Instructables
Picture of How to build a wood computer
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In this instructable I will show you pictures of how I built a computer tower out of wood. I am starting a CNC wood sign carving business and it would be great to have a laser to engrave and cut signs for customers. I needed to upgrade to a better computer for my cnc router and thought of making it out of wood. Here is an overview of how I did it...

Tools and Materials Used:
V carve pro software
CNC router
Table saw
X acto knife
(1)2x4ft sheet, 3/16in birch plywood
(1) 2x2ft sheet, 3/16in birch plywood
150 and 400 grit sandpaper
Enamel Paint
Natural color Velvit oil
CA instant super glue or wood glue
Small wood screws


Desktop Computer parts I used:
(1)Motherboard, ECS A780LM-M AM3 Motherboard
(1)Processor and cooling fan, AMD Athlon ll X3 3.1gHz and Thermaltake AM3 Cooler fan
(1)RAM Memory, Crucial 2048MB DDR3
(1)Harddrive, Western Digital 40GB (I had this laying around)
(1)Power Supply, Theraltake 420W (I had this laying around)
(1)Ultra 20 to 24 pin power supply adapter
(1)Parallel port adapter cable, Routes parallel port from motherboard to back panel(for CNC router. I had this laying around)

Total cost:
$160
Time to complete:
5hrs

Buy the computer parts:
Tiger direct sells computer parts and kits. The parts list shows what I used and a few parts that I laying around the shop.

Design and layout:
I designed the tower using V carve pro and saved the tool paths.
Important: Check to make sure the openings in the back will match with the parts you use. I made a few mistakes but I was able to fix them before it was too late. This is the place to check and double check measurements! 
The panels will fit together like a puzzle and make a nice sturdy and lightweight box.

Cutting wood:
Next it was cut on my cnc router using a 1/4in endmill and 60 deg v bit. Cutting goes really fast.
Important: I used an upcut endmill(chips get pulled up and out of work). It left a lot of rough edges on the plywood and took extra time to sand out. Go with a downcut bit and save time and sandpaper :)

Fitting, Gluing and Sanding:
Important: Fit all the pieces before gluing! Take the x acto knife and trim the tabs along the profile of each part. Sand all the rough edges and openings to make sure there are no splinters. Once it fits good use a good quality wood glue or instant super glue on the parts.
Important: Leave the left panel unglued so you can get all the parts inside. Instead of glue use screws to fasten it to the tower.

Paint and finish:
Paint the letters and finish the inside and outside completely so it doesn't soak up moisture.

Install the parts:
Now its time to put all the computer parts inside. Follow the instructions tha come with the motherboard and each part carefully since each one is slightly different.

Done!
Install the OS of your choice and enjoy your new green computer!
cruisorusa1 year ago
Hello,

What a great project. Would it be possible to acquire the VCarve files. Sure would same a lot of time!!

Thanks,

Lee
pfred22 years ago
You should have got an atom for your LinuxCNC machine. They don't really need cases. Most folks mount them in their driver boxes. Atoms score about 5000ns for latency which should satisfy most folks. Although some AMDs do run faster. Does yours?
backyard_barnstormer (author)  pfred22 years ago
its at less than 2300ns. i didnt know they made atom computers. i learn something new all the time :)
Todd Gehris2 years ago
Is this computer quieter than a computer with a metal case?
purrs like a kitten! i love it plus the whole thing weighs less than metal cases by a few pounds.
You've obviously no experience with the cheapest computer cases. I have one I swear I've drank beer out of cans with thicker walls! I literally have to hold the case down when I plug a USB flash drive into it. The whole system is too light to just stay there. I measured the sheet metal with calipers and it is like 29 gauge on the scale.
backyard_barnstormer (author)  pfred22 years ago
I have used them before and noticed how they are so flimsy it could collapse very easily. this wood case is quite strong and will hold up well out in a shop environment.
temper2 years ago
erm... EMI?
pfred2 temper2 years ago
Had a concern about electrical grounding. On most cases, the metal you mount your hardware on is grounded to the case of the PSU and out the 110v groundwire. With this setup, I do not see anywhere for electrical surges/shorts to go if the mobo/add-on cards, dvd, hdd/sdd has an issue.
Would this be an issue?
Actually it is not a problem. Every part inside has a ground wire back to the PS and the earth ground is connected to each of the ground wires inside. The PS also has built in short circut protection to keep from frying components. The main reason the tower is made of steel is to block EMF(electro-magnetic frequencies).
My mistake EMF stands for electro-magnetic field
EwanC2 years ago
Great Work and a good idea. The only problem is that the components inside (especially the psu) can get extremely hot and could quite easily set the case on fire.
jeffeb3 EwanC2 years ago
I'm sorry but that is incorrect. This setup has adequate airflow, in the recommended atx pattern (In lower, front, out, through the PSU). Also, unless there is a short, there is no way the electronics will reach the heat required to burn wood (about 300 degrees C). Typically the hottest part of a computer is the processor, and warnings for dangerous CPU temperatures is usually around 70 degrees C. Hopefully we will see some creative wooden computer cases in the future. I really like them.
Does it dissipate heat well though? Weed is a better insulator for heat than a conductor. I would worry that even with the airflow the case usually acts as a bit of a heat sync, and aids in the cooling a bit.

But then, depending where you live that might not be a problem, if it doesn't get hot enough as an ambient temperature to cause your cooling system to work too hard.

Very nice work on the case.
Wood*
It has good airflow through the case, maybe not as much as a high performance gaming PC but more than a standard tower. I checked the CPU usage monitor and it runs between 3-5% adding up all three cores and memory is at 250MB running the CNC router. Plus the power supply has 2 built-in fans to increase airflow.
backyard_barnstormer (author)  jeffeb32 years ago
yep the processor will shut down before that temp to prevent any damage. its not really a concern for me. the only thing that could be an issue is that the case does not block emf, but so far its been good.
dekonick2 years ago
Just a couple of ideas - If you want to keep it all wood, put 2 strips under the hard drive so you can screw it down, but allow airflow under the HD. Another consideration : add a fan hole to the front at the bottom to pull air inside the case to improve airflow. You can also put a spacer on top for the power supply (like the hard drive) to allow airflow, with a fin blowing air OUT top.

Neat idea! (I have had a wooden PC case and it holds more heat than a typical aluminum or steel case... but easy enough to solve with shims, spacers, and fans...)
typo's - add a fan to the front ventilation hole... pull air in... and a top blow hole for air out. This system doesn't look like it will generate a ton of heat anyway, but a cool hard drive = a longer lasting hard drive. If it is just running your CNC, perhaps a small SSD instead of a hard drive? The 120GB and under SSD's are cheap now...

That's really impressive! Since it is your first Instructable, you should mention it on the Rewards for New Authors page!
yeah ill definitely check it out, thanks!
Love the "powered by linuxcnc" logo!!!!
thanks!