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Picture of Build a Birch and Mahogany Home Theater PC
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   This is a home theater PC I built from mostly spare parts.  It was designed to be as compact and quiet as possible, given the parts I used, and also not look intrusive in a living room setting.
 
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Step 1: Components, Tools, and Materials

First of all, you will need all the hardware required for a fully functioning computer:  A Motherboard, CPU, RAM, Video card, Power Supply, Hard Drive, DVD Drive, and an cooling components.

To build the case, you will need:

1/4" sheet of marine mahogany
3/4" sheet of birch veneer plywood
12' of 3/4" aluminum angle bar
"L" brackets and screws
Lots of machine screws and nuts
Scrap of sheet steel- I cut mine from an old CD player
Perforated aluminum sheet, "Modders Mesh"
Varnish
2 large momentary push buttons

Tools:

Wood Saw
Dremel/Rotary tool
Sand paper
Drill
Pliers
Screw drivers
Hacksaw

Step 2: Building the Motherboard Tray

I built my motherboard tray out of a scrap bit of metal cut out of an old CD player.  I used this, because the height of the folded up part on the left happened to be almost the exact height of the video card I used.   The motherboard needs to be raised from the surface, so I mounted standoffs in the proper positions.  I also cut a hole for the back panel out of the side of the metal.  To secure the video card, I drilled a hole in the top lip of the metal.  The video card is bolted to this through the hole in the low profile back panel adapter.

Step 3: DVD Drive Mount

Picture of DVD Drive Mount
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To save space, I decided to mount the DVD drive directly to the bottom of the motherboard tray.  To do this, I just cut the aluminum drive bracket out of an old laptop, and screwed it to the bottom of the motherboard tray.  I glued sheets of felt to the top and bottom of the slot in order to eliminate vibrations.

Step 4: Building the Frame

I decided to build the internal frame of the case out of aluminum angle bars, because it is light, versatile, and easy to work with.  The design had to be as compact as possible, but the case also had to be well ventilated and parts had to be relatively easy to install.  All the parts were drilled and bolted together with hex nuts- the same ones used in erector sets.

Step 5: Building the Frame, cont.

To mount the hard drive, I added another bar of aluminum along the bottom, and drilled it to fit the holes in the HDD.

I cut holes in the motherboard tray adjacent to the 24 pin power socket and the IDE socket, to make routing cables easier.  Once your frame is finished, take some time to practice installing the hardware, as there will probably be some installation quirks with your case.  For example, you have to screw in the hard drive in mine before you screw in the PSU, because if you don't, the screw holes on one side are inaccessible.  These are not big issues, but it is good to take note of them.  Especially practice routing cables, as this is probably the most difficult thing to do in a cramped space.

Step 6: Building the Outside of the Case

Most of the outside of the case is made of birch plywood, but the front is a strip of marine mahogany left over from the boat I am building.  I cut notches in the plywood, so the mahogany just slides in.  The plywood is held together with brass "L" brackets.

The case needs to be well ventilated, especially since I am using a passively cooled GPU, so I made the top of the case out of aluminum modders mesh.  I cut the sheet a few inches wider than the case, and folded in the edges.  To fix the aluminum to the wood, simply screw it in from the inside with a few wood screws.  Make sure you can remove them though, as it is best to fix the aluminum after you sand and finish the wood.

I designed the exterior of the case so that the aluminum frame, and all the computer hardware, can slide out of the case, giving easy access to the hardware.

Step 7: Building the Outside of the Case, cont.

If you have been paying close attention, you may have noticed that the intake fan on the PSU is facing directly into a solid piece of plywood.  To fix this problem, I cut a series of slots in the side panel of the case using a jigsaw and the router dremel attachment, and cleaned them up with lots of sanding.  

There also needs to be a way to mount the switches to the outside of the case.  I did this by simply drilling two holes of the same diameter as the switches in the mahogany front panel.

Step 8: DVD Drive Slot

Picture of DVD Drive Slot
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One of the downsides to having a cool slot-loading DVD drive is that you have to cut a slot in your case that is perfectly aligned with your DVD drive.  I marked the drive by removing the aluminum from the case, installing the frame with the DVD drive, and inserting a CD part way into the drive before hand.  This lets you see where the CD touches the mahogany, so you can mark it to be cut.  I did the actual cutting with a dremel.  Be very careful when you do this and go very slowly, or it will probably look bad.  Finish the slot out by sanding the inside edges.

