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Modding Wood case (with apologies to greensabbath & Gtek)

Discussion in 'Modding' started by fallingscales, 14 Jul 2019.

  1. fallingscales

    fallingscales New Member

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    Hello World

    Hi everyone, I made an account here because I wanted to give credit where credit is due. I started building a custom case about 3 years ago, and once I decided to build it from wood, I was incredibly inspired by two builds I tracked down to this site: "Chiaroscuro" by greensabbath and "Tenuis" by Gtek.

    My objective in using wood (maple hardwood) was to build a case that blended into my home more than the artificial looks of plastic or metal. I searched for previous examples of this and was pleased to find those two builds. Both have the look of pieces of sculpture or fine furniture, and my first foray into this is very much a testament to their artistry and artisanship.

    I love the abstract circuit board pattern in "Chiaroscuro" (which I realize is itself a reference to the Digital Beijing Building), so as you can see, the theme figures heavily in the aesthetics and thermal configuration of my design. And the slot-loading DVD drive and lovely wood grain of "Tenuis" are featured here too.

    "On the shoulders of giants" and all that . . .

    I was also heavily inspired by the abstract architectural installations of the artist James Turrell.

    [​IMG]

    Project Goals

    I use my rig for work (as a self employed video editor), so as you can tell from the specs, the internal components are less of a completed "build" and more of a work-in-progress as I upgrade parts over time. I mainly work in Premiere Pro, so the main goals in my internal configuration are processor speed, RAM and lots of cheap, exchangeable disk space.

    To that end, I wanted a case that was ATX form factor compliant, so that I could always upgrade parts over time, and not be locked into a single build configuration with tight tolerances for specific components.

    After achieving those goals, my prolonged interest in the project has mainly been with the case as a piece of sculpture. The more hardware-savvy among you will probably ask why I don’t have the latest i9, 2080Ti etc. etc., but truth is I’m brutally efficient with 4.9 GHz and 48GB RAM, it’s all I need :happy:

    Future Improvements

    I've had some interest in making more cases, so I plan to spend more shop time on these this summer. After tinkering with my personal rig over the past few years, I used my first case as a working prototype to iron out some design improvements in CAD for the second model.

    You'll notice that some of the features in the CAD model are slightly different from those in the photographs. For example, you can see in the photos that my personal rig evolved from a cheap Corsair case, but the second model will be using custom machined aluminum panels for the motherboard tray and the back plate. These are visible in the CAD screenshots. I'll address this and other changes in more detail later.

    The Design

    [​IMG]

    "Compline" is the name of the design. The case is genuine maple hardwood (not veneer or fiberboard). The lighting elements are ⅜” (~10mm) acrylic, edge-lit with LEDs. It all fits to the ATX form factor spec, so hardware can be swapped out in the future.

    [​IMG]

    I used a table saw, sliding compound miter saw, router, and wood glue to make the wooden parts. I loved the grain and color of the maple so much that I left it in its natural color, and just used polyurethane to protect it. The obvious exception is the outer corner, which is stained maple.

    [​IMG]

    I made the seamless photos you see here for my webpage. (I couldn’t help it. I’m in the video & photo industry).

    [​IMG]

    I made the frame from aluminum extrusion. I absolutely love the color and texture and smooth lines of extrusion, and I’m so pleased I got to use it in the design.

    [​IMG]

    The top LED panel slides away to reveal USB and audio ports (adding mic and USB-C next time, see below).

    [​IMG]

    The panel slides on a linear rail driven by a small servo, which is governed by a simple Arduino board and switch.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    I also made the drive cage from aluminum bar and home-poured silicone caulking (for vibration isolation), but in the next version, I think for simplicity’s sake I’ll go with pre-built drive cages and vibration dampeners.

    Cooling (since you asked)

    The front and bottom LED panels are actually air intake ducts. Some casual observers have thought the case doesn't account for airflow, but in reality, the ducts are simply obscured from vision. This is by design. From most viewing perspectives, the ducts are not visible, because they are offset below the inside edges of the wood. That is to say, the inside wooden edges opposite the LED panels are chamfered, so the slot is actually quite wide to allow for sufficient air intake. The array of three 120mm intake fans is sealed on all sides, so the static pressure difference draws cool air through the intake slot and into the case.

    [​IMG]

    Output of warm air follows the conventional ATX setup, with a 120mm fan positioned at the top of the case rear.

    I have been using my personal rig in the case for work, and even though I have a 7700k overclocked to 4.9 GHz, I haven't had any heat issues.

