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Thread: Aero Case Mod

  1. #1

    Default Aero Case Mod

    Well Really it's a complete case build for a media centre in some A3 sizes of Perspex.

    This mod is sponsored by:

    The Memory Experts
    Great thanks to Joan Lunny, Public Relations Executive for sorting this out.
    (2Gb 800Mhz Ballistix Ram)

    Great thanks to Ron Martin at AMD for setting this up.
    (2.6Ghz Phenom & HD4850)

    Great thanks to Eleanor Giles for setting this up
    (500GB Seagate Hardrive)

    I’ve decided to take my modding to the next level. I’m going to create my own SFF case for a media centre. This is going to be entered into the custompc mods of summer contest (if it’s finished in time that is).First of all I’m going to be making this a proper step by step log of what I do, my other case mod blog (beige box to black beauty) was a little thin on the details so I’m going to correct that.

    I’m Steven Dodd, 16 years old and currently attending Carmel College in St.Helens. I have never done any formal art qualifications (you’ll see why in a minute), have never done any kind of engineering qualifications and have only ever done electronics at GCSE level (I got a B). I’m telling you this because I don’t want you to think you’re not “arty” enough to attempt a case mod. I am not an arty person (I study sciences and maths) and everything I’ve learnt about case modding is either form the internet or through trial and error. I am also currently looking for sponsors for this mod.

    I took inspirations from Macs, they’re so compact and elegant but you don’t see many pc’s like that. It’s a shame really.

    Without further ado I give you some sketches I drew so you can understand what I see in my head.

    This will be what the left hand side panel looks like. The black plexi will have the windows logo cut into the side (I shouldn’t have to remind you that the windows logo is copyright Microsoft *protects his ass from being sued*) and different colours of plexi will be put behind it to give the windows colours. It’s like a case window however the pieces of plexi will be sanded so they will be opaque rather than transparent. I will place a white cold cathode (possibly 2) behind the plexi so that it lights up, however (and here’s the complicated part) I want it to glow rather than being just lit-up. Kind of like when a Mac power book is put to sleep and the apple logo glows on and off. You’ll see what I mean when I get round to it, although I may not be able to find a circuit that does this for me and may have to settle with a sound reactive one (I’ve already seen one of those for use with cold cathodes). If you’ve got any suggestions to help be my guest =D

    The black plexi will be covered by a layer of clear plexi (this is how Mac’s get so glossy) and the whole thing will be held together by 4 screws in each corner (I’d rather not use any as again it wrecks the clean look of the case but it wouldn’t be stable enough without) I also need to think of some kind of feet to rise the case off the ground.

    This is hopefully how it will be laid out inside. You notice I’ve gone for a slot loading DVD drive for 2 reasons;

    1) Means that I don’t need a front bezel which would screw up the design (it’s supposed to be pretty clean and minimalist like the windows aero theme).
    2) They look awesome don’t they?

    One thing I do worry about is cooling however the case will be mostly mesh so hopefully convection currents and good old heat radiation should suffice (the only fan I plan to have is the one in the PSU which is situated at the top to expel all the rising hot air). Also I’ll want to cushion the HDD somewhat to try and make this thing as quiet as possible.

    This is what the front panel will look like. It will feature AC Ryan HEXX mesh all around the case for good cooling (and it looks awesome). The slot for the slot loading DVD drive is there also, I don’t know where to put the eject button though (or not have one at all) because it could spoil the aesthetics of the case.

    Also now you know why I didn’t take any kind of formal art qualifications .

    Most of my ideas come to me in my sleep (strange I know) so it’s quite possible I’ll come up with some more ideas as the night’s progress.

    This is my first microATX based mod and my first full case manufacturing one. Let’s hope it goes ok.



    As said in the concept section I’ve decided to use lots of different types of Perspex (also known as Acrylic) to achieve the look I’m after. I’m using Perspex rather than metal for a few reasons:

    1)It’s lightweight and the colour is permanent and consistent (no paint to flake off, no dodgy paintjobs)

    2)It wont short circuit so I don’t need to drill holes into it to allow motherboard risers I can just place the motherboard on top

    3)It’s fairly resilient (won’t rust, colour won’t fade very quickly etc.)

    I’m using 2x A3 sheets of 3mm thick black Perspex (opaque rather than translucent e.g. you can’t see through it at all) with 2x A3 sheets of 2mm clear Perspex on top of that. I got them from great shop which provides almost any colour/style of plastic you could want in a variety of sizes, they also deliver very quickly so a big thumbs up to them:

    I will also be using some tinted Perpex from them to make the windows window (hehe awesome) andfrosting the back of it to give it a misted over look. These 4 pieces of different colour tinted Perspex will in turn be illuminated by 2 x 4″ white cold cathodes.

