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Thread: G-Frame-Scratch Build (updated Jan 8, 2018)

  1. #1

    G-Frame-Scratch Build (updated Jan 8, 2018)

    Ok, so it's time for another personal build. I love my Shinai, but after a couple of upgrades and a couple of years on my desk, I'm looking for something different. Lately I've been eyeing the InWin H-Frame, which is a gorgeous design, but for me, it's got a couple of problems. Number one, it's expensive. Very expensive. Number two is the layout, while not bad, it doesn't really suit me or my style. So taking these two problems into consideration, I figure the only way for me to avoid spending way to much on a case that I would hack to pieces is to start from the ground up with my own H-Frame clone.

    Time to jump into Sketch-up and work up a design.

    After trying a few different ideas, I settled on a similar look with an even number of blades and a central motherboard tray which lets me mount the video cards on the back side of the tray. Good for displaying everything and gives a nice symmetry for any water cooling that I want to come up with. Speaking of water cooling, it's designed with it in mind, but it should also work well on air which would ease upgrades. So water cooling is still up in the...air.

    Next up in the design phase was to figure out what materials I'm using. I designed it so that the blades are easy to CNC and my first thought was to use aluminum since I've got a fair amount of experience with it. But that's also a reason to use something other than aluminium, I always like trying something new.

    So what's hot right now? Seems to be glass. But you can't CNC glass panels....or can you? Well, you can if it's fiberglass. And I've never worked with fiberglass so let's start the experimenting.

    At this point, there would be a lot of experimenting with fiberglass, that, although cool, didn't pan out, so I'll spare you the details...

    - - - Updated - - -

    Since the fiberglass didn't work out, I switched back to my original plan of aluminum...that's where we pick up the story again.

    The X-Carve has been upgraded(well, some of the upgrades) and the Aluminum has arrived.

    I went with 0.09" 5052 for the stand alone blades and 0.05" for the blades sandwiching the acrylic. The .09" only winds up being about a quarter mm thicker than the .08" I usually use, but that will give it a bit more strength and visual heft without adding a lot of milling time. Just an extra pass or two. I choose 5052 for a couple of reasons. It supposedly isn't as good for milling as 6061, though I've had no problems with it and it mills like butter for me. Also, I'm going to have a fair amount of scrap left over, the center of almost every panel, and I wanted something that I would be able to use around the shop for other projects that could possibly involve bending. So 5052 it was.

    First thing I had to do though was do a little fine tuning on the X-Carve. The upgrade replace the double gantry beam with a single unit to add stability so I had to line that out. And when I thought I was ready to start, I realized that all my programs and settings to run everything were on the computer that I just replaced, so I had to download everything and play around a bit to get my feed rate just right.

    Now that I got all that figured out, it's time to start running panels.

    I did realize I made a bit of a mistake in my design though. My panels are about the same size as my sheets. Next time I'm gonna have to make my design a bit smaller.

    But for now, I get to sit back and listen to the sounds of a Dewalt router screaming at me. Yay.

    Thanks for following along!

    - - - Updated - - -

    So milling these panels out is boring. But I'll go ahead and show off some of what's done and some stuff that has come in for the build. First off, my acquisitions...spacers. Lots of spacers.

    1/4"-20 x 1" brushed aluminum spacers to be exact. My plan being to use these with threaded rod to hold everything together so that when you take one panel off, the whole thing doesn't fall apart. The 1" spacing gives me a similar width as a standard case so it won't be too much of a monstrosity.

    And to finish off the threaded rod, caps to hold the outside acrylic panels on.

    They're a bit taller than I'd like and I might look for replacements, but they'll do for now.

    This is just a bowl full of money.

    I did start to piece what I've got milled together. Or at least one side of it. I'm milling pairs towards the center so I've got more done, but I don't want to put pieces on just to take them back off. That's a lot of threading spacers on, so once I get the center pieces milled I'll be able to get it all together to get a true feel of the size this thing is going to be. I already know it's going to be huge, roughly 2'x2'x1'.

    One change I'm considering as it's going together is softening the corners a bit. They're pretty harsh angles right now and I'm not sure I like that. My plan for finishing is a dyed wood veneer(which is coming in today and I'm excited) and I think gentler corners might go better with the feel of the wood. But we'll see how things progress, especially once all the panels are milled.

    Thanks for following along!
    Current Projects: The Gunslinger - CM Mastercase5, Crimson King - CM Mastercase5, Twelve-80 - scratch
    Past Projects: Spark, F3, Shinai, Scout, Gigantea, Rehab

    For more randomness, check out my tweets or my face page or my website!

  2. #2
    And it continues. I'm hoping to be a little more regular on my updates, I've sort of got out of the habit.

    Funny thing, as I was looking at the case when I was piecing some parts together, I started thinking that the corners just looked way off from what I was hoping and was thinking of rounding them off. Well, I was looking at the case sitting on it's back, duh.

    Sitting right way up, the top corner is much less pronounced so it's not bothering me as much as before. It's still pretty angular, but at least the profile is better. I think I can live with this, especially since when it's done, the panels will have slightly different profiles, hopefully adding a bit to the look.

    While putting all this together, I did notice that there was a big difference in the thread tolerances of the spacers vs. the threaded rod. The spacers were more precise, while the rod was all over the place. I chased the threaded rod with a standard 1/4" steel nut and didn't have any trouble, but the spacers had zero slack for any thread that was a bit off. To solve this little problem I decided that rather than re-thread 6' of steel rod, re-cutting the threads of the softer aluminum would be easier. And then things got a bit redneck.

    Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately?, I didn't grab any pictures, but the general idea was stick a spacer in the vise, stick a piece of threaded rod in the drill and may the toughest metal win.

    It was totally going to be the steel that won. But chasing the rod through the spacers opened up the threads and now I can put it all together nice and easy. No vice grips necessary.

    The only drawback to this method was that some of the spacers wound up with markings from the vise. Some of the threads were so tight, the spacer actually spun in the vise. Imagine threading those by hand. But I needed to get rid of the tooling marks and I just happened to have a drill with a piece of threaded rod chucked up, so...

    Instant handheld cordless lathe! Now all I had to do was run some sandpaper up and down this bad idea and I could clean up all the tooling marks. I did take it all the way up to 1000 grit and came up with a nice satin-y polished look...

    But it fingerprinted like crazy so I went back to an 800 grit which was pretty close to the original finish.

    Speaking of fingerprints, I think I would have left them everywhere after getting all the spacers cleaned up.

    I did get some bad news since last post though, my veneer has been delayed...booooo! Guess something went wrong at the mill and the sheets got messed up. On the plus side, they can get me a more heavily figured curly maple sooner than they can get the medium figure I ordered and they'll upgrade me for nothing. Sweet. I wanted the heavy figure anyway but $$$ led me to order the medium.

    As for my plans for this maple...Well, I'm not looking for a light colored finish since I've already done that with the bamboo. I like it, but I'm looking for something different. So I also ordered some dye. A lot of dye actually to try out some different effects. But the one I'm hoping turns out really well would give me something similar to this(ignore the oak on the bottom right, the other two are pieces of maple I believe)...

    I'm thinking that mixed with parts painted in the Viper blue that I used on Rehab...

    It's just a crazy thought right now until I get the veneer in and play around with the dye on some scraps. Then I'll be able to nail down a color that suits the build.

    Thanks for following along!

    - - - Updated - - -

    Well, the aluminum milling for the blades is done. As usual, it all went pretty smooth til the last piece and then it went to ca-ca.

    My method involved clamping the material down, milling the inside, and then moving the clamps to the inside so I could mill the outside. I usually try to catch it when it's knocking out the holes for the threaded rod so it wouldn't run over the clamps when it started on the outside edge. Did that, turned around and started sweeping the shop and then a horrible grinding sound. Uh oh.

    Well I managed to forget about the tray area where I've got some holes to attach mod blocks. I totally put the router through one and was in time to watch the collet nut turning orange from grinding against an adjustment bolt on the clamp. Whoops!

    Luckily the inside was done so I could line it up with it's twin blade and cut the exterior by hand and file it to match. In order to hold it and put it somewhere I could work on it, I had to get creative.

    But the results were worth the effort.

    They're so good, that now I think I need to do the rest of the pairs like this. Dang!

    But with the last aluminum blade finished, I can piece it together and start to get an idea of what I'm working with.

    I like how the differences in the blades give it a profile. All these straight, flat pieces, but still it's got some shape.

    And as far as's huge. I've got a Meshify C I'm working on, which is a pretty compact mid tower, and here's the comparison shot. If the tray area wasn't there, the Fractal would fit inside it.

    And width-wise, well, it's gonna grow. I've got another inch of acrylic panels to add in plus whatever the veneer will add. I might have to clear off a little more desk space by the time this thing is done.
    Current Projects: The Gunslinger - CM Mastercase5, Crimson King - CM Mastercase5, Twelve-80 - scratch
    Past Projects: Spark, F3, Shinai, Scout, Gigantea, Rehab

    For more randomness, check out my tweets or my face page or my website!

  3. #3
    So I got my veneer in...

    I love the look of it, now just to get it put onto the panels.

    First order of business, get it cut down into a manageable size.

    Roughly 2'x2' sheets, separated to keep things matched up right. Don't want to flip a piece and have it look totally different from the rest.

    I set up a form so that I could keep things square, but as per my usual, I didn't cut the veneer perfectly square, so I basically used the form as a straight edge.

    This go around with veneer I decided to try the applied PSA backing rather than a glue. I have had good luck Heat-Lock, a heat setting glue, but since I don't have any bends to work around and worry about popping up, I thought this might simplify the process. It made the whole job incredibly simple.

    Once the veneer was applied, just flip the panel over and trim off the excess.

    I used razor knife to cut the veneer which isn't really a good choice but I didn't really see a good way to use a veneer saw on the inside corners. It makes for a rough cut from the back side so the edges, well, need some love. The plan is to go back and peel a few mm of veneer from the edge to give it an aluminum border. That should clean up the edge and give it a bit of style. It also takes care of the sandwiched look on the edges.

    Before applying the veneer to the opposite side, I had to make sure to punch my holes through the veneer. I did this by taking a 1/16" bit and poking a pilot from the back, then using the correct size from the front to keep from blowing out the veneer. A little cleanup with an exacto knife and it'll be serviceable. Also, you can see a bit of the chipping on the edges that occured because of cutting from the back with a razor knife in this pic.

    And, as usual, I couldn't not put it back together to get a look at the transformation the veneer gave the case.

    I'm still planning on dying it once I play around and find the color I want, but even naked, I love it.

    Thanks for following along!
    Current Projects: The Gunslinger - CM Mastercase5, Crimson King - CM Mastercase5, Twelve-80 - scratch
    Past Projects: Spark, F3, Shinai, Scout, Gigantea, Rehab

    For more randomness, check out my tweets or my face page or my website!

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