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Project: Open Air

Project: Open Air

Postby Gearhead » Tue Mar 27, 2012 2:16 am

I decided to put together an open-air workbench for my main system a little while back, using scrap acrylic I had left over from a scratchbuild a few years ago. It was a dual-layer bench with open sides, much like the HPSC Top Deck Tech Station. It turned out all right for being thrown together, but it wasn't really what I wanted. It did make me realize the emphasis that manufacturers are putting on appearance in our hardware these days there's no reason to hide it inside a box. Window be damned, I want to be able to see it.

In the prototype I made, all of the heat-generating components are on to top deck, with the only lower-level fan being in the PSU. When I realized that I also realized that I could box it in for appearance, hiding almost everything but the motherboard and the pieces attached directly to it.

I had a lot of scrap oak laying around from another scratchbuild that's currently on hold, so I decided to use it.

First off, I made a frame for the base:

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I ran it around the router table to give it a little more interesting profile:

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A few more scrap pieces with the same chamfer make up the corner columns (I plan to continue with this beveled-corner square theme throughout):

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Drilled and countersunk holes under the corners of the frame for screw-mounting the columns:

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The finished piece withh have acrylic side panels, so I cut channels in each post and test fit:

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In the end those panels will be black, painted on the inside. The PSU lights up and I don't want anything distracting the view from the hardware mounted on top.

More to come.
Last edited by Gearhead on Thu Apr 26, 2012 9:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.
'I will accept any rules that you feel necessary to your freedom. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.' - Robert Heinlein
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Onward

Postby Gearhead » Tue Mar 27, 2012 2:26 am

Ok, so we all make mistakes, right? Right??

As it turns out, I'm no exception. As though I needed a reminder. For cable management reasons (among others) I'm going to have to be able to put my hand inside this box with the top in place. Obviously with the thing as it stands I can't do that since the acrylic panels slide out the top. $#&*!!

I knew that, I really did. I allowed for it in the design even, but when I was cutting away in the last session things were just going too well and I got carried away.

These two grooves should never have been cut:

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The plan was to make backers for the sides of this panel and hold it in place with magnets. Now I get to do that but I also have to deal with these unsightly grooves I cut. Hooray for productivity.

Since this panel will just be standing vertically with no pressure on it at all I only need very small magnets. Just the thing:

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Now the problem is I have to get this panel to line up exactly with the grooves that I cut (that I wasn't supposed to cut). Without those I had some margin for error since a little further in or closer out wouldn't be visible. Now the edges of the panel will be lined up with the grooves and anything out of line will be visible.

I'll be using two of those tiny magnets, one glued to the inside of the panel once it's painted and one glued to a backer strip. Placement of that backer strip will determine the final placement of the acrylic. I left the panel inside the grooves and used some bigger magnets to hold the smaller ones in place where they'll be in the final assemby...

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Then cut some oak strips a little shorter than the columns, pressed them against the small magnets and glued them in place...

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Once the glue was dry I took the columns off and set about filling in those damned grooves. Cut two strips of scrap acrylic the same length as the columns and slightly wider than the grooves are deep, roughed them up with sandpaper so they would glue well and glued them in place:

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The next step was scary because I had to get that acrylic flush with the surface of the column without damaging the backer strip that I had glued to it, but patience and a table saw got it done:

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Fit it in place and it turned out very well!

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So there's that mistake fixed. Whew. Too bad I screwed up the panel while I was cutting it down to its new width and had to order another piece of acrylic since that was my LAST ONE. Yes. I screwed up while repairing a screwup.

<sigh>
'I will accept any rules that you feel necessary to your freedom. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.' - Robert Heinlein
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Onward... more

Postby Gearhead » Wed Mar 28, 2012 1:26 am

So the columns, the panels and the base frame are done. I needed something in the middle of the base though, and since these were scraps the frame was an arbitrary thickness, something like .584547666832243 inches I think. Roughly. Regardless, there is no sheet material known to man that thickness, whatever it is.

I had some 3/16 luan around, which would do fine once I put some support under it. New workbench tool, for those times when you need perfectly flat: 1/4" thick pane of tempered glass, complete with rounded sanded edges. I bought an old stereo cabinet (circa 1986) off of Craigslist for $5, took out this top piece and the door pane (twice that long) and threw the rest away.

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Used the frame to mark the luan and got a press fit. Not bad on the first try.

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Once it was in place I cut some more oak strips to the thickness I needed to bring the luan flush with the top edge of the base frame (or so I thought) and glued them into a rabbet I cut around the inside.

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OOPS! Yes, again. Turns out they were a hair too thin and the luan sat 1/16 or so below the edge of the frame. Yay, fix it time again. I had a roll of self-adhesive oak veneer banding in one of my drawers from a previous project so I got to use a tool seldom used in modding:

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I cut strips of the banding for each support I had made and glued them in place with the iron, then put the luan back. Perfect fit!

I don't have any clamps big enough for that job so I used a gravity clamp (also known as putting something heavy on it).

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So the base is done. I also got the top done, in a more traditional method. When I made the four frame pieces I cut a groove on the inside for the luan and glued it all in place at once. Beveled the top and bottom edges plus the corners so it matched the base frame:

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Top done. Almost. I'd been trying to figure out how to attach the top to the box in the most attractive way. I didn't want any fasteners breaking up the look of the wood. Magnets to the rescue again. Bigger ones.

Drilled a flat-bottom hole in each corner of the underside of the top and another in the top of each column and glued some 1/2" magnets in place. Wow, it worked better than I could have thought. I could probably toss the lid onto it from five feet away and it would end up perfectly in place. I can pick up the whole box holding just the edges of the top. :D

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And here it all is together (minus the panel I'm waiting for the acrylic to fix, pay no attention to that please).

