|MICRO CENTER: COMPUTERS AND ELECTRONICS|
|In The Lab
Art Nouveau Case Mod, Part 1
(Return of "What I did over Summer Vacation")
Last year at this time, I was working away on the Egypt Mod case. With travel back and forth to our new North Jersey Micro Center, I seem to have had less time to spend messing around on a new case modification. However, I have not been entirely idle, as I have been trying a little wood carving. Besides, with the warm weather, it is much more comfortable being down in the nice cool basement...
My latest project is inspired by the flowing drapery and organic aspects found in art nouveau design. I am not a carpenter by any stretch of the imagination, but that won't stop me from creating what amounts to a fancy wood shell that depends on an existing case shell to provide support and the mechanical functionality of a desktop case. To tie the project elements together, I decided to incorporate flowering dogwood blossoms into the design of the wood panels and windows. I want the natural wood grain to be obvious, and it should also fit with a color scheme of pink and white. I settled on Bubinga for the wood, and obtained a nice selection of this "African rosewood" from the neighborhood Woodcraft store.
My first step was to strip off all of the plastic parts, windows, and trim pieces to take the case down to the basic metal shell. Because the drive bays were designed to position the drive out through the front of the plastic bezel, I need an extension to my case for the same purpose. I want a solid door to cover the front bays, but also decided that decorative openings for the drives and front panel should be an integral part of the project. To support a new bezel, I added a rectangular frame and anchored it to the case with a couple of 90° angle supports. Openings for the 5.25" and 3.5" drive bays and the front panel connections were marked and cut through the bezel panel. A wood grid fits snugly into the opening and supports the new front bezel. Wood screws on either side prevent the bezel from shifting or being pulled out. The grid is glued to the front panel before carving and finishing the surface.
Front drive bay panel
Integrated into the bezel design are a (wood) power button and a frosted quartz cabochon, which will diffuse the LED light for power status and hard drive activity. Once I had the openings designed into the pattern, holes are carefully cut into inserts that are mounted in the bezel's support grid and the power switch and LEDs are hot-glued into place. Hot glue should be secure enough to hold, but flexible enough that it can be torn out if switch or LED needs replacement. Translucent white glass is trimmed and installed behind the carved blossoms in anticipation of some specialty lighting to be added later.
To create a large solid wood panel for carving, two boards are glued together along one edge. The side panel is trimmed to size, and the pattern transferred onto the wood with pencil and marker. Starter holes are drilled and the back of the panel has a recess routed out to hold a window. A jigsaw is used to cut the large opening and some of the larger openings in the blossom pattern. Then, using a high-speed rotary bit in a Dremel tool, the smaller openings are cut out. Using a selection of burrs in a flexible shaft, the curves and blossom details are roughed out. After that, it's more carving, lots and lots of sanding, and finally sealing of the wood.
From left to right: (1) pattern traced on side panel. (2) Routing out the opening for rear-mounting the window. (3) Rough-carved side panel.
After the side panels have been carved and sanded, they are attached to the chassis panels with four or five screws. Marks through the carved openings are transferred to the metal panels and then sketched in a connect-the-dots fashion on the sheet metal. With the outline clearly marked on the painted surface, the wood is removed and the metal panel goes outside with my handy-dandy plasma torch to quickly cut out the window openings.
A board is cut to fit on the top of the case between the two side panels with a design sketched directly on the wood and then rough-carved to shape. As I was working on this piece, I saw that one area lined up pretty well between the position of the power supply and the front drive bays. By routing this out and adding open-work dogwood blossoms, the top panel can now allow for air flow if a top case fan is added. Right now, it makes a shadow-box style dust trap; if I don't install a fan, I will add a piece of glass behind it to match the front panel appearance. With all of the wood panels completed, everything is attached to the metal case. Any of the panels that will have glass installed will have to come off again, but to complete the door, I need to know the positions of the sides and top to make the best fit.
With the top and side panels attached and in position, a thick length of board is cut to size as a front door. The extra thickness is needed so I can carve designs on both surfaces. The outside surface is carved with curves and blossoms like the other panels. Since the quartz cabochon is the highest point on the inside panel, its position is marked on the inside of the door to have a depression carved at that location. Additional curves and blossoms are worked into the design and the inside of the door carved and finished. A length of piano hinge is attached along one side of the door, and then the door attached to the edge of the right hand side panel. To keep the door closed, a small magnet is embedded in the door and a second one in the edge of the side panel.
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