Introduction: Dewalt Tool Box PC

Dewalt Media Center PC

About 2 years ago, I needed a rough and ready ; road worthy PC, with built in wireless. What to do? Build one of course! The problem was simple - a notebook wouldn't do what we needed it to ; in terms of POWER, naturally - and the only solution was to take a full sized PC with us on the go.

Cases got dented, we cursed just about every manufacture until ....

We built two Dewalt tool box PCs. w000t. It's still exciting. I've (literally) kicked this one around for about 2 years now ; everything from being stacked to dropped pretty hard and it still works great. I should mention the rubber inserts (not contained in this article, I'm sure you can figure out some rubber padding) are a big reason why it still works.

Step 1: The Problem....

The problem for me was fitting the full sized ATX board into a DeWalt Drill Box ; along with an ATX power supply. Keeping a full sized PC cool in a smaller space is always fun - AND it also had to be very quiet in this situation, so fan speed controllers were going to dial in the temp to make it quiet, as well as cool. In the end I drilled installed an ext. fan over the CPU ; and drilled vent holes . You'll have to shop around, and find the smallest components (I used a 3 PCI slot board ; with no PCI-E) ; mini ATX PSU, etc..

It took a lot of returns, but it's worth it. You end up with a really road-worthy PC, that takes the abuse ; and can be stacked just like any other road gear. Plus it's fun to make.

Some things to consider that aren't necessities but I recommend before starting this project are:

  • Wireless USB Mouse / Keyboard (combo)
  • Fan Speed Controller
  • CPU Temperature Display / Sensor
  • Foot switch (so you can throw it under something out of view, hit the side with your foot for on/off)
  • Rubber Inserts (padding from shock)

Also not required ; but suggested:

  • An understanding girlfriend whom doesn't (know) you are crazy (yet)
  • Sedatives.
  • Muscle Relaxers.
  • Booze.
  • A pink tu-tu
  • And an eagle's feather.

Step 2: Tools and Materials

TOOLS:

  • A 'Dewalt' Drill ... hahaha (for vent holes)
  • Grinder (to cut out Dewalt Inserts ; holes for the board face & PSU)
  • Exacto Knife (to cut out Dewalt Inserts)
  • Sander (to sand the case bottom smooth)

MATERIALS:

Dewalt Tool Drill Box / or others ... whatever is free ; preferably empty.

ATX PC Board
CPU / Memory
CD Drive (for install) [ext. recommended]
Hard Drive
Mini ATX Power Supply
Temperature LCD / Sensor (optional)
Fan (external) over CPU
Fan Speed Controller (optional)
Board Standoffs (plastic ones with flat bottoms & double sided tape)
2 Part Epoxy , Gorilla Glue , etc...

[note: don't worry ; you won't be using the double sided tape - but you still need stand off's with flat bottoms]

Step 3: Putting It All Together

Ok, well now that you have all the parts to this puzzle ; let's put it all together.

#1. Start with your Dewalt Tool Box.

Prepare your box for anarchy.

Cut all inserts (dividers) inside of the box out. I've done this with a Utility Knife, and a grinder. Also measure and cut the areas out of your box where your boards ports are going to need to be exposed as well as the power supply area. Importantly on the PSU note - make sure you leave a bit of plastic to screw the PSU to the side of the tool box. Next lightly sand the bottom flat ; because you will have ridges in the plastic dividers still exposed from cutting.

Your Dewalt tool box is going from holding tools, to holding expensive hardware - so clean everything thoroughly after you do this job of preparing your box for the motherboard and hardware.

#2. Decide where it's going to go.

Mapping out where components are going to go is part of the entire mystery in this project. Every component is different, so you'll need to find what works for you. Generally the smaller the better ; and going mini ATX on everything can really make this project go quickly. You won't run into too many problems.

I , on the other hand - choose an AMD board for this project which was small but a full sized ATX motherboard. This made things a super tight fit between the motherboard and the PSU ; so modification to the Power Supply unit housing was required.

#3. Installing the Hardware


{ 3.1 } Mount your motherboard using the stand offs with flat bottoms first. I recommend removing the double sided backings on them if they are there ; and 2-part epoxy, supergluing / gorilla gluing / etc.. to the chassis. It has to be hard core stuff, because you won't want to fiddle with ones that have worked their way loose later. Remember to drill holes over your CPU heat sink & fan assembly .

