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Log Welka 3 (wooden Velka 3 clone)

hyshka

Chassis Packer
Original poster
Jun 10, 2020
16
5
Outer Dimensions: 13.2 x 24.7 x 21.1 cm (6.88 L)
Inner Dimensions: 11.3 x 22.7 x 19.4 cm (4.97 L)
Image Gallery: https://cloud.hyshka.com/s/GNCQsz2eafQGAzH




Summary
I've always wanted to build a PC since I was a kid but never really had the need or space for it. Once I saw a few SFFPC builds on Reddit I got sucked in.

I did this build mostly for fun and because I needed a little hobby when a lot of things were shut down because of the pandemic. I am a software developer so this build will be my new daily driver but I also do some light 1080p gaming, mostly WoW but I've been wanting to get back into some shooters as well.

I love the design of the Velka 3 cases, particularly the 2.0 version coming out soon, but due to the pandemic and it being a niche manufacturer it didn't seem possible to get my hands on one any time soon. So...I decided to DIY my own with some plywood that I had on hand.

Component Choice
There wasn't too much to this except for the CPU and PSU, and maybe the back and forth I did on the Motherboard. I took the M.2 drive from my current NUC machine and picked up the GPU used. In hindsight, I probably should have asked for a lower price on the GPU but it was the cheapest one listed in my area. If I didn't get used I was eyeing up a 1650 Super for not much more coin.

When I started planning this build I was looking at a 2600 or a 3600 but luckily the 3300X came out at a nice price point. I opted for it over the 3100 because people were saying you get better latency between the cores or something. I defer to the PC gods.

I knew I wanted a B450 mobo but jumped back and forth between the brand options out there. There wasn't any stock for quite a while but I kept checking every day and eventually a local shop had an open box on this mobo which I snatched up immediately.

The PSU was a tricky one, I wanted the 600W Enhance because it was very well-reviewed in terms of build quality and noise, however, it was very difficult to find one for a good price and to get it shipped in a timely manner. I ended up going with the Silverstone because it was available for a good price and met my power requirements, even though I knew I'd have to replace the fan to reduce the noise.

Also worth noting is that I could not find an actual NH-L9a for under $100 so I purchased the NH-L9i with a mounting kit for a reasonable price.
Case Design
I love the style of the Velka 3 cases and I wanted something very compact so I started mocking up a design in SketchUp. This was a really important step for me because I just couldn't wrap my head around sizing the woodcuts without doing something more visual. It took a bit of time to get used to working in SketchUp but I was able to lay out each panel and component in their (roughly) exact dimensions.

I modelled the layout after the Velka 3 2.0 revision so the PSU is at the top because ultimately I may be mounting this underneath my desk...although I am digging the look of it right on top of my desk now.

The trickiest part was sizing the IO cutouts, I had to refer to some spec sheets I found to reverse engineer the exact dimensions for my back panel. Having the material (plywood) and stand-offs in-hand was critical for sizing, as my design didn't allow for much margin of error.

Case Build and Pre-fit
I used some 3/8" plywood that I had on-hand already, the trickiest parts were making the IO cutouts but every cut took quite a while. My first two panels weren't accurate enough so I had to scrap them and come up with a better system. I only have a circular saw and hand tools so I made a poor man's jig with some scrap wood so that I could clamp down the board for each cut. I got really tired of measuring over and over, but I managed to get all of the cuts within a good tolerance (~1mm or less).

For the IO cutouts, the mockup I designed wasn't accurate enough so I had to take measurements once I had the mobo and GPU pre-fit inside the case. It was around this time I noticed some things I missed in my design. I put my PSU offset to the GPU side so there was only ~5mm space to the edge - this didn't allow enough space for my angle brackets and without a bracket, the corner was bending outwards. In hindsight, I should have centered the PSU and made the case a bit wider or found narrower angle brackets. My workaround was to modify a bracket and mount it to the top panel so that it is on the outside of the back panel.

