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Armor Case Mod
Written by Booman   
Friday, 29 August 2008 22:00
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Armor Case Mod
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AOA's recent case mod competition is complete, and Booman was declared the winner!  Take a look at his winning entry, and follow his progress as he builds this workof art!

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This old CTX case was given to me with an old Pentium 2 inside. Like Always, I opened up the case to see how well the case was constructed. Its a smaller mid-sized tower with the power supply mounted sideways over the CPU. Not the best location for allowing room to mount large 3rd party heatsinks & fans. There is room for three external 5.25 and two 3.5 drives slots. No external USB header connections so the 3.5 slots will come in handy for multi-card readers and USB/audio drives. The front bezel also has an interesting simple door that folds over the lower external drive slots. I made plans to mod some letters in it because its plasic Don't you love the fancy gray & purple paint job? I was very hesitant to paint over that lucious purple but it had to be done! My other concerns were the vent areas on the left side panel. It may get in the way when cutting a window. I'll have to work it into my design...


 

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The chassis is small but fairly wide. This may allow room for hiding cables behind the motherboard and drives. Always take advantage of case space for hiding cables. A messy case looks unprofessional and hinders air flow. One disadvantage of the chassis is the top panel being riveted to the chassis. I couldn't take it off to paint so I plan to mask off the chassis and paint it. But, before that happens I need to cut a blow hole for better air flow. Interestingly enough, the top panel has a bezel of its own.   I'm going to take advantage of this and cut out a design for the blow-hole fan and mount it in the bezel.

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I've got a lot of pieces to primer and paint. I have limited primer so only the chassis & side panels will be coated in it. The rest of the plastic bezels & drive covers are all the same color and I'm using a plastic paint that adheres to other plastics (so I won't be primering those). I was hoping to cut out a clever fan grill in the front bezel because a fan mounts on the chassis right behind it, but time restrictions prevented that from happening.

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The first step to the Armor case was to design a window that was more interesting than a plain square or rectangle. I was thinking of a WWII armored vehicle and for some reason a cross came to mind. I started measuring the panel, first by leaving at least 1 1/2 inches on each side for room to slide the panel back on the case, second drawing out each corner to make it as straght as possible. I knew ahead of time that cutting with a jigsaw will ruin some of the perfect lines but a handy metal file and some patience will straighten it out, literally. The existing vent will have to be cut in order to create a cross window. Maybe not the best decision functionally but I can still make it work with some filing.

 


 

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The window is cut and edges are smoothed out after hours of filing.  Thinking "What could be more WWII than some rivets holding the metal together?", II searched for screws and rivets at hardware stores and found that they were too expensive, too large and too heavy. I didn't want to invest in a rivet gun even though I would probably use it again, as I just didn't have the money. I even searched online for rivets and screws but found nothing worth using. Then I was at JoAnn's fabric & crafts store and figured I would look around. I came across these little black plastic stuffed animal eyes (you know, the ones you pulled off your sisters bear when you were little?). They were perfect! At one dollar a shot for six eyes, I ended up using eighty of them. Once I purchased them, I began measuring where each hole would be so they were evenly spaced. After that I chose a drill bit large enough for the back of each rivet to fit in, then drilled away.

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After every hole was drilled on the panel I had to file off the metal shavings and remains. All the scratches and marks will be covered by primer & paint.

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After some primer and sanding I did a "dry fit" to see how it looked. I'm happy with the results.

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To cut the blow-hole I needed to measure a square large enough to fit a 80mm fan through it and still allow room for DVDs & Power Supply. After measuring and marking it up with pencil, I drilled four large holes big enough to fit a jigsaw blade through. Then I cut out the rest of the square. Not always so pretty after the jigsaw, but nothing a file can't fix. Finally, I topped it off with some primer & sanding.

 


 

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Dry fit with the rivets. They are going to look great because they are so simple and yet match the theme perfectly. Drilling holes and filing down the vent area was tedious but it should look fine when everything is painted.

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Here is a close up of the panel before painting. Remember, the rivets are not glued in yet, but I wanted to get a feel of how they would look and fit.

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Modding a back panel is risky because you don't know if anyone will see it. So I decided to do something simple that still enhances the Armor theme. I started by marking out the lines between peices of metal to appear as if the panel was made of three pieces. Then I clamped a metal ruler down across the panel and scored it with a plexi-glass scoring tool. I kept scraping away until it seemed deep enough to look like separate pieces. I also scored a horizontal line for the second & third pieces. After that, I measured the location of each rivet hole and drilled them out. Last I primered and sanded to prepare it for paint.

 


 

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After several coats of Black Appliance Epoxy in my spray booth, I felt like the finish had a decent shine to it. I definitely could have added more coats but I was running out of paint. With my current budget, I couldn't afford any more. If the light hits it just right, there is a decent reflection.

