Scratch Build: The Ultimate Computer Desk

Discussion in 'Overclocking, Benching & Modding' started by ultimatedesk, Dec 29, 2010.

  1. ultimatedesk

    ultimatedesk New Member

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    Hey everyone,

    Decided a few weeks ago to start building my own custom computer desk / enclosure and I thought some of you would be interested in checking it out, so here goes :)

    I just wanted to thank Crucial, Kingston and Danger Den for sponsoring me and helping to make this project a reality:

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    The 1st draft of the Ultimate Computer Desk.

    I wanted the desk to be capable of having 2 integrated desktop systems. 1 for high-powered gaming, and the other, a low-powered system with lots of hard-drive space that will be on 24/7 for sharing media across the network and playing videos locally.

    It needs to be quiet, have dust control, have manual fan control, and it also needs to look great in an office - sorry ahead of time to all you bling lovers!

    I used Google Sketchup for all of my drafts.

    I started first by sketching on paper how I would like the components to be laid out, and then started working on the left-hand module.

    After determining the minimum width, I started to build up the left-hand module, taking into consideration that I would be using 3/4" plywood for the construction.

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    I then decided that the air intake will be on the same board that the motherboard will lie, air will come from the bottom. It will be covered with a furnace air filter material that should eliminate most of the dust, and also provide good air circulation.

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    Next up was to add some to-scale components. A big thanks to [email protected], who created the model for the Noctua NH-U12P CPU Heatsink, as well as the Noctua fans, Alexander who created the model for the Asus Ares video card, Nightsoul who created the model of the Western Digital Hard-Drives, and Fubar East for the very nice power supply model. Your talent saved me a lot of time when it came to placing the items to scale.

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    Another view, from the back

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    I then took the same requirements and applied them to the right-hand module. This will be the "server-type" system. I also wanted to add drawers to this particular module, so this is what I came up with. It has the same air-intake system, which will be covered by a furnace air filter.

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    And, finally, putting it all together, I figured 2 monitors is a reasonable thing these days. In the upper left, there will be the DVD drive, plus power and fan controls for the gaming rig. There is a glass cover over the gaming rig that can be removed to perform upgrades and maintenance.

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    And a picture of the back - the boxes aren't exactly what they'll turn out as - they are for cable management, ideally I will setup little boxes so you will see almost NO cables in the back. They will have some foam stuffed in the top to keep dust out of the boxes as well.

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    And that's it for this post! The 1st draft! I'll have to ponder on it for a little while to make sure everything is A-OK for building, and determine how much lumber I'll need.

    As always, comments, feedback and ideas are ALWAYS WELCOME! This is going to be a long build, I figure it'll take me a couple months at least, and that's not including some of the custom electronic trickery I'm going to have to learn!
     
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2011
    Calliers likes this.
  2. ultimatedesk

    ultimatedesk New Member

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    2nd Draft

    After spending some time reviewing my 1st draft I realized a few things very quickly:

    1. All my joints are butt joints! This is going to result in a lot of screw holes on the visible surfaces that I will have to cover up, and it will not be as strong as it could be.

    2. The edges of plywood are nasty - I did not account for using 1/4" solid wood trim on all of the visible edges of the plywood. This will seriously throw off all my measurements.

    3. The right-hand module, with the so called drawers, don't actually have drawers sketched in - just drawer faces!

    So, it was time start from scratch (Sorta). Here's the end result, and ultimately, the final plan. The dark coloured wood is the solid trim, and the light coloured wood are 1x1's so that I can screw the panels together from the inside, avoiding any screw holes on the outside. I also added a few dado joints that I believe will be ultra strong with just a generous application of wood glue.

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    So, while I was redoing all of this, I figured: this desk is going to be a beast. A big, heavy, super-duty truck kind of beast. This means I will likely be able to keep it for quite some time, and with technology going the way it is....

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    Yup, planning for 3 monitors, external fan / dvd / power controls for both of the systems, and going the full 8 foot length for the desk. The dvd / controls will be in the cubby holes you see in the upper left and right-hand sides of the desk.

    It'll be able to be disassembled into 4 pieces - the desk surface, the desk shelf, and the left and right modules.

    Much better. I think from here I can make my cut sheets and actually get to work!

