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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    Second Staining Attempt

    Thanks - the kittens are taking up a lot of my spare time lol, too cute to watch them fumble all over the place. It hovers just a little over 0 degrees celcius in the basement. Stuff doesn't freeze down there, but it's not particularly comfortable to work down there, and I guess some liquids can start to separate. It was between -20 and -30 outside during that week, however.

    That's the impression I got and why I went with a gel stain to start with. You'll see that I did a much better job the second time around, after keeping the gel stain at the proper temperature and mixing it properly as well.


    Some of you may have wondered - "You stained 2 small pieces of wood in the past 2 weeks?! That's all you have to show for progress on THE ULTIMATE DESK?!"

    Well, not quite... Really - I did more, I swear.

    As you all know, the first staining attempt went really poorly, so I immediately went out and started on a second staining attempt. This time, I purchased some pre-stain wood conditioner, as well as a traditional oil-based stain. I also set out to do this the right way. If I'm going to spend a week staining small samples, I might as well have something to show for it. I cut 8 small blocks of wood, and sanded them all to 120 grit, just like before, and tacked them all off.

    [​IMG]

    I had a plan this time - I was going to see what kind of colour combinations I could get with just 2 stains, and 1 wood conditioner (The gel stain, for what it's worth, had been mixed several times, and had been kept upstairs for a few days). Here is the wood conditioner I used. You can see in the background that it tints the wood just slightly.

    [​IMG]

    Here is the oil-based stain I picked up. It's a Minwax product, Red Mahogany.

    [​IMG]

    And of course, the Varathane Gel Stain that you've already seen, also, Red Mahogany.

    [​IMG]

    In this picture you can see a bit how the oil stain reacts to the wood conditioner. The wood conditioner seemed to have hardly any effect on the gel stain, most likely because gel stains don't really penetrate the wood the same as an oil stain.

    [​IMG]

    And in this picture you can see the whopping difference between the oil stain and gel stain, which are, strangely enough, supposed to be the same colour. The one on the left is the Minwax, and the one in the middle is the Varathane. Neither the first or second piece have wood conditioner on them. The piece on the right is wood conditioner + the Minwax oil stain.

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    Here's the production line, the stain is still wet, I haven't wiped off the excess yet.

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    And here is the result of 2 days of staining. (First day sanding, tacking, wood conditioner, first coat of stain, second day some of them got a second coat).

    From left to right, here is what I did to get the different results (Some of them obvious, some of them pretty darn subtle).

    1. Minwax Red Mahogany Oil Stain
    2. Varathane Red Mahogany Gel Stain
    3. Wood Conditioner + Minwax Red Mahogany Oil Stain
    4. Wood Conditioner + Varathane Red Mahogany Gel Stain
    5. Wood Conditioner + Minwax Red Mahogany Oil Stain + Varathane Red Mahogany Gel Stain
    6. Wood Conditioner + Varathane Red Mahogany Gel Stain + Minwax Red Mahogany Oil Stain
    7. Wood Conditioner + Minwax Red Mahogany Oil Stain x 2 Coats
    8. Wood Conditioner + Varathane Red Mahogany Gel Stain x 2 Coats

    Wow! It's pretty amazing the different shades you can get when using just 3 pretty simple substances.

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    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I then set about the next 4 or 5 days applying one coat of high gloss polyurethane each day (That was a long and boring process). Basically, get home from work, go downstairs for a whole 5 minutes, do a quick sanding, tacking, and another light coat of poly, done for the day, wait for the next day.

    Here's the final result of Staining Attempt Number Two. Please keep in mind, they are not in the same order that I mentioned above.

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    [​IMG]

    There's no doubt that I will use this method again in the future. I also now have a great set of staining samples for maple plywood that I will surely fine handy in the future (They are all marked on the back what the process / stain used was).

    Guess what though. None of them really came out the way I wanted. I'm still in search for that rich, deep, red mahogany / cherry look, and these just won't cut it (Though I admit, I do like #5 and #6, but maybe only because of their really spectacular grain pattern).

    See you next time for Staining Attempt Number Three! *sigh*



    Oh - and here's another snap of the kittens - they are 20 days old when this picture was taken, and they had just opened their eyes only a couple days beforehand.

    [​IMG]

    I won't be posting another update until next week, as I've decided to take a trip to the East Coast to celebrate St.Patricks day! I'll be in Halifax if anyone wants to go for a few pints! Have a great weekend everyone!
     
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  2. ultimatedesk

    ultimatedesk New Member

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    Third Staining Attempt

    For those of you interested in seeing how the kittens are doing, I've been keeping a bit of a video log on them - ie. I have been taking quick video clips of them every few days, since day 0. You can check them out here:
    YouTube - Kanaal van MrAderome

    Also, here is a bit of a sneak peak, as far as actual computer hardware is concerned - I've been slowly acquiring bits and pieces, since I'm still not entirely sure what will end up in this Ultimate Computer Desk.

    Kingston has decided to sponsor me, and has sent me this really fantastic SSD drive. I am PSYCHED!

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    As you are all aware, my first 2 staining attempts were successful in the sense that I learned a lot, however, I was still not achieving the result I originally wanted.

    I decided to try something other than the tried-and-true local Home Depot, and I hit up a custom furniture store - Randalls. Let me tell you - it was a truly great experience, and I will be returning there many more times in the future due to the incredible service I received there.

    I walked in with my backpack full of my 2nd attempt samples, and immediately a salesperson started talking with me about what I was there for. I explained to her the stains I tried, along with the techniques, and she asked to see my samples.

    I pointed out the ones I liked, and why, and why I didn't like them, and she came back in a few minutes with a couple stains that might interest me. She then asked if she could do some sample stains on the back of the pieces I brought in. She took the pieces behind the counter, sanded them down, stained them, and came back in a few minutes with actual, real - this is what they're going to look like - samples.

    How cool is that? I could have just gone there in the first place and spent the whole extra 2 dollars, but would have walked out with 1 product - the right one - the first time. Amazing - I'm really happy I discovered that place.

    I can't imagine Home Depot opening up any of their products for a test piece.. I've never asked though, so who knows. Randall's is my goto place for stains now, however!

    [​IMG]

    Once again, I decided to see what variety of colours I could get with what I had on hand, so I setup 8 samples once more:

    1. Old Masters
    2. Wood Conditioner + Old Masters
    3. Wood Conditioner + Minwax + Old Masters
    4. Wood Conditioner + Old Masters + Minwax
    5. Wood Conditioner + Old Masters x 2 Coats
    6. Old Masters x 2 Coats
    7. Wood Conditioner + Varathane + Old Masters
    8. Wood Conditioner + Old Masters + Varathane

    [​IMG]

    I worked on the samples for about a week (1 coat per day, did 5 or 6 coats of poly on top, light sanding between poly coats)

    [​IMG]

    Here are a couple close up shots while staining was in progress

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    And a comparison with the previous samples, once everything was nicely glossed up

    [​IMG]

    Look at the difference in colour! Now that's more what I was looking for. There's no question that the gel stain has "muted" the grain a little bit, however, the colour is unquestionably closer to what I was looking for originally.

    Here is a shot of my previously favorite samples from the 2nd round, against the new samples

    [​IMG]

    And a closeup of the 2 samples I think I like the best. The differences between this batch are quite subtle, as the Old Masters gel stain has a very strong dye which mutes out the effects of conditioner, or any other stain applied before or after.

    [​IMG]

    Now that's what I call progress! I think I can call it quits for testing stain now. Time to move on to the dreaded motherboard tray / I/O Slot stuff...

    Until next time!
     
  3. isaak

    isaak Well-Known Member

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    Those last two stains look very nice, but the three middle images are broken :(

    Anyway, congrats with finding the place, it was worth waiting.
     
  4. Tyrsonswood

    Tyrsonswood HH's curmudgeon

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    All the images are showing here.

    Colors look good man!
     
  5. MIG-31

    MIG-31 HardwareHeaven News Mod Staff Member

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    Its your call on the final colour.. And it's your call alone as you have the sponsorship... I have snagged the url for the pic you have posted above...

    I may not of said much in this thread,but i have followed every single comment... I like the single block shown in the image..

    [​IMG]
     
  6. isaak

    isaak Well-Known Member

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    Cheers, MIG. Those colorus are much richer than what you had before.
     
  7. ultimatedesk

    ultimatedesk New Member

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    Some More Hardware

    Yeah, sorry isaak, imageshack is a pretty good service as far as "things for free go", but their servers do have quite a bit of downtime I think.

    Thanks Tyrsonswood

    Hey MIG, I know what you mean, the grain highlights on that middle piece are really something. Although I won't be using that stain for this project, you can bet that I'll find a use for it in the future on maple ply again.

    Oh yeaaaaaa, I love the depth of the new reds.



    Sorry about the lack of updates everyone, it's not that I haven't been working on the desk much, but it's more that I've been using the camera a lot (You know.. kittens) and I haven't had time to sit down and sort through all the photos, re-size, crop, etc for some real proper updates.

    I've had this update sitting on the back burner for a little while now and I've been meaning to squeeze in it somewhere. I had been talking with some folks at Danger Den because I was looking at their motherboard trays and I/O panels, and they've decided to sponsor me!

    Big thanks go out to Danger Den, as these are critical components required for a professional end result - you've all seen the mangled results of the cases I tore up earlier in the project.

    [​IMG]
    Let us help you be cool!

    [​IMG]

    Everything came very nicely packed - not much loose play, and plenty of foam to absorb any shipping issues.

    [​IMG]

    I had these PSU support brackets custom made:

    [​IMG]

    I sent them a higher resolution image of this, that I threw together in Sketchup:

    [​IMG]

    Also included in this little shipment were some momentary switches for power and reset. (These are really popular these days, aren't they?)

    [​IMG]

    And some real nifty motherboard trays:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    All the acrylic is 1/2" clear - I will leave them wrapped up until the project is close to completion. With these parts -finally- settled, I can cut some holes in the cabinets and actually put them together -for real- !!

    Stay tuned, I'll sit down this weekend and sort through the next round of updates ;)
     
  8. ultimatedesk

    ultimatedesk New Member

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    IO Slot Cutting

    So - it's been sometime since I've posted an update - apologies, things have been very busy lately.

    With the parts from Danger Den having arrived, I could now move on to some more specific details with both of the cabinets that will contain the computers.

    Once again, I started with a test fitting, this time, it was a very accurate fitting, requiring quite a bit of sanding and fiddling around to get as close to the final product as possible.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

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    I then placed some test parts for fitting, and traced some outlines on the wood. The motherboard tray was placed on some thin strips of packing foam that I cut up, to help isolate any vibration from the CPU Heatsink.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Installed some new blades on the jigsaw, put my biggest drill bit in the drill, and went to town!

    [​IMG]

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    After doing the rough cut with the jigsaw, I took out the router and free-handed with a straight bit to smooth out the edges.

    [​IMG]

    The semi-finished air intake for the left-hand cabinet:

    [​IMG]

    The power supply rough cut:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I decided that the PSU bolts will need a little more clearance around the screw holes.

    [​IMG]

    The I/O Shield cut out was a bit tricky to measure, but I think I did a pretty decent job:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

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    And a final shot from above and below:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Next update, I'll have pics of actual assembly of the left hand cabinet, and then more cutting, and biscuit joining on the right-hand cabinet.
     
  9. brainless_beginner

    brainless_beginner is so brainless..

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    Now that's what should be called hand-made! Awesome! I wantz moar!
     
  10. ultimatedesk

    ultimatedesk New Member

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    Left Cabinet Assembly

    Thanks brainless!


    It's been a while, but I can assure you, progress is still moving forward with the Ultimate Computer Desk!

    I finally got around to assembling the left-hand cabinet - here it is, all glued and clamped together. It's a really solid unit - the dado cuts lined up really well, and the structure is rock solid.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Here I am doing a mock-up of the right-hand cabinet. This one was a little trickier to put together. There is a pretty specific order of assembly, otherwise, you're left with a piece that just doesn't want to fit properly.

    [​IMG]

    Some outlines for the motherboard I/O and power supply

    [​IMG]

    I remember mentioning that I free-handed the holes with the router for the left-hand cabinet. I decided to play a safer route for the right-hand cabinet.

    I took a piece of wood, lined it up with my straight edge, and ran my router on top of the wood with a straight bit - this game me a perfect "stencil". What I can do then, is take the stencil, line up the edge with a line that I've drawn on the target piece, place a straight edge behind the stencil, clamp down the straight edge, remove the stencil, and run my router across the straight edge for a straight, accurate line.

    Wow, that was a mouthful.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    And the end product:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    And then I made a pretty huge mistake...

    Here is the suspect:

    [​IMG]

    Bam. Can you guess why this was a bad idea?

    [​IMG]
     
  11. Takaharu

    Takaharu Unus offa, unus iuguolo

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    Because you have a random hole?

    By the way, You could've used a jigsaw instead of the router then sanded it down.
     
  12. kris23

    kris23 Going Insane.....

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    i must see more of this....

    looks like the OP has been sick for a bit so he stopped for a bit on his project.

    hopefully he gets better soon!
     
  13. ultimatedesk

    ultimatedesk New Member

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    Hey everyone, thanks for sticking around - I was indeed quite, quite sick.. Yes, it ended up being a totally random hole, I don't know why I did that!

    Holy moly, I'm really sorry for the lack of updates folks - between being sick and the weather has been miserable I haven't had much time to work on the desk. Apparently I had cedar poisoning! Wonderful!

    Anyways - back on track!

    Those of you who guessed it right - yes, I shouldn't have made the hole in the first place. I don't know what I was thinking. This is the right-hand cabinet.

    [​IMG]

    Whoops!

    [​IMG]

    Here's the biscuit joiner I was using. It worked pretty well for what it is. The tricky part was determining the order of which pieces/faces/sides to glue first and how to keep it all from falling apart before completion.

    [​IMG]

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    Here's the left-hand cabinet all dried and ready for some trim

    [​IMG]

    And voila, my erm.. elegant clamping solution (I need to grab some cauls!)

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Hope you enjoy! Rest assured, this project WILL BE FINISHED! Just.. mm, I don't really know when. I'm moving in a month and a half, so all the staining/sanding will have to be done, at a minimum.

    Take care!
     
  14. isaak

    isaak Well-Known Member

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    You sure did choose the right time to build this desk :p

    Glad to know you're feeling better and can get on with it :)
     
  15. ultimatedesk

    ultimatedesk New Member

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    Staining the Desk Surface

    lol thanks isaak - it should be... an interesting month and a half...

    This part of the project took a better part of a month. There was a lot of sanding, waiting, and sweating as I put on each thin layer of polyurethane on the desk surface.

    Here it is at the start of the phase - what a mess!

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    You can see there was still sanding to do from when I put in the wood filler back in... November!

    [​IMG]

    All cleaned up, ready to rock the stain. It was starting to get nice as well so it was time to lube up the 'ol bike chain as well!

    [​IMG]

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    Part way through the first coat

    [​IMG]

    Note that this is the bottom of the desk surface. I did this intially without any kind of pre-stain or wood treatment to see if I could get away with it.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I actually noticed a significant amount of dark spots and uneveness, so for the top of the desk, and for all future staining, I went with a pre-stain, and two coats of Old Masters Gel Stain. Here is the desk surface approximately a month later with around 8 coats of polyurethane on top. It will be getting a good ol fashion rubbing out in another month from now once it has fully cured.

    [​IMG]

    Have a good weekend everyone!
     
  16. blibbax

    blibbax nahm8

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    Looking awesome!
     
  17. ultimatedesk

    ultimatedesk New Member

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    Prepping the Upper Desk

    Thanks blibbax!

    So, with the main desk surface out of the way, it was time to start focusing on the top shelf portion, which, at this point, hadn't been sanded, cut perfectly, or assembled. Here were all the pieces required.

    [​IMG]

    A quick mock up:

    [​IMG]

    A few tests with the biscuit joiner to make sure I was aligned properly:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I couldn't get it exactly in the center - the bottom of the joiner is a bit concave and it made lining it up a little difficult. The tool is generally used to join boards end to end, so there wasn't really any facility for on-face joining like this.

    Assembly and glue up time:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

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    Enjoy! You can never have too many clamps you know? I couldn't continue on doing the side pods until this stuff dried up first.
     
  18. kris23

    kris23 Going Insane.....

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    mmm... so very nice...
     
  19. ultimatedesk

    ultimatedesk New Member

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    Top Shelf Assembly

    Thanks kris23!

    With the first phase of the top shelf all solid and dried, I could continue on to the two side pods. Here's the initial mockup.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Notice the pencil lines for the biscuits I'll be installing.

    [​IMG]

    Those biscuits are so dark and moody... lol!

    [​IMG]

    Aaand, some gratuitous clamping shots. Like that extra-long setup? Yeah, that worked this time, but I don't recommend it. It wasn't too stable, but there wasn't really anything else I could clamp on to for that end-pressure required.

    [​IMG]

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    Mmmm glue.

    [​IMG]

    So that's it for this update, I know it's a pretty simple one, but hey, it's one more phase done. Just needs to have some trim stuck on and then staining!

    Have a good weekend!
     
  20. MIG-31

    MIG-31 HardwareHeaven News Mod Staff Member

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    Many thanks for keeping us updated.... Its sure is looking good,even at this stage...

    Im still looking forward to see the finished product... But i can see you are far from rushing through.And you are paying attention to detail.
     

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