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I was worried that I would have to purchase some plexi-glass but I remembered a left over piece from a window air conditioner installation. It is one of those 1/4" thick pieces, so cutting and filing it will be a chore, but I'm not about to give up now! I started measuring again and left about a 1/2" between the plexi-glass and the mounts on the side panel, then I cut away! Usually I use a metal "T" square and clamp it across the plexi-glass, then score it with a sharp tool on both sides so I can snap it. Other times I've used a jigsaw at slow speeds and cut right through the plastic. For this 1/4" plastic I decided to score it. After snapping the pieces apart, I cut the rounded edges with a hacksaw and then stared the filing process. Almost a year later (well it seemed like a year), all my plexi-glass edges were smooth. Now its time for drilling the mounting holes. I decided the rivets will have a function rather than just looking beautiful. They will hold the plexi-glass onto the side panel. One trick I learned is to always drill the plexi-glass holes directly through the side panel holes. This way they line up perfectly.

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I've finished coating the side panel with Black Appliance Epoxy and it's ready to install the plexi-glass. I was generally happy with the glossy finish despite some of the debris particles in the paint. Before I glued the rivets in to hold on the plexi-glass I needed to mask of the cross areas because that hot glue can be very messy & stringy.

 


 

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This is a close up to show the detailed work on the filing, drilling, primering and painting. I needed to work hard on each step of the process so the final results would be satisfying. After painting, the only way to start over is to sand and paint again. If for any reason I needed to cut or file the side panel I would have to re-primer the entire panel, sand and paint again.

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Another dry-fit with the side panel and the chassis. I was pretty happy with the paint job on the top panel with the masking and the blow-hole turned out pretty good even though no one will see it with the bezel on top. I glued the rivets in just like the other panel

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The back side panel turned out pretty good once the rivets were glued in. I found that each of the "eyes" needed to be trimmed back so the panel would fit correctly. I also wanted to leave enough room between the panel & motherboard for concealing wires. Each rivet lined up very well too. If I had more money, other optional ideas would be to cut a small window in the panel, but you wouldn't see much.

 


 

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I cut out the blow-hole on the bezel as a cross to match the themeing of the case. Since the bezel is plastic all I had to do was measure and sketch out the shape, then drill small holes where I can fit the saw blade inside and start cutting. My main concern was alignment because the cross needed to line up with the square hole in the top panel so I could fit an 80mm fan through it and mount it on the bezel. Next I will be drilling more holes to install rivets across the side of the bezel. Then I need some sort of screen to hide the blow-hole fan.

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Bezels are painted and I put it all together to see how it matches. Now that the whole case is painted I'm ready to start assembling the parts to finish off the case. I still need to glue some more rivets in the top and front bezels. I used the blue tape to protect the window from the hot glue. That stuff is so messy and if even a tiny string of glue stuck to the window, it would be a hassle to clean it off.

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Before I painted the bezels I spent some time designing the font for "Armor" in AutoCAD and then printed it out. I cut a stencil from the printout and then traced it onto the tiny door. To cut out the words I drilled small holes in every corner of the font and then used a Jewelry saw to cut them out. It takes time and patience but the result is pretty cool. After that I used tiny files to smooth out the edges and give it that professional look. They still were not perfectly smooth but after painting the "hammered" finish, all my mistakes were hidden.

 


 

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To finish up, there is a small strip of plastic on the front bezel that holds the power buttons & leds, I painted it a gold/brass color so it would stand out from the rest of the case. I could have painted it black but I felt that it should have some character rather than look exactly like the rest of the case (kinda like a pin-stripe on a car). Once all the rivets were added and the case was assembled I really thought it looked finished....but something was missing on the window. I felt like I needed to add some kind of design.

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For taking pictures I needed something light for the background and a decent diffused light source. I happen to have a sky-light in my living room that absorbs sunlight and diffuses it into the entire room. It's a great source of light. Then I had an extra piece of greyish carpet from my office build and just propped it up on a chair so the background would consist of lighter shades to darker shades.

Decent lighting and background will only improve the look of your mod.

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To screen the blow-hole fan I found an old speaker that had a grill over it. I took it off and cut off the excess metal, painted it black, then mounted it on the bezel with hot glue, using rubber mounts to hold the fan on. I think it worked rather well. I've looked for grills and screens before and it's hard to find something decent that will look good and hide the fan.

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I started thinking about what I could do artisticly to the window. Paint something? Etch some words or a design? I've got it, how about a bloody hand print? I had some extra oil based ink from printmaking, so I pulled it out and used a roller to apply it to my hand. Then I carefully pressed my hand onto the window and left a hand print. Why oil based ink? Because its absolutely permament. It can be scratched off if you are determined, but otherwise it's as permanent as the paint job.

 

 

Feel free to drop into the forums and tell booman what you think about this mod!

 
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