I like to construct rubber 'shocks' for the bottom of the board, and sides touching the case for extra chaos protection.

{ 3.2 } Mount any PCI cards you need ; half sized ones are A-OK ; but you'll run into problems with full sized ones. Remember to drill a hole for that wifi antenna. Mounting the cards without the brackets is also an art. I just used zip ties in the end.

{ 3.3 } Mount your mini ATX power supply using ALOT of two part epoxy to make it stay (forever!) in the case and not move. This is crucial. Everything has to be stationary. * see video below *

{ 3.4 } Mount the hard disk as shown in the video below. It comes sideways off the handle area ; and is built with an air gap in mind to keep things cool. It also suspends the hard drive ; to avoid shock.

{ 3.5 } Hopefully, you also have a fan speed controller and temp display & sensor to hook up as well. I highly recommend this ; it will prevent you from getting your new box too hot.

But hey, not enough ugly green paper is something I can relate to. If built without one, just make sure you put plenty of holes over the CPU's fan and heat sink ; and a fan over the hard disk area.

{ 3.6} Hook up your on/off switch & LEDs where ever you want ; I installed mine at the base of the box so I could kick it under a table to start the PC up.

{ 3.7} Install (temporarily) an IDE or USB external CD-ROM drive to transfer your favorite OS flavor.


Step 4: Putting a Toolbox PC to Good Use

I've found the most common uses for the toolbox PC to be....

  • Music Recording PC / Gig-read recording unit
  • Media Center (for at home, music collections ; etc.. )
  • Wireless Security / Wardriving (multiple PCI wifi cards anyone?)
  • Itunes Jukebox (wirelessly connecting multiple itunes libraries as a hub to a stereo)
  • Letting people know you are a total geek ; but in a cool way. You can BUILD geek stuff, after all.
  • Dates with intellectually superior girls who think your tool box PC is pretty dope. (uhhhhhh, yah!)
  • Having a PC that's completely out of the way
  • In Car PC
  • LAN Gamers

So yeah, enough said here's some more pics !!

Step 5: Other PC Designs

You can build one of these into just about anything ; including a receiver if you think that will fit in with your home entertainment system better for media pc applications. However, in my experience the most practical, portable, straight forward full board housing has been the tool box PC.

Here is another design Jon and I built, using an old receiver as a housing. That's the PSU mounted internally outside of it's housing so it all fit, which I do not recommend for unsupervised home use ; but it worked fine and we later insulated it from the main board and housing better. This PC was used as a media center / home theatre jukebox to store a friend of mine's CD collection ; and was operated through a big screen TV using a wireless mouse.

Good luck ; and have fun with your custom chassis project.

Comments

author
jdemaine (author)2015-10-27

nice build, to make sure it's safe in rough environments, you should use an SSD instead of a HDD. and for battery power, you could probably modify the power supply inside a laptop to match the atx requirements of the board

author
callumm2 (author)2015-08-13

don't have the stuff to make it

author
kve23 (author)2012-04-23

What are the specs on that computer?

author
macwhiz (author)2011-06-22

I made one of these too, a little more cramped because of my full sized PSU but it's pretty cool, all my friends love it. I only had one problem, my graphics card was too tall, so I got a agp flex cable and placed the card on an angle. Oh, BTW it's a hackint0sh

author
cyrozap (author)2009-08-02

You could have an SSD and liquid cooling so you wouldn't have that huge hole in the case for the cpu fan. Less holes means more structural integrity, and nothing would be able to accidentally jam the CPU cooling fan. Also, less moving parts means less potential for failure. Maybe you could even liquid cool the PSU. Another idea: if you are using this in a car, ditch the ATX power supply. PCs run on DC electricity, so you could build your own DC-DC power supply. That way, you could power it off of a 12v car battery without need for an inverter. There are so many possibilities :)

author
capth00k (author)cyrozap2009-08-02

Wow, great suggestion -- I'd love to make a liquid cooled / SSD one ; it would really cut down on the noise ; possibly making it almost silent which would be great as a recording studio PC. I like your idea for ditching the PSU for DC-DC as well - that would be really useful for folks installing something like this in a Vehicle / RV.

author
Pyroflea (author)capth00k2009-08-03

Liquid cooling systems still have radiators that usually requires fans to generate adequate airflow, and still give off heat. A fan and vents would still be necessary.

author
capth00k (author)Pyroflea2010-09-19

Like I said... would really cut down on the noise.