    I’m using some Ac Ryan AluHEXX mesh to cover the gap between the 2 piece of plexi.

    This stuff cost me about £15 (!!!) from

    Also I’m using 10mm diameter x 1m length clear acrylic rod as support struts. Bought from the same shop I got all my other plastic from.

    Disk Drive

    I decided to go with a laptop drive as they are usually quieter than desktop drives and because my case is going to be small so the smaller the drive the better. I don’t need blu-ray or any of the HD nonsense so I just went with a plain old DVD drive although I will be playing about 90% of my films from my hardrive.

    Without further ado:

    It is a Panasonic UJ-815-B, I got it off eBay for a tenner plus £6 P&P (it was advertised for £23 + 6 P&P but I made him an offer he couldn’t refuse ). Of course one thing to bear in mind is that you need a converter to use laptop components (2.5″ hardrive, CD/DVD drive) on a desktop. My first converter started a small fire (=() but I found another guy doing them in the U.K. He only had one though so I can’t really recommend him to you guys at home. Look for one withsome wax or something on the bottom pins as I think the pins touching the metal housing of the case caused the short circuit. If in doubt link me and I’ll have a look.

    I could have also used a laptop hardrive in this mod however they are often more expensive, slower and only come in smaller capacities than normal desktop hardrives. As this is going to be a media centre hardrive capacity is very important (more Gb’s = more films for me).


    2Gb of 800Mhz Crucial Ballistix Ram with standard timings of 4-4-4-12


    An AMD Phenom 9950 (2.6Ghz)

    Graphics Card

    A HD4850

    According to ATi it’s good for decoding H.264 High def movies which my DVD’s are encoded in. I’m not sure whether this is the first card with H.264 harware acceleration or whether it just handles them better but it seems to be a realy good buy for a media centre that needs to be able to output to a high res and decode H.264 smoothly. Oh and it’ll game pretty well I’m sure .


    1Tb of speedy storage, as there’ll only be room for one hardrive best make it a big one for all my hi-def content. Graciously provided by Seagate and it’s been reviewed as the quickest 1Tb drive out there.

    EDIT: This 1Tb drive arrived D.O.A after speaking with seagate however they’ve agreed to send me a 500Gb replacement as they had no 1Tb drives in stock.


    Gigabyte GA-MA78GPM-DS2H

    (sorry I don’t have a picture, I was rushing trying to get it all together and I forgot)

    bought from (my favourite e-tailor for all things computer related)

    Power Supply (PSU)

    Coolermaster 650w Extreme Power

    Again no picture because I was too excited at getting it ready in time =D


    Ok I have received my Perspex (well the clear and black Perspex, I’ll order the window’s window Perspex when I’ve cut out the holes for it).

    Here’s a sneaky peek at the black Perspex (I’m sure you can imagine what the clear Perspex looks like, it’s clear):

  2. #2

    Default Re: Aero Case Mod

    I then covered all the pieces of Perspex with Wilkinsonís finest masking tape (the widest stuff they do, comes in 50m rolls for £2 - bargain.) I did this over the already supplied protective film to give an extra layer of protection to the Perspex and it allows me to draw onto the Perspex where I want holes to be drilled, cuts to be made etc.

    First thing I did with it was to mark off how much I was going to round off the corners by. I needed some kind of template to make sure that each arc at each corner was the same (Iím a perfectionist like that). I needed some kind of toolÖ

    The generic Chinese restaurant soup bowl to the rescue! Not quite sure how we ended up with this but itís the perfect size for making the arcs on the corners with. I placed the edges of the bowl up against the edges of the Perspex and drew around it like so:

    It produced a perfect arc and was much easier to use than a compass (which probably would have jumped about everywhere on the masking tape and put a small hole into the surface of my Perspex Ė not cool)

    Hurrah for the generic Chinese restaurant soup bowl!

    (donít mind the white specks on my hands, theyíre from sanding down a piece of clear acrylic earlier on)

    Next up was to organise my components and see how theyíd all fit inside the case. Problem was though I donít have all of them yet (a mixture of waiting for sponsors to get back to me and not having enough money after buying all this acrylic) so I made a temporary solution. I found out the average dimensions of each piece of hardware and marked it out onto a piece of paper, then cut out the pieces of paper and arranged them onto the piece of Perspex.

