Stoomdoos - steam in a box

robbee

Master of Cramming
Original poster
Silver Supporter
Sep 24, 2016
577
724


Howdy!

This is the complete worklog of my Stoomdoos (Stoʊmdoʊs, literal Dutch translation of Steambox).

I had been playing with the idea of building a wooden case for a while. I wanted to use it as HTPC mainly and be able to do some Steam couch gaming with it. So I decided to totally ignore my non-existing technical background and just start tinkering.

Here's the full hardware list I settled for:
- Asus h170i Plus D3
- Intel Core I3-6100
- Noctua NH-L12 with only bottom fan attached
- 8GB of low profile DDR3 Kingston ValueRAM
- Mini-box PicoPSU 160-XT along with their AC-DC
- MSI 1050ti low profile
- Sony Optiarc 5600S slot-in blu-ray reader

The case needed be able to hold an ODD bay, ITX board and a low profile gpu. I decided to have an external AC-DC, as the case won't be moving around and I can hide it behind the TV stand.


I'm gonna have the parts lasered into shape by Laserbeest.nl. The people at Laserbeest sent me some samples to choose from. I chose their 5mm oak veneer MDF along with a 5mm greenish frost acrylic plate and placed my order. They were very helpful and a couple of days later, I had the parts I needed. First thing I did was threating all the wood with linseed oil for some extra durability.


Bending wood isn't very easy. Solid wood can be bent with steam, but @blubblob luckely warned me that this could dissolve the glue holding the MDF fibers together. That's why I attempted to 'kerf bend' the panel. By kerf bending, you make cuts in the inside of the bend and the push those carves together. By filling them with glue, the panel will stay in its bent shape.

This method kind of worked. The only problem was that I couldn't bend the panel at such a small radius. This veneer made the panel a bit more stiff than I anticipated. So I took a risk by applying the steam method to get the veneer more flexible. The first attempt failed and the veneer cracked. I was prepared for this though as I had ordered 2 identical front panels. The second one bent without issues!


Bending acrylic is easier than bending wood. When you heat up acrylic, it becomes flexible and you can shape it as you desire. It requires quite some heat though, so I used a heat gun.

As with the front panels, I ordered 2 acrylic panels because this was something I hadn't done before. I decided upfront that I would bend one panel with a mold and one without, to see what gave the best result.

The first one, I bent around a filled PVC tube. The tube had the perfect radius, but I couldn't get the acrylic around it tight enough. The second one, I just marked where the bend should start and where it should end. This actually went a bit better, so I went with this panel.

I think the bend did reform the acrylic a bit because it's almost a centimeter too long now. I'll have some cutting to do. Also, after dragging the case around so much, the paint is starting to come off a bit. I'm gonna redo it all together and use a primer this time.


I suspected the wood wasn't strong enough to hold screws on its own. So I started searching for threaded inserts to hold the screws. It wasn't an easy task though, as the wood was only 5mm thick so they had to be very tiny inserts. In the end I found inserts meant for model building, which were only 4mm long. Perfect!

The motherboard standoffs are longer than normal because there's an ODD under the motherboard. They're 20mm long.

I also added the USB cable. It had to be a bit of a special cable, because the wooden panel is too thick for a regular cable. The connector had to be sunk into the panel a bit. A bit of a confusing explanation, but the pictures make it obvious.


There were just a couple of things left to do now: adding the case feet, the power button and inserting a power led behind the 'STOOMDOOS' letters.

For the feet, I used handles for drawers. Easy!

The power button was a cheapish vandal switch from aliexpress. Also easy!

For the power led, I ordered something called a Backlight Module from Adafruit. It was nice, though a little too small. So I made my own diffuser for a cheap led strip from aliexpress. Score!



What's left to do now? Nothing critical, but there's a couple of things I still want to do:
- Change the color of the power led to match the side panel's color
- Actually inserting the ODD, as my previous one died :(
- Adding @iFreilicht his Iris 16 when it comes out
- Replace the external AC-DC by an internal Meanwell unit? Still not sure...

 
Last edited:

Phuncz

Lord of the Boards
Editorial Staff
Moderator
Gold Supporter
May 9, 2015
5,334
4,631
An interesting organic looking design, can't wait to see this become reality !
 
