Custom Workbench Computer

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[Michael Solar] recently bought a house with his wife, and now with his first garage he’s started building his workshop man-cave. First order of business was a workbench — second, a computer built into it.

He started with an old Dell tower, but found it took too much space underneath the work bench — so he set to downsizing it. Using pine boards he created a stepped wooden enclosure that utilizes the space under the front lip of the work bench. He’s mounted the motherboard using standoff pins and created cutouts in the back for the power supply and outputs. It features three intake and two exhaust fans — currently without filters, although he plans on adding them soon, otherwise he’ll end up with a sawdust filled computer!

It’s a rather simple project, but it gives a great introduction into making your own custom computer case, and provides some handy lessons learned near the end. It might not be a flashy case mod like this heavy metal computer desk, but it is certainly functional and robust!

28 thoughts on “Custom Workbench Computer

  1. need some cable management in there. Some fireproof paint, or even simple elecrostatic grounding will go a long ways if some sawdust gets in there.

  2. If he does any type of wood cutting (or metal cutting), he needs to get filters ASAP. I don’t care how good a dust collection system you have, dust/dirst/etc. *will* find it’s way into a computer in a garage/workshop. I’ve even contemplated using a positive pressure setup whenever I eventually get an air compressor for my shop.

  3. I second the need for installing filters right away.

    While this is a very cool build, I find myself wondering how much vibration it will be transferring to the somewhat delicate computer components. Some kind of vibration isolation/damping would probably be a good idea in such a case.

    Also, if he ever upgrades to a standard layout motherboard, he’s going to have to re-build the case yet again. Non-standard layouts and a lack of upgradability (sp?) are two of the many reasons that I avoid using off-the-shelf computers.

    Still, a good implementation of a good idea.

  4. Basic filtration a a piece of cloth stapled over the intake would make a significant improvement to dust / chips entering the case. Other that that this looks like a sweet build and replacing wasted space with a very useful tool is impressive. +1

  5. It’s a nice build but I would have just screwed the computer to the ceiling, he is using a cordless keyboard after all. As for dirt and dust, if he sucked in air form the outside wouldn’t that provide enough positive pressure to keep schmutz out?

    1. Depends how dirty the outside air typically is. Where I live in Kansas I’d be pumping dust in more often than not. Ducting the intake fans to a box with filters on five side should be good in the dirtiest of shops

    1. A metal computer case provides a modicum of RFI protection, along with some protection from static build-up, but many people have successfully run computers without them.

  6. filters actually are a bad idea, better than unfiltered- but sawdust WILL still get in. Moving to a fanless cooling solution (EG watercooling, good heatpiping, or a heatsink-only system designed to be fanless) is considerably more ideal for this type of application. A touchscreen or a roll-up keyboard is also highly recommended. Still, not bad, just far from ideal.

        1. Loled at your asinine comment. Yes, people still use optical drives. Some of even still include them in our computer builds because they are useful.

    1. Depends. I have a computer in my workshop, and I’ve got filters around everything (and I mean everything….even seams where exterior panels meet). Haven’t had a problem, and I’ve had some pretty dusty conditions when I’m cutting and routing or running my CNC machine. I just make sure to vacuum off the filters when I’m done. Internal temperature stays good, and I’ve yet to see any significant buildup of dust.

  7. I also needed a PC under my workbench to run Mach3 for a CNC mill and a laser. I went with the far simpler solution of some brackets supporting a small(ish) form factor Dell under there. Not a hack, but far easier and more practical.

    I did consider a 1U rack mount server but I couldn’t find one with the parallel port needed by Mach3. They’re only small in 2 dimensions, but might suit depending on the size of your bench. Surprisingly cheap on eBay too. There’s not much market for second hand servers.

  8. Whether they came from Solar or Hackaday, I’d love to see the words “man-cave” disappear from articles like this. No need to reinforce gender stereotypes here.

    To be clear: I’m not advocating for Hackaday to remove gender-specific pronouns or anything like that. It’s the little things, though, like calling a garage workshop a “man-cave,” that contribute to women feeling less welcome in hacking/engineering/etc.

    1. I call B.S.

      My garage workshop is my “man-cave” or whatever else I want to call it. Nothing wrong with that. Deal with it.

      And, by the way, “my woman” happens to like it (and being referred to as “my woman”) that way. :P

    2. Be it biological or cultural, differences between the sexes exist and need to have names to differentiate between them. If you think a term like man-cave, which actually makes fun of men, should be avoided because it could put off women, then you are nuts.

  9. My experience may not be typical but I do have a computer out in my garage workspace. Initially I thought dust would be a factor but over the years I have not noticed it being that big of a deal really. The only measure I am taking to keep dust out of my PC in the garage is I keep it in a corner where I don’t make a whole lot of dust usually. I probably clean it out a few times a year too. But I clean any PC out at least once a year.

  10. Problematic is not so much wood dust, but metal dust. Metal dust can kill computers. If he has metal dust in his workshop: go for a sealed design, or buy an IP67/IP68 industrial computer. Everything else *will* break sooner or later.

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