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Project- Custom Wooden Case w/ dual Opterons

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Old 07-03-05, 11:37 AM Thread Starter   #1
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Project- Custom Wooden Case w/ dual Opterons


A little background on how the wooden Dualie case came to be. First, so you do not think Gulp has multiple personalities (or is Bob Dole), let me explain that this article is written by Junebug, Gulp’s dad.

We started talking about this case when we first saw the AMD Tech Tour 2005 advertising a server bundle that consisted of a Tyan Thunder K8SD Pro and two Operton 246’s. We had been successful in the past overclocking Athlon’s and A64's and wondered if we had any hope with this. We quickly learned that we probably could not. But given the neat idea of owning a dualie (we had been talking about this on and off for a while), and the pretty generous horsepower/$ available in this deal (we are protein folders for Stanford U. (Folding @ Home)) we decided to take the plunge.



We also found out quickly that everything associated with servers is expensive (memory, power supplies, etc.) This board measures 12” x13”. We were planning to make this into a presentable computer (i.e. not one of folding farm “cows” ), so it needed some type of case. Not many cases are available for this size board (considered an extended ATX or eATX). Choices were slim, and expensive.

We actually bought two of these boards, on for us, and one for my work. The one at work is covered by a corporate budget, so what I bought is a 4U rackmount server case and will mount it on a bench top. We considered this, but did not think this would look to good in our living room (where this computer was slated to be sited).

Server cases were expensive, and to be truthful, pretty boring: just a steel or aluminum box 21” high, 8 inches wide and 19 inches deep. And you can’t see the neat set up inside the box, unless you get one with a window (not for me although Gulp’s water-cooled case looks nice), and even if you do go with the window, the box is on the floor and you can’t really see in it.

I had also seen some cases at SVC that look interesting. They call them HSPC tech stations. They’re basically an open frame where the power supply and the CD-ROM sit on a top shelf, the hard drive and the floppy hang from the bottom of that shelf, and then the motherboard sits on the very bottom, out in the open. This looked “techie”, but I really did not like the power supply and CD-ROM being the center of attention. The Motherboard should be the star!



After much discussing with Gulp, we decided to swap it around and make the motherboard sit above all the ancillary equipment. I like the cube computers I had seen, and I thought maybe this could be a cube also. We could have squeezed down to a 14x14 footprint but that would have been really tight. And we really did not need 14” in height. It would have started looking really empty up top. We really only needed 5 inches on the bottom layer, and 7 inches (six inches clear above the motherboard) would fit any heat sink we could ever imagine. If we stretched it out to 16.5 x 16.5, we would have plenty of room, and we could make the levels out of three ¼ x6 inch boards of oak glued together (actual width is 5.5 inches per board).

We thought we would need some serious cooling so we decided to have eight fans to blow across the motherboard (our experience had been A64's run pretty warm so we expected dual Opterons would be equally hot). Now many wonder about wood and cooling. Wood is a lousy heat transfer material, but on most computers, the vast majority of the heat is carried away by the air via forced convection (fan blowing cool air across the heat sink and then out of the case), and very little is from heat conducting through the case, and then being cooled by natural convection (i.e. hot object in cool room with no fan). We decided we would blow the air over the processors first and then out over the rest of the board.

We also choose wood because it is easy to work with. We consider Aluminum (also pretty easy to work with, but we did not want all the bolts or rivets and we don’t have any easy way to weld aluminum. We also considered composite (epoxy/foam/fiberglass/carbon fiber), that would be pretty straightforward also, but we wanted something kind of furniture-like for the living room.

Okay, so we decided to go with thin Oak, glued together and we had a rough layout. We ran out to the local Lowe’s and bought some nice Oak boards (Home Depot does not seem to carry this stuff). We started gluing the wood together, and cut them to 16.5" long. We decide we wanted then to be a little stiffer, so we put three small 3/8" x 3/8" stringers running perpendicular to the glue joints/grain to stiffen them up. We took a break, and ran out to the Tech Tour and bought our bundles! We figured out where the board would sit, and where the cables would run down to the bottom and we installed the standoffs and cut the holes, (by the way, the stand offs are 3/4" inch oak dowel cut 7/8" long. A brass screw comes up from the bottom, and a brass nut holds the dowel down, and makes it so the board only touches in a small area (so we don’t put the load on any of the surface mounted components on the bottom of the board).



The frame of the case is also ¾” dowel that run up from each corner. Two 1/2"x1/2" stringers tie each side together and also act to hold the motherboard tray in the proper place. We drilled the holes for the motherboard tray to slide up and down on.
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Old 07-03-05, 11:39 AM Thread Starter   #2
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By now, all the parts had arrived and we could start up our dualie! We powered it up, and were surprised in several ways. First, this thing ran very cool. We are using Thermalright XP-90’s with some Antec Tri-Cool Clear fans, and the CPU’s hardly were warm. Under load we see 35 to 45C. In comparison, on our A64 with the same heatsink with a 92x38mm YS-Tech fan we see mid to high 50’s. Of course we are overclocking this (2450 MHZ and 1.65 V) so I guess that is the difference. We set up four of our 80 mm fans and blew them at the CPUs, not much difference. But then we noticed the North and Southbridge were warm. We switched the fans to blow from the far end, across the N/S bridges and then across the CPU’s. Now everything is almost cool to the touch. And the Antec power supply with two fans seems to just barely spin the fans, and is just barely warm...a nice surprise.



