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Case Mods: 101
Author: Rob Baumstark       Date: October 26th 2000
Page: 3

The Instruments of Destruction.

The first step in our quest for cool (whether that be a cool CPU, or a cool case) is to find some tools that when combined with metal will produce holes. This is the area where case modding starts to get fun, because 99% of us aren't professional metal-workers. Using the tools that get the job done, are readily available to most people, and easy to use without ever actually using the best tool for the job is generally the goal here. Plasma-cutters, special hole-cutting saws, and other such things are luxuries for a few, while the rest of us stick with the one single tool that while not the best, does a relatively good job of anything we may want to do. The Dremel Tool. This single tool (with the right attachments) will cut blow-holes, sand them smooth afterwards, drill screw-holes and other small holes for things like switches and buttons, and basically handle every part of case modding that I'm going to cover in this article. When buying cutting disks, make sure you get the reinforced ones. I barely got an inch before wearing out one of the "heavy duty" disks that I had on me before starting, and immediately went to get some better disks. If you are doing a lot of cutting, you can plan on using a lot of these disks, I think I averaged about 1.5 disks per 80mm fan hole. If you're really careful with what parts of the disk you use to cut, you can probably make them last longer, but they're not that expensive. You may also have better luck using a grinding stone for finishing work, as I think thats where I wore out the most disks.

A Dremel tool, in case you don't know what one looks like. Look for cutting disks that look like this, with the fiber crosses in them.

The complete list of other tools you may find useful are just small utility items, and it's likely you'll bump into things that I haven't mentioned here, but I'll try and sum up most of them, depending on what you are trying to accomplish.

Small Hand Files I found these did the best job of cleaning rough edges after cutting. More work than with the Dremel, but a smoother edge afterwards.
Felt Pen/Paper/Ruler/Geometry stuff You have to plan out what you want to cut, how big to make it, where to line it up, etc. before you can cut anything. I found an overhead pen worked best for drawing on the case; it made very dark lines, and with a wet paper towel I cleaned up my sketches - just be careful not to rub the lines with your fingers. Remember that once you've cut the hole you can't change it, so make absolutly sure you've got the measurements right before you power up the Dremel. It's easy if you cut a hole too small the first time to make it a bit bigger afterwards, but it's pretty hard to rematerialize the metal if you cut out too much.
Electric Drill Unless you've got a lot of attachments for your Dremel, you can't drill many diameters of holes. We happened to already have a drill and a large variety of bits for it, so thats what I used. If you don't have such a thing, it's probably cheaper and easier to get the attachments and do it with the Dremel.
Wire strippers/cutters/etc. If you're doing any electrical mods you probably know what you're doing, and what you'll need. I'm not really covering this in this article, but if you're building a bay-bus or something you'll need this stuff. There are plenty of good articles on the net on how to do it - I like Virtual Hideout for case-mod ideas/howto's (huge reader mod-gallery there.)

Anything else you can possibly think of. If you're building a water-cooling rig you're going to need ... hose fittings, and ... stuff. Extra wire if you're attaching extra devices (eg. lights, peltiers, etc.). A lot of the fun of this is experimentation; safety is always first, but if you think a tool might work for something, try it (and remember the safety part, I warned you.) My friend happened to have a nibbler, which worked great for cutting large holes, but didn't leave a very clean cut so we had to go back over it with the Dremel afterwards. Oh, and don't forget the most important thing of all - a nice cold beer. If everything turns out right you'll deserve it. (This only applies to people who are of legal age to do so of course, which happens to be 18 where I am).

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Case Mods: 101


Added:  Thursday, October 26, 2000
Reviewer:  Rob Baumstark

Page: 3/7

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