Introduction: Building a Steampunk NAS - System

Yes, I know you can buy NAS systems from several vendors. But does it fit to your Victorian home? No? Than its time to build your own NAS file server that is able to
  • Store all your data
  • Act as a WEB - Server
  • Streaming music and video via UPNP
  • Providing music to iTunes
  • Supporting NFS, Windows shares, AFP, FTP and more.

And the software is for FREE

I am talking about FREENAS.
FREENAS comes in its actual version 8.0. This version is rather "hardware hungry" but with the version 7.2 stable release you can get everything you need running with moderate hardware requirements

So clean the drill press, fire up your solder iron and lets start.

Step 1: Parts

You need:

Freenas don´t needs a lot off power. But if you plan to use RAID5 or RAID10 it is a good idea to a bit more power.

  • 1,6 GHz CPU semi passiv mainboard (mini ITX form factor)
  • 1 GByte RAM
  • A SATA . extension card with four connectors
  • 4 x 500 GByte SATA Hard disks (if you plan to run the NAS around the clock its a goof´d idea to buy 24/7 featured HDD´s
  • 1 CF -Card with a minimum of 128 MByte or an USB thumb drive for the operating system
  • 1 CF Holder if you like to use a CF -Card
  • 1 modified Power supply
  • SATA cables
  • 1 12 cm FAN with 3 pin connector to connect it to the motherboard.
  • A CD with Freenas 7.2 you. You can download the ISO image here: CLICK
  • A USB CD -ROM drive for the installation
  • A monitor only for installtion
  • A keyboard only for installation
  • A voltage meter
  • A 3 position switch
  • A push button
  • 3 LED´s
  • Some brass washer
  • Some brass srews
  • Glue
  • Some pieces of multiplex wood depending on the case you like to build
  • Some mountings for the hard drives
  • Tools, stain, etc.

Step 2: Preparing the Power Supply

If you bough a semi passive main board you have to take care, that the main board is cooled by the case fan.
I decided to have a "central cooling". That means I liked to cool the main board and the power supply by the same fan.
So I opened the power supply and replaced the fan by a device that can be controlled by the main board.
The main board I bought is able to control the speed of the fan depending on its CPU temperature.
The fan on this picture was a bit noisy so I replaced by an ultra silent fan later. (See picture two)

Step 3: Preparing the Parts

First I removed the labels of the hard disk´s and polished the surface carefully
Than I prepared one piece of multiplex as a base plate, I drilled some holes for the mounting of the hard disk´s, the mounting of the case walls and the cabling.
I prepared on piece of multiplex for the mounting of the main board.

I glued the case parts together like on the fourth picture.
Please mention the position of the power supply. The fan is mounted that way, that the airflow is cooling the power supply and the MB as well.

Step 4: The Cabling Part 1

The cabling is standard, only three additional wires (+5V, +12V and ground are separated for the meter to measure the two main voltages.
On the second picture you can see the 3 way switch. Left position measures +5, middle position is off and right position measures +12V.
The third picture shows the three LED´s (power, boot device, SATA controller), the meter, the three way switch and the push button for power on.

Step 5: Mounting the Hard Disks

My idea was to have the hard disk´s outside the case. I bought four metal angle from the tools store and polished them.
To keep away the vibration of the hard disk from the case I mounted these rubber parts between the angles and the case.
Some brass application attached to the top of the construction.

Step 6: Cabling Part 2

To have some space for the cabling, I used a 21mm piece of multiplex wood. With the inner part removed like here I build a frame to store the cables for powering the hard disks and the SATA cables.
Than I used stain to colour it up and polished the wax stain to have a nice looking surface.
I attached power and SATA cabled to the hard disk´s, connected everything inside the case, glued the LED´s in position and started the finals test. On the third picture you can see the cabling in the base mount of the case.

Step 7: Ready to Go

The system is up and running.

Freenas is very easy to install.Just boot the CD and chose "install"
After this you have to select the network interface and provide an IP - address.
Now you can disconnect the keyboard, the CD ROM drive and the monitor.
All the other setting are done via a web interface.

For this NAS I decided to have a RAID5 with single parity that gives me 1.5 TByte of storage by using ZFS.
In this version of Freenas ZFS is running very stable. I know RAID5 is not that fast but for a NAS that is attached via a 100 MBit Network it is fast enough. Freenas is supporting  iSCSI as well, so this is an other option to connect it to your Computer.
Other configurations are possible.

A very good WIKI about Freenas 7.x can be found here: CLICK including tutorials FAQ´s and more

So have fun!


Horatius Steam