Wooden computer case mod

I like the idea of standard form factor for motherboards, such as ATX. But one thing that has always bugged me about ATX motherboards is how large the ATX cases tend to be. I always figured it should be possible to build a much smaller ATX form factor computer case.

My original thought was to build a new case out of wood. But, thinking about this some more, it occurred to me that it would be much easier if I just reused the back panel from a regular ATX case. Of course, if I did that, I'd have to trash an ATX case, at which point, I might as well reuse whatever other bits could be reused from the original case.

I decided to make the case pretty much the same size as the ATX motherboard, and place the other components (power supply, hard drive, CD ROM) in the space above the motherboard.

original computer case case cut up
So I took an angle grinder to an ATX case, and screwed some of the metal pieces back together with sheet metal screws. The two pictures above show the before and after of the ATX case.

I shortened the case where the power supply normally goes, and instead made a cutout above the connector panel to mount the power supply in instead. The whole front of the case, which holds the drive bays, goes away.

case internal structure The next step was figuring out how to mount everything inside. I added various wooden pieces to reinforce the case and hold the Cdrom and the hard drive. The power supply also has a wooden support, although not visible in this picture.

I used an old 400 MHz ATX board whole doing this - no point in endangering a better motherboard with iron filings and sawdust. This board was a little bit smaller than the ATX board I Had in mind for the case, so there's a bit of space left in front of the board.

components mounted in case
This picture shows all the components mounted in the case. The wood is still present, just not visible with all the other components on it.

original case orientation
The cut up metal of course looks a little bit ugly. Plus, the side panels would have been hard to resize and fit into the case. So I surrounded the whole case with 6mm plywood. The catch is, with where I put the CD ROM drive, my original orientation for the case looks rather stupid. Note that CD ROM drives are perfectly usable lying on the side, even for inserting and removing CDs. That wasn't the problem so much as the aesthetics.

case finished
So I put the case on its side, pulled the little rubber feet off the original bottom, and put a plywood panel on that side as well. The case looks a little better that way. Overall dimensions are 35 x 26 x 20 cm. The original case dimensions were 47 x 42 x 19 cm, so I'm down to less than half the volume. Of course, the original case had tons of drive bays.

power and reset switches
For the panel lights, power and reset buttons, I wanted to stick with the wooden theme. So I made some wooden "buttons" that protrude thru the wooden case. The little tabs sticking out the side of the buttons are to keep the button from sliding all the way out of the case. These tabs slide in the slots cut next to two of the holes. The holes painted white are for the power and hard drive lights. The switches and lights are mounted in a piece of front panel I cut from the original case. The speaker is from the original case also.

I only have a 700 MHz P3 with 640 megs of RAM in the case right now. But being an ATX case, once I find a better motherboard for it, I'll put that in there. Its not beautiful, but I do find it more pleasing to look at than a standard ATX case.

For airflow, I leave two of the card slots on the back open. this way, air is drawn in the back, past the cards and CD ROM drive, then hopefully around to the hard drive and CPU, and out thru the power supply. Of course, with only a P3 in the case, heat is not that much of an issue. But I hope to put a less obsolete motherboard in that case eventually.

Update - Jun 2007

I scrounged an old P4 class motherboard to put into this case, but found that it was just slightly too deep to fit in this case. So I built another, better looking wooden computer case for that board.

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