    Yes, I love Google Sketchup, I am not ashamed of it either, it is so incredibly useful and it's so incredibly free.

    I've used it for a few years now, mostly for planning aquarium setups and building aquarium stands. Here is the most awesome part of Sketchup - pulling dimensions, and creating your cut sheets (Someone needs to automate this).

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    And that's it! 4 Sheets!

    Now I have to figure out where I'm going to build this darn thing. I've got a low-ceiling basement with a circular saw, router, and a drill...

    I think I might need some new tools... :D:D:D

    Stay tuned! I'll be cutting up some wood next!
     
  3. ultimatedesk

    ultimatedesk New Member

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    Initial Cuts

    Purely coincidentally, while talking over the idea with a few pints at the local pub, a good girlfriend of mine piped up stating:

    "Oh, didn't you know? My dad has a full wood shop in his backyard, he'd love to help I'm sure!"

    By golly.

    A meeting was arranged, and poof, we got along great and he's looking forward to a nice big project being started in his shop.

    It's a free standing building in his backyard with an attic for wood storage, lots of tools - stationary and portable, and yeah, lots of tools - did I mention that? Table saw, band saw, drill press, planar, horizontal planar, belt sander, jointer, grinders, air compressor, just about everything a guy could ask for.

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    So we set about to pick up the initial bits of lumber. 4 Sheets of 3/4" Plywood, 2-sided Maple Veneer - was a steal too, such a good deal that Mike, the owner of the wood shop, picked up a pair of sheets for himself for a future project as well!

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    Time to hit up the table saw to do the initial lengthwise cuts

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    Thankfully I had a helper - she was eventually covered in sawdust and abandoned me in the shop after the big cuts were done. It still left me with several 8' long sheets to manage on my own, as you can see in the left hand side of the shop in the back.

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    So I set about my merry way, and thankfully, did not lose any of my fingers (This time).

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    All of the initial cuts were done, except for one particular strip of 8' that needed to be cut into 3 28" lengths - beyond what the table saw was capable of doing. I decided that it was enough for the day.

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    Made quite a nice little mess!!

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    All in all a good start to a long project

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    Stay tuned! Lots of work still to go
     
  4. CJLMTLCA

    CJLMTLCA Ti > IT

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    oooooh, this is going to be sweet. I like the revised plan with the cubes on either end and the fact you're going 3 instead of 2 monitors, don't be afraid to dream a little bigger...

    [goes to get some popcorn]
     
  5. MIG-31

    MIG-31 HardwareHeaven News Mod Staff Member

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    Now this is odd... I have seen these Very Same Pictures of this mod some where more than a month ago...

    Everyone is in the same order as they are here... Now i just can not remember where :uhoh:

    I wonder if it were on the [H] forums.. !

    But they are are impressive for sure.
     
  6. Stuart_Davidson

    Stuart_Davidson Well-Known Member

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    Looking good :)
     
  7. [hobo]eclipse

    [hobo]eclipse ...just bummin 'round

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    interesting, strange as it is.

    pretty awesome really! looks to be plenty of room for a high quality watercooling setup in the left cabinet. all that room underneath for goodies!
     
  8. Stuart_Davidson

    Stuart_Davidson Well-Known Member

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    Regarding posting this on other places, i assume its that you want feedback from as many people as possible so thats fine by me.

    As a comment on design changes, you may want to think about access to USB ports, especially 3.0 versions. One option would be to go down the ASRock motherboard route and mount their front panel ports in the surface of the desk.
     
  9. steves6403

    steves6403 Active Member

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    looks awesome dude

    If i may make a suggestion i would sepparate the harddrives so your cpu doesnt cop the heat from em amd some ducting for cpu cooler to the out hole
     
  10. Takaharu

    Takaharu Unus offa, unus iuguolo

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    Funky. Regarding the first idea, why couldn't you have used dowels? Modifying it it give you the chance to use 3 monitors was a step in the right direction, however.

    Pretty impressive that you managed to take a trip to the local pub, have a chat to an ex and managed to get onto the topic of your PC and where to build a desk for it in the course of 1 minute :lol:

    I'd second the notion on having USB ports accessible - what if you want to plug in an external hard drive?
     
  11. ultimatedesk

    ultimatedesk New Member

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    Thanks Hardware Heaven!

