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Thread: What experience can anyone share in building a case for your computer

  1. #1

    Default What experience can anyone share in building a case for your computer

    This one is open to the S-100 people. I'm slowly building a retrobrew MSX2, along with a zx spectrum clone board. i think this might be a good case for an 8-bit computer where you have to build a keyboard, but i don't know how to cut metal.

    it seems like it will fit the keyboard i built for the MSX2 clone, but it's far too big for the spectrum clone. What have you used for a case, either replacement or new?

  2. #2

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    The Hammond cases are pretty nice (and not cheap) that case is designed for a keyboard. So its a good fit.
    Assuming the dimensions work for your keyboard. Its heavy 12 ga. aluminum It will take serious tools to make the cutout.

    Step one: you need an accurate drawing of the cutout you need.

    Step two: look for a machine shop in your area and see if they will cut it for you. (may cost $$)

    Or... look for a vocational school with a metal working course. suck up to the instructor.
    Or sign up for a course. You already have a project.

    Over the years I've done lots of custom cases for my projects. Mostly rack mount cases.
    You get to hide most of the mistakes that way. I'd hate to screw up a nice case like that.

    joe

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    For terminal-type cases with keyboards, I used Bud enclosures. Not cheap, again, but well-constructed. Cite

    Tools are a necessity if you don't want the result to look like a complete hash. At the lowest end, a good metal nibbler is a must; slow-going, but you can produce very clean results. If you can make a wood template of what you need first, a router with a guide and a metal-cutting bit goes much faster. Don't try to do it freehand, however. You'll make a mess. There are also industrial metal-cutting tools that can be accurate to a thou, easily, such as WEDM.
    Last edited by Chuck(G); March 16th, 2020 at 10:15 AM.

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    Though not S100, my Mark 8 is built into a home made cabinit. You can see some picture here:

    http://i8008.net/MARK8/

    I used 1/4 aluminum plate I had laying around. Nothing needed to be bent, I just drilled, taped, and screwed everything together.
    Last edited by 8008guy; March 24th, 2020 at 07:21 PM. Reason: Typo
    Spread the joy of Vintage Addiction

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    For my current "daily driver" retrocomputer centered around a bare Tandy 1000 HX motherboard I built a crude case out of wood that was mostly salvaged from the linen drawer of an old crib. The current end result is heavily inspired by but considerably less finished than this:



    Which is no doubt not the angle you're going for.

    A thing that's moderately popular these days for one-off custom cases is making a case out of plexiglass bent to shape with a heat gun. For a simple single-board computer that might work well and be a little cheaper than a manufactured case, but making it look "nice" will require careful workmanship.
    My Retro-computing YouTube Channel (updates... eventually?): Paleozoic PCs

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    If you are building a case from aluminium or thin steel gauge sheet the nibbler as mentioned above is essential, as are a selection of files from large bastards to small rat tails.
    In addition a small metal brake (folder) is invaluable too. I have one of these for doing jobs up to 450mm (18") wide. I've used it for panels, scratchbuilt RC model tank chassis, repro vintage vehicle parts and other things.

    https://www.ebay.com/itm/18-x-16G-Steel-Sheet-Metal-Bending-Brake-Folder-Bender/392677598516
    Here's a similar one
    https://www.kakaindustrial.ca/produc...-bending-brake

    They are cheap generic Golden Dragon tools. In addition you just need to supply a couple of G-clamps to clamp the metal you are folding between the top steel bar and the frame. I have mine bolted down to a portable bench.

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    You can score thin sheet metal with a box cutter, then bend it to make it snap off. Usually you have to score it multiple times. Blades will easily drift off the beaten path so you need to have a solid guide (something hard like steel). And work slow.

    Or you could use tin snips, but you tend to deform the metal. You can also cut with a fiber wheel attached to a dremel. For any sort of small scale sheet metal work a small drill is absolutely essential. Black and Decker makes a good one with variable speed. You can get it at target, 30-35$.

