Scratch Build: The Ultimate Computer Desk

Discussion in 'Computer Cases, Power Supplies and Cooling' started by ultimatedesk, Dec 29, 2010.

  1. ultimatedesk

    ultimatedesk New Member

    Messages:
    62
    Hey everyone,

    Decided a few weeks ago to start building my own custom computer desk / enclosure and I thought some of you would be interested in checking it out, so here goes :)

    I'd like to firstly thank Crucial, Kingston and Danger Den for sponsoring this project and for helping make it a reality:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The 1st draft of the Ultimate Computer Desk.

    I wanted the desk to be capable of having 2 integrated desktop systems. 1 for high-powered gaming, and the other, a low-powered system with lots of hard-drive space that will be on 24/7 for sharing media across the network and playing videos locally.

    It needs to be quiet, have dust control, have manual fan control, and it also needs to look great in an office - sorry ahead of time to all you bling lovers!

    I used Google Sketchup for all of my drafts.

    I started first by sketching on paper how I would like the components to be laid out, and then started working on the left-hand module.

    After determining the minimum width, I started to build up the left-hand module, taking into consideration that I would be using 3/4" plywood for the construction.

    [​IMG]

    I then decided that the air intake will be on the same board that the motherboard will lie, air will come from the bottom. It will be covered with a furnace air filter material that should eliminate most of the dust, and also provide good air circulation.

    [​IMG]

    Next up was to add some to-scale components. A big thanks to [email protected], who created the model for the Noctua NH-U12P CPU Heatsink, as well as the Noctua fans, Alexander who created the model for the Asus Ares video card, Nightsoul who created the model of the Western Digital Hard-Drives, and Fubar East for the very nice power supply model. Your talent saved me a lot of time when it came to placing the items to scale.

    [​IMG]

    Another view, from the back

    [​IMG]

    I then took the same requirements and applied them to the right-hand module. This will be the "server-type" system. I also wanted to add drawers to this particular module, so this is what I came up with. It has the same air-intake system, which will be covered by a furnace air filter.

    [​IMG]

    And, finally, putting it all together, I figured 2 monitors is a reasonable thing these days. In the upper left, there will be the DVD drive, plus power and fan controls for the gaming rig. There is a glass cover over the gaming rig that can be removed to perform upgrades and maintenance.

    [​IMG]

    And a picture of the back - the boxes aren't exactly what they'll turn out as - they are for cable management, ideally I will setup little boxes so you will see almost NO cables in the back. They will have some foam stuffed in the top to keep dust out of the boxes as well.

    [​IMG]

    And that's it for this post! The 1st draft! I'll have to ponder on it for a little while to make sure everything is A-OK for building, and determine how much lumber I'll need.

    As always, comments, feedback and ideas are ALWAYS WELCOME! This is going to be a long build, I figure it'll take me a couple months at least, and that's not including some of the custom electronic trickery I'm going to have to learn!
     
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2011
  2. ultimatedesk

    ultimatedesk New Member

    Messages:
    62
    2nd Draft

    After spending some time reviewing my 1st draft I realized a few things very quickly:

    1. All my joints are butt joints! This is going to result in a lot of screw holes on the visible surfaces that I will have to cover up, and it will not be as strong as it could be.

    2. The edges of plywood are nasty - I did not account for using 1/4" solid wood trim on all of the visible edges of the plywood. This will seriously throw off all my measurements.

    3. The right-hand module, with the so called drawers, don't actually have drawers sketched in - just drawer faces!

    So, it was time start from scratch (Sorta). Here's the end result, and ultimately, the final plan. The dark coloured wood is the solid trim, and the light coloured wood are 1x1's so that I can screw the panels together from the inside, avoiding any screw holes on the outside. I also added a few dado joints that I believe will be ultra strong with just a generous application of wood glue.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    So, while I was redoing all of this, I figured: this desk is going to be a beast. A big, heavy, super-duty truck kind of beast. This means I will likely be able to keep it for quite some time, and with technology going the way it is....

