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Thread: Watercooling case, built from scratch?

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    Watercooling case, built from scratch?

    Ok, with the recent threads about watercooling and people buying nice corsair cases It encouraged me to start upgrading my watercooling. I have a grant coming to me at around september for me to do what ever i want with it, its meant for "fun" and for me its building computers etc . £400 is set aside for upgrading gpu/cpu so the rest ~£200 is going on a new WC loop and PC case, now onto the main post:


    Right, Currently have my own modded Chieftec case, its a solid case but as you can it only just fits a 240mm rad in there which im planning on replacing or adding a 360mm rad later.




    As I have no more spare computer cases to mod or use I thought of using a different approach, this would be to make a case from scratch. Question is, where and how do I get the materials? Im thinking basics here just 4 panels and another for cutting to use as HDD bays etc, anyone know an approx costs for steel?.

    I have a lot of tools available to me as my dad has been doing DIY for his whole life (welding too!), however I dont know if he has a dremel anymore so what would the suggestions be for this? I seem to recall a black and decker dremel was highly regarded by I havent found anything on B&D website.

    Basically heres what i want the case to be like/do:

    • Look nice and sleek
    • Good cooling performance
    • Easy to work on
    • Cable management
    • House 360mm rad comfortably
    • Room for a max of 4 HDD- Probably 2
    • House 1 DVD drive and dual bay res


    I believe thats it, basically i think for the look nice would be keeping it basic and me just brushing or sanding down the case so it has the nice effect and then spray painting it black or white, however last time I spray painting my case i have found its already scratching easily and using the extra protection coating(cant remember the name ha) it made it look worse tbh. Is there a better way to paint? Im thinking maybe powder coating, however I think you need tools for that which i doubt i have in which case... where would I go for this service and how much does it cost ~?

    Easy to work on would be just having the overall size big and not cluttered, this ideally should be easy to work for. Cable management, again should be easy... just cut appropriate holes in the motherboard side panel and cover them with rubber gromets like in the corsair case. House rad, again that would be sorted by an approiate sized sheet of metal. Room for HDD and dvd drives and res, sorted by making sure the height is enough really.

    So guys whats the overall advice for me? If someone can give me a rough list of what tools I need and what materials I would need then that would be great, also recommended retailers for these items .
    Quote Originally Posted by snootyjim View Post
    Trust me, go into any local club and shout "I've got dual Nehalem Xeons" and all of the girls will practically collapse on the spot at the thought of your e-penis

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    Re: Watercooling case, built from scratch?

    ok intresting ideas there hicks

    Powder coating, it not just a pint it's a process, the normal methord for cases is, to run a small electrical charge through the case, it's then sprayed with a very finely powdered thermoplastic, the electrical charge causes the powder to stick to the case which is then baked in an oven to mealt the thermoplastic to form a skin.
    The advantage of this over normal paints is there is no solvents involved and issues with solvent drying times.
    So this is out of most peoples scope for being possible DYI, although I'm sure it could be done with some ingenuity and knowledge.

    The key issue with normal case painting (spray can) is take your time, don't rush things.
    the other things are, planety of thin layers, clear coat or Lacquer.
    To really solidly paint a case you want to follow this basic forumlar.
    Light sand
    clean off residue/dust
    undercoat, layer, leave to dry (see paint directions), layer
    leave overnight/24 hours
    colour coat, layer, leave to dry (see paint directions), layer, leave to dry (see paint directions), layer.
    Leave for 5 to 7 days
    Lacquer, layer, leave to dry (see paint directions), layer, leave to dry (see paint directions), layer, leave to dry (see paint directions), layer.
    Leave for 5 to 7 days
    Build pc

    for super glossy panels add in this before building.
    Light sand
    clean off dust/residue
    wet sand
    very fine wet sand
    clean off dust/residue
    rubbing compound Polish
    clean off dust/residue
    wax
    Leave for 24hours to two days.

    So, yes you will have to spend far more time wiating for the paint to fully dry/cure than you will painting and probably as much time, if not more, preping than painting.


    For a scratch build, plan, plan and plan some more. scratch building is not cheap at the best of times and even less so if you don't plan, because you'll end up having to remake bits.

    in theory you could just use some sheets of metal to make a case, this is basically what most cases are, however there's a lot of careful design that goes into them, a lot of folding and careful shaping.
    Basic "shop" bought cases are like a large origami jigsaw puzzle that's rivited together, all these folds and press formed depressions are not there to stop the edges being sharpe, but to give the sheet steel strangth and rigidity.

    That's not so say that it cannot be done or that you should not try it, in fact I say go for it
    There will be a lot of work and time envolved, patience is key.

    I'd sugest starting off by a;so looking at angle section aka angle bar

    This can be used to make frame work and strengthen the case.

