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Thread: Black Oak

  1. #1

    Black Oak

    Hey, new to the forums and starting a new scratchbuild called Black Oak. My first was an all-acrylic monster cube case called Onyx (check the worklog and finished pics here), and I loved it but it turned out to be just too damned big. I have a history with that. I have a woodshop and loved working with acrylic so I thought I'd combine the two into a low-key case that still draws the eye and makes people say wow. The design is solid, and I think it will be a beauty when it's done. Hope you'll stick around and watch it grow.

    It'll look great on my desk.

    Big thanks to my sponsor, Thermaltake!

  2. #2

    Black Oak

    The folks at Thermaltake were kind enough to sponsor this build with a Toughpower Grand 850-watt modular PSU and it's a beauty.

    I can only think Thermaltake hired someone new in their marketing team in the last couple of years because their packaging went from good to insane. This PSU came in a cloth back, plus there was another for the modular power cables, and another bag with velcro closure for the PCIe cables, plus some very nice wide velcro cable ties and four hard plastic cable clips. They even included two formed rubber isolators for the rear corners of the PSU since it has unusual rounded corners.

    So far I'm impressed. We'll see how it handles later.

  3. #3

    Black Oak

    Great start.

    You will LOVE you Thermaltake psu. :wink:

  4. #4

    Black Oak

    Ok, here's an actual progress update!

    To start with, my materials: Red oak and grey tinted cell cast acrylic.

    I spent quite a while truing up the lumber with the jointer and planer and rounding over the shorter thicker pieces with my new router. Working with acrylic and tight tolerances, this project is going to involve a lot of trial and error. 3/16" acrylic is NOT 3/16" thick. I spent a lot of time playing with my new slot cutter set today.

    Here's the setup to cut grooves across the grain on the thicker pieces:

    And with the two grooves on the end of each done:

    All was going very well when disaster struck. I'm cutting very close to the end of the pieces, cross grain. That makes for some weak areas right at the slot. While test fitting one joint I heard the dreaded "snap!"

    But not to fear, red oak has a strong straight grain to it, and I have some awesome wood glues on hand. Bet you can't see where it was broken:

    So what are the grooves for? I went through a lot of options on joinery for this case, from mortise and tenon to dowels to pocket holes, and finally decided on spline joints. They're strong, attractive, and relatively easy to make with the right equipment. Here we have some little walnut splines all laid out and ready to be shoved into a groove:

    But wait! They're too thick! The last thing you want with a spline is something you have to force into the groove dry.

    Again, this can be fixed. A touch on the sander...

    and presto! Perfect fit:

    Now we need one in the other groove, but here I hit another problem: they interfere with each other...

    So I had to actually notch half of them to fit around its mating spline:

    I'll be using pieces that are roughly 3/4" x 2" for the outer frame. Splines are glued into them and sanded flush:

    And assembly of the bottom section:

    Put that together with an identical top section and some uprights and it starts to look like a case!

    So now to the acrylic. I want a contrast of wood and shiny black. I want to be able to see wood everywhere, so I'll be sandwiching a sheet of oak plywood and a sheet of the tinted acrylic over the top, into grooves in each of the pieces above to form the top, bottom, front and rear panels.

    Didn't turn out too badly after a whole day's work. That's the bottom you're looking at in the last picture. I didn't want to peel any of the paper off of any of the acrylic but I had to test-fit the pieces to be sure the grooves were sized right, and the bottom will have the fewest cuts.

    When I'm done the whole thing will look like this, with a wooden frame wrapped around a piece of tinted acrylic over a sheet of wood. All except the left side panel, it will be a window, no plywood sheet. The frame shown above will be the primary structure, though there will be a bottom piece put in for mounting and a rear panel for the motherboard, etc. Since the acrylic is on the outside and the wood is visible on the inside I'll have wooden trim outside (fan grills, etc) and acrylic trim inside (PSU cover, optical drive cover...)

    So far so good, the design is turning out exactly as I had hoped. More to come!

    Edit: Shiny black acrylic and sawdust are a nightmare together!

  5. #5

    Black Oak

    Edit: Shiny black acrylic and sawdust are a nightmare together!
    Haha, I can only imagine. I love the wood. I often wish I had a wood shop to do all those fun projects.

    But the sawdust does get into everything. Especially something that attracts static at an insane degree.

  6. #6

    Black Oak

    Looking great so far.

    Hey if you want to protect the acrylic just wrap it with Saran Wrap. You can never get the paper back on so that trick is the next best thing.

  7. #7

    Black Oak

    Well, I had a setback. The beautiful walnut splines that I so painstakingly cut, sized and grooved for are not going to work. I made them so that the end grain would be the exposed portion of the joint, so that they would soak up the stain and turn black, making a nice contrast to the oak.

    I'm sure this would have been just fine if I'd been able to just assemble the case and glue it up and move on, but I'm going to have to assemble and disassemble it several times during the course of the build, as I measure for and cut the acrylic panels. Once it's glued up they're never coming out again.

    The stress of continual disassembly took its toll on the splines:


    Had this been the only one I'd have glued it up and moved on, but this is three. Obviously not going to work. So I got to set up my router table and slot cutter again, figure out exactly which combination of cutters and shims I used to make the original slots, set the height and cutting depth exactly where they were before and bore all the splines out again...

    Didn't turn out too badly, a couple of them have tiny slivers of walnut left in them but you'll never see them in the finished product.

    So, this was an example of form over function; I chose to orient the splines in the weakest way possible for aesthetic effect. It failed. But in the end it turned out for the best. Instead of making sixteen more walnut splines with the grain oriented the other way, and having to notch eight of them like I just did, I decided to make acrylic splines. I can cut them in an L shape and only have to make eight instead of sixteen and they will look even better than the walnut.

    I tested the wood glue I'm using to see how it held the acrylic, not so well. But if I rough up the joining surfaces and drill some small holes to give it some grip it does very well.

    Instead of trying to notch them, since I'll have this same polished acrylic inside the case anyway, I decided to just round it over and polish it.

    Thanks to very minor irregularites in each joint, each spline has to be custom-made to each joint for everything to line up flush and tight. Oh, joy. One down, seven to go. More pics when those are done, but I think this is going to work out much better.

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