    [​IMG]

    Yup, planning for 3 monitors, external fan / dvd / power controls for both of the systems, and going the full 8 foot length for the desk. The dvd / controls will be in the cubby holes you see in the upper left and right-hand sides of the desk.

    It'll be able to be disassembled into 4 pieces - the desk surface, the desk shelf, and the left and right modules.

    Much better. I think from here I can make my cut sheets and actually get to work!

    Yes, I love Google Sketchup, I am not ashamed of it either, it is so incredibly useful and it's so incredibly free.

    I've used it for a few years now, mostly for planning aquarium setups and building aquarium stands. Here is the most awesome part of Sketchup - pulling

    dimensions, and creating your cut sheets (Someone needs to automate this).

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    And that's it! 4 Sheets!

    Now I have to figure out where I'm going to build this darn thing. I've got a low-ceiling basement with a circular saw, router, and a drill...

    I think I might need some new tools... :D:D:D

    Stay tuned! I'll be cutting up some wood next!
     
  3. ultimatedesk

    ultimatedesk New Member

    Messages:
    62
    Initial Cuts

    Purely coincidentally, while talking over the idea with a few pints at the local pub, a good girlfriend of mine piped up stating:

    "Oh, didn't you know? My dad has a full wood shop in his backyard, he'd love to help I'm sure!"

    By golly.

    A meeting was arranged, and poof, we got along great and he's looking forward to a nice big project being started in his shop.

    It's a free standing building in his backyard with an attic for wood storage, lots of tools - stationary and portable, and yeah, lots of tools - did I mention that? Table saw, band saw, drill press, planar, horizontal planar, belt sander, jointer, grinders, air compressor, just about everything a guy could ask for.

    [​IMG]

    So we set about to pick up the initial bits of lumber. 4 Sheets of 3/4" Plywood, 2-sided Maple Veneer - was a steal too, such a good deal that Mike, the owner of the wood shop, picked up a pair of sheets for himself for a future project as well!

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Time to hit up the table saw to do the initial lengthwise cuts

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Thankfully I had a helper - she was eventually covered in sawdust and abandoned me in the shop after the big cuts were done. It still left me with several 8' long sheets to manage on my own, as you can see in the left hand side of the shop in the back.

    [​IMG]

    So I set about my merry way, and thankfully, did not lose any of my fingers (This time).

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    All of the initial cuts were done, except for one particular strip of 8' that needed to be cut into 3 28" lengths - beyond what the table saw was capable of doing. I decided that it was enough for the day.

    [​IMG]

    Made quite a nice little mess!!

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    All in all a good start to a long project

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Stay tuned! Lots of work still to go
     
  4. Shane

    Shane Super Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    20,441
    This looks amazing dude,cant wait to see what it looks like when its done :)

    Looking at where the Components are going,maybe you should add some intake at the front of the desk like ive circled below...i know you have intake at the side but i think more airflow would get in if it was directly infront instead of the side.

    [​IMG]


    Btw what software you use for the plan?
     
  5. voyagerfan99

    voyagerfan99 Master of Turning Things Off and Back On Again Staff Member

    Messages:
    23,017
    I'm liking this plan! I also second what Nev said about adding intake vents in the front.
     
  6. linkin

    linkin VIP Member

    Messages:
    13,521
    Definitely have some ventilation, intake and exhaust. Looks good too.
     
  7. Compequip

    Compequip New Member

    Messages:
    669
    This is cool, I'm going to be watching future posts on this. I'm a lit bit of a hobbyist when it comes to woodworking/building..... I have a 10" delta table saw that's 7' long, along with a drill press and multiple sanders, saws, routers and nail guns. I'm looking into getting a jointer and possible a planer. Oh and I have 2 compressors and many hand tools ( no pun intended ). :D
     
  8. linkin

    linkin VIP Member

    Messages:
    13,521
    Little thought: I'd recommend putting the modem/router somewhere visible so if you need to see the lights for diagnostics you won't have to move that heavy desk ;)
     
  9. ultimatedesk

    ultimatedesk New Member

    Messages:
    62
    Thanks

    Thanks Nevakonaza, I'll have to wait and see what the airflow is like before I decide to put big holes on the front of the desk. I'm really hoping that I'll be able to get good airflow without putting visible intakes on the front.

