Wooden case for a PC

This post was originally published in my old blog 14.11.2009. This is (a little modified) English version of the text. I'm still using this case with my main PC.

I did a small DIY case project last summer (in 2009). This is a short retrospective about it. I got the idea for the project after I stumbled upon a couple of really beautiful wooden computer cases around the internet. None of the commercially available cases looked good when I was looking for a new casing for my hardware, so I decided to make my own.

The case was designed with pen and paper which means there are no digital 3D drawings available.

The costs of the materials were around 100 euros:

  • 18 mm glue laminated birch panels, different sized pieces
  • aluminium sheets and mesh
  • screws etc.
  • Semi-gloss varnish
  • 50 cm x 50 cm plexiglass

Rest of the materials I had lying around: some mahogany and teak, glue and pegs. Some of the materials were harvested from my old Chieftec case including the motherboard tray, dust filtering material, front panel (usb and sound plugs), power and reset button + HDD and power leds.

8.6.2009

I have no pictures from the very beginning of the project because I forgot to take them.

I sawed some pieces of the birch panels according to the drawings with handsaw and jigsaw. Jigsaw is a pretty handy tool when you need to make more complex holes and cuts. Fortunately, none of the cuts failed because I had no extra wood available. After cutting the panels they required some planing and sanding. Then I measured places for the holes for the wooden pegs (which I drilled with basic hand drill). The top and bottom plate are attached only with two pegs to prevent damage when the wood dries, the front and rear panels are attached with three pegs. I glued the pieces together after the holes were done. This phase took about one day.

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9.6.2009

The next phase was about attaching the mahogany pieces and fixing a small error which I made in design phase.

Mahogany is easy to work with. Making the pieces and attaching them didn't take long. When I fitted the power supply in place, I noticed that I had made a small calculation error. Bottom plate's opening for the power supply was a little over one centimeter too wide. The situation was easy to fix with an aluminum plate and a screw. In fact, the power supply fitted into place better after the addition of the aluminum plate.

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I made also a finger guard for the roof's 120 mm fan from aluminium mesh.

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10.6.2009

The next day I made legs for the case and guards also for the other openings in the case. Single leg consisted of five mahogany pieces glued together (thickness approx. 3mm, which means increase of approx. 15 mm in height). I put also pads which are usually used for furniture under the legs. They significantly reduce the potential resonance, which the HDD's and the water cooling pump produce. However, the problem is very manageable and less prominent than in conventional sheet steel and aluminum enclosures.

For the front panel connections I made a cover plate of mahogany on the same day. I was not satisfied with mere holes in the glue laminated birch plate and they looked bad, so I sanded a mahogany piece about 2 mm thick and shaped it with a knife. The result was significantly better than without the cover list.

Later, I extracted all that was necessary from the old Chieftec case. Disassembling the case turned out to be rather difficult: I had to drill dozens of rivets open before I was able to access the parts which I was interested in. Housing residues except for few side plates ended up in a landfill.

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11.6.2009

I noticed at this point that the work was progressing pretty fast. The next thing was to saw some wooden bars and drill a few holes to them.

I did the bars from the same 18 mm thick birch panels (so the size of the bars is 18 mm x 18 mm). I sawed one of the 45 degree angles in the wrong direction. This caused a bit of extra work in the form of an additional bar. I glued the bars to the housing.

While the glue was drying I cut the plexiglass with the jigsaw. Plexiglass is 4 mm thick and the bars are thus glued 4 mm inward to the sides of the housing so that the side is flat. Cutting the plexiglass was quite tricky because too high speeds melted material and it froze instantly back into place. In the end I left a little room for cutting and sanded the extra off, because otherwise the plate dimensions would not have been correct.

When I had the plexiglass fitted to the side, I drilled two holes in each bar and correspondingly to the plexiglass. Attaching the screw counter-tracks was certainly the most difficult phase during the construction of the entire housing. These metal pieces (cylinders with inside and outside threads) were very hard to get straight in the holes and fastening them inside of the housing by hand was quite difficult. An alternative approach would have been to drill the holes before gluing the bars, but hitting the correct places for the holes would not have been nearly as certain. I was able to fasten the counter-tracks but it took some time.

At the end of the day I applied two layers of varnish on the case.

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12.6.2009

The last day was spent on designing housing internal structures, implementing and assembling the computer itself. I cut the motherboard tray to the correct size and attached it to the housing (not permanently). Prior to this, I had fastened the rear panel to the back of the case. The panel is also from the old Chieftec case.

This wooden case is not built as a traditional PC housing as the motherboard will be in the case "the wrong way", the processor below and additional cards at the top. The layout has a number of advantages with respect to the cooling design. Video cards tend to warm more than the processors, so the hot air gets out faster.

I made also a shelving to the case. To the top level I placed the pump and water tank, the middle level can house four hard disk (this was not done well and should be redesigned). DVD-drive, fan control panel and the front panel interfaces and cords are at the lowest level.

Finally I attached all the lights and buttons to the front panel, after which the case was ready to be furnished.

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