Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Small Form Factor Case Mod

I wanted to build a custom firewall/router PC. Something small and compact, and which would use up some of my old computer parts.

Let's see what we have to work with?

What a ridiculously bulbous case! No wonder Packard-Bell went out of business.

Ah, that's better: The metal part of the case isn't too bad. We can work with this!

Drives? Who needs 'em! With the drive bay cut off, I shortened the case by a third. Then I used new rivets to attach the old top at the new height. Very clean - looks almost stock.

Unfortunately, the side panel now doesn't fit.

Mr. Side Panel, meet Mr. Angle Grinder.

I knew I'd never be able to cut a perfect edge with the grinder, so I riveted aluminium bar stock to make a skirt to stiffen the panel and mask the imperfection. If you can't make it, fake it!

Now I just need a face plate.

Look! A perfect fit - other than being ginormously tall. I really like the styling on this face plate better though.

We'll just cut it in half too. Uh oh... I didn't account for that big hole on the top of faceplate after it's cut.

What better way to fix the top of the faceplate than with the, er, top? The steel files in the background: I used those to trim the cuts so they'd glue together flush. I have mad skills with files. You can see here there's still going to be a seam no matter what I do.

Time to pull a design trick with the magician's old standby: indirection! Since I can't make the seam impossible to notice, I'll do the opposite and call attention to the area with a little decoration. Who knew strap iron could be so appealing? Earl Martin calls my style "industrial art deco," which I think has a nice ring to it.

Here's how I laid the parts out to fit them in such a small space.

The finished case mod in all it's glory, sitting as the capstone on my pyramid of computers.

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