author
bobertoper1 (author)2010-01-01

i just made one about 2 months ago but i used a bell and howell case and mine doesnt have a disk drive ill post an instructable on it soon

author
capth00k (author)bobertoper12010-09-19

Post a pic!

author
crabbypup (author)2009-10-29

currently building my own case. my problem is that i need to fit 5 SATA HDD's, a custom fan controller, a home theater/volume/remote box (2x5.25") and a dvd drive into a case that ONLY vents from the front and back and is less than 7.25" wide by 24" tall. so far i have basically ripped apart a whole buch of old cases that fit one of the criteria but not some others. i have the tray and most of the back, but i still need the top and sides and i need to buy the innards. it will contain an AMD phenom II x4 940 (3ghz), 2x ati radeon 4790s and 4gb 1666 mhz dual channel DDR2 ram.

author
bobertoper1 (author)crabbypup2010-01-01

no way your going to fit 5 in there i could only fit one and im still working on the disk drive  but just to tell you how much did that cost you! where did you get that kind of money!

author
capth00k (author)bobertoper12010-09-19

BTW, I have 4 Hard Drives in that little dewalt case now. Only problem is the heat can't dissipate fast enough, and I fried one. Will probably swiss cheese the box more before I fit another replacement. Using as a file server under the bed, and VNC into it when I need to control it.

peace,

Capt.

author
crabbypup (author)bobertoper12010-01-01

 the case i am building is not a toolbox. mine is designed for a specific space. it is 7.25"x24"x21" (WxHxD). and i have already built the drive trays for all of these, and they will fit, two of the drives are bolted sideways onto the case door to fit all of them. i have not actually bought the parts yet, i am waiting until february, when the price will probably drop.

author
bobertoper1 (author)crabbypup2010-01-01

aah i see by the way you want to have some kind of material to protect the hdds because mine sometimes rattles (can reduce its life by 50%) and you might want to check Milwaukee PC they've got them for cheap.

author
TheParadox (author)bobertoper12010-07-03

Try SSD drives.

author
capth00k (author)bobertoper12010-01-03

 Rubber cubes work great for this ; or you could make 'floating' rubber footed platforms for the HDs.  Think of how the lens / mechanism in a CD ROM / CD player 'floats' inside of the casing with rubber feet ; so it isn't jarred. 

author
your_dragon113 (author)crabbypup2009-11-30

I'm 95% finished mine here. Capth00k used a DeWalt cordless drill case and I thought that was Great! I took it a step father and used the DeWalt skillsaw case for mine. I threw in a DELL system into mine and there's a lot of room to grow with in there. I tossed out the 250Watt Dell P/S and put in a full sized 450Watt unit. I was able to put in 2 HHDsthere's room for 2 more...SATA maybe?,  as well as the CD reader(Dell didn't like the thought of DVD readers(?)) as well as wireless WiFi and Wireless keyboard/mouse(Logitech MX 5500). I'll be adding a set of logitech speakers to the case, first time I've boughten something JUST to butcher...well...ok...maybe a small lie there, then it'll be complete. (still working on pics ASAP)

author
capth00k (author)your_dragon1132009-12-07

 Nice dude, post your pics when you get time to

author
fingerlikin (author)crabbypup2009-12-07

better get all your  guts first !!!

author
ANDY! (author)2010-01-08

battery power possible?

author
capth00k (author)ANDY!2010-09-19

Sure, why not run an 600 watt-ish inverter with a 12v battery, or off your vehicles cigarette lighter outlet to said inverter. No problem.

author
Lance Mt. (author)ANDY!2010-02-02

 Ooo, car battery maybe. Have 2 batterys in car ^.^

author
hintss (author)Lance Mt.2010-07-19

plus the picoPSU or whatever its called...

author
your_dragon113 (author)2009-12-07

I've got mine done now...just trying to get the pics loaded(the site isn't playing nice). As for the venting...I might sugest the use of 2" &\or 3" round soffet vents as they can be cut and bent in to hold them in place(and they worked out VERY well for speaker grills!).

