Introduction: Walnut and Acrylic PC Build
This build kind of came out of nowhere. I was inspired by a makerbeam build I saw on pinterest and went from idea to a finished build in just a few days.
I really enjoyed working on this project and am super pleased with how it ended up looking. The clean acrylic and natural walnut give it a unique feel and presense. Despite its small size, it is certainly eye catching when sat on my desk and gives a real sense of achievement knowing that I made it from scratch.
I hope you enjoy reading about how this PC came to be :)
Step 1: Inspiration
The inspiration for this build came primarily from this 'Makerbeam' PC case I saw on pinterest. I loved the industrial clean look of the aluminium extrusions, couple with the precise elegance of the acrylic panels.
Having seen this build, the cogs began to turn and I started to think of how I could build my own PC inspired by this unique design.
Step 2: Concept and CAD
I started in Fusion 360 with a frame that could house my PC components: an ITX motherboard, a 1660 Super Short GPU and a standard ATX power supply.
Originally, I was planning to use the 10x10mm makerbeam profiles but they worked out quite expensive with shipping to the UK. Instead, I opted for 15x15mm profile that is sold in the UK by Pimoroni.
The frame is assembled from standard lengths of extrusion (apart from the uprights that need to be trimmed) and held together with off-the-shelf corner brackets and 3d printed brackets.
I then clad the top of the chassis with acrylic panels, making sure they could be cut from an A4 sheet of acrylic to reduce costs. I added ventilation slits to ensure the fans could drawer in cool air which could then be exhasted out the back and out the top, with convection helping the air flow.
Finally, the bottom section was clad in 8mm walnut panels to combine that industrial metal and acrylic look, with the natural and tactile aesthetic that wood can give.
A quick render shows the intended outcome, or be it with slightly less tinted acryclic.
Step 3: Materials and Components
As previously mentioned, I opted for the 1515 aluminium profile available at Pimoroni in the UK. I bought enough extrusion for the frame plus a bit extra in case I made any mistakes and also allowed for extra if I changed my mind about certain design elements.
Along with the extrusion, I got a large amount of t-nuts for affixing all the panels and brackets to the extrusion.
For the Acrylic, I went for the cheapest acrylic I could find on Ebay with the smokey grey colour. I got 5 sheets of A4 for the sides and an A3 sheet for the top panel of the PC which unfortunately would not fit on an A4 sheet.
As for screws, I opted for flanged button head screws as I liked this aesthetic, but unfortunately I could only get them in silver at the time. I will change them out for black versions at some point.
Lastly, I got 12mm thin walnut from Surrey Timbers which I would then need to surface down to 8mm on my CNC with a large surfacing bit.
Step 4: 3D Printed Components
In Fusion 360, I designed some quick and simple brackets for joining the extrusion at right angles and also some brackets for holding the motherboard standoffs.
I knew I was going to need a lot of the t-nuts as well, so I attempted to print some of my own with some sucess.
Everything wass printed in PETG for durability and some heat resistence as the components in the PC could get quite warm under load in such a small enclosure.
Step 5: Making the Acrylic Panels
With the design made in CAD, these parts could be easily made by generating some toolpaths in Fusion 360 CAM and transfering it to my CNC router.
I use a Shapeoko 3 with a Z Plus upgrade. The machine has the rigidity to cut the acrylic in one pass but I went with 2 passes and a finishing pass at full depth.
To hold the acrylic down flat I uses the masking tape and super glue method. This ensures the plastic doesn't get pulled up by the upcutting router bit.
Step 6: Machining the Walnut Panels
Similarly to the acrylic, these parts were also fairly straightforward.
The difference was that I had to surface these parts down from 12mm to 8mm as per my design, I could have left them at 12mm but I felt that they would stick out too far from the acrylic and look odd. I used a 25mm flattening bit to take them down to 8mm in 2 passes. I then cut out the various shapes and drilled the holes on the CNC.
Walnut is a pleassure to cut on the CNC router, with a single flute cutter I got nice chips and very little dust which resulted in a clean edge finish.
Step 7: Finishing the Walnut Panels
With the machining completed, I moved on to dinishing the walnut panels.
I started at 120 grit to clean up the faces and the edges and then put a chamfer around the outward face using my router table. I then proceeded to take the panels up to 320 grit with 180 grit and 240 grit inbetween.
Lastly, I applied some oil and wax blend to give the walnut a nice sheen and to bring out the colour of the walnut.
Step 8: Frame Assembly
The frame went together very easily. The only cutting I had to do was to cut down the 4 long uprights.
The T nuts from pimoroni only came with m3 threads so I re drilled them and tapped them to m4 4 as these were the size screws I like to use as I like the prominent nature of the screw heads.
Using the 3d printed brackets I had made, I was able to join the 200mm lengths together really quickly and attach the mounts for the motherboard standoffs. I had to make sure that I added all the T nuts in the right places while assembling it as I would have to take a lot of it apart if I forgot any when it came to attaching the panels.
Step 9: Installing Components
Next, the fun component installation part!
I settled on a mini ITX board from ASUS which ahd RGB support and was good value at the time of purchasing.
For the CPU, I went with an i5 10600 with 6 cores at 4.4ghz boost. I only do a small amount of local rendering and some light gaming so this processor is more than adequate for my needs.
I manage to get hold of a decent priced 1660 super in the short form factor just pefore the GPU market went mental.
The GPU was supported by a custom bracket I printed to lock it in place.
Step 10: Attaching Panels
The panels went on without issue and I was careful not to overtighten the screws and strip the threads. I used silver screws to start with but since finishing the build, I have swapped them out for black screws which gives a much cleaner look in my opinion.
With the final panel installed, I could peel the protective film off which of course was immensly satisfying.
Step 11: Finished!
With all that done there was nothing left but to admire the finished project and take some beauty shots! It was unfortunate that I was not able to capture more details of the build process but I was ina rush to finish the case as I needed the computer up and running fairly quickly!
Some things that I would do differently if I were to do this build again include finding a better way of constructing the skeleton/frame of the build. The 1515 profile is robust and very easy to assemble but it takes up a lot of internal volume and requires over 100 t nuts to assemble everything. It would have been better to CNC my own internal structure with integrated threaded holes to assemble the frame and secure the panels.
Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed this build log!
If you did enjoy it, please consider voting for me in the CNC contest :)
Runner Up in the