Step 9: Integrating the Wireless Card

The particular motherboard I used only had 2 back panel USB ports, so I decided to mount the wireless card to the internal USB header.  I started by stripping the wireless card of its casing, and screwing it into the bottom corner of the aluminum frame.  I insulated it with strips of electrical tape along the bottom, and I drilled a slot that served as a hinge for the antenna.  I mounted a two port USB panel from the front of an old case next to the wireless card, and connected it to the motherboard's USB header and the wireless card using an extra short USB cable I made.

Step 10: Finishing the Wood and Aluminum

Picture of Finishing the Wood and Aluminum
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To finish the wood, I chose to use gel varnish, which gives the mahogany a fantastic color.  I also sprayed the aluminum with a coat of clear acrylic, which evens out the color and prevents oxidation.  This would also be a good time to add rubber feet to the bottom of the case.

Step 11: Assembly

Picture of Assembly
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Install all your hadware into your internal frame, and then install the frame into the case.  To attach the DVD and Power switches from the front of the case to the motherboard, I wired the switches to a spare molex connector.  This way, whenever I need to remove the hardware, I simply unplug the switches and pull out the frame with the components.  I also added a metal lip to the bottom of the frame, so it can screw into the base of the wood and prevent the hardware from sliding out by accident.

Step 12: Eye Candy

Here are the final pictures.  You can view this project, as well as others, on my blog, which can be found here:

http://build-its.blogspot.com/
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muddog151 year ago
I have an old NetBook for a home theater. Running Linux Xbmc. Runs perfect.
codyg1023 years ago
Very nice project, Technochicken. I had the same response as Greyfox1143 -I love the retro look and the overall aesthetic.

If I was building it (and I'm thinking of doing just that for a HTPC project), I would probably replace the bolts in the frame with aluminum "pop" rivets once I was satisfied with the structure of the frame. I'd probably also edge-band the plywood (or even use solid wood, especially for the side panels).

