Introduction: Dewalt Tool Box PC

About: I am a musician, internet developer, and a hobbyist pedal builder.

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


  • 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)


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.