    Thanks voyagerfan99!

    Thanks linkin :)

    Ooooh, that's some nice stuff you've got there Compequip - I only have some small power tools at my actual place, so using the wood shop is a real treat!

    Ha! That's a good idea, I never thought of that ;)
     
  10. ultimatedesk

    ultimatedesk New Member

    Messages:
    62
    Hole Time

    Had time to cut that last 8' sheet into the 28" sections, and cut a hole in the surface portion of the desk. The surface portion, fyi, will be composed of two 8' pieces of 3/4" plywood, so its total thickness will be 1.5" thick.

    The upper plywood will have a hole that is .5" wider all around than the board beneath it.

    Only had time to do one hole tonight - the lower portion, thankfully, because I made a few small mistakes!

    Sorry about the photos folks, I had already uploaded these to imageshack and forgot to resize them, so here are the thumbnails since I don't have the original stock photos on me right now. From now on, they'll be properly sized at 800x600, which I feel is a fair compromise for detail and bandwidth.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I started off with a carpenters angle, measured off my lines with a pencil and then made a rough cut with a jigsaw. I then clamped a straight-edge lined up with the edges (measured) and ran a router across it to create the smooth finish.

    I messed up a bit, going a bit too far with the router on one end, and then not far enough on the other end - I'll have to sand and file to square it off.

    Sorry I didn't take too many pictures - the next hole will have more!

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Thankfully the shop is heated, here's one of the heaters - it went down to -8*C that evening!

    [​IMG]

    Here's the mess for the night!

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    And, the hero of the night! Mastercraft Plunge Router!!

    [​IMG]
     
  11. ultimatedesk

    ultimatedesk New Member

    Messages:
    62
    Drawer Work

    One of the main things holding me back right now is the fact that I have not selected the motherboard tray, and template for the motherboard input and outputs, as well as PCI slots. This prevents me from cutting the holes accurately in the back of both of the modules, which prevents me from assembling the actual modules.

    I have some "spare" desktop chassis lying around, and will be working to find a solution to that soon.

    In the meantime, I started working on the drawers for the right-hand module.

    I first took them through the table saw again, trimming off the last 16th or two from some of the boards.

    Then went to work sanding all of the pieces down with 150 grit. I will likely go up to a 180 grit before the final stain goes on. I clamped a straight-edge on to the table saw so that it was easier to sand with the grain (Thanks Mike)

    [​IMG]

    Slowly, but surely, I went through all the pieces for the drawers, except for the faces. Yes, bad things happen when I don't have my sketchup drawings. I start drawing with markers.

    [​IMG]

    Mike was doing some work in the shop at the same time as me that day, so there was quite the mess.

    [​IMG]

    I put together my tools of the trade

    [​IMG]

    And here are the gluing steps I went through

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    A few somewhat artistic clamp shots ;)

    [​IMG]

    Everything looks pretty straight

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Glued and clamped together the largest of the drawers, will likely put some hanging folders in there.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Then I screwed everything together with #8 1.5" screws, all holes pre-drilled and countersunk. Most of the holes will be covered by the actual drawer sliding mechanisms, but the exposed ones will get some wood putty.

    It's funny being in someone else's wood shop - I couldn't find the countersink bit anywhere - I tried looking through all the drill bit boxes (There were several) and nothing, so I had been using a small bit, then switching to the big bit to countersink, and then switching to the screw bit to screw in the holes.

    Mike walks in half-way through the holes and you could tell he was rather amused - he goes to the back of the shop, pulls out a box, pulls out a box from the box, and then a small medicine container out from the box in a box - "Geez, didn't I tell ya to just look around? Oh. Wait. I guess this one was sorta hard to find eh?".

    At that point, he also points out that there are several drills in the shop - silly me. So one drill with the countersink bit, one drill with the screw bit. It's been very interesting working in a shop dedicated to this type of work - very, very different from working in the basement with just basic hand tools.