So we decided to reverse the board. Of course we now have two “extra” holes, but perhaps we will find a creative use for these later.

We then started setting the power supply, the hard drive, the CD-ROM, and (a late arrival, the floppy drive). Gulp had me convinced that floppies were archaic devices not used by anyone in the 21 st century. I decided to go with his advice (he is much more aware of the latest state of the art; I am generally a generation or two behind). We tried to install our SATA drive HDD (another “new” thing for me on this build) and we learned that the only way you can install a SATA drive from Windows is with a floppy. We also found that Knoppix needs no floppy and finds and installs the SATA just fine. We are thinking of making this a dual boot machine (a problem thus far), we decided we needed a floppy if were were to keep one of our feet in the Windows world.

We decided to make the hard drives and the power supply removable, so we built the hard drive supports (more ¼ oak w/ trick aluminum cooling fins in between), and then located the power supply and the hard drive bay, and glues ¼" x ¼" stock around them to hold them in place.



We will glue down the CD-ROM Bay (with the lower bay holding a drawer until someday when we add a second drive). The floppy is held in place again with ¼” oak boards, and will be glued in place.
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Old 07-03-05, 11:40 AM Thread Starter   #3
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We debated for a long time if we should leave the lower level open or not (really, Gulp said we should close it in, while I said it should be open). Gradually, I was won over to the idea of closing it in. We closed it in with ¼" oak. We fitted it around the CD-ROMs and floppy drive in the front, and attached it to the ½" x ½" bar that holds the motherboard tray in place. In the back, we cut around the power supply switch and plug, and drilled a “grill” for the fan. This one also attaches by countersunk brass screws through the ½ x ½ bar. On the other ends, we cut the parts very tight, and for now are just frictions fitting them in place.






We are also still debating closing in the top. Gulp says close it in. I am holding out. We might later make a Japanese style rice paper cover for the back, and a clear plexi “Frank Lloyd Wright-ish” cover for the front.

The oak is all stained with mahogany stain, and will be satin urethane varnished. I bought some brass claw feet. Gulp had the idea to put claw feet on it although he was thinking more of the claw on a ball style foot (kind of Empire style from the 20’s). I found some small brass (English!) feet online and order them. They are a little smaller than Gulp would like.

And Some Finished Pictures:






For All the Project Pictures CLICK HERE


To "complete" this mod We still need to:

1) add power and reset buttons *I was thinking a neat etched acrylic that lights up"
2) add Hard Drive Monitor *in manner similar to above*
3) add Internal Lighting *See first post in thread*
4) Convince my Dad to close in the top
a) Close in the top

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Old 07-03-05, 12:53 PM   #4
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Holy bejebus Batman!

That's a great piece of furniture so far, makes me think of the Time Machine, sort of past-meets-present-and-futurish. How is it as far as fan noise?
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Old 07-03-05, 01:30 PM Thread Starter   #5
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It is near silent (or at least I think it is). the reason for the previous statement is because the Wooden Case's twin, a 4U server case, has a very noisy 120mm fan ( sounds like a running microwave) that We can't get to slow down. While all of the 80mm fans on the Wooden case are being controlled by the Motherboards fan controller and are currently running at a 30% duty cycle (temps don't decrease much compared to 100% Duty Cycle).

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Old 07-03-05, 02:42 PM   #6
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Excellent work, I'm currently looking for ideas for my own wooden case and this gave me a few.

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Old 07-03-05, 03:29 PM   #7
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Sweet! You could put that in your living room. You might want to grate the fans though.
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Old 07-03-05, 04:12 PM Thread Starter   #8
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We are looking around to see what type of fan gaurds/filters we can put on them... In our very limited search we have found none.

Here is the main component of our next mod to this case (what the third To-Do item reffers to)

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Old 07-03-05, 04:47 PM   #9
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Wow very nice. Definitely not "boring".

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Old 07-03-05, 07:41 PM   #10
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The fans are on the back right? You could do what you did for the psu
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Old 07-03-05, 08:22 PM   #11
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I like how you show how even computers and wood can have good relationship

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Old 07-04-05, 07:56 AM   #12
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You know what that reminds me of? One of those wooden redcord players or cd players.
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Old 07-04-05, 08:00 AM   #13
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Great job, Love the little silver feet. tehehe

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Old 07-06-05, 11:30 AM   #14
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Sweet, so many fans too!
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Old 07-10-05, 07:03 PM Thread Starter   #15
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Hooked up 4 12x1" EL Lights that are a very pale green (advertized as white) tonight. Will take pictures tonight and try to post them up tomorrow... not much else to do, Hurricanes make weather=suck.

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Old 07-12-05, 05:42 PM Thread Starter   #16
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Ok So it took me more than just one day, but the hurricane wiped out my plexi folding farm and it took a little while to bring up again.... Plus I haven't been to motivated because in one week I'm back on vacation .

Here is the picture of the new EL Glow (it is supposed to be white)



And another angle of the finished case....


OH yeah...

Also notice that the Sound card has been "pci riser"'d out of the airflow, it looks very sleek now (almost perfectly lines up with where we ran the Parallel and Serial Ports).

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Old 08-02-05, 07:01 PM   #17
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Wow thats pretty nice. The fans look cool on that one side.

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Old 08-02-05, 10:10 PM   #18
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I like it.. I would have done it the same save I would have put blue plexi around the mobo mounting area, and lit it up. Good job.

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Old 08-05-05, 03:53 PM   #19
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Nice, I would enclose the components in wood, plexi, or poly.
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