    Thank god it all fits on an A3 piece of Perspex.

    Now the problem with this set up is that the motherboard outputs will either be on the bottom or the top of the case, however if I re-arrange it like this:

    Although the motherboard outputs are facing the back the case is now the other way up and looks alot bigger than I originally intended. Iím going to have to hope that I can manage to get the outputs to face down towards the bottom of the case and that thereís enough room to allow the cables or Iíll have to put up with them coming out of the top of the case. If you guys have got any suggestions please share them!

    My dad just suggested making a box out of black acrylic to fit on the top of the case to cover the cables, which sounds like it could work.

    (Attack of the mummified Perspex panels! AHHH)

    Next step was to start sanding down the corners of the case to make them nice and rounded. I ventured into my dadís workshop/our garage for this one. This is what Iím working in:

    Nevertheless itís fared me well so far. Hereís my dadís rotary sander (? Donít know if thatís the real name for it but it spins and sands so seems like the sensible option):

    He built it himself out of an old cement mixer motor and a circular piece of wood. Despite it not being a bought sander it performs exceptionally well.

    After a bit of sanding I had a nice rounded corner.

    (I taped all the piece of Perspex together so that the curve was the same on each piece)

    After a bit of finishing by hand (using 80 grit sandpaper, then 800, then 1200) it was perfect.I then polished the curve with some brasso to make it nice and shiny and hereís the outcome:

    Well that worked well, god bless brasso!

    After a hard day of sanding and polishing (my brassoís nearly gone ) Iíve ended up with 4 rounded corners:

    Iíve started thinking about how Iím going to attach all 4 pieces of Perspex together. After much deliberation I decided to screw through the corners of the Perspex and into a narrow plastic pipe that would act both as a spacer and as a device to bend the mesh around. For this Iíd need some self tapping screws to create a thread inside the plastic pipe as I screwed them in, I wanted them to be silver so to match the mesh and I also wanted them to be countersunk so I could fit them flush with the Perspex. I toddled down to the local B & Q warehouse and bought some of these:

    For £3.08, they werenít easy to find but you should be able to find them in the specialist self-tapping screws section.

    Hereís a close up:

    (btw Iím using a Sony DSC-T100 on extreme macro mode, great camera)

    I then moved onto the drilling, Iíd already decided way back when I started this mod that Iíd need some screws in to hold it together so had marked out where I wanted them to be. I used my dremel look-a-like (bought from Woolworths and can be found very good and fairly cheap so itís student modder friendly) with a stock drill bit (about 3mm in diameter)

    Hereís the dremel-a-like

    Hereís the drill bit

    And hereís the drill bit covered in Vaseline


    Well actually the Vaseline stops the drill bit heating up too much (the Vaseline melts and lubricates the drill bit) and melting the Perspex. I also had to run the dremel-a-like at its lowest speed Ė 10000 RPM Ė to stop the dreaded Perspex melting. The drill bit needs to constantly be lubed up as to say. Eventually after lubing up my drill bit I had my hole:

    I should say at this point that I still had all 4 pieces of Perspex masking taped together from when I was rounding off the corners using the bench sander (thanks James ) this made sure the holes were perfectly aligned between all 4 pieces of Perspex.

    Some drilling and lubing later (aye up)

    4 holes and no melting whatsoever, all thanks to Vaseline

    I decided to screw my self-tapping screw through each hole to create some threads in the acrylic so that when I finally screw it together, itíd be easier.

    Next up was to counter-sink the holes. Counter sinking is the process of making a dip in the material so that the screw lies flush with it. This is achieved by the use of a counter sink drill bit in a variable speed drill. A counter-sink drill bit looks like this:

    Itís used just like a normal drill, position the bit on top of the hole, pull trigger, push drill straight down. Easy. You end up with something like this

    After doing this 4 times on each piece of clear Perspex (the clear piece is going on the outside so is the only bit that needs to be counter-sunk, youíll see when it all comes together.) I was finished.

    I woke up this morning to find I had a package. Crucial delivered me 2Gb of 800Mhz ballistix ram (big fan of the ballistix, I have 4Gb of the ballistix tracer in my gaming rig). Hereís some pictures to make your eyes happy:

  3. #3

    Default Re: Aero Case Mod

    thanks Crucial!

    Another gift arrived today! Yep that's right I've got another sponsor! it's AMD!
    so without further ado here's what they sent me:

    A 2.6Ghz Phenom (that's quad core) and....

    A BRAND NEW HD4850!!!