    [​IMG]

    I haven't attached the faces of the drawers yet as I haven't determined how I would like to attach them. I would also like to attach the trim to the outer edges of the faces before attaching them to the drawers, since it'll be much easier to clamp all the faces together at once.

    [​IMG]

    And that's it for todays update - a bit short, yes, a lot of pictures of clamps, sorry, I got carried away ;)

    I'm spending some time in the shop tonight, so hopefully I'll have another update for all of you tomorrow or the day after!

    [​IMG]
     
  12. jevery

    jevery Member

    Messages:
    938
    I have to say I'm impressed! - Both by your concept and by the plan renderings. My first career was an architectural draftsman. This was in the days before computers and everything was done by hand. People teased me because I wouldn't build anything or even move furniture for my Wife until I drew up plans or made scale layouts for feasibility. You've taken the concept of planning to a whole new level. I can't wait for pictures of the build in progress. :)
     
  13. Okedokey

    Okedokey Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    9,507
    OMG how heavy will that be? Ill be honest, i haven't read the whole thread, but make sure its modularised, in case you ever need to move it. Suggestion, use electromagnets.
     
  14. Aastii

    Aastii VIP Member

    Messages:
    13,291
    This looks incredible!!

    You mentioned motherboard trays, or the lack of. I recently got a new case, and my old one was a pile of crap, only really salvagable parts were the fans, screws and mobo trays, the rest is just cheap, thin, flimsy steel that can't really have much done with.

    I was initially going to use the motherboard tray for either building a test bench or in a similar way to yours, but just a computer box, not a desk, for a home server/storage, but realised I would very rarely use a test bench, and although we would use a home server/storage, we can't really afford it, so I'm left with a spare tray.

    If you have no luck fashioning one, if you pay shipping you can have it, it supports ATX/uATX boards, so would be perfect unless you plan to use an eATX motherboard, which I guess is sort of unlikely that you will be on both.

    It is looking awesome so far, I love following stuff like this and seeing it go from drawings on paper, to raw materials, slowly towards a finished product. The best of luck to you, can't wait to see how it turns out :)
     
  15. SslagleZ28

    SslagleZ28 New Member

    Messages:
    551
    Crap I ment to post on this the other day. By any chance does the guy that helping you have a dovetail jig? Drawers take alot of stress, if you dovetail them they will last alot longer. Are you going to edge band the bare edges of the plywood? Nice build though, Im a carpenter by trade, I love " im building" threads
     
  16. BangMash

    BangMash New Member

    Messages:
    10
    Nice work dude, its going to be awesome!

    Im a cabinet maker by trade and have built my own desk (intergrated case into desk) so I know how exciting it is to do one of these projects! Love the designs you did as well, very thorough!

    One thing I noticed though, keep in mind if you have the desk against a wall the ventilation exhausts at the back will need some space between desk and wall to move the warm air out of the area (yellow circle). I left a fair bit on mine (between case and wall) but no ventilation down the back of the desk and its freakin hot haha! Im thinking of exhausting it to the side now so just keep that in mind especially if you upgrade over the years and add more components (maybe vent it out the side towards the back of the door, eg green circle). Its still easy to do, you wont have to change your design you simply attach the fans to the door, router out the appropriate circlular holes to fit fans, and fill it with mesh.

    So what your left with is intake at the front (as Nevakonaza suggested) and exhaust on the side.

    Look froward to seeing the finished product :)
     

    Attached Files:

  17. ultimatedesk

    ultimatedesk New Member

    Messages:
    62
    Thanks Everyone

    Thanks jevery, I know what you mean about planning before you even lift a finger to move a couch lol!
    Hehe, it's going to be VERY heavy! Don't worry though, it's going to break down into 4 pieces - the desktop, the top shelf, and the two cabinets ;)
    Thanks, I'll keep that in mind, that's very nice of you :)
    Hmm, I hadnt' considered doing something like dovetailing... I may have to go over the design for the drawers before final assembly. Nice to see carpenters here, chime in with any other tips if you've got them! The edges will be covered with strips of solid maple.
    That is certainly a good point - you're right though, it shouldn't be hard to add additional ventilation if it becomes necessary. Hopefully, it won't be an issue.... Thanks for the great pic ;)
     
  18. ultimatedesk

    ultimatedesk New Member

    Messages:
    62
    2nd Desktop Hole

    I finally got around to putting the second hole in the desk surface area (Since the desk is composed of two sheets of plywood, there are two holes needed, with the "top surface" needing a hole that is .5" larger all the way around, so the "bottom surface" supports the piece of glass which covers the gaming computer).