  • Like
Reactions: ricochet

ricochet

SFF AFFLICTED
Oct 20, 2016
547
345
Steaming then bending (via molding and clamping) will result in a perfectly smooth curve while leaving the wood very strong... it is very easy to do, though a bit cumbersome and timely... I have used this method many times when building wooden boats as a kid and it works beautifully.
 

ricochet

SFF AFFLICTED
Oct 20, 2016
547
345
Here are a few pics... of course I couldn't find a single one showing the steaming set-up which included a 6 m long x 15 cm diameter (12' long x 6" diameter) PVC pipe connected to a pressure cooker via a rubber hose. You can see how easy it is to bend wood once it is thoroughly steamed and allowed to cool/dry over a day or so.


Red Oak Keel, Chines, Sheers, and Battens clamped/bending on Bending/Framing Jigs


Bending Jig for Keel and Keel Bateen


Steamed red oak being bent and clamped onto Keel/Keel Banteen Bending JIg


Steaming and Bending Red Oak Chines, Sheers, and Bateens on Bending Frame/Jig


Bent Red Oak Keel Laid Over Plywood Frames and Secured into the Red Oak Seat Plank


Bent Red Oak Keel Rabbited, Epoxied, and Screwed into Bottom of the Seat
 

blubblob

SFF Lingo Aficionado
Jul 26, 2016
101
123
I would like to point out that shaping veneered MDF as suggested in the OP is a completely different beast from bending solid wood.

With solid wood the steam elasticizes the cell structure which then set in the new, desired shape.
MDF has no cell structure to speak of though, it's just wood fibers mixed with glue baked together under high pressure. Applying steam randomly will just deteriorate the material with the fibers swelling like hell. You have to hit the steam moisture and temperature just right to elasticize the glue without the fibers swelling up like a sponge.

On the other hand kerf bending works really well using MDF due to its uniform consistency.
 

ricochet

SFF AFFLICTED
Oct 20, 2016
547
345
I would like to point out that shaping veneered MDF as suggested in the OP is a completely different beast from bending solid wood.

With solid wood the steam elasticizes the cell structure which then set in the new, desired shape.
MDF has no cell structure to speak of though, it's just wood fibers mixed with glue baked together under high pressure. Applying steam randomly will just deteriorate the material with the fibers swelling like hell. You have to hit the steam moisture and temperature just right to elasticize the glue without the fibers swelling up like a sponge.

On the other hand kerf bending works really well using MDF due to its uniform consistency.
Good catch; I completely missed his use of veneered MDF... totally concur, don't steam and bend MDF! I have done it and it always turns out like crap.
 
  • Like
Reactions: robbee

robbee

Master of Cramming
Original poster
Silver Supporter
Sep 24, 2016
577
724
This looks really nice, how will you be joining the panels together?

The MDF parts will be glued. The acrylic cover will eiter use some kind of hidden hinge or magnets to keep it in place.

I've placed an order to get the parts lasered but it might take another week, as I have to wait for an external supplier for the acrylic panel.
 
  • Like
Reactions: ricochet

robbee

Master of Cramming
Original poster
Silver Supporter
Sep 24, 2016
577
724
A bit overdue, but I should receive the parts by the end of next week. Meanwhile, i've been testing some nuts and screws for the motherboard standoffs, and i found M3 nuts that don't stick all the way through the panel for a clean look on the outside. Now i just need to shorten the threads on the standoffs themselves, as they are quite a bit longer.
 

ricochet

SFF AFFLICTED
Oct 20, 2016
547
345
Beautiful! I really like the Stoomdoos build name cut into the panels. The green hued glass is going to be perfect with this shade of wood. Please add a pic of the glass so we can see the vent pattern. Very cool!
 
  • Like
Reactions: robbee

robbee

Master of Cramming
Original poster
Silver Supporter
Sep 24, 2016
577
724
Beautiful! I really like the Stoomdoos build name cut into the panels. The green hued glass is going to be perfect with this shade of wood. Please add a pic of the glass so we can see the vent pattern. Very cool!

Thanks! I'll take some pictures of the acrylic when I get home from work :)
 
  • Like
Reactions: ricochet

ricochet

SFF AFFLICTED
Oct 20, 2016
547
345
I really like the vent pattern with the varying diameters. Very chic! Just hope it bends well for you. Keeping my fingers crossed for you.