Desktop Fireplace




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Having your computer monitor play a video of a roaring fire is good, but somehow I felt like it lacked the authenticity of a real fire. Though seeing a video of a fire evokes some feelings of nostalgia, I was always brought back to reality when I glanced to the side of the screen and saw some reminder that I was only viewing a technological reproduction of the genuine article. 

I decided to enclose my monitor with a frame to look like a real fireplace mantle piece, and added in some slowly pulsating lights behind to mimic the soft glow of a burning fire. The entire frame and light assembly slips onto my monitor and can easily be removed after I've finished sipping my hot cocoa.

After having my desktop fireplace running for a few days, I can say that there's a psychological reaction to seeing the fire and feeling the ambiance the back lights give. I feel a warming sensation over my face and body as I type. The feeling is sublime. 

Here's what I used to make mine:
  • wood saw
  • wood glue
  • glue gun
  • sandpaper           

Ready to make your own cozy fireplace out of your computer monitor? Let's go!

Step 1: Design + Measure

I designed my frame to be removable, the frame slips in place over the top of the monitor and covers the entire front and top - there's a small ledge on the backside to keep it secured to the monitor when installed.

I took the overall dimensions of the monitor, along with the thickness, and made sure to make note of the distance between bottom of monitor and bottom of stand. 

Step 2:

I had a basic idea of how I wanted my mantle piece to look, but saved the specific profiles of the moulding styles up to whatever was available at the hardware store.  I went to my local Home Depot -the mouldings were all in one aisle stacked vertically in racks, were sold by the foot, were already primed, and came in a variety of different profiles. Perfect! 

For my design I chose:
4x cornersCorner Block (3/4" X 2-1/2" X 2-1/2")
1x crownFiberboard Chairrail (5/8" x 1 3/4")
1x counterMDF Base (1/2" X 3 1/2")
1x kickMDF Base (1/2" X 3 1/2")
2x sidesMDF Casing (11/16" X 3 1/2")

There was a scrap bin near where I was cutting, so I used something like a window stool as a retainer on the back of the frame to keep it on the monitor. Each section was cut to roughly the correct length, allowing for final trimming to take place at home where I can verify dimensions with the monitor.

Step 3: Fit and Glue Components

After adjusting the design to fit the components I bought, I trimmed each section to the correct length. The frame was glued together and reinforced with finishing nails in select areas. I started with two corner pieces and attached them to either end of the crown length. Making sure to leave enough room in the channel on the underside of the counter, a backing piece was glued in place and clamped. The sections were then clamped and put aside.

Next, two corner pieces were attached the the kick and then clamped. These two clamped section were left to dry overnight.
After the side pieces were glued into place connecting the top and bottom portions of the frame. Using more glue, in select areas inside the frame I  used scrap wood shims to beef up the connections.

Step 4: Prime + Paint

Though most of the elements were already primed when I bought the, some areas like the underside of the moulding were not. All surfaces that would be visible were lightly sanded with a 300 grit sandpaper, the frame was then brushed down to remove any debris or dust.

Protecting the area you are working in, a coat of primer was sprayed and left to dry for about 20 minutes. If you're happy with the coverage you can start applying your paint. Areas that require primer need to be touched up and left to dry. 
Cover all visible areas of the frame with white paint. The paint was left to dry for about 40 minutes and then another coat was applied. In all about 4 coats were applied to achieve the finish I wanted.

Step 5: Adding LEDs

The 100-LED red only Christmas lights I bought from DealExtreme we're inexpensive and a great out-of-the-box solution to the glow I wanted. The lights are controlled by a small control box, in this model there were eight light settings I could choose from. Only one was the soft, pulsing blink I was looking for.

Though this box was small, the enclosure was a little too large for my liking, so I removed the circuit board from the enclosure to reduce volume. The control box was mounted on the back of the mantle piece in an empty area under the monitor. The strands of LED's were then hot glued all around the back of the frame. Excess LED strands were gathered and wrapped around a scrap of cardboard to keep them all together. This bundle will be hidden behind the monitor once the frame was installed.

The frame was then installed onto the monitor and the plug for the lights was then fed behind the desk and plugged in. 

Step 6: Fireplace

Having a frame and fire video is good, but to make it feel like a real fireplace you need to decorate your mantle. I chose a few choice pictures, some plant cuttings and a candle for mine.

All that's left now is to turn down the lights, lean back and enjoy the feel of my desktop fireplace.



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    23 Discussions


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Great ible! I really like the gifs, that you've been making lately is there an Instructable somewhere on how to make them?

    2 replies

    6 years ago on Introduction

    First, I like the idea, your frame looks very nice. But i have some serious issues with the whole project. My cognitive dissonance meter was in the red zone.

    The mass of the control box was too great, but that great wad of cardboard and wire is fine? Never mind the bare circuit board inviting unintended grounding incidents.

    You put the nice frame around your monitor, but couldn't be bothered to have a nice stand to support the monitor?

    Bottom line: Nice idea, Nice I'tble but your presentation sucks.

    4 replies

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    I'm just curious to know, how exactly does the presentation suck? And the project ended up working well, so why your issues?


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    While the project itself is a nice idea, and fairly nicely done, the surroundings are trashy. -- read and think about my comment. In effect 'saurus put a gold ring in a pig's snout.

    Cool! but...
    I would have made an extra 'foot' on the frame over the whole width of it, so that the foot of the monitor isn't visible anymore.
    That way you wouldn't even have to make the frame hang on the monitor.

    To be safe I would 'never' put an electric circuit with that high a voltage open and reachable like you did.
    You should have left the circuit in the box. You could have made a hole in the box where the switch is, or you could have connected another safe switch to it.

    Other than that it's just a great idea.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    This is perfect! No mess and no fuss. You also made the frame removable! The sound of a crackling fire would send it over the top! I love it.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    I love it. As a semi-retired PC repairer I have a number of old laptops lying under the workbench that aren't much use for computing but could handle this perfectly well.
    I suppose, just for fun, you could video nice fireplaces when you see them and build up a library of 'favourite fireplace' loops and so ring the changes a bit.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    It's funny how primal our reaction to fire is. I'm going to have to see if I can get my husband to whip one together for me. (I don't trust myself using any kind of tools, short of knives for cooking--and I've damaged myself more than a few times with those!) thanks for the instructable. I feel its siren call....


    6 years ago on Step 6

    Nice instructable. This is very creative and effective.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    This is a good fire place


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Very awesome job!

    It would be cool if you could make the lights brighten and dim at the same rate the fire does. Maybe measure the brightness of each frame and have an Arduino (or similar) connected via USB to control the lights?


    6 years ago on Introduction

    How about a video of a fireplace with cooking bacon?


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Cool! This reminds me of the old laptop I turned into a digital picture frame, only classier. The lights are a really nice touch!


    6 years ago on Step 5

    I'll send condolences to Mrs. Saurus. Live 120V AC on those Diodes in a blind location behind the monitor.