    I've been drooling over the new HD4800 series (and if I wasn't getting a new guitar for my birthday (22nd August ) I would have gotten a HD4870) for ages now. This should offer very good H.264 video decoding for all my backed up DVD's. Hell this is even going to make my brother happy because now he can play tf2 on the tv in my room instead of on his laptop. I wil have the most powerful media centre ever!

    big thumbs up AMD, you've made a new fanboy today

    And if you've been keeping up you'll know there was some problems with some components. The acrylic panel snapped (and wasn't good enough for me to show you, after all this being sponsored it has to look good), the slot loading drive was kaput and I was completely demoralised about the mod. Now however I feel great!

    I have another panel to cut, I have some of the coloured plexi, I have hundreds of pounds worth of free equipment (of which I'm very thankful) so let the mod commence!

    Ok so you know Iím putting the windows logo as a window on the side (again the microsoft/windows/logo that is likely to be on your start button right now is copyright to microsoft, bill gates please donít sue me). I tried this once and Iíve learnt from my mistake.

    First thing to do is find a picture of the windows logo. I then vectored around it using Flash CS3. I did this so that I could enlarge it and shrink it without any of the edges of the image becoming blurred or pixelated.

    I then saved it to png (my favourite format, pretty much lossless quality), opened it up in photoshop CS3 (I got the design suite) and made it A4 (landscape) size. Now the important bit is to flip horizontally.

    Your probably wondering why I did that. Well as I learnt last time the side you cut from on the acrylic gets rather scuffed. However if I cut it and then flip it around the side that faces outwards (that will have the logo the right way around) wil be pristine. Very nice!

    By the way if you want any of these files just ask.

    So I printed it out (making sure Iíd aligned it to the center of the canvas) and posistioned it on the black Perspex

    I did some magic as well to get it perfectly aligned in the centre of my panel. By joining the corners of the windows logo I had a central point on the piece of paper.

    I then drew a vertical and horizontal line across the paper which went threw the point in the centre.

    Then I measured my panels length and height.

    halved it and put a small line

    then drew a vertical and horizontal line going through the marked points

    and lined up the lines on the Perspex with the lines on the paper


    Next was the cutting (which I messed up last time). I had a great idea in my dream the other night (Iím like Joseph without the great coat) to cut the curves with a fine drill bit rather than a cut off whell which gave a really bad cut last time. So I lubed up (; )) and got drilling (these sexual innuendos doing anything for you?)

    (the bit at the top is gunk from practising on a piece of clear acrylic)

    To do this I drilled 4 holes in each corner of each of the window panels.

    Then I put the bit in the whole and pulled the thread of the bit in the direction I wanted it to go. It worked fantastically and gave a much greater cut than the cut off wheels (although did eat up alot of vasoline).

    (BOOM action shot!)

  4. #4

    Default Re: Aero Case Mod

    I then used the cut off wheels to do the straight edges.

    Right Now I've got it cut out it's time to destroy my hands sanding it. 2 days later it was sanded (not to perfection but it would have made the curves go even further off if I had). I decided next to polish the edges with brasso and my dremel.

    Using this attachment:

    I went from:


    can't see much of a change but their was a big one.

    so I finally unwrapped my panel!
    This is the end result:

    It’s looks ok, you can see the windows logo fine just I wanted it to be pin point accurate. Mind you I only used hand tools so what can you expect?

    I measured and cut to size the piece I needed to fill the whole panel (quite tricky as well seeing as it’s a weird shape).

    Sorted. However I didn’t want a window I wanted a misted effect like you get on the apple logo on macs.I spent many hours (and lot’s of £’s) trying to work out the best method for getting an even misting effect. I eventually found this stuff:

    It’s a special frosted vinyl that simply sticks onto the plexi (there are some tiny imperfections but you’d never notice them normally, I’m just a perfectionist) it’s the easiest and cheapest way to frost anything in my opinion.

    So I set to work cutting out my coloured acylic panels. First I did the dark blue and to show you the effectiveness of the frosted vinyl I have some before and after pictures:

    and after:

    also this makes scratches much harder to see (it’s almost impossible not to scratch the plastic a little bit when handling, and unfortunate disadvantage of building an acrylic case).

    Translucent enough so that light can travel through but you can’t see inside. Perfect. Now the last panel I did I glued the panel in with superglue. Big mistake as the glue ran and made everything go misty white. This time I decided to turn to my trusty companion

    THE HOT GLUE GUN! modder’s dream this thing is. £1 from poundland with 12 sticks of glue (see told you I’m student modder friendly)

    Wanna see the result?

