Windows EZ

Add Your Comments

How-To mod a case for a window – Brian Berryman

Since I joined the Overclockers.com Forums, I’ve learned a great many things about computers. Among the myriad things I’ve learned, is although it’s a computer, it doesn’t have to be plain, beige, or even a box. I’ve seen some truly remarkable creations posted by the members of our Forums, and have learned how to modify my own computers by their examples.

One of the most satisfying and visually appealing modifications you can make is to install a window in the side panel of your computer case. If you’ve just built your own system, whether it’s a quiet, docile, straight forward PC, or an “u83r 1337” fire breathing, mega frame-per-second gaming monster, why not show off your handiwork? It’s not as difficult as it looks…

And I’ve found a tool that makes cutting a window incredibly fast and easy –

The air-powered sheet metal nibbler:

Tool

I originally bought this tool with the premise of using it to cut out the perforated fan grills in a mid-tower case I have. I’ve found that you can do a lot more than that with it. At the end of this article is a URL to one site where you can find this tool online. Searching a bit might find it cheaper than the price they have. I got mine from a local independent tool vendor, for a lot less money than the site I’ll link to.

The tool works like this:

You need an opening in the sheet metal at least ½” in diameter. The business end of the tool is placed into the hole, and the edge of the sheet metal goes into the “notch” in the tip of the tool. The part of the tool in the middle of the tip moves up and down like a piston, and as it does, it “nibbles” the sheet metal away. The piston moves at a very high rate of speed and cuts through standard PC side panels like scissors cutting paper.

In addition to cutting fast, it also doesn’t distort the metal along the edge as it cuts. With practice, can cut a very straight line and smooth corners, leaving very little rough, ragged edges to file or sand smooth. It also doesn’t damage the surrounding paint, so painting after cutting isn’t required.

Tip

Closeup of the working end.

The scrap metal this tool produces is very sharp (somewhat resembling tiny fingernail clippings), and they do fly around a bit. Wear safety glasses when using this tool!

I also highly recommend practicing on some scrap metal before learning to cut with it on your favorite case. It takes a bit of getting the feel of how this tool cuts, and as mentioned, it cuts very fast. It’s quite easy to overshoot the line you wanted to cut on, if you’re using it for the first time. If you’ve got a favorite local PC repair shop, see if they have a couple junk side panels you can have to practice on.

So let’s cut a window already!!

Panel

My “victim” (mine had the 80mm “blowhole” in the panel, however).

Pattern

My “pattern” – Chieftec’s own windowed panel.

I bought a mid-tower Chieftec case recently, and was contemplating buying the windowed side panel pictured above at Directron. While the price they sell them for is reasonable, I knew I could make my own cheaper and it could look just as good.

{mospagebreak}

Brian Berryman – aka “Mr B”, Overclockers Forums Moderator.

I drew a rough sketch on a piece of paper of how I wanted it to look, and then, first with a pencil and long straight edge, laid out the lines to cut on the back side of the panel itself. When I had the lines drawn where I wanted them, I redrew them with a Sharpie magic marker to make them easier to see. Bear in mind, this tool removes about a ¼” wide strip of metal, so when you cut, cut on the scrap side of the line.

Cut

Starting at the fan opening, the window is cut out. It took about two minutes to cut the entire window, from start to finish.

Edge

This was the “roughest” edge of the cut. Corners are a little harder to cut than straight lines, but with practice, you can get a pretty straight cut from this tool. I might have spent 15 minutes total with a hand file, making the edges nice and smooth.

The plexiglass panel was purchased at Home Depot, and measured 18″ x 24″ x 1/8″. I paid the kingly sum of $5.11 for it. My window hole measures 15″ x 12″ (including the handle area), so I made one cut in the plexi to create a 18″ x 13.25″ panel, to allow for room around the window to attach it to the sheet metal.

Cutting the area out to clear the Chieftec’s release handle in the plexi with a coping saw came next, followed by some careful work with a holesaw to recreate the 80mm blowhole. I then secured the plexi to the sheet metal using drops of super glue spaced about an inch apart all the way around the edge. I then placed some heavy books on the edges of the plexi, and let it sit overnight for the glue to cure.

Window 1

PC

Both windows (top and bottom) were cut using this tool.

While the tool used here might be a bit expensive (I paid $99 for mine), if you do a lot of case modding, it might be worth it.

Pros:

  • Cuts very fast
  • Very little finish work needed, as familiarity with tool increases
  • Doesn’t distort the work panel
  • Doesn’t damage the paint, so repainting isn’t required, unless you want to

Cons:

  • Expensive, compared to hand operated nibbler
  • Air compressor required to operate

Cheers!

Credits and Miscellany

I’d like to thank the Owners, Staff, and Members of the Overclockers Forums, for sharing with me their knowledge of all things computer, advice and wisdom that allows me to be creative and experiment and find new solutions like these. I am indebted to you all. Thanks!

Special thanks to Karen and Jay Hendrix, for letting me borrow the digital camera again…. Thank you!

Last, but certainly not least, thanks, hugs and kisses, to my wife Deborah. Love you… xoxoxox

The tool used in this article can be found commercially at some automotive body repair tool distributors, and can also be found online at various sites HERE is but one source – Tony sent in a cheaper source HERE. Don’t forget the eye protection!

Brian Berryman – aka “Mr B”, Overclockers Forums Moderator.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *