Plain, beige, noisy computers are both annoying and boring, right? I’ve decided to solve the problem by designing and constructing a wooden computer cabinet. This project took many full days’ worth of work to complete. The entire construction process was undertaken by myself and my grandfather who has an extensive wood shop with which we were able to build this unique computer case. The inside of the case will be covered with aluminum foil to keep EMFs from getting out, and the exterior will have molding around the edges to look like a good piece of furniture. It will be stained to an “Early American” color. This page documents the construction process from design time to finish.
PHASE 1: Concept & Design
These are internal parts layouts for the new case. I modeled each main component to-scale in 3D and then arranged them for the best fit virtually. The motherboard will be at the bottom which will be good since the heatsinks will be huge and heavy. This way, they won’t cause undo stress to the CPU sockets.
I have provided my CAD drawings in PNG format here:
Everything is to scale, with each grid block in the drawings being 1/8 inch. These drawings are being used to plan the pieces of wood to cut.
PHASE 2: Construction
The bottom of the case is 3/4″ plywood to provide stability. Seen here is an old motherboard mounted so that measurements could be taken to make the hole for the card slots. This temporary motherboard, as well as the real one will be installed onto 1/4″ bronze/brass mounting posts. This way, the back of the motherboard does not come into contact with the wood. Additionally, a dedicated grounding wire will go from one of the motherboard mounts to the PSU.
The hole for the card slots was created with a router. Once cut with the router, a sanding drum mounted in the drill press was used to make the edges perfectly smooth and flat…
…like this. A metal plate taken from another case will be placed in these openings. These are the only parts taken from another case for use with this project.
Next, we figured out where the drive holes would go and drew them on. Like the card slot hole, these will be cut with the router. Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures during all the commotion with the router
Once the drive holes were cut and sanded with the drill press, the first two sides were installed onto the bottom.
Just another view…
The fan hole needed to be created next. For this, a hole saw which is in fact a “cuttting compass” was used. It took forever, but worked nonetheless. The resulting hole was perfect with ZERO tearout.
More sides were installed, and the metal plate for the card slots was installed as well. The hole in the upper left is for the power supply while the round hole in the upper right is the fan hole.
There’s the 172mm fan…
In the pic above, the one on the left is the 172mm fan, and the one on the right is a 120mm. This 172mm fan is rated 24 volts and moves 230cfm! It moves lots of air at 12 volts while being fairly quiet, but at 5 volts, it is silent and still moves a lot of air. The concept is huge fan running slow = inaudible. I may have a switch to select 12 or 5 volts based on what I am doing on the computer.
The drive rails were installed on the right panel shown here. The rails are aluminum angle brackets picked up at Lowes. The drives will sit on shelves which slide in from the left side which is also the access door.
Another view of the drive rails…
Aluminum foil was then installed…
…and then some more aluminum was installed. The aluminum keeps radio interference from coming out of the computer, and from external interference from going in. The foil is heavy duty Reynolds Wrap. The Aluminum foil is grounded directly to the power supply via a heavy duty wire which also helps prevent static buildup. The picture above is right side up, we just had the case upside down
The door, hinges and catches were installed next.
A hole was drilled in the front in between and below the drives which will contain the keyswitch to power the system on.
PHASE 3: Sealing, Staining & Molding
Once the case was constructed, it was sealed with wood sealer, and then coated with one coat of MinWax “Early American” stain. The plywood is oak veneer, and once the molding is installed, it will look like a solid oak cabinet. It is important that you use Plywood and NOT solid wood. The heat/cool cycle of the computer could cause warping or splitting!! The color of the case in the photo below is more accurate.
Another view of the stained case.
Next, we made all the molding ourselves using the router. The molding is solid oak.
Once the molding dried, it was installed. The next day, I touched up the molding with stain and installed the solid brass door handle.
These are the moldings for the drives.
I then installed the fan filter. I know, it’s ugly, but it will work until I find a better one.
It was finally time to install the computer’s guts. The duct tape seen on the fan is to keep the fan from recycling air from inside the case. The inside is busy but it’s all about the exterior on this baby…
The drive mounting system works as follows: The parts in orange are the sides of the case. The parts in red are the aluminum angle brackets installed on the right side wall of the case. The parts in green are screws. The three screws in the aluminum brackets are positioned so that the drive shelves (magenta) can not move backwards on the right side. On the left side, a piece of wood with slots in the side (yellow) is placed in front of two green screws to prevent the left sides of the shelves from going back. When the door is shut, they can’t move from side to side. This configuration results in a very solid drive mounting system. The drives themselves (grey) are mounted to the shelves using the screw holes on the bottom.
I’ve gotten a few requests for closeup pics of the drive mounts…here they are:
A back view of the computer with guts installed.
Final Pic 1
Final Pic 2
Final Pic 3