Yoshi's Mods: Modding With Wood

Yoshi's Mods: Modding With Wood

By Yoshi DeHerrera - Posted Mar 19, 2004
I've been exposed to woodworking all my life. My grandfathers were both woodworkers and my dad is a woodworker. With all those influences, I'm surprised it took me so long to use wood for a mod. You can't re-create the natural beauty of wood with synthetic materials, so for tonight's "Screen Savers" I'm building a real wooden PC case based on the mini itx platform. I'm using veneer and plywood. My limited budget kept me away from really expensive exotic wood.

To see a photos of the wood PC, visit my worklog.

Warning: Children shouldn't follow the steps in this project without adult supervision.

You should think about four things when you plan to work with wood.
  1. Safety
    I can't stress safety enough. It's the most important part of any type of mod, especially when you work with power tools.
    • Have safety glasses, gloves, and dust masks on hand at all times.
    • Unplug your power tools until you're ready to make your cut. Many accidents happen when adjusting the tool, changing blades, or setting things on top of tools.
    • Familiarize yourself with the proper and safe way to use a power tool. If you don't know how to use it, get someone to show you first.

  2. Budget
    If you plan on using exotic hardwoods, your price can shoot up very quickly. Those of you on a limited budget can still incorporate exotic wood by using veneers.

  3. Tools
    When doing a wood project, you'll need a screwdriver, a hammer, a variety of sandpaper, a fine-tooth handsaw, a drill and bits, a utility knife, a set of chisels, and some clamps (you can never have too many clamps). If you have access to a table saw, drill press, and band saw, your work will be cleaner and easier.

    Your tool collection can quickly get out of hand. Don't buy a bunch of new tools unless you plan to use them often. Try to borrow or rent specialty tools you'll only use this once.

  4. Workspace
    You need a well-ventilated space where you can make a mess. You don't want to work with wood in your house. Dust will get everywhere and into everything. Plus, you may work with glues and finishes that aren't good to inhale. Make sure you also have a good table that comes above your waist. You should be able to comfortably stand and work at the table without having to bend over.

Plan things out
Planning is crucial. Don't start your mod until you have all the components in hand. I also like to use cardboard or a foam core to mock up my project before I start. It lets me see glaring problems I might have overlooked when I didn't have my components.

I'm going to give you the general plans (you can see a diagram on the next page) for this mod, but it's not step-by-step. If you're unfamiliar with woodworking tools and safety, get some help. If you don't know how to make some of the parts, get help.

Here are the materials.
  • (Two) 23cm x 23cm 3/4-inch solid walnut -- for the base and top
  • (Two) 95cm x 20cm 1/4-inch finished plywood -- side panel
  • (Two) 95cm x 21cm 1/4-inch finished plywood -- side panel
  • (Four) 95cm long walnut corner molding -- hide the junction point of the side panels
  • Pau Ferro Rosewood (for side panels) and Padauk veneers

Computer components
  • Via Epia TC motherboard
  • Sony CRX830E 24x16x24 CDRW/8X DVD black bezel slim combo drive
  • Toshiba MK4025GAS 40GB 2.5-inch Super Slimline 4200 RPM notebook hard drive

Working with veneer
A lot of people use contact adhesive to laminate veneer to other surfaces. You coat both side pieces with an even layer of contact adhesive and place a piece of wax paper between the two layers so you can position them. As you remove the wax paper the contact adhesive bonds. Make sure you don't apply any pressure or the wax paper will get stuck.

Of course I have my own methods. I like to use Tightbond Type II wood glue. Coat both pieces with an even layer of the glue. Allow them both to completely dry. Once the pieces dry and are in position, use a hot iron to heat up the glue. It bonds as it cools, leaving you with a really nice tight bond. This method takes less than two hours. It also lets you easily make complex inlays. Since you're working with dried glue, you can set the pieces in place and not worry about them until you apply the heat.

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