Once I had the IO cutouts in I did a full pre-fit with the GPU and PSU as well to see how the cable routing would look.

Mounting the PSU took a bit of experimentation because the screws I was planning on using were too short and the mounting plate at the back of the PSU was raised. I had to hunt for some larger screws and used washers to support the plate so it wouldn't bend.

From there I sanded everything down, applied 2 coats of a "natural" colour oil-based stain, and another 2 coats of a water-based polyurethane clear coat.

Component Test
While I was waiting for the finish to dry I did a full "bench-table" test with all of the components to ensure everything was working before modding the PSU and also so I'd have some lead time in case I needed to replace anything.

Once I figured out how to "jump-start" the mobo with a screwdriver everything went great. It was around this time that I realized I would need a power button so I ordered the cheapest 12mm button I found on DigiKey - luckily this was just in time to drill the hole in the front panel before finishing.

PSU Modifications
I knew the Silverstone would be noisy from the beginning so I found a thread on smallformfactor.net where some people were explaining how to swap the fan with a Noctua. That replacement was straightforward because I knew the polarity would be flipped between the stock fan and a Noctua. I just cut the 2 pin adapter included with the Noctua, flipped the polarity there, and soldered it back together.

One thing that annoyed me about the Noctua fan is that I couldn't tuck the fan wires into the groove they have so the wires would come directly out of the back of the fan, instead, I had to settle for the wires coming out of the top of the fan before heading back into the PSU case. It was a minor nitpick but I found the plastic groove to be too stiff to bend and I didn't want to unwrap the wires enough to try putting them in one at a time.

I found the PSU cables to be very stiff so I decided to try removing the shrink wrap on them that holds the sleeve in place. The stock shrink wrap was very stiff and by just replacing it with some electrical tape it became a lot easier to do the bends I needed in the case.

I also opted to remove the misc. cables that I didn't need entirely (SATA, 4-pin Molex, etc.), I just shrinkwrapped the ends and tucked them away in the PSU case. While I was in there I was able to re-arrange the wires coming out of the case a bit, again, this just helped with the tight bends right outside the PSU.

Assembly
The final assembly went very smooth, I had already done it 3 or so times at this point due to all the pre-fitting. I was happy I was able to tuck away the extra slack on the riser cable at the bottom of the case so the PSU got some more airflow underneath it.

I had some wire and female pin connectors on-hand so I whipped up the wires for the power button myself, I like how the button itself turned out.

Cable management was really simple since I removed all the extra connectors.

I was too excited to play around with it at this point that I neglected finishing the side panels.

Benching and Undervolting
After getting it fired up, everything ran very well in Windows 10 and Linux. I started by firing up some games to get a sense of gaming performance and it was great for my needs.

I had done a bunch of reading on Undervolting and how you can reduce temps with little performance impact so I decided to play around with that for both the CPU and GPU.

CPU
Stock
BenchmarkScoreCPU WattsCPU Temp
Idle2040.2
CR202502 MT, 492 ST66.879
Heaven 4.02018xx

-225mV Undervolt (lowest stable)
BenchmarkScoreCPU WattsCPU Temp
Idle17.341.5
CR202057 MT46.866.5
Heaven 4.0204330.452.1
Prime95 (20min)x56.876.3

-100mV Undervolt
BenchmarkScoreCPU WattsCPU Temp
CR202229 MT, 433 ST5673.8

I found -225mV to be the lowest stable voltage offset, but it had a substantial performance drop so for now I chose to stick with a -100mV offset which still had around a 10% performance drop but ran cooler under stress. During gaming now it is very quiet with the NH-L9a.

I don't have enough benchmark runs to know if I'll stick with -100mV but I got tired of running benchmarks for now. I will do more in the future and I might change up my voltages then.

