This weekend I finally made the push to assemble the new computer!
Shaping the Sled
Since the computer is going into a custom made desk, I also created a custom “sled” to hold all the components. I started with a piece of half inch plywood and cut it to about the size of the plate glass that will make up the desk top.
The first thing that was done was to drill nine holes to line up with the mounting holes on the motherboard. The posts are 6-32 machine screws, countersunk to keep the bottom of the board flat (I’m not sure why it has to be flat, it just seems like a good idea). Six nuts were then threaded on to create a standoff (later to be changed to 7 to accommodate wires).
My idea with this sled was to be able to remove it from the desk when needed, maybe make a portable box to cover it for transportation to LAN parties… maybe. To make this easier, I thought that the sled should have handles, so I cut some holes at the ends and used a jigsaw to finish out the oval.
The next items to tackle are the power supply and the radiator. My idea for mounting the power supply is to use some straps over the top, tightened down by a few screws. A fan is sticking out of one side of the power supply, so I thought it might be better to place that face down to give more room for the straps to strap to. I had to cut a large hole for the fan to fit in so that the supply rested flat on the sled.
The radiator had a more irregular shape which had to be traced onto the wood. I used calipers to measure all the dimensions and replicate them onto the wood. The holes were then drilled to allow the countersunk metric M3 screws to mate with the radiator. The main hole was then carefully cut with the jigsaw.
The last hole that was cut is for a recycled case fan. Since this system will be water cooled, there will be little airflow over the motherboard. To fix this I found an old 80mm fan from a old computer, and a plastic fan duct from a old Dell case. I made a mounting hold right next to the RAM modules for this fan.
I was going back and forth with what I should to about painting the sled. Since the desk will be a stained oak, I was thinking of staining the sled as well. I tried some different stains on some scrap plywood, but didn’t like the look. Since all the components I had already ordered were black, I decided to just spray paint everything black to go with that theme.
In addition to the sled itself, I had three other parts to paint. The Dell fan duct was a neon green, so that had to go. The bottom tabs were also cut off to make it sit flush on the sled.
A 5″ hard drive bay was stolen from my old old case, trimmed, and painted black. This part took the paint very well and almost looks like it was originally black.
The third piece is a mount for the water cooling reservoir. I was planning on making this from wood pieces, but it was suggested by Nate that I use sheet metal. I tried to cut an old computer case side up on the bandsaw, but couldn’t cut anything strait.
While I was cleaning the garage, I found a nice piece of plastic that came with the AC unit in the basement. I could easily cut this square on the table saw, then used the vice and a hot air gun to bend it to the angle I wanted.
Now that I had all the parts ready, I started to assemble the sled. While I was doing this, I hung my phone from the ceiling and took a time laps video of the whole assembly process. You can see that here.
I started with putting the motherboard standoffs in. I then screwed in the 80mm case fan with standard fan screws (the short, fat ones that come with all case fans) into the wood. The radiator went on next nice and easy. I had test fit this before painting and had to open some of the bolt holes to get all the screws to fit. This mounting had to be redone after I figured out that the radiator ports were upside down.
The power supply was next. I cut a cheap strap and melted the edges with a lighter. I fastened one side of the strap to the sled with a short wood screw and a finishing washer. The other end is then brought taught over the supply box and the fastener is placed right were the strap is just touching the wood. When the fastener is tightened, the strap is cinched up and holds the power supply very tightly.
The hard drive bay was drilled so that it can be fastened to the board with standard hard drive screws. The pump was mounted to its metal mount and fastened with the same short screws as the power supply and reservoir mount.
Finally, the motherboard was placed on the standoffs. I first attempted to rout all the motherboard power cables under the motherboard, but the cables turned out to be too thick. I left the CPU power and molex connectors for the pump under the motherboard and routed the main power around the side.
Now was the time for what I was really excited about… the water cooling. Once all the wiring was rapped up and the motherboard was bolted down, I placed the cooling block on the CPU. This kit used springs to hold the block down onto the CPU under thumb screws.
I then started to cut the tubing. The EK cooling kit has some very nice quick connect fittings that holds the clear tubing very securely. The path comes from pump to the radiator, to the CPU, to the reservoir, then back to the pump.
The kit came with 100ml of anti-corrosive liquid which is added to 900ml of distilled water. I filled the reservoir to the top, made sure the motherboard was not connected to the power, then turned on the power supply to start the pump.
The water was sucked right into the system and this was repeated until almost all the liquid was gone.
I cycled the pump on and off for awhile to help remove the air from the radiator and block. Once most of the air was gone, I left the pump on over night and through the next day to make sure there were no leaks.
The system checks out! No leaks! (Even Liz was nervous) Now the next part is to plug the power back in, attach a monitor and keyboard, and start it up!