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Computer Casemod

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Project: Wouters 6 bay full tower Computer Casemod
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Description: I was looking for a new computer case. I chose to mod an old 6 bay full tower case that I had laying around.
Status: In progress
Participants: Woutervddn
Expertise: Metal working, Fabricating, Power Tools, Spray Painting
Edit tags: Computer Casemod



Description

I was looking for a new computer case for my new desktop (internals still need to be picked). After looking around I wasn't satisfied with the value per € of new cases. I remembered I had a 6 bay full tower on the attic at my parents place. The case used to house a webserver and arrived with a tape drive (iirc). I've got no idea who manufactured this case, but the ABS front panel does show that it was molded in 1999.

So now I'm painting the sides, cutting a shape in one side and putting plexi behind it. I'm also replacing the standard ABS front plate with a "grill"/mesh structure to complete this style overhaul.

Project Steps

The project consists out of the following steps. The current steps are highlighted in BOLD.

  • Stripping Wires
  • Cutting the Side plate
  • Sanding all Sides
  • Painting all exterior Sides
  • Preparing the Plexi cut
  • Cutting and placing the Plexi
  • Preparing the front panel
  • Cutting up the front panel
  • Adding the wire mesh
  • Finishing up

Stripping Wires

Inside the case there were still some cables and other stuff hanging around. I stripped all of them before going any further.

I did forget to remove the plexi inserts on top of the case which allow the power and status LEDs to shine through (first project oops...)

I hope I can peel the paint off once I'm done cutting the case

Cutting the Side plate

Casemod side panel.jpg

I was lucky enough that my case already had a good looking beveled curve on the sides. I decided to cut out the same figure as created by the curve. In the image below you can see the 2 sides. One without a cut and one with a cut.

I was lucky enough to be at my parents place (we've got a lot of (power)tools.). My initial thought was to use the Dremel, but it turned out we didn't have any angle-grinder-tip for it. I decided to make the rough cuts with the jigsaw and finish them up using a grindstone-tip on a drill. Using the Dremel with a grindstone-tip would have worked as well, but I left quite a bit of meat to be grinded away.

The overall result look nice, however it had some nasty and sharp edges. I didn't bother to sand or file those down because I knew I was going put a rubber over them. However, now that I painted the case it's to late to file them away. The rubber didn't turn out the way I wanted it to and wish I had filed it to a smooth edge so that I could ditch the rubber altogether.

Moral of the story: don't rush things, take your time...

Sanding all Sides

I was almost ready to put on the paint when my dad reminded me that I should sand all the sides down. Not by a lot, but just enough to get the "shine"/"gloss" off. The slightly increased roughness of the surface makes the paint stick a lot better!

Make sure to sand the end faces of all panels as well! I notice now, afterwards, that the paint on the end faces peels of easier than on the front sides. It's not that obvious, but next time I'd rather take a minute or 2 extra to make sure those are perfect as well.

Painting all exterior Sides

Collage of the paintjob I performed

You might notice on the picture with the cut side plate that there is a part of the case that's sanded down a lot more than the rest. There used to be a sticker in that place with extremely powerful adhesive. I wasn't able to get it off without sanding it down (Not even with acetone). I didn't bother to use a primer, although it might have saved me a half can of spraypaint. The metal-gray-shine kept coming true...

I looked around in our cellar and found a spraycan of "bloodorange". Only reading the word "blood" I thought it was going to be red. I WAS WRONG! I ended up going to "Action" they sell only some colors (6 or so), but at a price of less than 3€ per can. I must say that I'm really pleased with the color of those paints. Future will tell how durable they are though...

Make sure to paint in thin layers of paint! If you've got spots that aren't covered after the second run, it's not a problem! I gave all sides 3 or 4 VERY thin layers of paint before allowing it to dry for a couple of minutes. Then repeated the process over and over again until I was happy with the color and glossiness of the paint. I ended up using the 3/4th can of bloodorange paint that we had left and 2 cans of red paint. Maybe one last coat would have made it even better, but it was Sunday and Action was closed.

I tried to paint the powerbutton as well. It was just a test because I wanted to replace it anyway. It turned out extremely ugly! My layers of paint where probably to thick, I hadn't sanded it down and I probably didn't gave it enough time to dry. No harm done though, a metal illuminated button would look much better anyway.. :)

Preparing the Plexi cut & preparing the case for the plexi

I had some plexi laying around from another project. It's about 2mm thick iirc. My initial plan was to be lazy and just cut a rectangle since you couldn't tell the difference from outside anyway. Unfortunately that wasn't possible.

I first cut the rectangle, but when I tried to fit it I noticed that the beveled doorhandle was in the way. So now I'm opting for 3 straight edges and 1 curve that at the side of the doorhandle.

Now there are a lot of ways to cut your plexi, but a lot of them will leave you with ugly edges. I don't recommend sawing it manually, you'll end up melting it instead of actually cutting it and it doesn't look crisp. Same goes for most powertools. By far the cleanest cut you'll be able to get for any shape is by using a lasercutter. I wasn't able to find one that was big enough though. I settled for "breaking".

I used a big metal straight piece as a guidance and then scraped the plexi using a scriber which actually scratches the plexi instead of drawing with a pencil. I did this 3 times before switching over to a cutter to make the scores even deeper. When you've gone over this a couple of times you can just snap the plexi in that place and it leaves you with a fairly nice edge. But that only works for straight edges.

I'm still struggling with figuring out how to cut the curved edge... I hope to find an answer to this soon.

Cutting and placing the Plexi

Preparing the front panel

Cutting up the front panel

Adding the wire mesh

Finishing up