Vintage Radio Computer Tower.




About: Happily married, self employed, full wood shop, some metal work as well as electronics, antique collector.

This was a fun project because it was quite easy, when the case was done all you had to do was add the doo dads and you get a fun looking housing for your tower.

The work involved took about 40 hours about 6 were wasted on some stuff I decided to reject as unacceptable.

The Radio dial is a home construct, I am trying to work to the goal of doing all my own construction of such things, antique stores are usally expensive, and you can rarely find what you want to use.

The knife switch was a rare find in Alaska, it was not made by me.

If you had to buy all the wood and materials new with out using scraps I would guess the cost to be 200.00

I think because I had so much of the stuff left over from furniture making my cost was about 30.00 give or take ten bucks.

Step 1: The Box Construction

The only thing that is slightly unusual in my box construction is the curved front corner, I used a piece of 1 3/4 inch PVC as a corner
I did this because I didn't want the case to be unnecessarily wide, and the hallow pipe allows the tower to slide right up close to the front without hitting a rounded corner piece.

I used hot glue to hold the corner in place, and I recommend you cut the pipe "oversize" to allow for your table saw blade thickness.

The sides of the box are thicker than the pipe which was handy so I cut a rabbit down the edge to match the thickness of the pipe.

The top bottom and front are all Baltic birch plywood 9 ply, I made the sides over lap the top and bottom because I didn't want and seems to show when I skinned it up.

There is a rabbit on the front panel just like the side to accommodate the PVC 1/4 round.

A pin nailer held it together while the glue set..

Step 2: The Dial

I took a picture of  a vintage radio dial, enlarged it and printed in on plain old paper, I was trying to keep it simple.

I glued the picture of the dial to some corrugated card-board, YECH what a mistake, MDF or anything else would have been better,
after my contact cement dried I cut out the lit part of the dial, and used some of the same screen material I used on my web cam,
(from an air filter) I painted it red and glued the whole mess together with Hot Glue. I had some laminate film so I stuck it on the
dial photo copy to give it a more glossy look.

This picture is of the assembly to see what I was going to use for back-lighting.

The brass frame was made of hobby store square tubing with round rod bent at 90 degrees to hold it together, the rod MUST be filed in the inside corner to make a snug fit, use a triangle shaped file. then solder it from the back and buff.

Step 3: Skinning It Up

 I wanted a vintage look and thought the round corner was critical to that appearance, I also knew the corner was tight and I did not want decorative edges or nails /screws to hold it down when it went around the corner and then stopped at the opening for access to the disc drive/ USB ports etc.

That edge would want to pop off if not done right, so I used steam and heat.

Don't fall for the temptation to cut your veneer way over size, it's quite difficult to trim the excess if it is over 1/4 inch

I steamed and dried the corner about four times, before it wanted to keep the curve, the clamps are hanging off a piece of tape stuck to the veneer, not the wood it's self, that would crack it, the weight of the clamps was enough to make it curve when heat was applied.

The second pic is of a scrap piece being used to keep the contact cement from touching while I worked the corner to perfection.
At that point both side were sprayed with 3M super 90 spray contact cement, no forgiveness it they touch out of alignment!!!

Step 4: Clean It Up

There it is all covered up, ready for the base.
Do you see why I wanted a steamed curve now, because of that opening just after the corner.
I cut the hole out using a utility knife from the inside while the hole was on a solid surface so I could not rip the veneer
The clean up is done with a single cut file pushing inward only.

Step 5: The Base

This was a pain. I gave away my router table because it was inaccurate, I wised I had not right then, the easy way to keep your router steady is to use a second piece of stock to let the non-cutting side of the router to have a track to ride on, in the pic the router is resting on the one I was using, that is a huge 1 inch round over bit, the wood is mahogany, it will be painted black.

I cut rabbits in the rounded pieces using my table saw, I just pushed the work against the fence as opposed to the table, this made mounting the base very easy since I just used screws from inside with a little glue.

The second picture does not have the rabbits cut yet, I was checking the look and fit.
Third pic is of the finished base cuts

Step 6: Face Plate

I drew the design I wanted and cut it out using a jig saw, the inlays are from a router cut, after sanding the strip inlays flat I repeated the process with the 4 dots at their bottoms.

