepare struts for bonding with base
    • Attach fans
    • Attach base to guitar

    Stage 5: Guitar Surgery - Sowing Her Up
    • Create own struts for rear door
    • Drill holes for light switch, power switch
    • Attach light switch, power switch

    Stage 6: Finishing touches
    • Restring guitar
    • Software install
     
  12. MorpheusUK

    MorpheusUK a Noob that knows something

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    Sorry for this but my initial thoughts were, At least this would be acoustically sound.
    Again sorry.

    Looks like a novel idea keep up the good work.
     
  13. PyROZen

    PyROZen New Member

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    looks great! i can't wait to see the finished product.

    Lee
     
  14. dragontail

    dragontail 5bet Bluffer

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    Welcome back!

    Epic refresh!!

    So after a long and intense Lent and Easter Terms, I've done with my uni exams for the year and can concentrate on building the rest of the guitar. (After the mandatory post exams boozin' of course). Such is the life of a student haha. :rock:


    So far, I've made the initial cut into the guitar. I kept the wood from the initial cut, intending turning it into a 'door' so access to the internals will always be available. This follows the mantra of upgradability and ease of access right from the beginning of the project (ie. use of Velcro).

    The next step of the build involves cutting the following:

    • 2x 60mm fan blowholes on the bottom face of the guitar
    • 2mm screw holes for the door hinge
    • Big hole in the 'door' for the motherboard out ports
    • 18mm hole for the power switch on the top face of the guitar (see later)

    So without further ado, lets do this!


    [​IMG]
    Masking out the cut on the bottom face of the guitar. This was harder than it looks due to the lack of a good reference point. Additionally, the bottom face was slightly curved in a non uniform way. On top of everything, the inside of the guitar has several support struts, which if accidentally cut would be bad. The problem? The distance between the 2 struts was about 68mm, left me with ±4mm on each fan cut on the outside of the guitar!!


    [​IMG]
    Closer view of one of the 60mm fan cuts.


    [​IMG]
    The masked 18mm power switch cut. This wasn't part of the original plan, but after a friend's suggestion, I decided to give it a shot. On the right, you can just about see the 2x 2mm screw holes for the hinge.


    [​IMG]
    Masked off the cuts on the door. The big hole is for all the ports from the motherboard to stick out. Note the 2 matching screw holes for the hinge.


    [​IMG]
    After the cut. I used a 60mm holesaw attachment for a power drill. The nut was slightly loose, and couldn't be tightened any more, which made for a nervous couple of minutes! :idea:


    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]
    You can just about make out a support strut on the right of the blow hole.


    [​IMG]
    The final power switch hole. I had to drill a smaller pilot hole before using a 18mm drill bit which looked scary enough to kill Godzilla :jawdrop: The whole guitar was vibrating like crazy when I was drilling through, so keeping the rpm of the drill well low probably saved the whole front of the guitar being ripped off in a cataclysmic implosion. :D


    [​IMG]
    The final door. You can see a couple of imperfections. The whole door will be facing towards the ground anyway, so it's not terribad :)



    More to come...
     
    Last edited: 12 Jun 2010
  15. dragontail

    dragontail 5bet Bluffer

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    Tested the hardware earlier. The 60mm fans were 747 loud, and since they connect straight to the PSU via Molex, I did the 7V mod on 'em which made a big difference :eeek: Anyways, here's a quick update on the build.



    [​IMG]
    Here's a quick test of all the components, was looking for any unexpected vibrations (as that would be a biggie inside the sound hole of a guitar!). The hard drive caddy seemed to be doing it's job. I'm glad I went for a 2.5" lappy drive rather than a cheaper 3.5" desktop drive, as the former has 1/10 power dissipation. Overheating in a wooden guitar = bad


    [​IMG]
    Red gloooow :)


    [​IMG]
    Power switch.


    [​IMG]
    Fan pre mod. Super loud.


    [​IMG]
    Bottom one has been modded to run at 7V, top one is original.


    [​IMG]
    Shot of the door without the hinge attached yet. Notice the massive chunk of wood in the middle; that needs to be sanded down before I can attach it.
     
  16. dragontail

    dragontail 5bet Bluffer

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    It lives!

    Having done all the cutting, it was time to put the beast together. So this is almost it. Queue tense music! :D


    [​IMG]
    The final door build with the hinge attached. I also test fitted the power switch on the top of the guitar.


    [​IMG]
    Door action looks sweet. Now I need a way to keep the door shut...


    [​IMG]
    How about using 2 magnetic door latches? With the 2 latches superglued in, the 2 magnetic contacts face each other giving a surprisingly easy solution to the door latch problem. This really helps with access to the internals of the guitar; not having to unscrew the case each time is a massive plus.


    [​IMG]
    The back of the guitar with the fans and fan guards attached.


    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]
    Here is the male C14 IEC power extender cable on the back of the motherboard; the other side is female side, which plugs into the PSU. The plug was slightly too wide so...


    [​IMG]
    ...nothing like a quick file down haha :)


    [​IMG]
    The base with all the components tided ready for insertion into the guitar. The plan was too use industrial strength velcro on the bottom of the base and the support dowels of the guitar which I had added to the guitar a while back. I was worried that the board would be impossible to manoeuvre inside the guitar; if the wrong velcro pads stuck together by mistake, it would be hard work trying to sort it out. So...


    [​IMG]
    ...as a solution, I taped down a sheet of A4 plastic wallet on top of the velcro pads, moved the whole base into place, before pulling the plastic wallet out. Hooray for low coefficient of friction!


    [​IMG]
    The (almost) completed guitar without strings.


    [​IMG]
    Finally! It lives!


    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]



    Finishing touches and tons of awesome pictures to come next time! :thumb: :rock:
     
  17. dragontail

    dragontail 5bet Bluffer

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    Sitrep
    So the project is complete! :rock: Project COMTAR is sitting happily in the corner of my room as my file server. So far I haven't had a problem with it yet, though a distant plan on the horizon would be to upgrade the HDD at some point. I seem to have filled a large chunk of it already! I've also had a lot of quizzical looks from visitors when it's turn on - the whole light- coming-from-the-guitar business gets a lot of wtf looks haha. Overall I think it turned out okay. This is my first complete case mod so it was a learning experience all the way. For those looking to do the same I would highly recommend getting your hands dirty - it's incredibly rewarding!

    Anyhow, wanted to get the final pictures & a video up! :thumb:

    [​IMG]


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    Happily, I managed to convince a mate of mine to play a tune on the Comtar :cooldude:, got a video (Thanks Ed!):

     
  18. bulldogjeff

    bulldogjeff The modding head is firmly back on.

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    It's different, thats for sure
     

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