I don't have any build pics as I started the project and it just kinda flowed (fast). But I CAN take a few parts out to show HOW things were mounted. I even got a Skil Saw WAV for the Windows Start sound...heh heh heh...now the DELL Really has an identity complex! LOL

author
fingerlikin (author)2009-12-07

im glad everyone likes it lol!!!!!  the first one is still kickin around somewhere in my garage atm. mini atx system board, dvd drive, more usb/firewire ports than you could ever need, etc. etc.  I'll try to locate the build pics for ya capt.
aka Jon N. ;P

oh mine runs XP Pro media center, and Ubuntu

author
capth00k (author)fingerlikin2009-12-07

 Yes!!! Add your pics dude, I'll give  you my login info. This instructable could use some more actual 'build' pics .

author
MACKattacksnipe (author)2009-10-18

My case is from here
http://www.serpac.com/Products/Rseries/r-720.aspx
Yellow Water Poof im hoping the whole CPU will be water proof even the switches and Wireless Card will be "HOPEFULLY"

author
eyobin2 (author)2009-09-17

its pretty cool i made one out of a small toolbox a while back, now that i think we can actually use a nano or mini itx mobo and a pico power supply n dat would fit in a super small box.... imagine how tiny, powerful and portable, i have a mini itx running in my car as a carputer pretty fun.... but i like diy, i guess great minds think alike lol

author
frikkie (author)2009-09-01

This is so awesome!Maybe with oil rings,silicone and rubber you can even make it like waterproof.I once saw the old army radios;they are in heavy iron casing.If one of those radios ever fell off an army jeep,the radio was still in working condition.On its insides,the pc boards are mounted on metal plates that again have springs that help to absorb shocks from falling.

author
DiamondBack (author)2009-08-09

What an awesome idea. I have two or three of these in my storage shed. And I am getting close to needing another PC ...

author
capth00k (author)DiamondBack2009-08-26

Hey thanks Man... the 'Pipster' thinks it's a lame idea but I think he just took too many drugs in high school and can't figure out why I'd (ruin) a perfectly good tool box and turn it into an evil computing machine.

author
albylovesscience (author)2009-08-09

whats that program that you have on it

author
dooj (author)2009-08-08

cool beans

author
djtomczak678 (author)2009-08-03

:O is that a pioneer vsx series??

author
capth00k (author)djtomczak6782009-08-03

Yeah, an old one that burned out one of the channels.

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jeffdak (author)2009-08-03

could you say the application name for media control ?

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capth00k (author)jeffdak2009-08-03

It's Windows XP ; Media Center Edition.

author
John Smith (author)2009-08-02

You know those roll up silicone keyboards they sell for like $25? You could get one of those and mount it to the outside that way you would only need an extra mouse.

author
Scott_Tx (author)2009-08-01

Neat! I've got a rolling plastic tool chest my bro gave me and had no use for it. Until now...

author
cammel8 (author)2009-07-30

This is freakin' Awesome!!! I have been looking for something to put in my RV and I think I have just found it. You are my freakin' hero man.... I think I will make false idols of you and worship them....Thank you thank you thank you...

author
capth00k (author)cammel82009-08-01

hahaha, thanks man

author
camintmier (author)2009-07-30

This is the perfect reason to use a Solid State HDD. I'm sure it'd survive a 3 foot drop with a SSD inside while powered on. You're liable to kill a standard hdd if you drop it while spinning.

author
capth00k (author)camintmier2009-08-01

SSD would make these SUPER rock solid. Great suggestion.

author
knife141 (author)2009-07-31

Nice job! I had a similar need a few years ago, and found an aluminum tool case (the kind copier repairmen use) at a home improvement store that also worked out well. It even had enough room to mount the optical drive.

author
capth00k (author)knife1412009-08-01

Jon managed to mount an optical drive (full sized) in his lid on the first version of these DeWalt boxes. If I (had to have one) I would use a laptop sized one and convert the connector to IDE / SATA

author
kelseymh (author)2009-07-31

This is an excellent project. It's too bad you didn't take pictures along the way while you were building it, but thanks much for putting in the interior detail shots here. In Step 3, I would encourage you to split this out into three separate I'bles steps. I suspect it'll make things a bit easier to follow.

author
capth00k (author)kelseymh2009-08-01

I'll take it apart to break it down better and provide more pics for you guys

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Dragonhen (author)2009-07-31

Nice job!!!!

author
robotguy4 (author)2009-07-31

BRILLIANT!

About This Instructable

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Bio: I am a musician, internet developer, and a hobbyist pedal builder.
More by capth00k:Fixing an iMac g5 Power Supply using an ATX (pc) PSUThe ' Little Gem ' - Mini Amplifier / Guitar Amp -Portable Guitar Amp with distortion / Bass Amplifier - 9v / LM386 IC
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