Introduction: Make a Water Block Out of a Heatsink for Less Than $20!

Picture of Make a Water Block Out of a Heatsink for Less Than $20!

With CPUs and other computer components becoming hotter and more powerful faster and faster; traditional air cooling methods are no longer efficant enough to cool these components.  Another way to cool components is water cooling, but this can be very expensive, which is why, in this Instructable you will learn how to create your own highly efficant waterblock for $20 or less!  I made my waterblock to cool a 168 watt thermoelectric junction 

Step 1: Materials and Tools

Picture of Materials and Tools

For this project you will need:
-a 120V plug-in drill
-some plexiglass or lexan sheets#
-a heatsink with wide spread fins
-JB weld#
-2 brass (or plastic) screw-in barbs#
-a hacksaw
-a thin sharpie*
-a centimeter ruler (this is a MUST I'm living in the U.S.A and even I'm using one; they're more accurate)*
-a large quick-clamp
-a piece of wood with a straight edge
-a utility knife with a sharp blade*
-various drillbits*
-vinal tubing to match the barbs*
-a file*
-SOS pad*
In total all of my materials were easily accessable from Lowes and costed $13.00
* item is not pictured
# item was bought
NOTE: plexiglass and lexan are not the same thing, lexan is stronger and more expensive, but when I say plexiglass I mean lexan.

Step 2: Planning Water Routes and Cutting Out Heatsnk

Picture of Planning Water Routes and Cutting Out Heatsnk

Before any serious work begins, the waters route inside the water block must be planned out.  Take your time, you will only have one shot at getting it right.  Try to plan a path that does not obstruct the flow to much or create little areas where bubbles could form and become trapped.  My design utilizes many holes drilled perpendicular to the fins.  Once your design is done, cut out the heatsink and drill or cut until the heatsink fits the design. 

Step 3: Cutting Plexiglass and Cutting Barbs

Picture of Cutting Plexiglass and Cutting Barbs

Now measure all of the demensions of the heatsink and trace them onto the plexiglass with the sharpie.  use the wood as a guide to score and cut the plexiglas.  Most of the time,, the threads on the barbs will be too tall, use the hacksaw to cut them down, make sure they are the same hieght. 

Step 4: Polishing the Bottom

Picture of Polishing the Bottom

use the SOS pad to polish the bottom of the heatsink, go in a back and forth motion until a good shine is achived.  To test the integrity of the polish: put a drop of water on a piece of plexiglass, press the heatsink onto it and flip it over.  If it sticks you're good, if not polish more.

Step 5: Dry Fit and Gluing

Picture of Dry Fit and Gluing

Now dry fit the plexiglass peices, if they are too big use the file to shape them up.  if they are too small, re-cut them.  remember measure twice cut once :)  after you know the pieces are the right size, begin JB welding them into place.  Be sure to sand the to parts being joined.  It is best to do this part in two steps.  Also try to keep the plexiglass clean, it makes of a better overall look when it is finished.

Step 6: Leak Test

Picture of Leak Test

Connect your water block to your water pump/source and let it run for a long time (24-48 hours).  If it dosen't leak great!  If it does, then add more JB weld.  Mine leaked and the entire right side came off! D:  I re-glued it and it seems to be holding up well.

Step 7: Final Thoughts

Picture of Final Thoughts

It came out much better than expected
did a very good job of cooling the TEC
didn't obstruct water flow
can't beat the price! :D
I love comments, so leave one! :)
total cost: $15 :)

EDIT: 8/19/2010   ok so this thing was a flop, it broke again, except this time on the opposing side, I dont feel like fixing this every time.  So I made a soda can waterblock, and haven't had anything go wrong yet :P   


pc stuff 3T (author)2016-04-09

Great Idea

Thanks :)

bigjeff5 (author)2015-09-30

This is neat and all, and I suppose 5 years ago this might have been a cheap alternative, but today you can buy a 42x42x12mm aluminum cpu waterblock for $10. A cheap motor and radiator, plus hoses and mounting tools, will set you back another $30, for a $40 full watercool system. If you've got a beefy video card, tack on $10 - $17 to cool that thing (depending on the number of GPUs), and your total sits at under $60 for a full CPU/GPU watercool setup.

junits15 (author)bigjeff52015-11-09

I made this because I was young and unable to order things on the internet. To be 100% honest I would never reccomend watercooling to anyone, it's a novelty really.

rwithoff (author)2015-03-27

I've been experimenting with water cooling high power LEDs, and this is a freaking awesome idea.

If you're using acrylic sheets, you should consider a solvent-based glue made for plexiglass, like they use for DIY aquariums and the like. It essentially welds the plastic together, and makes for really strong containers.

Considering the quantity of heatsinks I already have, this saves me a righteous bunch of money. Thank you!

junits15 (author)rwithoff2015-03-28

Huh Somehow I never thought of that. I made this a while ago and I've since learned about that exact adhesive, But for some reason I never connected it to this project. Thanks for the comment I might just have to make one of these again!