    Getting hold of the metal is harder, you'll generally not find metal sheets in b&q or simular.
    flebay is handy for this sort of odd thing, however before you bid on anything have a look/ring around any local builders supply shops (esp thoes who's main market is actual builders not DIY) and generaly look around your local area, the prices can often be far better than many online places (in my experience)

    If you want a professional paint job, try car repair shops or respray places (note real paint shops not some guy out the back with a couple of automative spray cans).
    They will probably look at you like you're insane and you'll have to explain what you want done a few times before the concept, that you can use automative paint on things that don't have wheels and go Vrooom. However once that's sunk in they will be able to give you a quote for cost.

    p.s. don't chuck that case away, you can always tare it apart of bits, like the drive cages, rear panel and motherboard tray.

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    Re: Watercooling case, built from scratch?

    thanks mate that is a good amount of information , maybe with painting i could just leave it? I wouldnt mind having a brushed steel look but to achieve that what is the best way?.

    I saw sheet metals at B&Q its like £12 for a normal steel panel of 500x500mm or £6 for 500x250mm piece. Whats the difference between galvanized and normal steel?.

    I will start drawing up a rough sketch tonight as im bored , ill see what i come up with.
    Also, any recommendations for a dremel cause id need one if this goes ahead.
    Quote Originally Posted by snootyjim View Post
    Trust me, go into any local club and shout "I've got dual Nehalem Xeons" and all of the girls will practically collapse on the spot at the thought of your e-penis

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    Re: Watercooling case, built from scratch?

    Galvanized is what they use on cars, means its got a zinc coating if memorys correct, stops it from rusting lol. Normal steel doesn't have a coat so unless your uncoating and painting it, its gonna rust in a moisture rich enviroment or if you spill out on it.

    Maybe look at alloy panels if you have the budget? though they are a pain to weld in comparison to steel.

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    Re: Watercooling case, built from scratch?

    thanks, your right as i just googled it . ideally I wanted it as cheap as possible, i suppose i wont need galvanised sheets if its going to be in my room right?. I just did a rough design for the interia, my drawing skills are terrible , scale is approx 1cm to 5cm in real life.
    Quote Originally Posted by snootyjim View Post
    Trust me, go into any local club and shout "I've got dual Nehalem Xeons" and all of the girls will practically collapse on the spot at the thought of your e-penis

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    Re: Watercooling case, built from scratch?

    Just looking around for ya, a 1x1m galvanised 1mm thick panel is £24.81ex vat a 1x1m alloy sheet 1.2mm thick is £21.10ex vat or a 0.9mm thick sheet is £16.10ex vat. Given that i would be looking towards a aluminium build as you are gonna need 1x1 panels for your sides or custom cut ones from a ironmonger.

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    Re: Watercooling case, built from scratch?

    Thanks for that jasp, so basically aluminum sheets are somehow cheaper? I always thought they were more expensive . What supplier are those prices from?.

    Also, what machine is needed to cut this to size? Ill have to ask my dad if he has it but since hes done a fair amount of metal work i expect he will .
    Quote Originally Posted by snootyjim View Post
    Trust me, go into any local club and shout "I've got dual Nehalem Xeons" and all of the girls will practically collapse on the spot at the thought of your e-penis

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    Re: Watercooling case, built from scratch?

    Quote Originally Posted by Hicks12 View Post
    I have a grant coming to me at around september for me to do what ever i want with it, its meant for "fun" and for me its building computers etc .
    What type of grant is this??


    Those despicable Elk,stealing the pond weed!

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    Re: Watercooling case, built from scratch?

    Those prices were from http://www.metals4u.co.uk/ but exclude shipping.

    Just noticed ebay have hundreds of metal merchants on their that include delivered prices to compare prices with also, your best bet is still gonna be a local ironmonger though, they may even cut them to size for a small fee.

    As for cutting, not sure always assumed laser cutting would be best but i dout you have a high powered laser handy lol, probably be a table saw with a good quality metal blade and patience, been a while since i did any diy work, im mostly a car person.

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    Re: Watercooling case, built from scratch?

    Quote Originally Posted by Hicks12 View Post
    ... i suppose i wont need galvanised sheets if its going to be in my room right? ...
    Probably not, but don't underestimate how humid / damp a room can be However, I assume you're planning on painting the case rather than leaving it bare metal, in whcih case you certainly don't want to bother with galvanised steel.

    I've noticed a few other notable scratch builders on here have gone for wooden builds - something you'd consider? Much easier to work with...

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    Re: Watercooling case, built from scratch?

    I was planning on leaving it bland tbh, it would save a huge cost in paint and wouldnt scratch as badly.

    Jim that is actually a pretty good alternative, wood is incredibly cheap (in comparison to steel) and I know for sure that i have all the tools like saws etc as my dad has done a lot of wood work in his years . What wood should I use? MDF would be my first choice or would i be wrong to do so?.

    I may rethink the overall design because I might just use it as an extension to my current desk so if i make it the same height then it will fit nice . I will have a look at this area after tuesday cause of an exam ha
    Quote Originally Posted by snootyjim View Post
    Trust me, go into any local club and shout "I've got dual Nehalem Xeons" and all of the girls will practically collapse on the spot at the thought of your e-penis

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    Re: Watercooling case, built from scratch?

    Right well after talking briefly to my dad I have a few questions, how do most people overcome the whole air flow issue with wooden builds? I think MDF would be the best material for the price ratio.

