VOGONS


DIY retro PC case projects

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First post, by tikoellner

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I am really starting to think that while it's possible to find good deals on retro PC parts (XT, 386,486, etc.), finding a good looking and well preserved PC case is a trouble nowadays. I have bought about 3 of them, but all are to some extent worn and damaged.

I am seriously thinking to try to make some DIY case that would be good looking and compact, even though I'm not giving up looking some true retro cases.

Did any of you had any experience building such a case? I'm not talking here about cardboard or pizza box cases nor adapting ATX cases.

Any ideas or pics welcome!

Reply 2 of 37, by archsan

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I'm in the same boat. I can't find any AT case in good condition to build a Socket7 system to pick up locally.

I think a good (as in usable, accurate dimensions) set of CAD drawings will help a lot in this endeavor. Finding ATX spec drawings is quite easy, but not sure about AT.

What kinds of material are you thinking about using?

IMO cases are not hard to find at all.

You have it rather easy in US, with lots of overstock listings to choose from. 😀

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."—Arthur C. Clarke
"No way. Installing the drivers on these things always gives me a headache."—Guybrush Threepwood (on cutting-edge voodoo technology)

Reply 3 of 37, by PeterLI

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In any country there should be sufficient supply of AT cases when you:
1: Are willing to pay shipping from a major country in your area.
2: Are willing to spend time searching classifieds ads + pay shipping / drive.
3: Are willing to make phone calls / email computer stores / metal recycling companies.
4: Are willing to check thrift stores / garage sales / flea markets and so on.
5: Ask around: family / friends / supermarket ad.

Less hassle than designing and manufacturing a case IMO. Plus you may get more than just AT cases with above approaches: parts / software and so on.

Reply 4 of 37, by archsan

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Peter, I'll just say this: different country, different situation.

I live in a tropical climate country where most of these stuff rust easily, especially steel frame cases. "Thrift stores" / "recycling companies" here are also far less developed than the ones you usually see where you live. Sure I can find, say, a mint Micron Dual Pentium Pro complete system, which I just missed earlier this year, but that's a VERY rare occasion.

Besides, designing your own case is not necessarily a hassle. It can be a "creative" project. 😀

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."—Arthur C. Clarke
"No way. Installing the drivers on these things always gives me a headache."—Guybrush Threepwood (on cutting-edge voodoo technology)

Reply 5 of 37, by PhilsComputerLab

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I just use an ATX case 😀

Sure the 386 and 486 might look out of place, but I prefer the more modern look.

Only a few mounting holes will line up, so you got to use plastic standoffs for the others.

Check my videos 386 with modern parts and 486 with modern parts.

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Reply 6 of 37, by archsan

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Yeah AT and ATX share some mounting holes, the back slots are still usable, so at least it can be used as a base with a bit of work. I would still tailor the exterior design to my liking though. 😀 I like this kind of things.

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."—Arthur C. Clarke
"No way. Installing the drivers on these things always gives me a headache."—Guybrush Threepwood (on cutting-edge voodoo technology)

Reply 8 of 37, by tikoellner

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Phil,

the trouble is that I've seen many nice cases even here in Poland. I asked the seller some additional questions regarding their condition and the answers were usually that there's nothing wrong with the case and the front is clear.

Maybe I'm doing something wrong, but those cases were always somehow damaged and this annoys me a lot. I am really attached to detail and even some major scratch annoys me. Tried to fight this, but I failed.

On the pictures those cases usually look very good, as the case fronts are not really easy to photograph in every detail.

What I'm trying to say it's that for it is too risky to buy a case abroad, pay for shippment, pay taxes and then get something you did not want. With every case it's more and more difficult to explain the issue to my wife as well 😉

I was thinking to use some plexi or even nice plywood.

I think this would be quite a good idea to develop some custom forum case project.

Reply 9 of 37, by Oldskoolmaniac

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Some times when i get cases for free some of them are in rough shape so sand them down and do 2 coats of primer and then 2 coats of whatever color i want. As for cleaning the rust inside the case, just sand it all down and paint with the ceramic spray paint thats used to paint manifolds on cars, it a lot cooler and less insulated.

Motherboard Reviews The Motherboard Thread
Plastic parts looking nasty and yellow try this Deyellowing Plastic

Reply 10 of 37, by konc

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PeterLI wrote:
In any country there should be sufficient supply of AT cases when you: 1: Are willing to pay shipping from a major country in yo […]
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In any country there should be sufficient supply of AT cases when you:
1: Are willing to pay shipping from a major country in your area.
2: Are willing to spend time searching classifieds ads + pay shipping / drive.
3: Are willing to make phone calls / email computer stores / metal recycling companies.
4: Are willing to check thrift stores / garage sales / flea markets and so on.
5: Ask around: family / friends / supermarket ad.

