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Scratch Build – In Progress Rustic Wall Mounted PC Build - Wood & Copper [COMPLETE!]

Discussion in 'Project Logs' started by ChrisHowell, 31 Aug 2015.

  1. ChrisHowell

    ChrisHowell Member

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    Update: Project Complete!

    Final Pics further down the page! I had some great fun with my first PC modding experience and have already started thinking about what else I want to do with my newly learnt skills :D. I've also taken a lot of advice and inspiration from other modders on the forum, so thanks for that too.

    [​IMG]

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    Project Log

    Hi Everyone,

    I've started my first custom PC build to take my gaming rig out of my desk cupboard and mount it on the wall for all to see! It was getting pretty hot in the desk and no one could see it either. My new wall mounted rig had some loose requirements before I started the project:

    - It needed to fit within the style of our house, which is pretty modern with a bunch of random/rustic stuff in it. It basically wouldn't fit it in if I went for a classic PC case theme like my previous green and black Antec case.
    - I wanted to avoid buying new components unless I really needed to. For the most part I planned to use and mod all of my existing components.
    - I only had a set of hand tools and power drill available. Everything was also going to be built at my desk, so no workshop/garden for me.


    I planned to use planks of treated rough wood to mount my components, with copper piping to hide all of the internal cables and to help route external cables down to my desk. I'd seen a lot of the newer PC cases and really admired the cable management. I planned all of the cable routes behind the wooden panels and marked areas to cut slots where the they needed to come through the board and plug in.

    It was also important that the two main panels appeared to 'float' effortlessly on the wall - I've seen a few wall-mounted PC's online and some had super ugly looking brackets/supports for just trying to keep the power supply in place. Some builders also mounted their graphics cards normally (directly into the motherboard) and then went on to build little shelves to support the weight. I definitely didn't want to go down this route since it would ruin the illusion.

    Planning


    My first few sketches of the build. Even early on in the thought process, I would have multiple separate panels, parted by the connecting pipe work. I guess I liked the idea of the PC being broken into component parts. I also knew I wanted to focus on materials as a theme, instead of just colours

    [​IMG]


    I had the general layout down and wanted a custom power button further down the wall within reach of the desk. I planned further and decided to have a couple of USB 3 ports available next to the power button too

    [​IMG]


    Building the panels

    I had a leftover apple crate which I broke down and planned to use for the backing. It had the weathered and treated look I wanted (no 'fresh' timber on show!). I also liked the idea of recycling it. I bought a rectangle of MDF to hold all of the loose planks together into the two panel. The plan was to make the outline of the MDF template slightly smaller on all sides so you will never actually see it.

    [​IMG]

    I measured the rough dimensions of all of my components and made sure there was enough room between them. I also decided to scrap my CD Drive and reposition the CPU cooling radiator vertically. The idea of hanging a huge CPU heatsink off my board didn't fill me with warm, fluffy thoughts. A liquid cooler would definitely look better mounted on the wall. So, at this point I had just purchased a NZXT Kraken X61 Closed loop cooler, which was longer than my first choice and fit more neatly on the board to the left of the Motherboard. Consequently a few builders online had also reported getting worse cooling performance from heat rising from their components up to a radiator mounted above, so I avoided mounting it above for that reason too.

    [​IMG]

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    Last edited: 21 Sep 2015
  2. montymole

    montymole Rigid Tubist

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    :thumb: Interesting
     
  3. ChrisHowell

    ChrisHowell Member

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    Measuring & Cutting

    I spent a good while (after deconstructing my old PC!) placing my components on the board and beginning to measure all of the mounting points. Some of which were easier than others. I basically planned to drill holes through the wooden panels and secure 10mm standoffs onto the wood from the back using long M3 screws. Some components wouldn't need the standoffs and instead would screw directly into the wood from the back. Here's a breakdown for mounting each component:

    Motherboard - The Mobo was the easiest. With easily accessible mounting points that screw in from the top, I just carefully laid the mobo onto the MDF and marked out the mounting points using a sharpie.

    SSD, HDD and CPU Radiator - My storage wasn't too bad either. both devices had mounting holes on the bottom that took the same standard screw. I'd heard other builders using SSD's that don't have screw holes and needing to use Velcro instead, but this was no problem for my Kingston HyperX. The only difficulty here was having to measure the hole dimensions on the underside of each unit and then measure the wood up to align with the corresponding holes. I'll come back to how these fit later on!