    I am admittedly a complete novice at overclocking, so I suspect that my overclocking setup is not optimal, but perhaps that is for the best, since it allows me to make a good demonstration of the case's thermal capabilities.

    I delidded my 7700k and overclocked it to 4.9 GHz. I'm using the Noctua U14S. I booted into a Windows drive to run the burn tests - core temps reached a maximum of 78C in a room with an ambient temperature of 21C.

    [​IMG]

    Obviously, physics tell us that the chip runs warmer than if it were taken out of the case in the open air, but that is true of any enclosure.

    I should also note that I do have a dust filter for the air intake duct, but I took it out for demonstration purposes in the photos.

    Improvements in CAD (Complaint-Aided Design)

    [​IMG]

    The biggest change I'm making in the newer model is the dimension of its length. I cursed my past self during the installation for not making the case just an inch longer. The newer model is 1.5 inches longer (~35mm), which resolves the issues I encountered in the working prototype.

    [​IMG]

    Secondly, I’m making the internal assembly totally removable, so you can pull the computer out of the case to make hardware changes, and drop it back in when you’re done. The aluminum frame slides into position on two pins, and is locked in place with a thumbscrew.

    [​IMG]

    I'm also adding a mic port and a USB-C header to the I/O panel under the LED slider.

    [​IMG]

    The only aesthetic features I'm not 100% pleased with are the "hotspots" from the LEDs. The lighting panels on my first model use clear acrylic that I sanded on all sides to produce a light diffusion effect, which works fine when viewed from the front of the case, but still shows hotspots when viewed from the side.

    The next version uses light-diffusing acrylic, which differs from "frosted" acrylic because there are actually particles suspended in the plastic, which cause the light to scatter internally inside the panel, producing an even glow.

    [​IMG]

    Finally, as I noted earlier, the newer model is using custom machined aluminum panels for the motherboard tray and the back panel. My working prototype used a low-end Corsair case, which was fun to introduce to an angle grinder, but it required a lot of design compromises that I wasn't happy with later on.

    Backstory (or, "Why?")

    I’m a self-employed video editor by trade, and a few years ago I started an aerial videography company that made drone videos for real estate brokers. I started building a custom video editing system in 2016 that would allow me to upgrade my hardware over time, as-needed. I was helping my wife through grad school and we scrimped every way we could. I migrated my files from macOS over to my Hackintosh machine, and Skylake literally provided our bread and butter for a while.

    After a few months, though, I felt that my cheap black plastic case was an eyesore in our studio apartment. I wanted a user-serviceable, standard-form-factor case that was aesthetically pleasing to have in our cozy home. So I built one.

    [​IMG]

    At first the enclosure was just a “shell” clamped around a brutally modded Corsair case, but this year I finally replaced the frame with aluminum extrusion :grin: After this, my wife encouraged me (and I quote): "go get your s*** online."

    The final design represents several years of part-time tinkering and many revisions to my prototype model, but I’ve been very happy with the results.

    [​IMG]

    The physical “presence” in the room is very friendly and calm.

    Thank you

    Thanks for reading, everyone! And thank you especially to greensabbath and Gtek for inspiring my own vanity project. I've absolutely loved working on the project; the woodworking and artistry are very meditative, and I look forward to returning to the shop this summer.

     
  2. Cheapskate

    Cheapskate Insane? or just stupid?

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    That's a really great rig. :D Welcome to Bit-Tech. I'm sure they would be honored to know they inspired someone again. Feel free to invoke their names more. Maybe it will bring them back to the forum. :worried:
    You might get rid of the hot spots in the LEDs by moving the strips back as far as you can.
    80/20 profiles are bad about eating up free space. You could probably free up some space using tapped 1/2" bar and sheet/strips.
    Don't take any of that the wrong way, I just like throwing ideas at people.
     
  3. Spraduke

    Spraduke Lurker

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    Can you make me one of these? I can offer you as much as £2.50!

    In all seriousness, this is totally a case of 'want' but my skills, talent, tools and budget would prevent it from ever happening.

    If you haven't already (and your keen for 'exposure') I would post some of the finished shots on reddit like r/pcmasterrace (there is probably one dedicated to modding also).
     
  4. fallingscales

    fallingscales New Member

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    Thanks! Yes I experimented with tapped aluminum bar in the hard drive rack - I'd love to do more of that in the future with a more substantial drill press. In the meantime I do love how clean and modular the extrusion system can be.
     
  5. fallingscales

    fallingscales New Member

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    Thank you, I did post to r/pcmods but not to r/pcmasterrace yet - I'm brand new to Reddit, thank you for the suggestion!
     

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