    Right I’ve now finished the so nicknamed “boring” panel (the panel without the windows logo on. I’m a perfectionist by nature and using acrylic sounded like a great idea but I’m now regretting it. It’s far too easy to scratch and as I’m layering these plastic panels it is inevitable that dust shows alot (and scratches seeing as it’s a black background). without further ado:

    These panels are really shiny as you can see me there

    There’s the 3mm clear acrylic on top of the 3mm black, yes I am wearing washing up gloves what of it? you have to wear them when dealing with the panels otherwise you end up with greasy fingerprint marks.

    Right now it was time to do the windows window. after managing to cut and sand all my plexi and cover it with the miracle frosting sticky back plastic stuff I ended up with this:

    I also decided to install some white cold cathodes (AcRyan cold cathodes because cheap cold cathodes can come with cheap inverters which can set on fire and as my case is going to be screwed togther I can’texactly quickly remove the inverter so) here it is with the lights on:

    (the white stuffs superglue to hold the coloured panels in, the hot glue wasn’t very strong.)

    (yegshamesh very nice!)

    I wanted to get the lights to glow but unfortunately it’s too hard for me to work out >.< so solid colour will have to do. Oh and all this AcRyan overboost technology made very little difference between these lights and some cheap ones off ebay. Always best to make sure you get a quality inverter though.

    Now the other night I worked out a way to secure the 2 side panels together. By using a 1m length of 10mm diameter solid acrylic rod (from the same place where I got my other plastic) and drilling a 3mm hole in the centre I could screw directly into them. Here’s an example:

    (I know it’s not straight but my dad’s pillar drill didn’t go down to 3mm)

    Next was to sort my mesh out. I ended up splitting my 1/2m by 1/2m piece into 3 sections of the same width and then supergluing and using single core wire with the insulation removed to kind of sew them together. It gave an almost invisible join which I’m very proud of:

    So I screweds it al together and then bent the mesh around the 4 corner acrylic pillars and secured it to them using more superglue + stripped single core wire:

    Then I fitted the psu and motherboard:

    (I can’t think of anywhere to put the dvd drive….yet also the psu cabling’s gonna be a squeeze >.<)

    Then I cut holes in the aluminium for all the connectors etc (I’m not bothering to use the motherboard backplate, although it’d look cleaner I couldn’t find a way of doing it so:

    Right now I needed an on switch. A while ago whilst trying to do some psp modding (ended up in a broken psp, I’m not that good at modding =P) I bought some microswitches however when they arrived they were huge! bit ironic to still call them microswitches. I decided I’d use one of them for the on/off switch as they make a really nice clicking noise when pressed (come on, like you need a better reason?) .

    Now obviously I needed someway of connecting the microswitch to the +/- on/off pins on hte motherboard. The trusty antec 900 in which my gaming pc sits was chosen for this:

    The HDD activity light is a) useless as I have a raptor and those things are LOUD so if I needed to know if my HDD was running I’d just listen and 2) the activity led is tiny and I barely notice it so:
    Next was to solder the 2 things together:

    Cover the exposed solder with hot glue (to take the strain off the solder joints and to insulate it preventing shorts):

    Now I decided to test that all the components worked properly:

    Booted first time! sweet.Now I didn’t take any pictures of me creating the steps to put the components on but basically I used some scrap 3mm plexi, superglued it at a right angle and covered it in some double sided foam tape ( (pretty much the whole mod is held together by this tape now =P it is very strong) to keep the vibrations and noise to a minimum. Gravity and double sided foam tape keep the components secure.

    Here's the final pictures:

    I'd just like to thank everyone who read this, all my sponsors and anyone who's ever taught me about anything on computers ever. Well that's pretty much everyone now isn't it?
    until my next mod dudes!
    Steven Dodd

  5. #5

    Default Re: Aero Case Mod

    High Res Pictures:




    (I replaced the psu fan with a noctua one as it was LOUD, the noctua the half the CFM though so I had it facing the mesh to make sure it doesn't overheat)

    Back Panel:

    (a bit messed up as acrylic glue got onto it and melted sections >.<)


    Window Interior:


    Example of some of the shelves that hold the components vertically:


    Dual layer acrylic:

    (doesn't look scratched just the camera picks lots up)

    Window lit up:

    Window lit up in the dark:

    This mod is now complete so could this be moved to completed logs?
    Thanks for the support guys
    I've got a new mod coming up so keep your eyes open

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