Plywood computer

Having had to work with various types of cases, I increasingly got irritated by the fact that most cases were quite poorly designed internally, that is, they looked quite nice on the outside, being either majestic, or compact, but on the inside they were just crap, lots of disk slots but no way to cool them, or the disk slots were positioned in awkward or even impossible places (no way for an normal IDE-cable to reach the disks). So I set to design my own :-)

The two major conserns were cooling and noice, or the lack of it. Since the size was of little matter, it ment that I could manage with a few fans and a large internal volume. Moreover there should be ample amount of disk slots which should incorporate a cooling system.

Having contemplated over these requirements for a while, I came up with an solution which seemed quite simple in design while meeting all the requirements.

As mentioned above, the size of the case was less important, so I planned the case to be roughly twice the width of a normal case, roughly 38cm. Since I had no means of forming sheet metal, I settled on 12mm thick plywood.

The case would have a lower part where the mainboard and the CD/DVD resided (with an opening to the front) and an upper part where the PSU was. The two parts were to be divided by a pair of plywood pieces, the lower starting from the front going roughly to the 2/3 being above the ATX motherboard, and the upper starting from the back leavingroughly a 10cm gap in the front. These two formed an invert S-like way for the air to travel. The two horizontal plywood pieces were spaced far enough from each other so that the 120mm fans and the harddrives, standing on their side, would fit inbetween. The width of the case ment that at least 10 drives could be fitted side by side with ample of airway inbetween.

A rough rendering of the structure

The idea was simple. The two 120mm fans in front of the harddrives would suck the air from two filtered inlets situated at the back in the ´main´ compartment, through the harddrives, and after a U-turn out through two holes beside the PSU. The PSU itself had an hole beneath it from which it would also suck air and blow it straight out.

The plywood case with the computer components installed

Check also this rendered flick.

The motherboard backplate is from another case which had a detachable full ATX-size backplane and a square connector/PCI plate.

The harddrives are not fastened with scews, instead they are wedged between four strips of soft polystyrene. This should minimize the vibration and noise of the disks. Likewise the fans are wedged within a polystyrene frame glued to the case.

After some consideration I did not buy a PSU with two fans, so the hole under the PSU-slot had to be filled with the polystyrene. Every internal surface in the lower part of the case was finally covered with sound-proofing foam mat. Finally wheels were installed so as to ease the moving of the case.


I´m currently running a setup with AMD K7 XP3000+ and two harddisks. The motherboard temperature is around 33-35°C and the CPU is 40-42°C. The two 120mm fans (Jamicon JF1225BIL running at full 12V) are too noisy, I´m thinking of changing them to a pair of Nexus lownoise 120mm ditto and install a pair of potentiometers to adjust the speed of the fans. The case could also do with a couple of sturdy handles since the thing is otherwise very cumbersome to carry.


20050101 assembling the first case.
20050102 continued assembling the second case.
20050402 installing the components.
20060423 fan control added.
20060518 effective air filtering.
20060910 air intakes.

Copyright (c) Paul-Erik Törrönen unless explicitly mentioned otherwise

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Vempain Publishing System