My plan was simple: I wanted to replace a standard PC tower case with something that would look less obtrusive and allow easy access to components. The Corsair case I had when I first built the computer a few years ago was fine, but I occasionally swap hard drives and found it to be too fiddly and time consuming to do this with a standard case. I had an idea to build a drawer that would only have the essentials visible at the front, with all the hardware at the back, out of view. The drawer must be able to pull out fully to allow me easy access to any of the components. Another important feature would be that the front should be shallow enough for my legs to fit under the desk without knocking into anything.
Step 1: Planning.
I made a few sketches, then used TinkerCad to create a detailed, scaled model. The weird shape at the front was to cover the desk leg. Update: here is a link to the TinkerCad file: https://www.tinkercad.com/things/kBV9ZaNtN4F
The main material would be 10mm MDF as it is quite easy to work with. I don’t possess a table saw so I had to have all the boards cut to size in the local DIY shop. In the picture above, the dark tan sections are MDF and the light tan sections are 10mm birchwood. I had to use real wood here, as opposed to MDF, because the shop won’t cut anything to less than 10cm width, and I needed 6cm, and the real wood was available in this width off-the-shelf.
I planned space for 5 hard drives: 2 SSDs (OS and scratch disc) and 3 HDDs for storage.
The total cost was around €100 I think. The main expenses were the drawer runners and fan filters.
Step 2: Cutting Holes
The next step was to cut the holes for fans, components and I/O panel of the motherboard. Using the age-old rule of ‘measure twice, cut once’ I carefully cut everything out using an electric jigsaw and then tidied it all up with a file and sandpaper. Accuracy and smoothness wasn’t so important for the fans, as they would be hidden with a filter. Accuracy was absolutely essential for the front panel though, with no room for error - the components had to fit perfectly.
Step 3: Assembly
I then glued the sections together, piece by piece. I made the front and back sections separately and stuck them together later. Lots of sanding was required to get the edges smooth. I don't have any power tools to do this so everything was done by hand!
The metal mounting plates for the motherboard were taken from an old computer case I had at work that was destined for the scrap yard. They are a standard size, I just sprayed them black to match the new colour scheme.
Step 4: First Coat of Paint
The inside of the drawer was painted yellow. Two coats of brushed acrylic, followed by a light sanding and a final, sprayed coat.
Step 5: Front Panel
As I mentioned before, the front panel was most important, as it would be the only thing visible. I had to carefully cut holes for a DVD drive, a card reader (which I later replaced with a 4 port USB hub), an external amplifier (Amptastic Mini 1), a power button and LED light. The power button was a bit of a challenge, as I had to drill a 10mm hole and then carefully sand down a 10mm wooden dowel so that it could move freely within the hole. My first attempt at the LED hole was off-centre, so I had to fill it, sand it and start again. The LED and power switch were also taken from the abandoned old computer.
Step 6: Joining Sections Together
The outside of the drawer was then painted with a few thin coats of black acrylic paint. The final coat would be added later.
Both sections were then glued and screwed together and strengthened with a piece of L-shaped plastic.
Step 7: Final Coats of Paint
Now the piece was complete, I sprayed the final 2 coats of black paint, after carefully masking off the inside to avoid spraying over the yellow interior. You’ll notice that the top is a bit ugly - this wasn’t important as I added a strip of black draught excluder to fill the gap between the drawer and the underside of the desk.
Step 8: Drawer Runners
The next thing was to add the drawer runners. I was able to do a ‘test run’ with this as the current desktop was later to be replaced with a bigger one. This turned out to be important as I made some minor improvements on the final version.
Step 9: Adding the Components
The drawer was finished. I tested that everything worked properly before adding it. I then simply screwed all the components in place, thankful that my careful measuring was accurate. Everything fitted and worked perfectly.
As requested, here is a list of the computer components:
Intel Core i7 4770
Cooler Master RR-212E-16PK-R1 CPU cooler
4x ARCTIC F12 - 120 mm Low Noise Case Fan
ASUS H87-PRO Motherboard
4x 8GB Corsair DDR3 1600 Mhz RAM
Be Quiet Pure Power L8 530W PSU
Asus Nvidia GeForce GT 640 2GB GDDR3 (passive)
SanDisk Ultra II 250GB SSD (boot drive)
Crucial MX300 250GB SSD (scratch disc)
3x WD Blue 1TB HDD (storage drives)
Still to come: I'll take a close up of how the hard drives are fitted.
Step 10: Final Steps
I eventually built a new desktop to hold the drawer; a lovely piece of maple veneered board measuring 360cm x 90cm. More than enough space to house my toys.
I am very happy with the result, it fulfilled all my wishes. It is very discreet and allows me to access the computer parts simply by pulling out the drawer. I also added a battery powered strip of LED lighting to illuminate the inside.
In case you are wondering, the main monitor is a Dell UP2716D 27" QHD (2560x1440) (a beautiful bit of kit) and the side monitors are Dell S2218M 22" HD (1920x1080).