View Full Version : Modders Challenge #1 - Home-Made Watercooling

07-12-2006, 11:38 AM
As part of a new series here on TBCS, from time to time we will be presenting you with a different Modders' Challenge.

This week: Scratch-Built Watercooling on a Budget

The Challenge: Create a viable plan for creating a watercooling system for your PC using only the resources provided within the budget allowed. The system does not have to run off of the PC's power supply, and all water blocks and additional systems must be created or purchased from the websites listed in the Resources section of the challenge.
Entries must include a thorough description of the plan, including drawings, Sketchup/3D models and/or complete write-up of the creation, assembly and installation of the system. Every part, every hose clamp, screw and bolt, must be listed and priced in the write-up. You may use your own tools, which do not need to be part of the budget and which you may or may not actually own, but must be toosl which a home modder would reasonably have access to - no CNC machines or the like.

Home Depot.com (http://www.homedepot.com/prel80/HDUS/EN_US/diy_main/pg_diy.jsp?CNTTYPE=PROD_META&CNTKEY=misc%2fhomepage&BV_SessionID=@@@@1658798941.1152717780@@@@&BV_EngineID=cccfaddifjmihjjcgelceffdfgidgmn.0&MID=9876)
PetSmart.com (http://www.petsmart.com/ps/main.jsp)
RiteAid.com (http://www.riteaid.com/)
Pepboys.com (http://www.pepboys.com/)
AmericanAcrylics.com (http://www.americanacrylics.com/)
All parts for this must be available for purchase through the above websites. Sales/specials must be valid during the Challenge.

Budget: $150 US. Shipping does not have to be part of the budget, to make it fair. All sales/specials must be listed in the parts budget and must be good through the

All entries must be submitted in this thread by midnight PST July 21st, 2006. Prizes include custom forum titles until the completion of the next challenge and a mention on the front page. Participants may work together on this, but teams must use the $150 budget, not a combined one, and must post their complete team rosters by midnight PST July 14, 2006, and may not include more than four people per team.

Have fun!

07-12-2006, 12:13 PM
Anyone want to team up with me?

07-12-2006, 06:32 PM
I have a question... How can we accuratly plan for this when we cant acctually see and measure the products. A seemingly viable plan may be foiled by compatabillity issues.

I found an almost ready made kit but its part of somthing that doesnt list specs for the individual pieces of the product.

07-12-2006, 06:34 PM
It doesn't need to be 100% accurate, but the more realistic the plan, the better. And all plans will be judged on viability as well as creativity and use of budget, so a pre-made kit probably isn't your best bet, but it would be a great starting point. Remember, this is more about creating a plan rather than coming up with an actual working product.

07-12-2006, 06:58 PM
Though if you make a working product...feel free to send it in to Dave@Scotland and assuming it doesn't soak my rig we can be friends for ever!

Joke. Good luck fellas and gals. Wish we could offer a proper prize but no luck so far.


07-12-2006, 07:01 PM
Does anyone know if a solid acrylic block would work insted of somthing metal? I see nothing that can be used as a block on thoes sites.

07-12-2006, 07:02 PM
noup no way no heat transfer at all

Slug Toy
07-12-2006, 09:12 PM
i cant find any copper flatbar listed.

can we supposedly ask favours of family members or friends? in real life all i need to do is ask my dad and i can get a hold of any shape/size copper piece i need.... and thats the only thing holding me back right now.

07-13-2006, 11:13 AM
There are any number of items out there from which parts and pieces could be "borrowed" strategically to make a working end product. This is a challenge to think creatively more than anything else. Play around with the ideas and see what you can come up with - it doesn't have to be the most workable idea in the world, just the best you can come up with given the limited resources.

Ask yourself - What Would MacGuyver Do?

07-13-2006, 11:52 AM
There are people in england that use this site by the way, what stores can we use? Because in reality i wouldnt use any of those stores listed as there are places in the UK i would use to avoid international shipping.

07-13-2006, 12:23 PM
Ask yourself - What Would MacGuyver Do?

Humm... Well first i'd make some plastic explosives out of my sock and some peanutbutter. Blow the security door off its hinges then jump over the fence. Next i'd scale the building using my trusty pocket knife and some twine i quickly whiped up from the surrounding weeds. Disable the cammeras and climb into the heatting vent. Then i'll drop from the celing and kill the guard with the bannana from my lunch.....

I could of gone on forever with that. :)

07-13-2006, 01:39 PM
There are people in england that use this site by the way, what stores can we use? Because in reality i wouldnt use any of those stores listed as there are places in the UK i would use to avoid international shipping.

I realize that, but this is just an exercise in creativity. To keep things fair, I wanted to have everyone use the same websites, regardless of shipping. This keeps currency exchange problems out of the equation, makes sure everyone can get the same items for the same price, things like that. In real life I know that you would order from a local website, but this isn't meant for real life. This is just make-believe. For the sake of the exercise, please use American currency for your budget and the websites listed above, so that we're all on a level playing field. This is why shipping is not part of the budget.

07-13-2006, 02:42 PM
i cant find any copper flatbar listed.