Less hassle than designing and manufacturing a case IMO. Plus you may get more than just AT cases with above approaches: parts / software and so on.

Not everybody is living in the US. Sorry but the above just doesn't apply "In any country". This is becoming a real problem for many.

Reply 11 of 37, by Logistics

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If you're not comfortable with painting your case, you can always have it wrapped in vinyl, like they do for cars. And if you don't care about logos, a talented wrapper with an xacto knife could probably do all your drive-faces as well.

Reply 12 of 37, by candle_86

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Building a case can be done but is it cost effective? Is there enough demand to justify lowering cost with a bulk order?

Also maybe talk to a 3d printing shop, the larger shops can print things the size of a case. An advantage is it will never rust 🤣

Reply 13 of 37, by TheMobRules

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Finding AT cases should be easy if you know where to look, for instance I recently got a NOS case for free from a computer shop when I bought a portable HD: when I was paying, I noticed that there were a couple of cardboard boxes labeled "AT Computer Case", I inquired about it and the guy from the shop told me these were old stock he was trying to get rid of and gifted one to me (he also had a couple of boxed Voodoo 4 and 5 but those were "not for sale" 😢). Not bad, considering I live in a small country with a population of 3.5 million.

However, I agree with you when it comes to finding used cases in reasonably good condition. A week ago, I bought a lot of 10 used AT cases for less than USD 8. Of those, 5 were completely obliterated and the other 5 had noticeable amounts of yellowing, rust and of course lots of dead insects and unidentifiable goo. Still, I gave them a good cleaning and will try to sand and repaint them when I have some free time.

I have never done this kind of restoration but I think it is a better choice than going through the hassle and cost of building new ones, though it would make for an interesting project if you have the means to do it.

By the way, a question for people who have restored old cases, what is the better solution for heavily yellowed plastic front panels? Just painting them over or applying some peroxyde based treatment (like Retr0brite)?

Reply 14 of 37, by nforce4max

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Don't get discouraged by some of the people here, they just don't get it and may as well be in another world. Been thinking about this myself and it might be a way to do this but up front it won't be cheap. Going diy could end up being really nice if you know how to work with metal and are really good at being artistic at making pretty things. Can do any theme you want that is what I like this most about this.

Aluminum AT cases anyone 😉

On a far away planet reading your posts in the year 10,191.

Reply 15 of 37, by brostenen

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If I had the skills to craft something in metal, I would not go for aluminium cases.
Remember them thick-plated ATX cases, made from real metal, not aluminium.
I have never seen an AT case, build like a tank.
The frontplate could be made from aluminium, and be painted the same as the rest.
Real oldschool beige on the outside, and a strong color inside. Red, yellow or green.

Don't eat stuff off a 15 year old never cleaned cpu cooler.
Those cakes make you sick....

My blog: http://to9xct.blogspot.dk
My YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/brostenen

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Reply 16 of 37, by archsan

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nforce4max wrote:

Don't get discouraged by some of the people here, they just don't get it and may as well be in another world. Been thinking about this myself and it might be a way to do this but up front it won't be cheap. Going diy could end up being really nice if you know how to work with metal and are really good at being artistic at making pretty things. Can do any theme you want that is what I like this most about this.

Well said!

Aluminum AT cases anyone 😉

Yeah, aluminum would be nice for DIY, as it's relatively easy to cut (as for steel... well... 😵). I think this material would perfectly match some of the earlier modern 80s designs -- straight line style.

Although I've been looking at all these 90s "pillowish, cushiony" looking case bezels from the 486/Pentium/P-MMX era (Packard Bell, HP Vectra, Compaq Presario, IBM Aptiva as well as aftermarket ones like some Enlight models) ... and I'm thinking... why not leather? Something that would bring back the warmth and "cozy" feeling, I guess.

Obviously I have a different theme in mind to what you or tikoellner might have! 😀

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."—Arthur C. Clarke
"No way. Installing the drivers on these things always gives me a headache."—Guybrush Threepwood (on cutting-edge voodoo technology)

Reply 17 of 37, by brostenen

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Wood-bezel, like that of an Atari 2600?

Don't eat stuff off a 15 year old never cleaned cpu cooler.
Those cakes make you sick....

My blog: http://to9xct.blogspot.dk
My YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/brostenen

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Reply 18 of 37, by nforce4max

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Could experiment with moldable plastic and either copy or come up with something interesting. Imagine diy Highscreen cases 😎

On a far away planet reading your posts in the year 10,191.

Reply 19 of 37, by archsan

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brostenen wrote:

Wood-bezel, like that of an Atari 2600?

If you're asking me then... not quite really... try google image search: "Power Mac 6500" and "beige leather ottoman" -- you'll see what I mean! 😁

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."—Arthur C. Clarke
"No way. Installing the drivers on these things always gives me a headache."—Guybrush Threepwood (on cutting-edge voodoo technology)