Hypothetically building a case myself

I was thinking about building a case for myself at some point in the future (probably during the summer when I get a break from college). I haven't much experience with this sort of thing, but I have done enough hands on stuff that I think that I ought to be able to make it happen.


I would like some input, preferable from people with experience, about how I should go about this. I have a general design in mind (several actually, which I plan to choose from when I get closer to actually putting it together), but for now, I am focusing on the material and how I would go about actually doing this. I was thinking either using a sheet of aluminum or acrylic and cutting it down to size and whatnot. I am unsure on the pricing of those materials and will probably go with whatever I can find cheapest as I am not too worried about the looks. Next, I need to figure out how I plan to get it all to stay together. There are a couple of ways that I COULD get the pieces of aluminum or acrylic to stay together, but I would like to hear some options as I am not too sure about it myself.


So, let me hear your advice, Tek Syndicate.

Been thinking about making a radbox out of aluminum. I was going to cut the pieces to size, punch out a few holes, and rivet it together. Anything fancy I figured I could hammer out. I know a few of my friends have had to work with this sort of thing restoring cars so a case should be easy in comparision. 

What kind of tools do you have on hand?

Tools...... right....... Not much, really. None myself, and I can't take inventory on what my friends and family have lying around back home seeing as how I am not there (away at college). I would venture to guess that there is a decent power drill (not a press), a dremel, a table saw, a circular saw, hammers galore, and really just the basics. 

All you really need is a drill and a dremel (which is like a mini sawz-all). The most important part will be what your plan is. Measure twice, cut once because it is a pain in the ass trying to fix something you fucked up. I'm going for something a little more basic then what you have in mind, so if I where you I would recycle parts like a hard drive cage etc. Drill press would be handy though if I wanted to make my own honey comb type fan cover. Maybe you can use some mesh type material instead. Having access to an air compressor and painting tools would be a plus, I doubt you will leave this as bare metal/acrylic. Easiest place to start would be to get dimensions on your current parts and think about how you want to configure them.

Just a fair warning, I'm probably going to throw a lot of links into this post.

The easiest way I would see this working is to get something like a pre-made motherboard tray so most of the stuff that requires decent tolerances are already done and figured out. Mountain Mods has trays already figured out, among other cool motherboard things. Or maybe even a Lian Li tray.

Another idea might be to get a pre-made front panel and I/O setup if you don't want to go about sourcing power switches, reset switches, USB connectors, the wiring, and stuff like that. I know Corsair sells both for a wide variety of their cases.

Oh, and a pre-made hard drive cage would make life significantly easier since everything is already the correct shape and size already. Once again, Corsair makes that. Same for 5.25" bays if you want them (I wouldn't personally).

Passed that, it pretty much depends on what you want to do. I'll throw out some parts/ideas that might interest you as I think of them.

Modmesh is pretty amazing for making vents and grilles quickly. Cut it to shape and weld/screw/rivet it in place and you're done pretty much. Drill holes for fan screws as needed. There's a whole slew of different types available, so you should be able to find anything you are looking for.

You'll probably want fan templates so you know you're making the right sized holes with the correct spacing.

Power supply template as well.

If you want things to be permanent you'll want a rivet gun and rivets. They're actually pretty easy to use, drill a hole, put in the rivet, squeeze the trigger a few times, and you're done. Amazon probably has some for cheap.

For raw material for panels you can actually get that stuff on Amazon. Price-wise plain steel would be cheapest, followed by aluminum, then stainless steel. You could go crazy and make one out of magnesium, but good luck if something ever catches fire in a magnesium case. Most cases I've seen appear to be made of 1mm or less SECC (stands for Steel, Electrogalvanized, Cold-rolled, Coil), but I would assume that any steel sheet that's 1mm or thicker would be strong enough. Amazon has some plain steel sheet that is pretty thick for pretty cheap.

For connecting the "frame", I think regular angle steel/aluminum would be easiest. to attach the bottom, back, top, and front pieces together. I've seen a custom case that did that then used some more angle up the sides with triangular pieces of metal attached to the corners. The triangular pieces didn't do much for structure, but it did allow for the bottoms of the side panels to slide behind so they wouldn't fall off the bottom of the case. The tops of the side panels simply had small magnets attached to them. I'll try and make a quick sketch in Paint or something to illustrate the idea better in a little bit.


It's pretty straight forward once you get a plan figured out. Without things like a drill press I would strongly suggest going for the pre-made stuff for things that need good tolerances, like the motherboard tray and cages, the tray at the very least. Now off to Paint!

Here's the general idea for the corner brace. I wish I still had access to Inventor, I would just make a 3D model of everything.


Aluminum isn't an easy material to work with. It bends too easy for most.

If you start and aren't the most handy person in the world wood is the way to go. Easy to work with and most of all a lot cheaper if you screw things up because aluminum is pretty expensive material. Acrylic will crack easily so be wary with it. Besides that it's again a costly material.

I would say start with wood, this way you can also bring your design to life first and improve on it when you go with acrylic or aluminum, because in the end as you go along you will change your case with added ideas :)

I did make an aluminum case and the whole project took me about 200 hours to make in the end because with aluminum you make sure you know what you want first, then measure twice etc etc. With wood you can just cut something and try it out.

You're going to find that it just is not worth the trouble if you don't already have the right tools. Your best bet if you really want to make a case yourself is to draw everything up in cad and have a shop cut out and bend all the pieces. After that you can do the easy stuff like riveting it together and painting it.

This looks like a great way to go about it. Much easier than what I was thinking.

Yeah, in terms of functionality it's superb, specially with the airflow. The only criticism I have is no dust filter, I mean look at the dust.