Scrolling through photo after photo, I see mastery. Every angle shows weaves of paracord snaking around acrylic tubes and liquid-filled reservoirs. I’m looking at computers, but not just any computers. These PCs are hand-crafted with love and care and a fastidious attention to detail over dozens of hours. These are the works of professional PC builders, one-time hobbyists who’ve turned a passion for rig-building into a way to make money on the side, or even launch a business. In some corners of the Internet, they’re minor celebrities, famous for the care and creativity they put into their builds. But taking the leap from community hero to true professional, making a living building custom PCs, is challenging.
I wanted to know what that struggle has been like for professional builders. How did they start building PCs for clients? How did they make names for themselves? And how do they hope to spin success into a full-time business?Building towards something biggerIt started simply enough: I wanted to build a new PC, my first true gaming PC. I reached out to a friend on Facebook who was into high-end motherboards and processors. We first met at a local coffee shop, where I knew him as the guy who would always have his guitar with him. He was also, I learned, a very talented PC builder.cables with styleLavins PC build cablesAs we got to chatting over Facebook, Blake “Lavins” Andes started showing me some of his albums on photosharing service imgur. I was stunned by the contrasting colors and keen sense of aesthetics.
Cables were neatly organized, but not in a way you’d normally expect. There weren’t any zip ties clumping wires together. All cables were laid out in neat rows, curving around other components, snaking their way to the power supply. I really had no idea how serious PC building was, or could be, until that moment.Andes showed me some of his posts on popular PC subreddits like Cable Management, Watercooling, and Gaming PC. Users flooded his builds with praise. “This is like porn to me.” “God tier.” “Sploosh.” Since making a name for himself on Reddit, he’s since launched a website, HexagonPC, to showcase custom builds and cabling. But how did Andes get to this level of niche internet fame?“I’ve been building computers since I was like 12,” said Andes as we sat in his new condo near the medical district in Houston. Jump forward to after college: Andes is 26, and started getting into intricate cable management. He describes it as turning a “whole mess of wires inside of a PC into a work of art.”