Okay. We've given some tips on where to find a beige case, and what features to look for or avoid. Let's talk about tools now.
In this post, we are going to discuss a limited Basic Set of tools
that will allow you to do a decent job on a wide-range of mods. Then We'll discuss what tools you would probably want to add, depending on how much money you have available. This list is mostly going to focus on physical case modding
, not on electrical modding (sleeving and soldering) and not on tools that are specific to watercooling. We'll cover some of those topics in later posts.
We also want to point out that we've included some ballpark costs for purchsing each set of tools new. Obviously, depending on quality the tools may be much higher or lower than this. Also we should point out that if you are a modder on a budget, you should consider buying these tools used or borrowing them from a friend or relative rather than buying them new.
Finally, these are just suggestions and not set in stone. The exact tools you buy will depend in part on what kind of mods you are trying to do.SAFETY GEAR
Let's start off with a list of tools that won't actually help you mod your case, but will help you save your health.
Don't underestimate the risks of working on your computer case. A single stray metal chip in the eye can cause weeks of pain, permanent eye damage, and thousands of dollars / euros in medical costs. Sharp edges can slice deep into a finger. Protect your lungs and hearing! Don't go without basic safety equipment. Buy these FIRST and use them.
- Safety Glasses
- Dust Mask
- Work Gloves
- Hearing Protection
Now that we've drilled that home, let's get to our first set of basic tools. These lists assume you already have the most general tools on hand like screw drivers and something to measure with. Apologies if you are missing those general household tools.BASIC SET: (~$80 / 65€)
- Metal File
- Electric Drill +bits
- Clamps x2
- Rivet gun + rivets
- Sandpaper Set
With this tool set, you can do basic cutting for fan holes and windows in metal and plastic, drilling holes for screws and rivets, and riveting metal components back into place. You can also sand down the rough edges with the sandpaper and rough up panels for repainting. Cutting windows and holes with the hacksaw will be somewhat time consuming but can be done.
Want to go a little further with your modding, or make it a bit easier, and have some more cash to spend? How about trying...INTERMEDIATE SET: (~$150 / 130€)
- Everything from BASIC SET plus:
- Electric Jigsaw OR Angle/Die Grinder
- More Clamps x2
- Low End Rotary Tool
Adding this set will allow you to cut holes and windows much more easily. Whether you choose a jigsaw or angle/die grinder at this point will depend on your cutting needs. If you are doing more curved cuts, then the jigsaw is definitely a better fit. If you are doing more straight cuts, the angle grinder may be a better fit.
The rotary tool will make it possible to more quickly grind and deburr cut edges and you can do some metal cutting with it using the reinforced cutoff disks. However, with this budget you can probably only afford a low-end two or three-speed one. You may want to hold off on the rotary tool and buy a better quality one at this point.ADVANCED SET (~$300 / 250€)
- Everything from INTERMEDIATE SET plus:
- Hole Saw(s)
- Electric Jigsaw OR Angle/Die Grinder
- Midrange Rotary Tool
A bimetallic hole saw will allow you to drill nearly perfect fan holes for fans:
80mm fan = 3-inch hole saw
92mm fan = 2.5-inch hole saw
120mm fan = 4.5-inch hole saw
140mm fan = 5.5-inch hole saw
Hole saws work best with a low-speed drill press, but you can get by with a hand drill if you are careful.
At this point, whichever one you didn't get before of the jigsaw or angle/die grinder you'll probably want to pick up the other now. And if you skipped the rotary tool in the last upgrade, now's the time to pick up a good multi-speed rotary tool for cutting and grinding.EXPERT SET ($500+ / $350€+)
- Everything from ADVANCED SET plus:
- Benchtop Drill Press
- Benchtop Band Saw
- Small Welding Rig
- Electric Mouse Sander
- Whatever else strikes your fancy and you can afford
At this point, unless you are using these tools for other things, you are investing money far in excess of the cost of a dozen new cases of comparable value. We recommend taking a deep breath and asking yourself whether you are A) Going to be using these tools for other things and B) How many cases, exactly, are you planning to work on?
There are several existing threads on OCN and elsewhere about modding tools, including The Incomplete List of Modding Tools
If you get the chance, we highly recommend you take the time to skim over those threads, including the discussion about specific tools.Also check out MNPCTech's list at HardwareCanucks
In our next set of articles, we will start to dig into how to use these tools on specific mods. Hope you found this useful.