In a previous article I documented my adventure of implementing a very good-looking water-cooling system. There was one problem: An ugly sheet of aluminum hid all my beautiful workmanship. I needed a window. No, not just any window, the window.
My plan was to take a sketch off the Internet, then cut it into the side of my case, making many small windows forming one large design. I made most of this up as I went along, so the steps represented here are revised from what I actually did. A lot of the process is improvisation and creativity, so these instructions should be used with a sizeable amount of your own ideas.
First, find a sketch of the design that you want to make. A picture in grayscale with little detail is best because it means less work for you. Open the sketch up in Photoshop, apply filters to sharpen the edges and use the photocopy filter to separate the lines you need from the background and texture.
Then use the eraser to erase everything but the lines you want to cut into the case and areas enclosed in them. Take some artistic freedom and modify the sketch, make some changes in the design, as the original is probably too detailed to cut into the case. You always have the undo button.
Now that you have the starting template finished, measure your case side and find the exact size of the design. Then print out the design so that it fits exactly like you want it to look like when you done.
Get a sheet of clear plastic – it should fairly thick. I used the backing of a piece of monokote, a plastic sheet that is used to “skin” model airplanes. Use several pieces of tape to affix the plastic sheet to the printout of the design. Use a sharp knife to cut out the plastic along the lines to form the template that will be used on the case. When done, the holes cut out in the plastic should be exactly like you want them in the case.
Use tape to stick the plastic template to the case and then fill in all areas to be cut out with a black marker – I used a Sharpie on mine. When this is done, remove the plastic; you should be left with the design of the window that is to be cut out.
The next step is to put some strips of wood onto the case side so that it can be moved without scratching it while working on it. To cut the outline of the design, I used a #57 drill running at 3000 RPM on my drill press. I used the drill to completely cut out the design so that the only work left to be done is cleaning up the sides of the cutout.
When the drilling was done, I used a Dremel tool and several small files to clean up the edges of the cutout. It’s tedious work, so take your time. The only thing power tools accomplish at this point is screwing things up faster. When done, remove any marker left over with mineral spirits or gas.
At this point it’s time to put the Plexiglas in. Get a piece big enough to cover the whole design and tape it to the back of the cutout. Use a drill and pop rivets to permanently attach the Plexiglas. The finished result will be like the window offered by Lian-Li with the rivets.
Hopefully after following these guidelines and with a lot of creativity, you can produce a high-quality custom window.