    PSU - Being a big and heavy beast, the PSU seems to be a trouble point for wall-mounting builders. I started by identifying the positioning of the screw holes on the back and set about finding L-brackets that would be big enough to reach across to each hole. My plan was to cut slots in the wood so that the brackets were screwed in behind the panel itself, poking through the slots to support the PSU from the top. There wasn't an easy was to screw the PSU directly to the board.

    Graphics - Graphics was tough. When I flipped my XFX Radeon HD 6850 over I saw only 2!! mounting points for the card in a "flat" position, both were very near the 'base' of the card where the IO slots are. My options were either build a mini shelf to support the card when it was on the wall or purchase a new card that had better mounting capabilities :/


    My XFX HD6850 Mounting opportunities were slim.... :(
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    Both my SSD and HDD had four mounting points each. Plenty enough to carry the weight.
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: 3 Sep 2015
  4. ChrisHowell

    ChrisHowell Member

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    PSU Cleaning and Mounting

    Some further progress with my PSU. It's a pretty old Hyper PSU and I seriously considered buying a brand new modular PSU for this build, but nothing was wrong with my old faithful, so I went through the process of cleaning it up and giving the grill a spray.

    Took apart my PSU and gave it a clean. Wowzer...
    [​IMG]

    After a bit of TLC. Removed the sticker and sprayed the grill a bright copper colour too
    [​IMG]


    I eventually found an L-bracket to help me mount the PSU, it was big enough to reach all of the screw holes, the only catch was that I had to cut it in half. If I looked hard enough, I might have found two smaller brackets that fit as nicely, but this worked out well in the end.

    Cutting through this took freakin' AGES! Got there in the end
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    Here's me positioning the brackets for the first time. You can see that most of the bracket is hidden, while the rest of the bracket is largely unseen from below when the PSU is on the wall. I actually chiselled out some of the MDF board so that the screw holes lined up. It was a bit of a faff to get it right and I had to consider the width of my planks too, but worked out well. the two top holes of the PSU lined up perfectly, but the lower two holes seem to be in an odd location on nearly all units, I had to mark these up and drill holes in the bracket for it to work. Additionally, the colour of the brackets more closely matches the PSU in person, so I wasn't too bothered about the brown colour.
    [​IMG]
     
  5. Cheapskate

    Cheapskate Insane? or just stupid?

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    Neat concept. :D I fear you underestimate your I/O cables. They are bulky, ugly sh*ts that you will want to cover, and I don't think copper would work on the big, ugly connectors. Option 1 would be to aim the I/O ports down and plan for them to be mounted close to the desk.

    I'd also see if you could integrate some partial cover in old wood. The single flat wood layer would be more interesting with more horizontal slats hovering over bits of hardware/junctions strategically. It would help the tech/rustic blend better.
    -Think Transformer that folds into a box.:lol:
     
  6. Mosquito

    Mosquito Active Member

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    I'll be interested to see where this one goes :thumb:
     
  7. ChrisHowell

    ChrisHowell Member

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    Thanks for the support guys! Progress is moving quite quickly so I'll post more photos soon :)


    So for my standard IO peripherals (USB devices etc.) I've bought and planned to run a 3metre USB 3.0 extension from the Mobo, across and down the wall through copper tubing, to a 4-port USB 3.0 hub hidden behind the desk, which will connect to my stuff. The USB 3.0 slots mounted separately next to the power button I wanted to use just for flash drives and external storage.

    If you're talking about the internal PSU cabling. Yeah, I agree :( there are whole bunch of really ugly cables there. I had a rough plan about how to fit the PSU cables through the pipes, which I've started to try out. I'll share it in a while so you can let me know what you think.


    Great idea... I actually hadn't considered this. If any of the cables look ugly or out of place at the end, I might consider adding something like this in. I've got some steel junction boxes which I've started to use elsewhere.... Hmm interesting..
     
  8. Cheapskate

    Cheapskate Insane? or just stupid?

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    OK, Bit must have been wonky. There's 2 more posts than I saw yesterday.:eyebrow:
    Mounting drives: Poke holes in a card through the mount holes. Trace holes on wood.:D
     
  9. Mosquito

    Mosquito Active Member

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    New member moderator post approvals...
     
  10. ChrisHowell

    ChrisHowell Member

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    Ha! A good tip. Oh well. I did it the hard way :D
     
  11. ChrisHowell

    ChrisHowell Member

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    Finishing & Mounting the MDF Template

    So I went about using my handsaw to cut out all of the cable slots and edges of the MDF template that would bind all of the planks together. The cut was quite rough, but I wasn't bothered since none of it was going to be on show. I cut the cable slots taking care to make sure there was enough clearance for the cabling to bend into position - too close and it wasn't going to work!

