Prototype Hardwood ITX Case Monitor Stand Style

Shipright

Caliper Novice
Original poster
Jan 30, 2020
24
19
Greetings!

Some background before the details. I was traveling for a few months this past fall and had a lot of time in a hotel room away from home to brainstorm all sorts of projects. One was to build a new PC as my current rig was from 2013 and showing its age. I started with a regular old ATX in mind but after over researching I eventually fell into the world of SFF cases and my imagination took over. Then I discovered some of the wood cases out there, both commercially and custom jobs by enthusiasts, and I realized I could blend several of my hobbies together for a good project to keep me busy.

My space constraints are not extreme and I am personally not a maximalist when it comes to pushing the limits of small dimensions. My goals for the design are :

1.) Small enough to fit on my desk inconspicuously.
2.) Minimalist in style and presentation to blend in with my furniture.
3.) Enough performance options for mid-level gaming and production.
4.) Room for upgrading should greater performance become desired.
5.) Be a quality long-lasting piece of furniture.
6.) All wood and aluminum parts must be fabricated via 6040 CNC.

As you can tell from the pictures and as would be inevitable for this style and material case, the Volta V is obviously one of the cases I crossed paths with (as well as the Taku). It seems like good kit, but I am personally not a fan of its asymmetry and especially it's completely nonfunctional but function suggesting front panel. A good bit of this project is taking that basic layout and making all the exterior features functional in relevant ways, and if not removing them. One note is in using structural wood the thickness of the case is not a rounding error, so there are two volumes given.









Details:

- Overall Dimensions 540mm L x 315mm W x 116mm H
- Internal Volume 12.6L
- Total Volume (panel external planes in) 19.7L
- Max GPU Length 254mm
- 92mm x8 Fans, 4 front, 2 back
- Room for 2 Dual 92mm Radiators (Aquacool NexXxos XT45 used for design)
- ITX or M-DTX Mother Boards
- MB cooler height approximately 78mm.
- SFX PSU
- Front I/O (2 USB 3.X)
- Magnetic Attached Top Panel

The case is made up of six wood panels (five using dowel joints, one screw) and two interior bracing panels that also serve as fan/radiator/dust filter mounts. The default configuration is shown and will be a full size two fan GPU, ITX MB, one dual 92mm Radiator with two 92mm slim pull fans, two 92mm slim intake fans, two 92mm slim exhaust fans, and an SFX power supply. There is an area forward of the PSU left empty to allow for options for hard drive racks, water cooling pump/reservoir, or any other future expansion. Power and Reset buttons are on the back. The MB I/O is internal to the case, with two passthrough cableways (one rear, one bottom). All predrilled mountings will have metal threaded inserts to preserve the life of the wood, though obviously new holes can be drilled as required for custom additions. There are no feet on the images but they will only be roughly a 1/4 inch tall, there is no intention to put a keyboard under it.

For cooling, it's a straight front to back affair, there are no vents to the bottom for intakes or exhausts. Water cooling of the CPU is assumed. The case was designed for the Aquacool NExXxos XT45 Dual 92mm Radiator. You can use others of course, but access to screws mounts was only evaluated for this radiator. For the GPU the two fans in front of it push intake air over the top and around the card. The GPU fans face up into the top void allowing it to pull fresh air into the card.

The case will be pre-configured for other configuration options. Specifically, a second radiator for an extended primary or independent GPU (or another purpose) cooling loop if a shorter GPU is used, and the aluminum panels are predrilled to allow tubing access to the front panel, which can be replaced with a distribution plate/reservoir.

The only RGBs the case will come with is a strip around and recessed into the interior of the front panel, providing a backlight around that panel if desired. I am thinking of a simple white illumination at startup and red for error.

I am curious what you guys think about the idea. I have been kicking around doing it all over again with 80mm fans which will significantly reduce the overall size but for now I feel there would be too many compromises. Thanks for taking a look!
 

warmack

Trash Compacter
Warmack Woodworks
Nov 4, 2018
42
46
So the front panel is designed to "float" and draw air in around the sides? That's pretty slick.
 

Shipright

Caliper Novice
Original poster
Jan 30, 2020
24
19
Progress!!!


But probably not what you thought it would be.

I often see a lot of people being dismissive of wooden case projects, commercial or hobbyist, on other sites. Every Volta V thread has dudes claiming they can remake it for half the price in a few hours with their joe shmoe garage tools.

That's not how it works. If you were to buy enough premade panels just to start the project you would already have blown past most case prices before doing any work at all. Due to this, I am gluing up panels in this picture. This is the prototype so I am suing hobby poplar boards from lows. This will make the raw wood cost for the case roughly $30. For the final project, I will have to mill walnut myself to keep the cust down. After jointing and then cutting down and sanding the panels it's about three hours of work.

