I tried my best to make it into my apartment before anyone noticed me. Unfortunately, the 'clink clink clank' from the armload of copper tubing had already caught the attention of my upstairs neighbor. "Hey fella", he smiled, peering over the balcony rail, "you adding another bathroom?". "Something like that", I said back, hoping I sounded both rude and polite. Rude because he's nosy and polite because my momma raised me that way. Before he could think of another question to ask, my apartment door thunked shut and I was safe inside.
An hour spent at the local Home Depot store yielded eighty feet of 1/2 inch copper tubing and a bag containing about a hundred copper fittings along with an assortment of other small hardware. The total price for materials was $110. Eighty feet (25m) of copper tubing at 35 cents per foot came to $28, while the fittings and hardware made up the $82 difference. More than enough materials to add another bathroom, and then some.
Using my livingroom floor as a workbench, I started my project by building the CDROM/powersupply carrier. A pair of stacked CDROM drives is the same dimension (W x H) as a powersupply. I simply place them back-to-back and use angle stock to frame them together. other than the hard drive(s) and motherboard, the powersupply and optical drives are the largest components you'll have. I'll simply work outward from this CDROM/PS carrier and build a case around it - keeping in mind the necessary relationship (cabling) they have with the motherboard.
My goal for this project was to build an all-in-one desktop computer with an integrated flatpanel monitor. Something along the lines of the new iMac, with the monitor attached to an adjustable arm. As you will see, the finished product is nothing of the sort. It just goes to show that I'm not right in the head.
With the shape and size of the base established through trial and error, I began stacking the copper 'hoops' one on top of the other. Seven rows of stacked tubing later, it looked like an ill-fated attempt to create a 'Lincoln Log' model of The Pentagon. I stopped there. The idea behind the wide base was to provide stability to the monitor arm in order to avoid 'tip-over'. You can see the monitor arm mechanism in several pictures. I spent about 10 hours building that arm and working out the correct geometry. It was made to support the LCD flatpanel (with copper stand) that appears in my first copper case article. I decided not to use the arm because it looked downright silly.
The Lincoln Log model of The Pentagon
The 7 rows of tubing are held together with a threaded (6-32) rod poked through holes that were drilled in the fittings at each corner. I used a brass nut at the bottom of each rod and a brass knurled knob at the top. I continued by making the "lid" that covers the base. The lid is made by pop-riveting the copper tubes to pieces of aluminum angle stock from underneath. There's enough room inside the base for 4 hard drives, a water pump, and a water reservoir...in case I decide to watercool something.
I left a big hole above the CDROM/PS for all of the cables. Another hole was required for mounting the (later discarded) monitor arm. Just like the base, I stacked hoops of copper tube and made the lower part of the motherboard 'cage'.
Starting to look like something now
Things started going wrong once I strayed from my original concept of an all-in-one machine and tossed-out the monitor arm. I was pretty happy with the case so far because it went together easily and as an added benefit, I had not needed to solder anything. From that point on, I made the decision to avoid the propane torch all together. Soldering that much pipe inside an apartment really isn't appropriate (nor safe) anyway. The pop-rivets make an adequate substitute for soldering, and the result is a bond almost as strong. A pop-rivet is inserted through a hole that has been drilled where the tubing mates with the fitting. Easy, or what?.
Detailed pic of the CDROM slots
Perhaps the aligment of the planets was improper on the day I built the 'motherboard cage'. Maybe I had offended the great Gods of case modding. Whatever the reason, the result sure enough sucked. No need to be nice about it, folks. I had an idea in my head and I tried my best to make what I imagined - but it didn't pan out. The motherboard cage is certainly curious-looking and it is unique, if nothing else. Still, it lacks the purposeful look of the first copper case. Before you say it, yeah I tried using the aluminum screen on this one but it looked wrong. I made an aluminum-framed cube covered with screen that was inserted into the 'cage'. I thought it looked like the wick on a gigantic Coleman lantern. I tossed the framed cube beside the monitor arm, so they could rest in peace together.
The motherboard cage
The Gods of misallignment has struck hard down on me
In order to provide access to the computer's hardware and wiring the entire lid/cage is hinged on the left side. All motherboard connections must be routed through the big hole in the base -- even the keyboard and mouse cables. The motherboard itself is insulated from the copper tubing with fiberglass laminate countertop material -- in a green marble finish. The Gods reckoned it would be entertaining if my powersupply cable didn't quite reach the header on the motherboard. So it didn't. Somebody told me they sell extension cables to solve this dilemma, thank goodness.
Under the hood I
Under the hood II
Here's the finished case and some of its details. Overall I'm happy with how it turned out. To me, it looks like it's styled after a 1950's DeSoto. I'm sure it'll attract a lot of attention -- either good or bad. Hell, I'm just glad it's over -- so I can start on my next case. Bye, ya'll.
Finished case I
Finished case II
Finished case III
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Also, make sure to check out Copper Tubing Case Mod, Part I.