A Steampunk Mini PC

About: I am a home constructor, an inventor and a dreamer. If you ask me who guided me and who inspired me then this people comes in mind: Carl Benz, Guglielmo Marconi, James Watt, Thomas Alva Edison, Nicolas Tesla...

I needed a PC with a COM Port to program my micro controllers.
So I started thinking and I found, that it could be a good idea to have in the same style, than my monitor, keyboard an mouse.
Beside this, I found some nice brass applications, like the tiny brass roll. Th idea comes in mind, to use this as the power on switch for the computer.
The housing was made of MDF.
The meter that shows that power is on is an old French meter, that sows irregular results. But for the power indicator it is good enough.
The HDD indicator was made from a green LED and a stained marble glued inside a brass knob for furniture.
The switch was made from a micro switch inside the case, a brass roll, and a ball nut.

Now let´s have a look inside.

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Step 1: The Mainboard

The CPU FAN was terribly loud and I decided to use the case fan for cooling the CPU as well.
Its working fine and the CPU temp. is always below 45 degrees C.
I used a MICRO PSU Power supply that fits directly inside the Power connector of the main board.
It gives enough power for the board, the HDD and the external TFT.

Step 2: The Cabling

The cabling was standard.
The fan was a bit loud, so I connected it between +5 and +12 Volt to operate it with 7V.
Now its quite and cool enough.
On picture 2 you can see the small wooden block that hides the micro switch where the small cord is connected.
If you pull the cord, the power goes on.

Step 3: Back Cover

The backplane was made of brass coated aluminium.

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    16 Discussions


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Nicely done sir! Pray tell, did I miss the part about what is driving the power gauge at the top front?

    1 reply

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    No Sir,


    I forgot to write where the meter is connected to.

    "The meter that shows that power is on is an old French meter, that sows irregular results. But for the power indicator it is good enough."

    It is connected directly to the "Power indicator" pins of the motherboard instead of a LED.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    For steampunk stuff, isn't it better if it makes some noise, anyway? Not sure why the CPU fan's noise would be a problem.

    1 reply


    Yes, you are right. But I am working on this computer and then the noise of a fan becomes a problem after a while.

    I thought about a voice from a steam engine running in the background. But I have a personal policy: I never built "fake things" instead of RPG stuff. But even then the machine or the gadget must be functioning.

    With kind regards,

    Horatius steam


    Reply 7 years ago on Step 3

    The back cover ha a connection to the DC ground of the power supply. like all backplanes.

    The whole computer is operated by an external 12V power supply and has no direct connection to the mains. You can see the 12V plug on the left side of the VGA connector.

    With kind regards,

    Horatius Steam

    Winged Fist

    7 years ago on Introduction

    Mr. Steam, I'm curious to know how (or if) you covered the back of this computer, where the cables plug in? The reason I ask is I've been thinking about a similar design for an external hard drive case, and I've been toying with the idea of covering the back with an brass finished aluminum radiator grille. (For a sample of the material I'm talking about, see here).

    I recently came across a discarded radiator cover, and I stripped all the fine brass finished grilles. Now they look very nice in the windows of the doors on my entertainment cabinet. They give quite a nice "steampunk" finish;-)

    Just a thought, if the back is still "naked";-)

    2 replies

    Good morning,

    I used a aluminium brass coated grid. I attached two pictures above in the instructables.

    And it is a good time for an update regarding the cooling. The central fan was not enough to coll the case and the CPU. Even when installing WINDOWS updates ;-).
    So I attached a very silent CPU FAN and a case fan on the top of the back. You can see it on the pictures. So the PC is still quite but now it is enough fan power to keep it cool,

    A very fine piece, I must say!
    Only a few questions...
    Where did you find the extra USB and Firewire ports?
    Also where do you find such small motherboards?
    (the "micro" and "mini" ATX boards)
    I think the power switch pull chain is an excellent idea, and I do agree with Longwinters about the decorative washers, the look nice!

    3 replies

    Good morning from Germany (08:44 am),

    I always searching eBay for such boards. Try "mini itx" for the power supply, you can search for "mini PSU" or "micro PSU".
    Or try here: http://www.mini-itx.com/default.asp . This is UK.
    The extra USB and firewire cable came with the board. (a VIA M1000)

    With kind regards,

    Horatius Steam

    Thank you so much, kind sir!
    Have you ever seen/worked with the Pico-ITX motherboards?
    Also on like the computer you built here, how much RAM, and HDD Memory is available.... could for example run a video-editor program, or any other traditionally CPU and memory intensive program? If so I might just look into making a fully mobile desktop computer.... hmm add in a USB display..... touch screen/small wireless keyboard.... One of the things I am trying to come up with is a truly mobile DJing kit, I am thinking of either a small computer like this (or a laptop) connected via wired and wireless to an controller/keyboard input, along with some sort of display, possibly a heads up display (HUD)... also have a this all connected to a amplifier and speakers... All in a easy to carry backpack of sorts. Of course it all being in the steampunk aesthetic!

    Sorry If that drew on, that tends to happen when I get excited and full of ideas and inspiration!
    ~Best of Wishes and Happy Making!
    (DJ) Electfire

    Good evening Sir, :-) Yes I was able to work with a so called pico board.

    I think you are talking about this one?

    The computer in this instructable has 512MByte RAM, a 80 GByte HDD and a 1,2 GHz VIA CPU.

    If you are thinking about a computer with USB TFT the minimum CPU clock rate is 1,6GHz to drive the TFT via USB. There are passiv Intel borads on the market with a dual core:

    Intel D525MW Fanless Dual Core Atom Mini-ITX Board

    for example. This is able to drive video editing tools.

    The small computer (see link above, Computer for the ladys desk) has a 800 MHz CPU but the board is attached with a special video processor for decompression. The runs HD Videos very smoothly.

    With kind regards,

    Horatius Steam


    7 years ago on Introduction

    It is very clear we have similar taste in steampunk art, this is an awesome project.

    I normally don't use the raised decorative washers but seeing them in neat rows has changed my mind, I hope you don't mind if I copy that in the future, Fritz and I spoke of hiding an LED behind a marble, that too looks excellent.

    I have been playing with a hard drive reader arm as a means to make a old style swing meter, I'll talk to you about that later, great job what a great surprize.

    Winged Fist

    7 years ago on Introduction

    More steampunk genius! This would not look out of place on the Nautilus;-)


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Hi Horatius Steam

    Again a very stylish project. Great job!!!

    Cheers Aeon Junophor