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Destroying an old Mac case

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
Hi everyone!

Long-time lurker, and first-time poster on OCN, and I have a question for you guys.
Background on me and why I'm making this mod (Click to show)
I've been thinking about mITX cases, and looking at the ones out there, none of the ones that I see really 'light my fire', so to speak. Enter OCN and the Mod of the Month. Suddenly, I've realized that I have the potential to build my own case! I'd also probably be using something like aluminum, or some softer metal like that, so that all I have to do is fit my woodworking tools with carbide blades and bits.

Now, after a long period of deliberation, I've come to the realization that I'd probably be far better off using an old case as a base, rather than trying to scratch-build something. Also, I've gutted an old Mac G5 case recently, and I was thinking about using that! Only trouble is, it's a /lot/ larger than the mITX form-factor that I'm hoping to achieve.

Obvious answer: just cut it down, stupid! Obvious issue: Cuts in anodized aluminum look ugly.

Tl;Dr - I'm new to modding; I have some DIY capability; I need help on cutting down on the vertical height of a Macintosh G5 case to suit an mITX form factor(ish).

Right now, I can really only think of a handful of options:

Plexi - Cut it, and turn that into a design feature with plexiglass or something, so that the plexi makes a horizontal stripe on the case where the aluminum was cut.

Cover it with paint - Cut it and do my best to mount it flush, brace it with aluminum brackets and epoxy, then powdercoat for the smoothest possible finish on it (which would also mean sanding down the aluminum to bare metal.

Bolts - Cut it and drill through the side-pannel, then, using finish grade hardware, bolt them back together with the seam and bolts being a design feature on the case.

For reference on the case itself: (Click to show)

Here is the case, in all of it's aged glory:

And here is a (terrible) diagram for what I intend to do to it:

Note that this case sports decent aluminum, 1.5mm at the thinnest point.

Could you guys please give me some input to what you think is going to be a decent enough solution to the problem I'm faced with?
post #2 of 14
So you're going to cut the case literally in half, and glue it back together...? Yeah.................. no. Not with those perforations... The sides are easy. Find a way to weld/join them.
Edited by BeyondCryptic - 4/16/14 at 2:05am
post #3 of 14
Thread Starter 
No, @BeyondCryptic, I mean, I've worked out a way that I can take care of the perforated front and back. The thing is, I don't actually have access to any tools that I could use to weld the sides together. My issue is that the cut is going to be real ugly on the sides, and I was trying to work out some way that I can try and clean that up, specifically without marring the appearance of the sides by welding them, if I even could. ^^;
post #4 of 14
If it's going to have a seam, how about making it part of a design feature? Take your time and make the seam at least filed nice and smooth. Take a look at how aircraft are riveted and/or screwed together (use Google Image search for lots of pics) for some inspiration. I'd look at putting a joiner plate under the two panels and drilling through your side panels and countersinking flush mounted screws for joining it. Either that or rivets. The joiner plate under the exterior panel will keep your exterior smooth. Cut the sides straight and sand the edges smooth. Put a very slight bevel on the upper and lower edge of the cut so it's not sharp.

To make it a design feature, add a few more grooves and other panel separations. Maybe an oval shaped groove to look like an inspection hatch. Add more screws/rivets. This will disguise your cut as it's no longer the only place that is riveted. Grooves can be made with a router, mounted with a v-groove bit (barely sticking out) and a straight edge guide clamped in place. Other shapes can be made by following a template which can be hand cut from MDF.
post #5 of 14
Thread Starter 
We seem to be on the same page, @TLHarrell, that's just what I was thinking, at least, with the joining plate. My only worry now is, if I use something like acryllic, will the structural integrity of the actual door suffer? I suppose that if I just use counter-sunk screws to hold the door to the frame, then it shouldn't really matter, but that'd be difficult, to say the least. :x
post #6 of 14
I'd use either a piece of aluminum thick enough to tap some threads through (about the same thickness as your panel), or a piece of 0.040" steel if doing rivets. I wouldn't use acrylic as a structural member unless it's minimum 1/4" thick and has a backer of some type for any fasteners. Try to push a pop rivet through acrylic and you're looking for trouble. It also hates countersunk fasteners. It'll fracture from the stresses created.

If you wanted to do something where there is a piece of acrylic left in the reveal between panels, I'd go for 1/4" minimum, extend the acrylic at least a couple inches either side of the join, and put a steel backer behind the acrylic (2" wide, either side of the acrylic reveal) and drill through all three for your fasteners.

[panel] [acrylic] [steel backer]
post #7 of 14
Thread Starter 
What if I were to mount the acrylic flush with the aluminum, using steel braces on the back of the plate? Then, I could drill out and tap threads for screws, counter-sunk and all that, to secure the steel, and that could be the structural element. That way, the acrylic wouldn't have to bear any kind of structural requirement, and could be only as thick as the aluminum side.

That way, it would have a similar look to the original design of the case, which is kinda pretty, even if it is internally wasteful. Plus, I wouldn't have to drill out the acrylic, because then I could use clear epoxy for a cold weld between the aluminum and the acrylic or the steel and the acrylic.
post #8 of 14
Sounds pretty good to me, except I'd add a couple things:

1. Leave the internal steel support short enough that it remains internal to the case. Let the acrylic run all the way to the front edge.

2. I'd use a router to create an extra tab, half the panel thickness on the edges of the acrylic (only where the tab can be inside the case), and a matching routed slot on the back of the aluminum. The acrylic can then be held in place by the tabs and optionally some thin 3M double sided tape. Gluing it you will possibly see the glue through the acrylic.
post #9 of 14
Thread Starter 
Your first point is exactly what I was thinking, so that I could line it up with the front of the case, and it'd look real pretty. n.n

The only thing is that I don't really have access to any kind of fancy tools or anything, just a woodworking shop that I'd be able to outfit with carbide bits for working with aluminum. Maybe I could outfit my drill press with a routing bit, but I don't have any way to lock the depth of the bit. Do you know if there's some kind of attachment that I could get for a Dremel that'd let me work with aluminum like that? Otherwise, I'd probably have to come up with another solution. :x

Also, if I used the epoxy very sparingly, what kind of effect would there be on the acrylic? Would it just warp the inside of the material? If I painted the inside of the acrylic, so that it'd have a little depth to it, but still be solid, then maybe that could solve the problem.
post #10 of 14
Any woodworking shop should have a hand router. My drill press has a depth stop, and I can set it to hold a set height. But the issue with a drill press is that the quill is not designed for a radial load, only vertical centered on the shaft. A hand router is designed for the kind of load you would be putting on it. Dremel used to make a router attachment. I still have one for mine, but Dremels are fiddly and underpowered for stuff like this. Acrylic + Dremel = Headaches. Harbor Freight has a cheap trim router which would be sufficient. If you find a 20% off coupon, it'd run you under $25. http://www.harborfreight.com/1-4-quarter-inch-trim-router-44914.html

Depends entirely on the acrylic color you are using. Clear, frosted, translucent white, white and all of the lighter colors you will see anything touching the back showing through. I'd recommend painting with a similar color all the way through the area where it's touching the case. If you're using darker colors or black, you won't have any issues. I'm just considering the possibility that you either see globs of glue or bubbles where your parts come together. Epoxy would work fine. I'm just recommending the tab thing as it'll produce a better finish if your using lighter or clear acrylics.
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