In any case, I am happy to be getting something actually made even if its just material preparation.
 

c12

Cable Smoosher
Jun 25, 2020
9
12
This is cool, though I am wondering how restrictive that front panel design will be to airflow. Also are you planning to stack things on top of the case? It would be cool to see an option where you could mount a radiator to the top cover panel, occupying the space where the 92mm rad currently lives as well as some of the "flex" area.
 

Shipright

Caliper Novice
Original poster
Jan 30, 2020
24
19
This is a true console so the idea is you monitor sits on top.

I am trying to keep this a “through” design with straight front to back airflow. I too am concerned about the front panel airflow and will be doing some testing with the prototype. If it doesn’t work I have a few alternate ideas to replace the solid panels with something more open. You can actually get real decrorative with the options.

as far as stacking the real limitation with this form and limiting your intakes to the smallest dimension is being stuck with small diameter fans and associated radiators. If this fails I feel that will be the reason; the loss ofefficiency and noise control using 92mm indtead of 120mm or larger fans. It also prevents the use of fan carrying components from acting as intakes (PSU, GPU). As I am sure you noticed there are six 92mm fan spots. You can get almost the same fan area with two 120s.

I have another idea that is a bottom to back airflow that will let you stack how you suggest, but one project at a time.
 

c12

Cable Smoosher
Jun 25, 2020
9
12
Makes sense, love the concept and excited to see the prototype. You read my mind and addressed my other thought regarding the limitation to 92mm fans.
 

Shipright

Caliper Novice
Original poster
Jan 30, 2020
24
19
Questions for the board regarding GPU mounting.

1.) are there any issues with the GPU facing fans up? The cavity on top of the GPU will allow the front fan to push fresh air directly over the top, so if I can have the GPU draw from there I feel that will be better. I don’t think so but I have never actually build a rigwith this orientation.

2. the GPU is only mounted to the back panel so I planned to have some plastic/robber knobs (height adjustable) placed at the approximate front two corners of a full sized card with the intendtto keep the card a centimeter or two above the bottom plate to allow some airflow around the card. Will this contact with the back of the PCB be an issue?
 

warmack

Trash Compacter
Warmack Woodworks
Nov 4, 2018
42
46
1.) are there any issues with the GPU facing fans up? The cavity on top of the GPU will allow the front fan to push fresh air directly over the top, so if I can have the GPU draw from there I feel that will be better. I don’t think so but I have never actually build a rigwith this orientation.

I would be worried about recycling the hot air that exhausts out of the card on the side of the case. With enough airflow from the front fans I doubt this would be a big issue, but probably not "ideal". Are you planning any vents out of the side of the case? That would allow somewhere for the GPU exhaust to go instead of recycling back into the case.
 

Shipright

Caliper Novice
Original poster
Jan 30, 2020
24
19
There are two dedicated exhaust fans at the back of the case, one offset from the card by a cm or so. So the idea is to have a straight flow front to back to draw out the GPUexhaust air.

I would love to have a linear flow front to back along the axis of the GPU but the GPU I/O prevents this.

Good point though. I will observe this specifically with the prototype.
 

Shipright

Caliper Novice
Original poster
Jan 30, 2020
24
19
So that took longer than expected.

These are all the wood panels mostly complete. I still have to CNC the rear panel for the GPU, power supply, and exhaust fan cutouts. I am waiting for the aluminum to arrive so I can start the metal fabrication.



I went with two types of threaded inserts on this prototype to downselect for the actual build. I thought the brass knifed inserts would look better (the smaller ones in the mouther board position but in the end the flanged ones both look cleaner and were FAR easier to install.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Skripka

Valantar

Shrink Way Wielder
Jan 20, 2018
1,613
1,471
This is a really nice concept, I like the base design a lot. It'll be cool to see how this comes out :) The work you've done so far also looks really good! The final walnut build will likely be quite the sight to behold (even if I personally would probably have preferred oak :) ).

A couple of points of feedback:
- The gap around the floating front panel looks very restrictive to airflow. Depending on how thick the front fascia piece is going to be, you might want to mill a chamfer into its back to help direct airflow towards the edges (or just keep it as thin as possible). Mainstream ATX cases have demonstrated quite clearly how restrictive designs like this are, and with 92mm fans that's likely to force some relatively loud fan speeds.
- The complete lack of physical access to rear I/O seems ... optimistic. Clearance between the motherboard and rear fans looks tight enough that inserting even a relatively standard USB connector might prove problematic without removing the fans. I'm assuming you don't need a lot of connected peripherals, but even then I think I'd look into some way of making it more accessible. Perhaps that part of the rear panel could fold down/slide out somehow?
 
  • Like
Reactions: timginter

Shipright

Caliper Novice
Original poster
Jan 30, 2020
24
19
This is a really nice concept, I like the base design a lot. It'll be cool to see how this comes out :) The work you've done so far also looks really good! The final walnut build will likely be quite the sight to behold (even if I personally would probably have preferred oak :) ).