But Copper Plumbing fixtures are listed......(a dremel+ a hammer)+some sanding=Copper Flatbar

Must this be a closed loop system?
can we enter more then one Idea?
Is the Judging based on looks?

I have half a mind to go to the HomeDespot and mock one up :)

Good Luck

07-13-2006, 04:16 PM
CBB, it doesn't have to be a closed loop system, it can be anything you want.

Judging is based on whatever criteria I feel like judging it by, so that people don't start catering what would have been a great idea just to try to win a contest. I'm looking for creativity. Originality. Functionality. Aesthetics. Whatever. This should be looked at more like an exercise rather than a contest.

Yes, you may enter as many times as you like, as long as you are not blatantly looking at someone else's entries, stealing their ideas and claiming them as your own. You may see someone's entry, realize that they had perfected a problem spot of yours and modify your entry.

Just have fun with this. That's the point.

07-13-2006, 04:21 PM
I demand that somebody get one of those water features for coy ponds like a frog or something and that be integrated into the system.

07-18-2006, 12:23 AM
Quick idea on water cooling using copper pipe (i know the size is a factor but...);


Just to get the ... ah ... er ... juices flowing...

07-21-2006, 07:24 PM
where do I submit the project to? e-mail, or post it here? i've got a system worked up, total comes to $130.

07-21-2006, 08:38 PM
E-mail it to me and Rankenphile, and we'll sort out how to go about choosing a winner soon enough.

Sounds good-good luck!


07-24-2006, 01:41 PM
We have had one entry so far for this contest, and I'm going to extend the deadline for entries to the end of the month. I'll post the entry received later tonight. If any of the rest of you want to put up an entry, you can either post it here or send it to dave or I by email. My email address is rankenphile(at)gmail.com.

All entries must be received by midnight PST Monday, July 31st.

I also wanted to ask you guys what you thought about the contest. Is this something you would like to see more of? Was this one too tough in its demands? Would you like to see more in terms of prizes for these types of contests? Your feedback helps a lot.


07-24-2006, 07:31 PM
Your feedback helps a lot.

Clarification: I'll hurt any meatbags who don't leave feedback. Starting with you.

(anyone play that game? It was on VGCats this week (http://www.vgcats.com/comics/?)...reminded me off it :) )

Anyway. We'll add a poll after the competition is over. So hurry up and get those entries in.


08-01-2006, 11:09 AM
I appologize for the delay, we did have an entry and a winner. All results will be posted later this evening. I've been away from the hosue all weekend as well as yesterday, so I haven't had the chance to post the results yet.

Thanks to everyone for your interest in this. We will have another contest coming up soon, with a great prize available for the winner.

edit: cripes. Crisis after crisis at home. I'll get everything up ASAP, but it may be a day or two. Really sorry about this, guys.

08-04-2006, 11:37 AM
The winner of the first Modder's Chellenge was... Mr Chew!

His simple yet effective cooling system involved brass for heat transfer and a pond pump. Although weren't sure about the thermal properties of brass, Mr Chew's design was exactly the sort of thing we expected. Here's his own explaination.

the plan for this water cooling is simple. all parts are purchased from home depot. pricing in the spreadsheet reflects the prices at my local home depot, in san diego.

the water block is made from a brass door kick plate. machining can be done with a dremal tool. the layout of the pieces is shown in the sketchup files. because sketchup (to my knowledge. . .) doesn't allow small scale drawings, i used a scale of 1ft=1cm. i made the waterblock on the small side because i was worried about flexing of the material. as i'm sure you know, the main component of the brass alloy is copper, with some tin, chromium and zinc mixed in to prevent corrosion. heat transfer should be negligably different from un-alloyed copper. lapping and polishing is possible, but i didn't include it in the plans for price reasons. honestly, it would be much cheaper and easier to just buy a pre-made water block, but these plans fit with the macgyver-esqe requirements. there would be enough material left over in the plate to construct both a gpu and chipset water block, but the hardware requirements (the brass bolts to sandwich them together) would have put it over budget, again.




the pump is a simple 210 gph pond pump. the model that i found has a plastic strained basket on the inlet that can be removed to allow access to garden hose threads. the adaptor and 3/4"-thread hose barb are used on the inlet to allow attachment of the 1/2" vinyl tubing. the outlet will already accept the 1/2" hose.

the radiator is constructed from a 12" house fan and 10' of soft copper tubing. tis design mimics the homemade a/c units that have hit the make blog recently. zip ties are use to attach the tubing to the face of the fan grill.


the pump will be at the lowest point of the system, negating the need for a reservoir or priming. the outlet of the pump will go to the radiator, and from the radiator water will enter the cpu-block. from there it returns in closed loop fashion directly to the pump.


it's a very simply design, i would have liked to have included a power relay so that the pump would automagically turn on with the computer for safety reasons, but i was unable to find any type of relay at home depot.

So well done to MrChew! Unfortunately there's no prize as this was the test run of the competition-we hope to improve the way we ask the questions, and next time, we have a prize organised-so watch this space for the next TBCS Modder's Challenge!