    For my CPU cooling radiator, I cut a large hole that the radiator would mount over. The idea here would be that the radiator draws air from the room and pushes it out through the recess of about 30mm between the panels and the wall.

    To mount both panels on the wall, I picked up some timber with a square 30mm cross section. Each of my two main wall panels would use two of these 'brackets' to hang away from the wall. I fixed brass picture hanging brackets to the timber and used a chisel so they would hang flush.

    Here is the smaller panel of the two, complete with the mounting brackets fixed in place. The larger panel has the same setup with 4 brass hanging points. During the process of creating these, I also mounted the fixings into the wall itself - 8 in total!
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    Annnnnnddddd The template is up! Mounting was easy with the brass brackets, just slide the panels up to dismount

    It's still looking a bit scrappy at this point, but you can start to get the idea of the floating panels against the wall. Additionally, all of the screws and brackets will be hidden when the planks are glued onto the template. I added in a couple of smaller L-brackets to hold the weight of the power unit, set into grooves so the planks would lay flush when they're glued into place. I positioned these intentionally so they would be hidden by the PSU cables coming out of the bottom on the unit. I also sprayed them copper to keep in with the theme.

    I also realised the SSD would need the cables to be cut in from the right for it to be the right way up! :p
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: 6 Sep 2015
  12. ChrisHowell

    ChrisHowell Member

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    LED Backlighting

    I had the idea to backlight each of the panels with LEDs so it would illuminate the wall behind the build. To go with the theme of the build I wasn't going to pick a crazy colour or get a set that alternated between RGB, it was going to be some shade close to white.

    After a bit of research online I found a bunch of built-for-purpose LED sets from the usual PC stores, but I also found a larger set of more generic LEDs available to me. Obviously the magnetic LEDs weren't going to work on my wooden panels and some of the prices were pretty expensive for the amount of LEDs in a strip.

    In the end I purchased a self adhesive 5m strip of 'warm-white' LEDs for ~£8. The flexibility of the adhesive strip would allow me to run the LEDs around the back edge of each of my panels, illuminating the wall; and with 5 meters of the stuff, I'd definitely have enough. It's also worth mentioning here that the LED strip had soldering points all the way down the strip, allowing you to cut the strip to length and then use the soldering points to create multiple sets of strips - worked brilliantly!

    My LEDs arrived in a bundle a few weeks later
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    A few online articles described the several ways you can wire in these LEDs to your power supply, the easiest being to use a fan power cable.

    So I found an old fan and sacrificed it for the project..
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    My first go at soldering. Nothing too taxing. Red to Red. Black to Black :) and sealed each with some electrical tape afterwards
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    I screwed all of the components on my MDF template temporarily to try things out for size and tested the LEDs while I was there. ......SUCCESS! :)
    [​IMG]





    Copper-ing my components

    I started to spray my components to match the theme of the build. I had already sprayed my PSU grill earlier on. The fans for my new CPU Radiator got the same treatment and I taped up and sprayed my Kingston Hyper X RAM.

    I used Rust-oleum "Bright Copper" to spray the parts. I didn't want to risk breaking the fan by trying to remove the blades, so I used a plastic bag to fold in and behind the fan blades and keep the surround a black colour
    [​IMG]


    I taped a sprayed my Kingston RAM, the standard blue wasn't going to match my build. Later on they got a second coat
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    My Kraken X61
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    The final product, with the two fans screwed to the radiator and ready to roll
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: 12 Sep 2015
  13. ChrisHowell

    ChrisHowell Member

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    Power Button (Momentary switches)

    When I thought about the build, the idea of having a big industrial power button was something I definitely needed. My motherboard had some dedicated buttons on it for POWER and RESET but that would involve standing up and wouldn't look half as good.

    After reading a few articles on the subject I realised I was actually looking for a momentary switch and learned about the NO (normally open) and NC (normally closed) configurations of the switch circuit. Essentially a NO switch would complete the circuit when you pressed it, providing power; whereas a NC switch would break the circuit when pressed and cut the power. During my searches for industrial switches I came across a lot that were NC config onlyand designed as safety switches to cut the power to machinery.

    I was searching primarily for big red mushroom switches. Big enough that I could fist-pump it to turn the PC on :D


    I realise with a bit more experience in electronics, I could have probably got my hands on a genuine industrial switch and modified it for my purpose. Maybe in the future when I've got some more knowledge under my belt I'll try that out for future projects.