GPU
Stock
BenchmarkScoreGPU WattsGPU Temp
Idle958
TimeSpy4053118.383
Heaven 4.02018xx

-850mV Undervolt (lowest stable)
BenchmarkScoreGPU WattsGPU Temp
TimeSpy396689.479

90W Power Limit (for Linux)
BenchmarkScoreGPU WattsGPU Temp
TimeSpy396491.481
Heaven 4.018849182

At stock, the GPU was thermally constrained and it could not maintain boost clocks (1835MHz). A -850mV undervolt was the lowest I could get it stable and with only a ~2.1% performance drop I got around 30% less wattage and 3-4 degrees cooler, and it could maintain the boost clocks almost constantly.

It's not possible to undervolt with the Nvidia drivers in Linux so I opted for a 90W power limit which produced similar results to the actual undervolt but had a slightly higher performance drop of ~2.4% in TimeSpy (Windows 10) and ~6.7% in Heaven 4.0 (Linux).

Final Thoughts
Overall I am super happy with this build as I had a lot of fun building it and enjoyed playing around in software land as well.

If I were to build it again today, I'd probably make it a little wider to allow for cleaner support of one of the top corners of the back panel, and have space for an internal 2.5" SSD.

I could see myself upgrading the M.2 for more storage, 250GB turns out to not be enough for trying new games so right now I'm using an external USB3 2.5" HD for some game storage.

Right now there's more than enough performance for me, but I could see my next big upgrade being either a new GPU or some faster memory. Also, I am considering doing a similar build with hardwood instead of plywood and trying to get a really nice finish, but I'm very satisfied with it right now.

Now, to finish those side panels...
 

SiKiaTriK

Cable-Tie Ninja
Mar 28, 2019
166
146
Reserved for future side panel work.
Do you plan to use plexi or maybe some awesome dremel-carved wood panels? I see you varnished the wood, I don't know how a pyrograph would work over treated wood but for the side pannels you could attempt to make some decorations before aplying the varnish if you have or can borrow one
 

hyshka

Chassis Packer
Original poster
Jun 10, 2020
16
5
Do you plan to use plexi or maybe some awesome dremel-carved wood panels? I see you varnished the wood, I don't know how a pyrograph would work over treated wood but for the side pannels you could attempt to make some decorations before aplying the varnish if you have or can borrow one

I like where your head is at with that. When I was designing the case I thought about doing something fancy for the side panels like a nice venting pattern or a custom design. I didn't consider carving though.

The side panels themselves have already been stained and finished. I went the easy route and just did a single big square cutout in each, you can see them in the photo gallery.

I have some window screen mesh I'm going to mount on the side panels and call it a day. I figured that I would need maximum ventilation since wood is insulative and I have no other venting in the case.

The good news is that I'm probably going to use Velcro to attach the side panels to the case, I couldn't think of a better low profile way to mount them, so it would be easy to make a few variations of side panels and swap them according to my mood.
 

SiKiaTriK

Cable-Tie Ninja
Mar 28, 2019
166
146
Oh, at first I tought that was a frame and then you would put a "trap" or door with hinges to access the interior but yes, that case will definitelly need airflow, so mesh panel makes perfect sense.

To help you with the "attaching side pannels" matter, have you considered using neodymium magnets? The case walls are thick enough to drill couple or three mm depth, insert (and glue) some magnets all over the edges and the side pannels (interior) to make a strong fit.

Velcro will be also strong, that's for sure but you'll have to deal with attaching that velcro to the wood. Maybe with staples? Either way, keep in mind that you will end with a gap from the thickness of the two sides of the velcro itself

Give it a thought ?

 

hyshka

Chassis Packer
Original poster
Jun 10, 2020
16
5
I have thought about using magnets but I couldn't find any the right size in my local area. Now that I'm not in a rush to finish the sides I'll check out some prices online.

I am a bit concerned that drilling into the edges would cause them to chip, however if the magnets are strong enough they may be able to latch onto my metal angle brackets.

You're right though on the gap caused by using Velcro. I thought I could live with it but it might bug me over time.

Thanks for your feedback!