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Coming together!! I have a new CPU cooler on order, my Thor's Hammer is very cool but not pretty enough for this since it will be wide out in the open. Also got some individually-sleeved power extensions for the motherboard and VGA power (since they will also be wide out in the open) and some black 90-degree SATA cables.

Still have to cut the front panel for the DVD and the rear panel for the PSU, cut the hole in the top for air flow and power cords, mount the motherboard standoffs, sand and stain, and build the expansion card support and DVD cover.
'I will accept any rules that you feel necessary to your freedom. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.' - Robert Heinlein
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Re: Project: Open Air

Postby LooseCannon » Wed Mar 28, 2012 2:24 am

Nice work! some nice woodworking
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Re: Project: Open Air

Postby athx64 » Wed Mar 28, 2012 3:02 am

That is very impressive work.
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Re: Project: Open Air

Postby Gearhead » Wed Mar 28, 2012 12:02 pm

Thanks very much! Stay tuned.
'I will accept any rules that you feel necessary to your freedom. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.' - Robert Heinlein
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Progess...

Postby Gearhead » Thu Mar 29, 2012 12:06 pm

I got the finish put on, three coats of Golden Oak Polyshades and three coats of satin wipe-on poly. It turned out a little lighter than I wanted but the finish is perfect, has that low-gloss hand-rubbed look I was looking for. No pics because I couldn't get it to turn out with the light in my shop. Final pics should show it.

It took me a while to figure out how to mount the ODD, since the case is shallow enough that it woud overlap the PSU on one corner, but I got it again with scraps...

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After getting that in place I marked and cut the front acrylic panel for the ODD tray and button and mounted the cover with magnets.

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You can see I painted the inside of my acrylic black, as I didn't want to see the inside. It looked very nice with the smoked acrylic before, but I think it looks better black,

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All of the acrylic is cut and painted, the drive cover is on, the finish is done, all of the parts are here. All that's left is to build the expansion card retention bracket. Another couple hours in the shop and this should be done!
'I will accept any rules that you feel necessary to your freedom. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.' - Robert Heinlein
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Joined: Tue Jan 03, 2012 8:37 pm

Getting there...

Postby Gearhead » Thu Apr 12, 2012 11:46 am

Finally got some time to put some more work into this. Today I got the last of the wood cut!

First off, I'm going to need a bracket of some kind to secure the expansion cards. Today's video cards are just too big to let them flop around. Besides, they look ugly that way. :)

Two more pieces of oak, corners trimmed and sanded:

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These will be mounted to the top at the rear with screws. I drilled a pilot hole and a very neat counterbore for the screw heads, just before realizing that said counterbore serves no purpose whatsoever since the screw heads will be on the underside of the lid.

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I'll be cutting and polishing a piece of acrylic to run across the top of these posts in the back for card mounting. To make it more versatile, I wanted to be able to remove this acrylic piece as needed without worrying about the holes in the oak getting worn out and the screws stripping them out, so I used threaded brass inserts, 6-32 machine thread:

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One more piece, the button for the DVD drive, cut off the end of a 3/8" oak dowel and rounded.

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Now to put a finish on these last pieces and get started on that acrylic bracket.
'I will accept any rules that you feel necessary to your freedom. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.' - Robert Heinlein
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Posts: 59
Joined: Tue Jan 03, 2012 8:37 pm

Re: Project: Open Air

Postby athx64 » Thu Apr 12, 2012 1:27 pm

Very nice, that is some impressive wood work...
I'll take two please ;-)
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Almost there....

Postby Gearhead » Sat Apr 14, 2012 6:03 pm

Nearing completion on this project! I had three pieces of wood to finish and them assembly. To make the finishing easier I screwed the shanks of two long machine screws into the columns...

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And glued a piece of scrap acrylic rod to the back of the button...

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The rod will come in handy later.

Made a poor man's drying rack out of some craft foam...

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Took a lot longer for the finish to dry this time, must have gotten the mix wrong somehow, but the color and finish came out just fine.

I got the acrylic card securement bracket cut, painted, polished, drilled and tapped!

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The outer two holes are just through-holes to mount to the columns, obviously, but I tapped the other seven to 6-32 machine thread.

I couldn't find any screws that I liked the look of enough to use on this high-profile portion of the case, so I decided to make my own. I had some nickel-plated 6-32 machine thread acorn nuts in a box...

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So I took some 6-32 machine screws and cut a little bit of the shank off...

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Screwed the shank into the nuts and presto! Shiny-head machine screws that look good against the black.

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I used the same method to mount the bracket, screwed the shanks into the columns, set the bracket in place over them and then put the acorn nuts on...

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One of the great things about this method (for the card mounting) is that by raising or lowering the shank in the threaded hole before putting the nut on top I can control exactly where the nut bottoms out. That lets me make every nut stop in exactly the same position in relation to the bracket. Looks a lot better in my opinion.

So on to the button mounting. Here's the hole it's going into...

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The button goes into the hole just fine but it's too big to go in far enough to press the button to open the tray. I cut that acrylic rod down just enough to serve that purpose...

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And put a dab of superglue on the end of it and stuck it in place. Turned out perfectly. :)

Next update will be the finished photos!!!!

(Yay, I'm actually going to finish it!)
'I will accept any rules that you feel necessary to your freedom. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.' - Robert Heinlein
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Joined: Tue Jan 03, 2012 8:37 pm

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