    This is the first one I purchased for a couple of quid. It arrived and instantly looked cheap and nasty. Additionally, I realised, nearly all of the red switches had a "twist to release" function which isn't what I wanted. Even if they did have NO compatability
    [​IMG]

    A few days afterwards I bought a second button and this time decided I was going to create the surrounding box myself. I also needed to purchase a long (<30cm) power button cable which I've wired up in the picture below. This button felt nicer and had a good "click" to it (very important for me!)

    Wiring the cable just required me to expose the cable ends and screwdriver then in
    [​IMG]


    For the box, I'd seen a junction box in my local hardware store that you usually set into a wall cavity to support a light switch. I had the idea to buy one and invert the box to use for my power button. I had to buy the deepest box available to support the button mechanism, about 5cm deep in the end. I then drilled a 25mm hole in the centre of the box and set my button into the hole - looking much better than my first choice!

    The button mechanism had a switch to detach the wiring bit and was threaded to screw into any hole of the correct diameter
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    Finally, I created two small wooden brackets and fixed them to the wall with larger screws to support my box from the inside. I then used two smaller screws to fix the box in place, onto the wooden supporting brackets. Again, hiding all of the evidence :)
    [​IMG]

    And again a little time later on, with the second box to expose my USB 3.0 ports when I eventually cut them out. Some copper piping creeping in there too you see ;) . ....I'll come to that next
    [​IMG]
     
  14. ChrisHowell

    ChrisHowell Member

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    Glueing the planks onto the MDF template

    One by one (because I only had 2 clamps!) I glued the planks onto the MDF template. I scored both pieces of wood and used wood glue and clamps over 24 hours to bind the wood together. To line up all of the holes, I just laid the template onto the back face of the planks and marked out the holes with a sharpie. I also decided to cut the holes out individually to make the cuts a little neater and then glue the planks on pre-cut.

    The planks are up, no more MDF in sight. PSU brackets looking a lot neater too :)
    [​IMG]

    Copper tube experiments

    While the planks were being glued I bought a 3m copper tube (22mm) and started to experiment with how I was going to hide the cables within the pipes. Many of the PC connectors, internally and externally were way too big to thread down the tube. For some of the internal cables, there was the oppertunity to buy custom cables and sleeve/thread them through the pipe and onto connectors myself, but that was going to be incredibly time consuming. There were also cables that were still going to cause me headaches; like the kettle power lead, HDMI and USB3 3.0 header.

    I had the idea that I could potentially cut a slot down the entire length of each tube and just fold the cables into the tube. If it worked, it would solve the problem for all of my cables. So I bought some metal snips/shears and tried it out.

    My first attempt and cutting the pipe down one side and bending the opening wide enough to fold the cables in. It did the job, but my first attempt was messy
    [​IMG]

    The front view
    [​IMG]

    I realised cutting a section from the pipe was a better choice and figured I could cut up to about a 1/4 of the pipe without really seeing the result from the front. I filed down some of the sharp edges and the tubes were looking good. Once I'd cut them all, I used a hot glue gun to join all of the pipes and angle joints together. I might have done it using solder and a blowtorch like you usually would with copper piping, but that was beyond my tooling for this project.

    3 more cable pipes
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    The front view again
    [​IMG]


    I started to mount my components and figure out actually how many pipes I was going to need and thier shape and position on the wall. I needed pipe to cover several sections of cable so that nothing was on show. i.e desk to panel, panel to panel, power button to panel.

    There were also some sections of pipe that needed to be fixed to the wall and some that would be attached to the panels themselves. The 3m kettle lead extension for example, needed to stretch up the wall and across the entire build to the top right corner to feed into the power supply. The was the first cable I pinned to the wall in position. The Ethernet, USB and HDMI would follow shortly.

    A little further progress
    [​IMG]

    and some more :) ....
    [​IMG]


    Here you can see the journey of the cables. The USB and ethernet are the two at top left and the HDMI is routed down towards the Graphics card. You can also see there the power button cable and the USB Header cable. These are all in position and will need to be pulled through the holes when the PC is mounted - Hopefully they'll have enough loose cable to pull through the panel and plug in OK. I included the 'fake' pipes to the right side because I wanted to give the illusion that two continuous pipes are connected behind the entire build. You'll notice they're positioned at the same height as the two pipes between the panels and again with the two pipes at the left side of the build.

    I also intentionally used the 45 degree angle corners to give a hint that they look a bit like an electronic circuit.