The process for making the various holes on the project is as follows, I wanted an exact fit for the fuse box, and the radio brass inlay.

I used a top follower bit and made a jig from scrap wood.

the fuse box width was copied by placing it between the blade and the fence, this made the wood I cut match it's width perfectly, I suppose a good craftsman would just measure, the third pic is setting the length, I just pin nailed the edges to the middle pieces.

Now place that over the hole you have roughly cut and clean it up with your top follower bit and router.


Step 7: Stuff That Did Not Make the Cut

Stuff that didn't make the cut, boo boos.

I was polishing the speaker plate on a bench buffer, and caught an edge, buzz start over.

Never used them, not enough brass.

Step 8: Making It Purdy

I like spray lacquer,  use brushing thinned 50% sprayed through a primer gun, (auto)  the finish is world class, a good wiping stain is Masters gel style, some steel wool will help to even it out. Before you spray the lacquer.

220 grit sand paper is good for veneer used very sparingly.
One pic is setting the height of the trim ring around the speaker.
Put your dials and gizmoes on and yer done, wire up the LED S, and shove your computer in there, this was a fun project.

Did anybody notice this baby has two 25 amp fuses and one 3" speaker, it's a power hog!

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    19 Discussions


    7 years ago on Step 2

    Could you add a picture to download of the dial? It'd help a bunch :D

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Step 2

    I forget which one I used, you will need to trim the edges and adjust size of corse.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Just to make this clear -- what you made is a box that a standard tower slides into, not the computer case itself? So I assume that the back of the tower is on the left side of your case (the side not shown in any of the photos... maybe take one and post it?), or is that the front of the tower so that a CD/DVD drive can be used? Or does the speaker grille come off/is hinged to expose a CD/DVD? Or something else just occurred to me -- there is no CD/DVD drive. For a server or media computer (streaming only, couldn't play DVDs) that would be acceptable.

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    You are correct, it is just a box, it's slightly over size for circulation and incase this tower dies.

    The back of the box is open for cables and air flow, plus it's never seen.

    The grill with the lightning bolt pops off to reveal the usb ports and CD, mem and sim card slots.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I think This has to be one of the most tastefully done PC mods off all time. Good show Good Sir.
    I can not stop looking at it. :-)


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Yes, it is 2 inches taller than the tower, and the front grill is lose fiting as well as the speaker hole goes through, I'll check my processor temp if it's high I'll bore some holes in the bottom, the back is open too.

    If that is not enough there is room for a muffin fan or two underneath because of the lower trim peice.

    Winged Fist

    7 years ago on Introduction

    Congrats on being featured in the newsletter! Well deserved recognition;-)


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Looks awesome. I like the PVC curves a lot. The vintage feel is great. FYI the term is knife switch not scissor switch ( which actually makes more sense). The reason I mention this is that I have been buying them on eBay for a little over a year now (I have been building a Frankenstein lab) and wanted you to know that they are easier to come by than you might think.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    You spelled ravioli wrong on the front of the case.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Thank's for your kind words, I invite all to click on the stars in the upper right to let me know what you think if you don't want to post a comment.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Note to Moderators, I entered this in the shop bot challenge because of all the router work that was needed to make everything fit, this is documented in the steps.

    If I had known there was such a challenge I would have stepped up my router work a notch, oh well that's what I get for not paying attention....

    A big thank's to everyone who has commented.

    Winged Fist

    7 years ago on Introduction

    Wow!!! I agree with Junophor... take a bow, and then add a pat on the back! Truly beautiful Art Deco case mod! I think this would make Jeffrey Stephenson raise an eyebrow if it were entered in a competition against one of his Art Deco case mods!

    I think this would qualify as Dieselpunk, or maybe more appropriately 'Decopunk.'

    I've been thinking about an external hard drive bay in an Art Deco style, and you've given me some great ideas....

    Fantastic use of PVC, and the dial looks amazing!

    Sorry I can only give this 5 stars;-)


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Hi longwinters

    Take a bow for your creative power!!!

    Very cool this project. Im longing for some spare time to create new things head is full with ideas but you know the work.....;-))

    Once again: Very cool
    Cheers Aeon Junophor

    Hey Kiddo, I had real problems photographing it, the thing is way cooler than these pics show, the dumb thing has a presence that demands you look at it, I left several of my weird ideas off because I was happier with the simpler format.