Case Modding: simple case modding techniques

5/18/2012 5:15:55 PM

Use these simple case modding techniques to jazz up a plain-looking PC

Case modding is a popular past time among hard core PC enthusiasts, but with a wide variety of modding accessories available, you don’t have to be an expert to make a unique and professional looking modified system.

Description: a basic introduction to custom case modding

a basic introduction to custom case modding

There are now several online stores that stock huge ranges of PC modding kit, and you will even find conventional stores such as PC World and Maplins getting in on the act. Whether you want to turn your PC into the stereotypically illuminated gaming monster, or you want to be a little more creative and produce something a little more themed, you can accomplish this without getting into professional tooling shop territory.

Cutting a window


Description: a windowed side panel

A windowed side panel

If you want to modify the interior of your PC case, you’ll need a windowed side panel so that you can actually see inside. A plethora of window kits are available online, and you can pick them up inexpensively. Some case manufacturers actually sell pre-modified windows, but it’s no difficult and far more rewarding to do it yourself. Start by drawing a template for the window you want to cut out, bearing in mind that sharp, pointed edges are very difficult to cut without a dedicated router or cable say. If this is your first window and you are using a Dremel, aim to keep it simple and avoid sharp corners.

One if the first skills that you will need to develop if you plan to get into case modding in any serious way is how to handle a miniature drill properly. Of the models available, the Dremel is by far the best known, as well as being one of the best to purchase. If possible, buy a Dremel or equivalent product with as many heads and accessories as possible, as you never known when you might need to use a particular attachment to get the required effect. Another tool you will need to use is a half-round file. A half round file has a round filing edge on one side and a flat one on the other. This will allow you to de-bur both curved and straight edges, and will save you from having to buy two tools.

After you have cut the hole in your case you will want to cover the edges so that they don’t look ugly. There are several window kits available, but many of these have unsightly thick rubber seals that ruin the sleek look of your case. A far better option is to invest in some C-Edge Moulding from Available in either black or chrome, this is a slim edging which self-adheres to the edge when you press it on. Since it is only around 5mm wide, it will blend into almost any design, just be sure to remember not to cut any window designs with sharp corners, since your edging won’t bend enough and will pop back off. With your hole cut, you just need to cover the side panel with a suitable transparent cover. Clear acrylic is the best choice of material for a case window and it can be easily purchase either from a hardware store or from a case modding website. This can easily be stuck to the interior of the side panel using adhesive or double-sided tape.

Tidy up your cables

Description: Tidy up your cables

With a windowed case it’s important that you pay even more attention to tidy cable work. If your case allows it, route all leads behind the motherboard tray, and if budget allows, use a modular PSU. If you’re using bog-standard SATA cables you should also consider buying black alternatives, or making a feature of them with UV-reactive or colour-coordianted alternatives.

All professional grade case modifications go to town on cable sleeving. Most enthusiast grade PSUs are now pre-sleeved, but other internal cables for fans, case switches and LEDs are rarely so endowed and look out of place in an otherwise spectacular interior. If you would rather no go through the lengthy and frustrating process of fitting sleeves onto every cable in your case, a sneaky shortcut that stands up under no-so-close scrutiny is to wrap the leads in a spiral of black electrical tape. This will effectively cover up unsightly yellow, read and white cables allowing you to tether them discretely into a corner. So that the tape doesn’t start to unwrap as the adhesion loses its grip over time, use a dab of superglue at each end.

Illuminating your case


Description: Illuminating your case

Illuminating your case

With a side window cut and your cables tidied, it’s time to add some illumination. One of the easiest ways to do this is to use LED case fans. These are bright and easy to fit, and are functional too, improving the ventilation in your case. A more subtle illumination can be achieved with a cold cathode. A cold cathode works in the same manner as the neon tube, but uses a much thinner, more intense gas chamber. This means cathodes run considerably cooler than most neon tubes, and emit a more intense light as well. If you want to run lights along the edge of your case window, then 30cm cathodes are very inexpensive and will do the trick. Illuminating specific corners of your case will require shorter cathodes and several stores sell 10cm models, sometimes in pairs. UV cathodes do not emit very much light at all, but if you put UV reactive or bright white objects in your case the effect they create is extremely bright, and very impressive.

LEDs are another way of creating impressive lighting effects. They emit a lot of light, and best of all require very little power, but are also quite directional in nature. Once stuck on the relevant part inside your case you can then swivel and pivot them like a searchlight to emit their light at just the right angle.

Painting or powder coating your case


Description: Painting or powder coating your case

Painting or powder coating your case

Many cases are now powder-coated black on the inside, greatly reducing the need for this once sole-destroying task. This just leaves us with the exterior of the case to worry about. Spraying your case a different colour really isn’t that difficult, so long as you have space to do it in, and use the right kind of kit! Steer well away from model paints and other kinds of amateur spray and instead invest in some automotive paint. Before you begin spraying away, you first need to sand the surface of your case to remove the texture from the existing paint job, using a couple of different grades of paper for a really smooth finish.

Once you’ve done this, you need to prime the case with an undercoat spray, and do some wet sanding before you can finally go crazy with the coloured spray. As with all painting, the secret to spraying your case is all in the preparation – the more time you spend, the better the final look will be. After spraying on your final colour coat, you can buff it to a mirror shine (and remove the orange peel effect) by using extremely fine 15500 grit paper, but this will only be needed for the most die-hard perfectionists among you.

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