Side Windows: Pneumatic shears vs. Nibbler Tool
Starting with the power supply side case panel and a commercial window kit, I marked the position for the plastic window insert using a marker pen. The opening needs to be about an eighth of an inch larger for the rubber gasket to fit between the window and the metal case. I also marked out a smaller opening that would take a special effect lighting unit.
[caption id="attachment_114" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Add about 1/8" for the rubber gasket as you draw around your window insert."][/caption]
To provide a starting point in the middle of the sheet, drill a large hole inside the line; I drilled two, so I can work from opposite directions if necessary. The process for the larger opening was quickly completed using air-powered shears to cut the hole. I stopped part way through cutting both so you can see the different results. The air shears cut a narrow strip that must be held out of the way as you progress.
Caution: use gloves - the edges are sharp!
[caption id="attachment_115" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Pneumatic shears are faster, but can warp the panel easily. Nibbler tools tend to shoot tiny bits of the sheet metal out if you complete the cut."][/caption]
Using the hand-held nibbler tool, I just follow the pen mark to cut the smaller of the two holes. Tight corners are nearly impossible, so plan a curved corner or drill more holes so you can terminate the cut at the corners. The small hand-held cutter will "nibble" off pieces of the sheet metal if you close the grips all the way. This is good since you don't have to manipulate a strip of metal as you cut. If you don't complete the cut, a curl of metal will be forced out of the way, and you can take this off with a full stroke at any time.
Caution: wear goggles - tiny bits of metal can get shot out of the hand-held cutters.
Tip: don’t do this over carpeting - you will end up with tiny dots of sheet metal everywhere.
On the power supply side panel, I tried the Case Nibbling Tool and air-powered metal shears. For small jobs the nibbling tool works reasonably well, but both of these tools messed up the paint job and resulted in a slightly warped side panel and holes that needed the edges to be flattened before installing a Mutant Mods Case Window Kit.
[caption id="attachment_116" align="alignnone" width="267" caption="Once the hole is large enough for the gasket and the window, a rubber bead is pushed into the rear of the gasket to lock everything in place."][/caption]
After straightening the panel's tabs and flattening the sheet metal back out from my nipper mangling, the window is ready to install. [Tip: some inexpensive auto-body sheet metal hammers and blocks work well for this. But plan to file or grind down sharp edges and any burrs left from cutting.]
The rubber gasket is attached around the inside edge of the opening, then after lots of struggling to install it, remove the gasket, grind the opening wider, and repeat until you get the window to pop in place. A rubber bead is inserted into a track in the gasket to hold everything tight. More split tubing was used to cover the small opening, at least until I started to mount stuff.
[caption id="attachment_119" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Before and after painting: plastic jewelry boxes, printer parts, and pieces of various toys add "window dressing" to the side panel."][/caption]
The rest of the work on the side panel is all "window dressing" with some plastic shapes cut and glued together, then mounted to the side with small screws. Ribbon cable was created using some duct tape to hold the wires, and then contact cement and some double-sided carpet tape applied to the back.
The small green blocks are inexpensive plastic jewelry boxes. 1/4"- plastic is cut to fit tightly inside the box covers, and then screwed to the sheet metal case; plastic glue is used to attach the box to the plastic base. These are finished with either gold or black enamel model paint.
Next: Plasma Cutters
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