    Harbor Fright sells a small bending brake for under 40$ I think. You can sometimes get away witj c-clamps and pieces of 2 x 4 or similar. You'll probably create more scrap using improvised tools. But if you're careful and watch lots of videos say maybe you'll luck out.

    Metal craft is involved but rewarding. Figure on spending a bare minimum of 60$ just to get outfitted.

    This lends itself much more readily to brass and copper, but you can mask off areas and etch cuts into metal. If you can't go all the way through, you have a channel where it will bend much more easily. For instance ferric chloride will not eat through clear packing tape. With steel I don't know if this is possible. Or aluminum.
    Last edited by tipc; March 25th, 2020 at 02:26 AM.

  8. #8

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    I'm sorry I'm not an S-100 user so not quite in the same set of needs, but I have done a bit of case building. There's such a large range of ways of going about it that it's not easy to answer definitively.

    You can sometimes get sheet-metal places to pre-cut panels to particular rectangular sizes much more cheaply than getting custom shapes cut, if you're lucky in your choice of supplier. Get that right and you can reduce your cutting to just a few corners, making it easier to tackle with limited hand tools such as a jeweler's saw/piercing saw. Or even a hacksaw, for some cuts. However you do it you'll need to hand-file.

    tipc is dead right about bending brakes being a good tool for efficient, neat work - though if you get a low-end one you should expect to patiently check the alignment of the tool before it gives good results. I have seen a few that were not quite right out-of-the-box. It's not difficult. However, it might not be worth getting one if you won't get much more use out of it. I am a bit more optimistic about bending sheet metal with wood and clamps and gentle glancing hammerblows than tipc seems to be, but maybe my expectations of quality are lower. To be honest I am more of a woodworker than a sheet metal guy but I think it's worth picking a material and technique that gives the impression or feel you want for your project, even if it means a steep learning curve, as I think it's hard to love a project in a case that seems wrong for it.

    I would say if you buy one larger tool, make it a drill press or bench drill if you don't already have one. Combined with a centre punch you can get every hole dead-on and it makes a world of difference to how professional the result can feel. I even managed to drill a fairly even ventilation grille with one once... don't try that by hand. You can also chain drill metal, saw down the resulting line and then file it all smooth... not efficient but a reasonable expedient for a one-off need.

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    Really everyone in the world should own a drill press. You can get a cheapo for under 75$. The Wen unit which costs a bit more then the rest was reviewed on youtube and was said to be a cut above. If you can justify the outlay. I want one very badly, but I'm keeping my expenditures and number of items I will eventually have to lug around to a minimum. I do have a small Austrian made milling machine, which could function as a drill press. But despite being "small", it's heavy enough, and was one of the items that furnished me with a femoral hernia some years ago. IOW it's sitting on the garage floor in a non operational state currently.

    Craigslist and local ads could be a good place to find a dp for sometimes 25-40$. Great tool to have.

  10. #10

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    tipc - yes, you can get a cheapo drill press for under $75, but it should probably come with a warning label along the lines of "once you get the hang of this, it carries a significant risk of causing upgrade cravings"... my experience was that the bench drill gets more regular use than other tools and so it's more worth having a nice one... so maybe I owe bifo86 an apology for what this might end up costing. (Or bifo can give me a slap for telling what's already well known )

    Sad to hear about your injury and your mill (Emco?) stuck on the floor. If it's the kind of machine I'm envisaging, it's a whole different ball game compared to a bench drill, even a big one. I hope you find a friend who can help you get it on a table and set up.

    Looking back at the original post, bifo86, I'm not quite sure I read you right the first time, sorry - if you just want to buy the Hammond case and make holes in it for keyboard and connectors, you may not need to do any sheet metal bending, but I fear cutting out the keyboard hole is going to be a bit stressful to do to a relatively expensive bought enclosure however you do it. So I see your concern about cutting metal in a different light when I think about that. Do you know anyone who can laser cut you an acrylic keyboard surround so as to make the job of cutting the keyboard hole less critical? (that's something I would consider - and if you pick a nice contrasting colour it could look fairly classy)

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