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Custom case for my water cooled rig: where to start?

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Krusty

Insane Overclocking Clown
Joined
Sep 17, 2001
Location
Orange County
I have recently decided that my giant Antec SX1040 case and my 2 172mm fans make for a case that is simply too big, too heavy, too loud, and too hard to cut out a design. So now I find myself in the market for a new case design that works well with a 2x120mm shrouded radiator, is minimal in size/weight, and is a nice, sleek design.

Since I'll be including water cooling, a custom built case is obviously the best alternative for a good, sleek design.

So here's my big question: How should I start things out?

As for the more specific questions:
1. Should I start with taking an old mid tower case so that I can use the frame, mobo tray, and drive cages and then put on some lexan or aluminum sheet metal or should I start with some lower amount of pre-fabricated materials?
2. Where might I be able to find aluminum sheet metal? I'd prefer to use aluminum to lexan because of the added electromagnetic shielding and because I can do some interesting cutouts in aluminum that would be a pain in steel and wouldn't be very visible in lexan.
3. How would I join aluminum sheet metal together? I have access to a soldering iron and an arc welder but I've only used the soldering iron for electronics and never used the arc welder.
4. What is a good type of paint for painting the chassis?

I'll have more questions later, but this should make for a good start.
 

tbones1337

Member
Joined
Jan 5, 2004
look for a metal fabricator.. they could be able to cut metal and shape it too.. Thurman fabricators near me, they could make my case sides out of copper (dads idea) and then engrave Tbone into it....

Most fabrication places will cut metal to the size desired.
 

Captain Slug

Helpful Senior Member
Joined
May 23, 2001
Location
Asteroid B-612
Ask the nearest machine shop where they order their sheets from. YOu should be able to get very competitive prices on 1/8" (you won't need anything thicker than that). To join all of the pieces you could use one of two construction methods.

1. Use 1/8" sheets for all sides and hold them all together with tapped cubes inside the corners. This would allow easy removal of any panel and will be the easiest setup to design and machine

2. Build a slide-lock or welded frame which you could skin with thin sheet/ducting aluminum. Obviously a nice frame would require more precise tools like a mill or heavy bandsaw, but you could create rounded corners or pretty much any shape you could want.

In either situation you'll save yourself alot of time and hassle if you can scalp a motherboard tray from another case.
 

rogerdugans

Linux challenged Senior, not that it stops me...
Joined
Dec 28, 2001
Location
Corner of No and Where
Scalping a mobo tray is a huge help- its much easier to mount a tray that already has fasteners where they belong than it is to create your own, although both are possible.

As far as welding aluminum....I am a welder by trade, and will tell you that aluminum is tricky- the best process to use is high frequency TIG and that equipment is not cheap....
It IS possible to weld aluminum with other processes, but rod (for stick welding) or wire (for MIG) are also fairly expensive, and they can be tricky.

Aluminum can also be tricky to bend accurately and without cracking.
Unless you want to spend money on having pros fabricate the case, which would be expensive, I would say to go with the mounting block idea.

Small aluminum angle pieces are often available at hardware stores: this can also be used to bolt panels together.
 
OP
Krusty

Krusty

Insane Overclocking Clown
Joined
Sep 17, 2001
Location
Orange County
What about using the actual frame from the computer case? I was thinking I might be able to get away with cutting away everything but the back panel and the major structural parts in a case and then replacing them with aluminum sheets. With that method, I can probably sand and paint the structural parts and then put on aluminum sheets (and maybe paint them too).

If I went the method of binding the sheets together with thicker pieces for joints, would I want to drill a hole straight through the thicker pieces or find some way of making threading to screw bolts into it?
 

rogerdugans

Linux challenged Senior, not that it stops me...
Joined
Dec 28, 2001
Location
Corner of No and Where
Drilling and tapping is how you put threads in a piece of stock- this looks better, but especially with aluminum (which is a pretty weak metal, really) it is not as strong. The tapped threads can pull out with relative ease.
Drilling a hole straight through two pieces and bolting them together (use a lockwasher on one side!) is stronger, but may not look as nice....

Its really a matter of choosing which compromise suits you best. ;)

But to be honest: my style of modding tends toward the industrial and/or ghetto....
My experience in the mechanical/construction trades has taught me how to make things, and make them as strong as is needed, but others are much better at building fancy, attractive rigs in the more commonly accepted styles. :)

I do think a good rig could be done using the framework from a "donor" case and bolting on your own sheets of metal and or plexi/lexan (of whatever type).
 

Captain Slug

Helpful Senior Member
Joined
May 23, 2001
Location
Asteroid B-612
Aluminum is far too soft for durable tapping. I suggest considering nylon, polycarbonate, or brass. All of which are comparably cheap and usually available in cubes.
 

Moto7451

Senior Something
Joined
Feb 24, 2004
Location
LA, CA
I've found that Self-tapping screws can be used when you can't properly tap a hole. You can just remove the self-tapper & put the screw or brass mounting screw you want in.
 
OP
Krusty

Krusty

Insane Overclocking Clown
Joined
Sep 17, 2001
Location
Orange County
I was also thinking of perhaps making a case out of sheet aluminum and instead of making a frame, hold the entire thing together with hinges. That way, when I want to work on the system, I simply unfold it so it's practically flat and can be easily worked on.