AleksandrovDian (author)2014-11-02

you can buy some cheap containers for less than 5$

zaka1 (author)2014-10-31

very good work

luxstar (author)2013-07-17
iamdarkyoshi (author)2013-06-18

the best way to polish a heatsink is to use a lot of qtips and googone, after about 10 minutes of scrubbing it is VERY VERY clean.

jules15 (author)2013-04-07

this was a really good 'ible! i plan to use something like this for a high power led. but i think silicone would be better as a glue. that what glass aquariums are built with :D

junits15 (author)jules152013-04-25

search suda can water block, it's a much better design than this

mr. clean (author)2011-08-01

Thanks for the polishing idea, i polished a square aluminum spacer for use with a TEC, after polishing heat transfer was greatly improved!

junits15 (author)mr. clean2012-12-14

Glad you were able to get some use out of this! :)

nesiory (author)2011-12-28

Awsome Build, going to use this im my system. :D

egammoc (author)2010-11-07

i think it would be better if you see if a friend that has metal shop can make you a cheap waterblock for like 3 bucks out of scrap metal, then all you need is a metal filer to shine it up and give it a curve then itl look sweet. thats my plans to do, make one for my graphics card, northbridge, and processor

snowluck2345 (author)egammoc2011-12-26

skip the northbridge.

snowluck2345 (author)egammoc2011-07-12

or cast it yourself

junits15 (author)egammoc2011-05-09

Ya I don't know anybody that could do that, it would be nice though. I made a soda can water block.....maybe in the next billion years ill get around to posting a picture.

scientastic (author)2010-10-29

Leave the burrs-- more surface area to transfer heat to the liquid. That is, unless they seriously impede the flow of liquid.

junits15 (author)scientastic2010-10-30

I was just worried that one would come lose and lodge itself in the pump.

scientastic (author)junits152010-10-30

Great point.

beehard44 (author)2010-08-10

i got an old heatsink with lots of space in between fins, i just pushed some airline tubing in there and attached it to the ballast of my aquarium lights for testing, used toothpaste as thermal compound (how ghetto can this be?) and tested it for 10 ins. So far so good, it's way more cooler than regular heatsink on the ballast.

junits15 (author)beehard442010-08-19

Haha, i dont think ghetto can begin to describe it! lol, try some vaselene instaid of toothpaste. And Im kind of confused, what exactly did you do?

zack247 (author)junits152010-08-25

vaseline? toothpaste? would these work in a pc? specifically a pentium 4?

junits15 (author)zack2472010-08-26

ya they should, but don't use toothpaste it wont work as well

zack247 (author)junits152010-08-26

sooo... vaseline?

junits15 (author)zack2472010-08-27

yes vaseline

zack247 (author)junits152010-08-27

alright. i have a old pentium d heatsink i am gonna use for a waterblock, it has a big empty area in the middle of the heatsink, in the copper area. perfect for making a water block

junits15 (author)zack2472010-08-27

you should make an instructable! or a slideshow!

Scott_Tx (author)2010-04-23

Wow, I havent seen one of these in a long time.  Takes me back to the k6-2/pentium 2 era

junits15 (author)Scott_Tx2010-05-21

 what do you mean?

Scott_Tx (author)junits152010-05-21

I mean, that's how we used to make them back in the old days.

junits15 (author)Scott_Tx2010-05-21

 ahh "back in the day" I've learned to respect "the day" :)

Scott_Tx (author)junits152010-05-21

Yes, 10 years ago, yikes!

junits15 (author)Scott_Tx2010-05-22

 hey that link is pretty neat! using PVC makes the project a TON cheaper!  

Scott_Tx (author)junits152010-05-22

The only problem I had was there was electrochemical action going on between the brass nipples and the aluminum plate. It lasted till I got a new computer though.

junits15 (author)Scott_Tx2010-05-22

 a galvanic reaction?  oooo that might happen to me with the aluminum heatsink  and the brass nipples.  what exactly happened?

Scott_Tx (author)junits152010-05-22

It built up some dark gray film on the aluminum. It didnt leak or anything but I worried it might inhibit heat transfer to the water.

junits15 (author)Scott_Tx2010-05-23

 jeez with the maze in mine it might be a nightmare to clean, i'm hoping eventually to make a full copper one out of a copper pipe end cap.  That should make for a nice instructable 

Sykomonkey (author)2010-04-23

sweet... now if you can do up a "how to make a water pump for dirt cheap" next it would roxor.

junits15 (author)Sykomonkey2010-04-23

haha welll................... 
no realy an instructable but i forgot to take pctures :)

quezz38 (author)2010-04-22

i really like this idea and this instructable, i may have to try this on something... maybe high power, water cooled flashlights!  thanks.

junits15 (author)quezz382010-04-23

Thanks I'm glad you liked it!

kelseymh (author)2010-04-22

Very nice writeup!  I only have one complaint, speaking as a professional physicist who uses SI for everything -- a millimeter scale is not always more accurate than an inch ruler with 1/32" divisions.  And if you're doing precision work, you should be using a micrometer with at least 1/64" divisions anyway.

Okay, that's my only nit-pick.

junits15 (author)kelseymh2010-04-23

Your right, the centemeter is not alway more accurite, but for most people (myself included) who dont have a micrometer, a centermeter ruler is best for this project. 

karossii (author)kelseymh2010-04-22

I was going to put the exact same thing... in and of itself, a centimeter is a more precise unit than an inch. But by that same token, the foot is more precise than a yard. It is not inherent in the standard used, but the size of the units used.

mikeasaurus (author)2010-04-23

What's the output on the pump you used, and what's the heat/performance difference from the water vs air?

junits15 (author)mikeasaurus2010-04-23

well I used this for the TEC and after applying the water block the cold side became covered in frost.  With any TEC the hot side must be cooled below 70 degrees celcius in order for the cold side to drop below freezing.  As for the pump I used a cheap 60 GPH submersible fountain pump that I bought from Lowes.  I have tried to cool the TEC by air with the same gamecube heatsink and the heatsink couldn't handle the temperature. I dont have a proper thermometer so I dont have any temps.

rimar2000 (author)2010-04-23

Very interesting.

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm a university student from the good ol' USA! I'm studying Electrical Engineering and loving every second of it! I've always been ... More »
Add instructable to: