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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Egyptian Case Mod - Part 1

Entombment - The Limestone Shell

My project this time around was not one selected for the technology challenge,
but one that I wanted to do just for "artistic" reasons.

A Nzxt Nemesis case before modification, and the completed EgyptMod

In the QuetzalMod Feathered Serpent project, I suggested that one did not have
to use anything other than some simple craft techniques to create a unique,
personalized, computer chassis. However, for this project, I applied some of
my more specialized jewelry metalworking and lapidary (gemstone cutting and
polishing) skills. Add a dash of rough stone working, sixty or seventy pounds
of limestone floor tile, and a stuffed dog -- and I created my EgyptianMod case.
Oh yeah, I did add a computer system board and some other components in there
somewhere too.

Starting with a five 5.25-bay Nzxt Nemesis gaming case (it was on sale, what
can I say...), I promptly stripped the case down to the side panels and frame.
There won't be any system board or special internal effects shown off in this
casemod design, so I covered the side panel window with a piece of steel sheet.
In place of the front bezel, I attached lengths of 3/4 inch square aluminum
tubing to extend out beyond the front of the chassis to enclose the drive bays.
Two brass plates were cut for front doors and riveted to sections of piano hinge.
The lower door fastens with a simple cabinet latch, and covers the front fan
opening and provides access for the front panel wires for the power switch and
LED indicator lights. The upper door covers the five 5.25 inch drive bays and
has a strong magnet glued on the outside; a second magnet glued inside the aluminum
tubing creates a hidden magnetic latch. To prepare the case for gluing on the
limestone tile, I used a coarse grinding wheel over the top, sides and front
doors. With the foundation done, I can also take accurate measurements for the
stone tile - time to go shopping!

The tile store suggested using epoxy to attach the tile to metal, but I was
concerned about differences in expansion and contraction of the metal and stone.
I have seen epoxy shear away from metal under just those conditions. Discussing
this with them, I asked about silicon adhesive, which would be much more flexible;
they agreed this should work fine as long as the surface was rough enough to
bond to.

Silicone adhesive smells as it cures, but remains flexible to anchor the limestone tiles.

Using a tile saw with a water cooled diamond blade, I cut 12" limestone
tiles down to fit the two side panels. Four sections are positioned to extend
past the front of the removable panels, out to the edge of the aluminum tubing.
With all of the tiles trimmed and checked for placement, the approximate position
of the panel is marked on the back. (Because I just know people will ask, I
weighed the case with drives and system board in place but before any stone
was attached; before weight = 34 pounds.) Silicon tile adhesive is then run
over the areas where the tile will mount to the case side panel. The process
is repeated for the second side panel, and the glue allowed to cure over night.
With the side panels in place, final width measurements for the top and bottom
tiles can be taken without guessing.

Limestone tile extends past the edge of the side panel to overlap the tubing
on the front of the case.

Before gluing bottom or top tiles, some additional work must be done. My design calls for four pedestal like feet with a decorative curve to the inside edges at each corner. Small squares of tile are cut and glued together with epoxy. Spring clamps maintain pressure
and prevent slipping until the glue sets. Two larger squares are angle-cut
then ground to a curve using a small grinding wheel in a hand drill. Both
parts are then glued together and the outer sides are squared up and the
joints between the layers are emphasized with a small diamond wheel. A hole-saw
was used on the front tile to cut three openings to allow air through the
base into the front intake fan. The feet were then glued and clamped in
place on to the base tiles with epoxy. Once set, then the base tile was
attached to the case bottom with silicon.

Feet are created from two large squares and two small squares of tile glued
together with clear epoxy.

With the pairs glued together, a bevel is ground on two sides of the large
piece. The smaller pair is then glued to the large.

Tiles are cut to extend past the edge of the shell. Holes are drilled for
air flow into the case behind the front bezel. The finished feet are glued
to the base tiles before gluing the bottom tiles to the case.

Gluing the bottom tiles to the case with silicone adhesive.

For the top cap, I wanted a curved edge from the side panel out to a wider
flat top surface. Rather than make this completely solid, I took some of the
scrap from the trimmed tiles and glued these in a stepped fashion. After setting,
I used the tile saw to angle-cut the sides, then a small grinding wheel to
make an inside curve along the layered edge.

Grinding a curved edge into the top cap. Dust from the dry grinding is minimized
with a shop-vac. (Wear a mask and eye protection - it still gets everywhere!)

The top cap is glued to the case with silicone adhesive.

The curved cap was attached to the case with silicon, and then epoxy used
to attach the top tiles to finish off the cap. Note that the weight is slightly
reduced by using just a strip of tile around the outside, with other scraps
stacked in the center to support the final layer of tile.

Next time: Research and carving of the hieroglyphs

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