    My new idea is to extend the height to 72cm (inline with my desk height) and expand the width of the case by a fair amount to 40cm and part of the solution to the cooling aspect I will cut a panel out at the rear in which the 360mm radiator will slot into, thus giving a good exhaust area however I still have the issue of getting air into the system first of all, suggestions?

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    Quote Originally Posted by snootyjim View Post
    Trust me, go into any local club and shout "I've got dual Nehalem Xeons" and all of the girls will practically collapse on the spot at the thought of your e-penis

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    Re: Watercooling case, built from scratch?

    Quote Originally Posted by Hicks12 View Post
    how do most people overcome the whole air flow issue with wooden builds?
    I'm not entirely sure i'm following?

    The air is unaware of it's surroundings, having a 2' interior of metal will have the same airflow as wood so long as you have the holes in the same place (sure, wood is slightly lower, but paint all but eliminates the already incredibly small airflow change (and we're talking nothing to start with))

    As long as you have ventilation and active flow it's no different to a metal build.

    Ofcourse if you're adding to the desk you could always double the width and fit 2 rads side by side in the top (with a grill in the desk surface itself)

    or you could have 2 side by side in the front, with the ODDs above if the height will let you

    Obviously what you can do all depends on what hardware you have (i.e. motherboard layout to determine most efficient cable routing)
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    Re: Watercooling case, built from scratch?

    Why would their be a airflow issue? you could use a mesh grill on the front with a fan mounted behind, a plexiglass side panel with a fan mounted on, even drilled plexiglass on the front if ya wished or just cut strips in the wood with a fan behind.

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    Re: Watercooling case, built from scratch?

    Yeh sorry i didnt actually think that through properly , yes the flow would be the same its just i cant have a wire mesh as the air flow instead i would need to drill holes or something which isnt very nice tbh which is why an alternative would be better.

    Plexiglass could be a good solution actually... and now reading i see the strips of wood which would be another idea if i could somehow implement a nice theme .

    Taktak, that has given me a nice idea which would be to have the DVD drives etc at the top and stealth the bays so i can open a drive on my desk xD. Having 2 rads at the front is possible i believe as my rad is less than 20cm in width and i have room for a 50 width case.

    So much planning , i will have to have a big planning sessions on tuesday after my main exam then i will be able to. Thanks for the replies guys!.
    Quote Originally Posted by snootyjim View Post
    Trust me, go into any local club and shout "I've got dual Nehalem Xeons" and all of the girls will practically collapse on the spot at the thought of your e-penis

  21. #16
    Senior Member Hicks12's Avatar
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    • Hicks12's system
      • Motherboard:
      • Asus P8Z68-V
      • CPU:
      • Intel i5 2500k@4ghz, cooled by EK Supreme HF
      • Memory:
      • 8GB Kingston hyperX ddr3 PC3-12800 1600mhz
      • Storage:
      • 64GB M4/128GB M4 / WD 640GB AAKS / 1TB Samsung F3
      • Graphics card(s):
      • Palit GTX460 @ 900Mhz Core
      • PSU:
      • 675W ThermalTake ThoughPower XT
      • Case:
      • Lian Li PC-A70 with modded top for 360mm rad
      • Operating System:
      • Windows 7 Professional 64bit
      • Monitor(s):
      • Dell U2311H IPS
      • Internet:
      • 10mb/s cable from virgin media

    Re: Watercooling case, built from scratch?

    Right then, been messing around with Google sketchup for a bit and although my skills at art are beyond pitiful i believe it is good enough .
    Heres the sketch

    I was gunna have a pa120.4 for the rad but realized it wouldnt fit now (ignore the darker pieces at the front and rear, that was to gauge how much space id have with a bigger rad as there were no images online) so its just a p120.3 for now, should be fine though i would of thought.

    PSU/Mobo in standard places, 5.25" bays at the bottom front to allow easier routing for sata connections, the motherboard isnt mine as there was no P5n-d's but its the approx layout. The gpu's again not the current spec, at the minute its a vapourx 4850 but eventually (this or next year) i will have upgraded to bigger and heavier cards so i thought id use a 5870+water block as a gauge.

    The pumps again arent the current setup but im hoping eventually to have 2 18w DDC pumps side by side, i will however start out with 1 pump but there is room .

    Now for the materials, basically i was planning on using somewthing like MDF but ive come into a massive amount of Chip board (15mm thick if not more) as i had to rip out my grans chip board, one of the cupboards is the perfect size (the sketch is too scale and the cabinate is the whole shell), I dont see any reason why it wouldnt be as good as MDF and it should hold all the weight correctly yes?.

    Another thing ive yet to think of is the side panel, as you can see there is no front/side to it and im wondering whether to use some acrylic/Plexiglas as the side or just more wood, suggestions?.

    And last but not least, the cooling options... i think the way i layed it out is a good way right? Having 2 at the rear as intake and the radiator fans as outputs, should i use 6 fans on the rad?.
    Quote Originally Posted by snootyjim View Post
    Trust me, go into any local club and shout "I've got dual Nehalem Xeons" and all of the girls will practically collapse on the spot at the thought of your e-penis

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