    I took a few more detailed pictures compared to last time.

    As with before, I started by cutting out a rough shape with the jigsaw. I was able to get within .5" comfortably of my marked lines. Sometimes if you rush the jigsaw, your cuts can get a little squirrely, so I was playing it safe. This is the top surface, so no screwing up here!!

    [​IMG]

    I then took an extra dose of patience, and went in straight to the corners with the jigsaw. This is a step I did not take last time, and I made a mistake with the router because of this.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I then took the router and pressed the bit right into the corner, and clamped a straight-edge on behind it. This is how I set the distance from the bit to the straight-edge. I repeated the same for the other side.

    All it took was a good solid pass from right-to-left and I had a very clean straight edge without having to go all the way into the corners, where mistakes can be made, since it is quite difficult to see where the actual router bit is when the tool is running.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Unclamp, reset router, reset clamps and straight edge, lather, rinse, and repeat:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    This hole had a very small margin of error overall, and I am very pleased with the result. The jigsaw is an incredible versatile tool and can be very accurate, as long as you have patience. This one corner is the only one that will need a touch-up with a file and/or sandpaper, and you can see, it's only going to need less than a 16th of material removal!

    [​IMG]

    And that's all I had time for in the shop that day ;) Enjoy some of my mess!

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Until next time - I have some images in the queue, but I haven't quite gotten around to resizing them just yet ;)
     
  19. User0one

    User0one New Member

    Messages:
    507
    Nice job,

    I modified a existing Desk, by mounting (2) mini itx motherboards, in a Partition in the back of the center Desk Drawer.

    Used small Laptop DVDRW roms, and kvm switch to switch between the two CPU's.
     
  20. ultimatedesk

    ultimatedesk New Member

    Messages:
    62
    Desktop Chop Shop

    Oooh, that is super cool User0one - I can't believe how small those mini-itx motherboards are! ;) Bet no one can even tell they are there eh?

    Here are a few snapshots. As some of you might know, I've been a little held back in the project due to not having selected my motherboard I/O plates and motherboard trays. Without having the actual items, I couldn't make the appropriate measurements to make cut-outs in the back of the cabinets, and therefore, was unable to make the dado cuts due to worry about everything not fitting properly.

    So I scrounged through some old desktop systems I had lying around, emptied their components into my bins, and decided to take apart their chassis in search of some good motherboard tray and I/O parts.

    So - off to the spooky basement with a pair of chassis, my trusty drill and dremel.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Having never drilled rivets out of a case before, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. At first, I started with a bit that was a little bit small, so the rivets came up onto the drill bit itself and got stuck on there pretty good. Eventually, I moved to a bigger bit, and all it took was one good squeeze of the trigger and the rivet would come right out nice and cleanly.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Starting to rack up some parts here

    [​IMG]

    You can see in the image above that the I/O and PCI Plate is built right into the back of the desktop chassis - this is unfortunate, as you'll see in some future photos, my other case actually had a modular I/O plate. I'll have to take the dremel to that part to get what I need.

    Time to grab the pliers...

    [​IMG]

    Here is the shot of the back plate of the other desktop chassis - see how the I/O plate was actually riveted in, and not pressed as a whole back sheet like the other one? Soo much easier to deal with.

    [​IMG]

    That was a pretty fun experience taking apart the cases. I've got a bunch of scrap sheet metal now too - wonder what interesting projects I can come up with to use them...

    On to that first I/O plate - I need to dremel out the section that I need

    [​IMG]

    Huh.. that actually didn't work out too well, at least, not the way I would like. I'm going to take these parts to the shop to see if there are any better tools for getting nice clean lines.

    Until next time!
     

Share This Page