Your other 'ibles look interesting too. Keep up the good work!
kbhasi3 years ago
Why not upload this to mini-itx.com ?
Cool I like the idea of sticking a DVD into a chunk of wood.
not bad! id make the dvd slot wider so it isnt scratshed or if you have one with a tray you woul mount the wood on the front sits covered up
toastytheog4 years ago
have you considered using edge banding on the two pieces of birch? they have it at most woodworking shops
hilbert95414 years ago
you did a beautiful job on this project
wsecomp5 years ago
Reminds me of a project I started about 20 years ago - a wooden computer desk with the computer actually built into the desk. I never got it off the paper. But with smaller computer parts, flat screens and cheaper mounts, it would be quite feasible these days.
zack247 wsecomp4 years ago
im doing pretty much the same thing, except im making my desk out of cardboard (read the cardboard furniture instructable) and you are right, it would be more than quite feasible, it would be pretty easy.
ixilon5 years ago
Great work, good pictures and well commented! Btw, will you continue this project and show us what you installed on this machine?
tetsujin295 years ago
Very Nice, you are brilliant !!
fly_boy_bc5 years ago
I have to say I do not like the look of the unfinished edges of the plywood and using unattractive vented aluminum is not the best way to make a quiet and properly vented media computer for several reasons. It's a good idea but some veneer on the plywood would look a LOT better. As for venting if you had used (more attractive) solid aluminum and checked the pressurization inside the cabinet your system would be cooler (always always desired even if it is already "cool enough") And more importantly it would be quieter because you could use the lowest possible airflow and have a SOLID barrier between yourself and that noisy fan. Even if it is currently "quiet enough" and "cool enough" it WOULD be quieter and cooler using solid aluminum.
Coffeinated5 years ago
Very well done. The only thing which is not too tasty are the cooling slots in the wood, but these are very complicated to do, I know, without the right expensive tools. How the aluminumframe is attached to the outer case so it cnat slide out? I think I didn't get that.
ben_k (author)  Coffeinated5 years ago
One thing that killed me with these, besides the amount of work they were, is that about a week after I finished this computer, I found two working power supplies in my school's recycling pile that had rear exhaust fans. They were not modular, but I could have just cut off the extra cables, and then I would not have had to go to all the trouble to cut the slots. They were even high quality PSU's- PC Power and Cooling Silencers.
hintss ben_k5 years ago
:( also, attach one of those to the vent. or vent it through the mesh...
ben_k (author)  Coffeinated5 years ago
I forgot to reply to the second part of the question: The inner frame and hardware slide in and fits snugly with the mesh so that it can not move vertically. So it can not slide out, it is screwed into the base with two easily removable screws. There is a picture of this in the first picture of step 11.
manumanu7645 years ago
What for is that PS/2 looking yellow connector? by the way, nice work!
ben_k (author)  manumanu7645 years ago
S-video out.
thnx
mortale5 years ago
excelent work m8.
Some people call me crazy, but I miss wood-boxed electronics, they beat stainless steel and black plastic any day! Only change I would make would have been putting birch veneer over the edges of the plywood. Helps to prevent delamination and looks cleaner. All you really need is a good iron and a sharp knife to but it on.
Personally, I prefer black steel and chromed plastic...
Kasm279 jongscx5 years ago
Ech, chromed plastic. My favorite case for portable stuff is anodized aluminum, for stuff that stays black or blue plastic accented with some brushed steel for the black and some white for the blue.
Yeah anodized aluminium looks the best IMO, Apple know's what their doing.
I was meaning something like the Palm m515 or my blue anodized HP Jordana 548, but yeah the PowerBook G4's and up look pretty nice.
lsocoee5 years ago
Very nice work, but it looks unfinished. I would suggest using edge banding to hide the edge of the plywood. Most lumber yards sell it. They may even offer it by the foot. The product I have used is iron-on and very easy to use.
Some people actually like the way those edges look, so to each his own.
ben_k (author)  lsocoee5 years ago
There have been a few comments about the edge of the plywood, but I actually like the look of the stripes on the edges.
RyeFellow5 years ago
I love the look you have achieved. It reminds me of my first stereo kit build I built when I cam out of the service in '72. It was made by Dynaco. It was just the power amp but the complete chassis was stamped steel. The cover consisted of the "modders mesh". It was a great amp and for those days 60 watts per channel was very impressive. Still have the unit but needs repairs after an overzealous friend thought twisting the volume knob to max would be fun. It is an awesome paper weight at the moment. Have had an idea bouncing around in my head for several years to build a case with 80/20 parts. Similarly I have purchased the same switches from All Electronics. I bought 2 of the flat and 2 of the domed hoping to use on that build or anything else. Will now consider adding wooden components to build after seeing your stunning results. Keep up the good work
JTomM1295 years ago
Fantastic! The only other improvement might be to paint/anodize the frame black to make it "disappear" when it's in back of the mesh (but some tech-heads may like seeing it). Well done.
ben_k (author)  JTomM1295 years ago
That's a great idea!
This is really cool! If there is any space left in the case, It would be awesome to put some fake tubes inside that glow or dim every now and then. It would really round out the vintage electronics look.
soeinegaudi5 years ago
awesome instructable ! i think i just foud a desteny for my old pc ...
Wow excellent step by step. The finished case reminds me of the old school tube amps of the 60's and 70's. Nice work.
shteef5 years ago
Very nicely done mate, looks quite pleasing and bugger all like a PC. Actually reminds of the rear end of 1960's TVs, which is no bad thing.They built stuff to last back then. Who knows, your PC may still be around in 50 years!
ernii5 years ago
Excelent work! But, I don't understand what happend with the cd-rom...
ben_k (author)  ernii5 years ago
It's still there. The one I used is slot loading, so you can not see any of it once the computer is installed in the case. The drive in most of the pictures is just for demonstration, as I did not want to damage the actual one.
Ghost Wolf5 years ago
I love it. I now want to make one 5 stars all the way!!!
amoah5 years ago
kool bros. big ups, uve really opened my eye to something new. i think i appreciate the era of technology u've have displayed. i wish ................. lack of words to describe the fabulous work. once again i say well done
kcls5 years ago
Nice Build! You must have a steady hand... I know I couldn't cut a line tat straight and that thin with a dremel! Great job!
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