    A bunch of the cables needed to be wall-fixed rather than build-fixed. I also re-painted the wall to remove all of the blemishes I caused during the production of the build! :)
    [​IMG]

    A close up of the cables to the desk. At a normal angle the cables are hidden behind my wall crate here
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    A closer inspection sees the ethernet, power, HDMI and USB
    [​IMG]

    My cable plan!
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: 13 Sep 2015
  15. storm-83

    storm-83 Member

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    Interesting project
    I really like the powerbutton and usb boxes!
    The copper piping also seems like a nice aesthetic touch
     
  16. Cheapskate

    Cheapskate Insane? or just stupid?

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    You will still have to lean forward to power up. :(
    I've been contemplating a multi-pooter switch box in a similar fashion because some days you just don't want to stand up to boot rig #2.:lol: -Gonna put that sucker in my keyboard I'm so lazy.

    The plumbing screams for and old gauge or something.
     
  17. ChrisHowell

    ChrisHowell Member

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    I did consider getting some brass dials to show temperatures. Maybe something for the future when I've got a bit more knowledge under my belt! :)
     
  18. ChrisHowell

    ChrisHowell Member

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    Graphics

    So.... previously I'd taken a look at my XFX Radeon HD6850 and seen that the opportunities for wall-mounting were slim. I eventually decided to buy a new card and chose one that would get me the best bang for my buck. I ordered a XFX R9 380 (4Gb).

    I always liked the look of the XFX cards and the R9 380 doesn't disappoint
    [​IMG]

    Mounting opportunities were aplenty. I'm pretty sure this is because all of the newer cards allow for the addition of metal backplates, even if it doesn't come with the card as standard.
    [​IMG]

    Unlike the motherboard where I fixed the standoffs to the wooden panel, with the graphics card I needed to fix the standoffs to the card itself and then screw it in from the back of the wooden panel. For this I held the screw in place with my finger and screwed the standoffs onto it, since it would be impossible for a screwdriver to reach the screws. This was the second reason I chose the XFX card, the heatsink design allowed easy access to the mounting holes

    [​IMG]

    All standoffs on and ready to mount :)
    [​IMG]


    I had read up on PCIe risers and was aware of potential electrical interference with running the cable close to the components - particularly with the cheaper unshielded cables. I bought 15cm and 30cm PCIe risers to chain together so I could mount the card away from the motherboard. My first plan was to use copper shielding tape to cover the cables and both provide shielding and make the cables a lot more aesthetically pleasing.

    The cables arrived and I tried it out. The result wasn't exactly what I wanted :sigh:
    [​IMG]

    After a few days of consideration. I eventually bit the bullet and bought a 3M premium shield cable - 50CM. It arrived from the U.S in 4 days and looked great. I plan to spray one of the strips copper later on
    [​IMG]
     
  19. ChrisHowell

    ChrisHowell Member

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    Cable Management time!

    Part of the reason I wanted to change my build was to emulate the superb cable management of all of the newer PC cases, after having my Antec 900 for about 8 years. This was the final stages of my build and I was getting excited about being able to turn the sucker on!


    I started with the smaller panel and tied up all of the spare PSU cables. You see I also cut a cable tunnel through the wall support for easier routing
    [​IMG]

    I used zip ties and self adhesive anchors to fix the cables to the panel. Once I had done all the cables, the LED strip was carefully run around the edge of each panel
    [​IMG]

    In case I didn't mention it already, I had to buy extension cables for practically every internal and external cable that I used. Several times I only realised this while I was trying to fit the cables and needed to wait an extra few days before finishing the job :(
    [​IMG]



    Final Stretch! :D

    So! Shortly after the cables were in place, I was able to mount the CPU Radiator and arrange the cables for that too. Then I screwed the components onto the standoffs and started to plug everything in between the two panels.

    It took two of us to carefully lift the build near the wall and pull the wall cables through each of the holes. Then we slotted the panels onto the wall and downwards to lock each in place. We had to be careful that none of the cables became snagged. They were all pretty tight so it wasn't too bad. The right panel went on first and the second was slotted onto the mounting bolts.

    Very near the final product :)
    [​IMG]

    Everything is plugged in, Ethernet, HDMI and mouse/keyboard all in and cables hidden. I was super pleased with the neatness of it all
    [​IMG]

    I plugged everything in and tried my custom power button for the first time, it lives! LEDs working and looking good. Pretty chuffed they worked first time
    [​IMG]

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    Pipes!
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    [​IMG]


    Well, I still need to do a final spray paint job on the PCIe riser and more permanently fix it in place, but I'm 98% of the way there and really pleased with my first build. I'll post some final pictures once I've done the last bits.
     
  20. bionicgeekgrrl

    bionicgeekgrrl Member

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    looks great :) liking the junction box and the power switch :)
     

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