Daily Driver From Scratch

While not necessarily ‘retro’ (but getting close) this project is still my pride and joy to this day.

One fateful day back in in the end of 2009 I found myself checking out custom computer builds.

“Custom computer builds?!” you ask!… No, I don’t mean just buying a case and throwing parts in it. That happens every day… I mean ‘building’ the computer from scratch…

I really liked the open look of a test bench design and got to work visualizing in my head what I could do to make something like this work.

I knew I wanted two shelves, but didn’t want it to just look like a ‘test’ bench. I wanted sleek and modern, with a little artsy thrown in the mix.

I’ve always been fairly decent with woodworking thanks to growing up in my grandpa’s woodshop as a kid so I settled on wood for the shelves and aluminum for the corners and back.

So… I went to shopping around!

Here’s the ‘block’ of wood I picked up-
It’s Purple Heart wood which isn’t very purple here (yet)

I quickly went and had it cut in half and planed-

Here’s where I could decide on the final overall shape I was after. I knew I wanted a DVD drive on the top shelf but didn’t just want two squares on top of each other. I came up with a design and got to shaping it… Turns out this wood is extremely hard and took a long time to shape. (this section alone took 8 hours to sand out on the spindle sander)-

Got all the shaping done and the corner holes drilled out-
(the one on the right is the top shelf)

Now it was time to start hollowing out these pieces. I wanted to have them both have the ability to stow away and hide all the cabling. I think I went through 8 forstner bits for this part… again, this wood is HARD!

With the shelves hollowed out I needed a way to keep all the cabling, etc held in so I went with a grating material-

Making sure the DVD drive fits-

And now it was time to finish the wood with some polyurethane and shellac (after getting the holes drilled for the cabling off the motherboard).
Now we’re starting to get a better color out of this wood!-

Added some sound-proofing material on the insides of the shelves to dampen vibrations, etc-

Here are the corner posts drilled out and sanded (for a brushed-aluminum look). These facilitate cable runs between the top and bottom shelves as well-

I designed and shaped the backplane to hold the radiator and addon cards as well. Working on this aluminum was SO much easier than working with the wood-

Finally time to start working on the electronics/water-cooling bits! The front-panel fan controller was meant to just sit on a desk but… well, I void warranties, and this baby was about to get mounted on the case so it needed a touch of Erik’s modding first-
(this shows the panel as I was working on cutting off the stand)

Silver power supply units just won’t do-

The radiator (push/pull 4×120)-

And, after all the wires and tubes are in, it fits! (well… barely)-
(I’ve since re-done this and it’s much cleaner now)

And here is version 1.0!-

Current revisions-

I have upgraded this system several times. The only things left that are original at this point is the fan controller and fans. I’ve also re-done all the cabling and wiring (as in every individual wire from a modular power supply cut to the exact length it needs to be to avoid taking up extra space). This is the revision we are currently at- let’s call this version 3.11 (see what I did there?) 😉



My entire office at current (I’ll soon be adding a page documenting my desk build as well)-

Current system specs:
(keeping in mind, it’s nearing retro territory by this point)-

ASUS Sabertooth Z77
Intel i5-3570k @ 4.8Ghz
2x EVGA Nvidia Geforce GTX-1070 SC
8GB DDR3@1600Mhz
2x Samsung 840 Pro 128GB SSD (in RAID0)
480mm radiator
9x 120mm fans, in all
5x Dell U2412M monitors (debezzled) @ 6000×1920

…okay, that was a long post. Time to take a break and play some Commander Keen on the retro DOS rig.

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