A couple of points of feedback:
- The gap around the floating front panel looks very restrictive to airflow. Depending on how thick the front fascia piece is going to be, you might want to mill a chamfer into its back to help direct airflow towards the edges (or just keep it as thin as possible). Mainstream ATX cases have demonstrated quite clearly how restrictive designs like this are, and with 92mm fans that's likely to force some relatively loud fan speeds.
- The complete lack of physical access to rear I/O seems ... optimistic. Clearance between the motherboard and rear fans looks tight enough that inserting even a relatively standard USB connector might prove problematic without removing the fans. I'm assuming you don't need a lot of connected peripherals, but even then I think I'd look into some way of making it more accessible. Perhaps that part of the rear panel could fold down/slide out somehow?

I appreciate the kind words. It has been quite an adventure and I am learning a lot about woodworking. Spending a lot too, but I am looking forward to using these tools and lessons on other projects.

I share your concerns about the gap. One of the lessons learned is that a mm looks a lot bigger in 3D software. For the follow-up I will be adding a 1/2" to the spacing between the floating panel and the aluminum panels (doing this, however, will put the USB ports out of reach so more thought is needed). That void should aid in airflow. Additionally, I suspect that the 1/2" wood panels might be too weak for larger monitors. I will weight test the prototype on completion but I am thinking I will have to bulk up to 3/4" panels. All of that to say with an overall increase on front cross-section size, I can correspondingly increase the gap for greater flow. I also have some ideas for some other aftermarket panel options that are mor meshy. I like your idea about the chamfer, and If I do increase the wood thickness I will not do so to the floating panel.

On the rear I/O it's definitely a compromise. I personally do not fiddle with the rear connections on my PCs all that often. I might plug in a phone charger or card reader every now and again using the front I/O. This is meant to integrate as a piece of furniture from all sides as much as possible. That said I hear you about the tightness of the plug-in area. Like the front, I will probably add at least a 1/2" here. I tested it and you can get most things in there, but like you said with the fans its an iffy situation. I am going to use this prototype as my main system as I build the next one, so I will get to live with this for a bit to see if it works out. The Volta-V used a similar configuration.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Valantar

warmack

Trash Compacter
Warmack Woodworks
Nov 4, 2018
42
46
Looking good. I think once everything is together 1/2” will be sturdy enough, but no reason not to move up to 3/4” as the lumber is probably starting out close to that thickness anyways so I don’t imagine price should change too much. 3/4” lumber will probably also be less prone to warping.
 

Shipright

Caliper Novice
Original poster
Jan 30, 2020
24
19
Agreed. 3/4" is easier to source and get in larger dimensions to make pannel building easier. I have had issues with warping. The bottom and sides will eventually be glued up in multiple dimensions to hold shape, but the top is a stand-alone part and I have had to work out warps several times already.

I would also like to find some black USB ports, that blue sticks out like a sore thumb and the final version will have all the aluminum anodized and dyed black. Home anodizing will be the next tooling adventure.
 

Shipright

Caliper Novice
Original poster
Jan 30, 2020
24
19
Updates. One of the hardest parts of has been the GPU mount as it is something other than a simple screw mount. GPUs are also not designed to integrate into 1/2" thick case walls.

This was my solution:









As you can see I used different sized washers sandwiched between two plates to create the correct seating space for the pronged side of the GPU rear plate, then added a threaded insert to the interior of the cutout to screw in the bent side of the GPU rear plate. The mounting is fully reversable.

And finally the glue-up is underway. I made some stupid mistakes here that caused some warping and cracking of the rear panel. I was able to mitigate all of this and it's only noticeable upon close inspection, but I will always know the errors are there. This all happened a few days ago, I am in the process of adding the wood finish to the completed.
 

Shipright

Caliper Novice
Original poster
Jan 30, 2020
24
19
So the finishing continues. This is the front:



As you can see its missing the floating panel. I am still waiting on the mounting hardware to arrive before finishing the board. And now the rear:



As you can see the lid has some fitting issues due to warping. I will probably have to redo it. That being said its almost impossible to pick out the cracks I had to repair in the back panel even in person. And now a peek inside with some components for scale:



I used a natural oil finish which highlights the natural wood. I think came out great. You can't really tell but there is a slight but noticeable translucence to the surfaces. It's still just poplar, but I am trial running this finish here for later use on the walnut version. I was going to stain this to look like walnut but why pretend, and this product is all-natural so no respirators or other PPE required for the application. I may add a coating of finishing wax to the exterior surfaces.
 
  • Like
Reactions: pwnedundies

robbee

Master of Cramming
Silver Supporter
Sep 24, 2016
541
660
Looking better and better! The GPU cutout being mirrored is very clever :) This is probably way too late now, but did you consider a miter joint between the top, bottom and both sides?