    Thanks for the encouragement CJLMTLCA - I figured it I was going to start a big project like this, it might as well be something that'll last a looong time ;)

    You are correct MIG-31 - it has been online for a little over 3 weeks now, and I have been posting to several forums. You'll see pretty much the same content here, except with some wonderful comments from the Hardware Heaven community :)

    Thanks Veridian3 :)

    Hehe, the cats out of the bag eh? ;) Thanks for the support [hobo]eclipse- there is certainly the possibility of moving to a watercooled setup in the future, don't get me wrong, however, at the moment that is not the current plan.

    Roger that - it's amazing that it's been online for several weeks now and posted in a variety of places, but the fact is, there are many unique visitors on each of the forums. It's funny how we get sucked into one or two particular communities and forget that there are literally thousands, if not tens of thousands of similar communities across the world web. I will be adding USB ports / mic/headphone ports to the "cubby holes" in the top left and right, and the motherboard hasn't been decided, but it will certainly be possible to expand them.

    Thanks for following along steves6403 - for the right-hand module, I doubt there will ever actually be that many hard-drives installed there, as capacities are soaring very quickly (5 and 6 terabyte drives in 2011!), but I will keep that in mind. I have considered making some ducting for the cpu to the exhaust - I will have to see how my plastic fab skills go in the future ;)

    Using dowels would have been a good idea. I do have a certain hesitation, however, when it comes to drilling matching holes on several pieces of wood :( We're talking about, say, 3 holes per side, on 3 sides, for each of the 3 shelves, so that's 27 holes on the 3 shelves, plus the matching 27 holes on the 3 walls, plus another 18-24 holes for the walls themselves to be connected... yipes!

    It was pretty amazing discovering about the wood shop. I was about to embark on the construction in my basement, which would have been very uncomfortable.

    I realize the time between updates is a bit skewed - I'm actually several weeks into the build, so the following few updates may seem like I'm moving at light speed, but in general, I'm in the shop once or twice a week for several hours at a time. You can expect pretty regular updates for the next month or two if I keep on track.
     
  12. ultimatedesk

    ultimatedesk New Member

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    Hole Time

    Had time to cut that last 8' sheet into the 28" sections, and cut a hole in the surface portion of the desk. The surface portion, fyi, will be composed of two 8' pieces of 3/4" plywood, so its total thickness will be 1.5" thick.

    The upper plywood will have a hole that is .5" wider all around than the board beneath it.

    Only had time to do one hole tonight - the lower portion, thankfully, because I made a few small mistakes!

    Sorry about the photos folks, I had already uploaded these to imageshack and forgot to resize them, so here are the thumbnails since I don't have the original stock photos on me right now. From now on, they'll be properly sized at 800x600, which I feel is a fair compromise for detail and bandwidth.

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    I started off with a carpenters angle, measured off my lines with a pencil and then made a rough cut with a jigsaw. I then clamped a straight-edge lined up with the edges (measured) and ran a router across it to create the smooth finish.

    I messed up a bit, going a bit too far with the router on one end, and then not far enough on the other end - I'll have to sand and file to square it off.

    Sorry I didn't take too many pictures - the next hole will have more!

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    Thankfully the shop is heated, here's one of the heaters - it went down to -8*C that evening!

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    Here's the mess for the night!

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    And, the hero of the night! Mastercraft Plunge Router!!

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  13. ultimatedesk

    ultimatedesk New Member

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    Drawer Work

    Another update for today for being so awesome ;)

    One of the main things that was holding me back at the time was the fact that I had not selected the motherboard tray, and template for the motherboard input and outputs, as well as PCI slots. This prevented me from cutting the holes accurately in the back of both of the modules, which prevented me from assembling the actual modules.

    I hacked up some spare desktop towers in a later update, you'll get to see why that didn't quite work out...

    In the meantime, I started working on the drawers for the right-hand module.

    I first took them through the table saw again, trimming off the last 16th or two from some of the boards.

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    Then went to work sanding all of the pieces down with 150 grit. I will likely go up to a 180 grit before the final stain goes on. I clamped a straight-edge on to the table saw so that it was easier to sand with the grain (Thanks Mike)

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    Slowly, but surely, I went through all the pieces for the drawers, except for the faces. Yes, bad things happen when I don't have my sketchup drawings. I start drawing with markers.

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    Mike was doing some work in the shop at the same time as me that day, so there was quite the mess.

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    I put together my tools of the trade

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    And here are the gluing steps I went through

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    A few somewhat artistic clamp shots ;)

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    Everything looks pretty straight

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    Glued and clamped together the largest of the drawers, will likely put some hanging folders in there.

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    Then I screwed everything together with #8 1.5" screws, all holes pre-drilled and countersunk. Most of the holes will be covered by the actual drawer sliding mechanisms, but the exposed ones will get some wood putty.

    It's funny being in someone else's wood shop - I couldn't find the countersink bit anywhere - I tried looking through all the drill bit boxes (There were several) and nothing, so I had been using a small bit, then switching to the big bit to countersink, and then switching to the screw bit to screw in the holes.

    Mike walks in half-way through the holes and you could tell he was rather amused - he goes to the back of the shop, pulls out a box, pulls out a box from the box, and then a small medicine container out from the box in a box - "Geez, didn't I tell ya to just look around? Oh. Wait. I guess this one was sorta hard to find eh?".

    At that point, he also points out that there are several drills in the shop - silly me. So one drill with the countersink bit, one drill with the screw bit. It's been very interesting working in a shop dedicated to this type of work - very, very different from working in the basement with just basic hand tools.

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    I haven't attached the faces of the drawers yet as I haven't determined how I would like to attach them. I would also like to attach the trim to the outer edges of the faces before attaching them to the drawers, since it'll be much easier to clamp all the faces together at once.

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    And that's it for todays update - a bit short, yes, a lot of pictures of clamps, sorry, I got carried away ;)

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  14. sahara_mafia

    sahara_mafia member

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    looking great keep posting pic of the progress
     
  15. Tyrsonswood

    Tyrsonswood HH's curmudgeon

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    It's a great desk and a fantastic idea....... But if this thing doesn't break down into pieces it's going to take 3 men and a boy to move it.
     
  16. MIG-31

    MIG-31 HardwareHeaven News Mod Staff Member

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    Cool...

    don't mistake what i said earlier in any disrespectful way... its just one of those I "Know i have seen it" but just could not remember where it where...!

    Now for the idea is actually superb and will also be a great Space saving desk at the same time....

    Now what type of Finish (Unless already mentioned) are you aiming for on the wood.

    As from the other pics i feel you may be a perfectionist perhaps..So do you a time scale to follow or will it be Its Finished when its finished..

    EDIT: i overlooked this part.

     
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2010
  17. [hobo]eclipse

    [hobo]eclipse ...just bummin 'round

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    i'm curious about the back side of the 2nd model. what are your plans for the screens? mounts or using the stands provided?

    I like Veridians idea of the front usb ports being mounted face up in the desktop surface. Something else to consider, were ever u decide to put the front I/O ports, some of the devices may require power, so easy access to an electrical outlet would be nice.
     
  18. steves6403

    steves6403 Active Member

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    Are you going to route the edges with a curved bit on the desk top or go with a hardwood surround or both. Routers are worth there wait in gold

    Is it going to have a coat of paint or stain?
     
  19. isaak

    isaak Well-Known Member

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    that certainly is a brilliant idea for a desk, i only wish i could be bothered to do something like this :p

    subscribed :).
     
  20. Judas

    Judas Obvious Closet Brony Pony

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    i like some of the ideas..... personally of course everyone has their own ideas of ultimate....

    While i do like a wood finish appearance...

    I personally was looking into a semi transparent white Glossy tempered Glass computer desk....

    but the cost of it was going to be 10,000 +.... wood's far cheaper... lol

    I hope you do well with getting the motherboard mounting correctly... being wood i would expect that it'll act very similare to that of a "insulator" even with all the fans.. and being rough even after sanding... there will be a fair bit of drag too.... so i'm curious (perhaps i missed it).. if you will try to do something to keep the air drag and dead spots to a minimum.

    I was also thinking that putting the motherboard mounts on a drawer like table that you can slide out for replacement/maintence at any time (provided you would have enough cable length.

    Anything that doesn't involve to much work to access every conceiveable component is great.... and using soft rubber seal/stoppers for sealing the drawers and cushioning.
     

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