The following was extracted from an article found in PC Extreme 29. In this page, you'll find the photos I took of the article (with a cheap camera phone and therefore crappy) 'cause I was to cheap to spend $13 on a magazine just for the one article. Similar articles online can be found at:

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Custom Computer Hardware Test Bench

Create your own tech station

Sometimes your PC case can be more of a burden than a blessing. It can make working with your PC very fiddly. You might even know someone who doesn't bother with cases, instead preferring to scatter the components across a desk.

And why not? That's the kind of thing we do here at PC Extreme when we test equipment. You might choose to go caseless because they collect dust, are a pain in the arse to access if you have to change something, and expose your PC to high internal temperatures. Cases are overrated, especially for people who like to tinker.

If a PC is born free of its case, it can enjoy the fresh, cool air. In fact, the computer in this article is being

written on is just such an example and lives in what is normally referred to as a tech station. These have been around for quite a while and the chances are you've seen one or contemplated the idea of having such a luxury. Well, we've realized how simple a feature-laden tech station could be to make, so here we try our hand at it.

Try your hand

There are two ways to go about building your very own tech station. Option one would be from wood, which is a tad easier to work with and can be made to look good if you have the right tools. Option two would be to use a more complex acrylic design, but no one wants to Dremel that much plastic. So the only viable way to make

an acrylic version would be to use a table saw or band saw and finish the acrylic edges with a router and a template bit. All this requires too much time and skill for our liking. So we've opted for the wood version.

The parts list is pretty extensive and there are many tiny bits that could leave you running around your local hardware or DIY store for roughly an hour (see the list on the right). But rest assured the actual construction of the tech station, supposing you have all the appropriate tools on hand, is not overly complex. Or let's put it this way - if you can flash the BIOS of your 6600GT, then constructing this tech station should be a breeze.

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Parts needed

  • 0.75in plywood or MDF
  • 0.75x0.75in wooden stiles or 0.75in-diameter wooden dowels
  • 0.75in MDF hardboard or plywood
  • 0.75in aluminum extrusion
  • self-tapping 0.75in wood screws
  • 8x plastic cover caps
  • 4x rubber feet (optional)
  • 2x 0.75in single 90° angle brackets
  • 2x 0.75in wood screws
  • Wood glue (optional)
  • Plastic spacers (to space out the extrusion from the surface)
  • Other assorted screws, nuts and bolts

  1. The key to any great mod, be it with a computer or woodworking, is having the right tools for the job. Start by using a table saw to cut two 13x14in panels out of 0.75in plywood for the upper and lower decks of the tech station. For our tech station, we're using Baltic birch plywood.
  1. Use the best saw you can find to cut four 7in lengths of 0.75x0.75in stiles (ie dowels). In fact, you can use 0.75in-diameter dowel rods if you want to instead. Make sure the stile lengths are identical - bad measurements here at the start will ensure a faulty tech station as an end result.
  1. Use a sanding pad and a file to touch up the surfaces and edges of the two decks (as well as the stiles) before proceeding. If you're planning on painting the tech station, this is the time to do it. Or you can, like us, apply a couple of coats of diluted PVC to keep the wood all sealed up.
  1. Using 0.75in MDF hardboard or 0.75in plywood, cut a piece to span the length of the long side of the tech station. This piece will function as the expansion card holder and measure precisely 1x14in in length. Sand it the same as the other pieces.
  1. Before we go any further, it's best to do a dry fit of your cut parts. Grab a spare motherboard that's lying around, like the Abit BH6 we have here, to make sure your stiles won't interfere with the mobo length. Set all your sanded and painted pieces out together to make sure they all mate up well with each other.
  1. Once you're sure the fit of the tech station parts is good, go ahead and glue it up using some wood glue. Place small precise dabs of glue on each of the stiles to reduce the amount that will squeeze out when you clamp everything together. Clean up any excess glue immediately with a damp cloth.
  1. Some people might decide to stop at this step and not screw the tech station together. We recommend you both glue and screw it together to reinforce it. At either rate, use clamps to hold it together while the glue dries. If you don't have any clamps then some heavy books will keep it together.
  1. Some 0.75in or 1in self-drilling wood screws work well after the glue has set and clamps have come off. You can also use some plastic caps to clean up the tech station visually. The caps can be found in the hardware section of most DIY stores.
  1. We recommend using some drawer-lining material as a bed liner for the tech station. You don't want your motherboard to have to sit on that uncomfortable wood, so cut a piece of drawer liner of approximately 12x8in for it to rest on.
  1. The card holder should now be mounted onto the tech station. For this you'll need some more equipment from the DIY store. 90° angle brackets hold the card holder onto the outer stiles securely with bolts and screws. Don't worry - the metal will never touch any of the components!
  1. The card holder should be mounted approximately 4.5in off the lower deck of the tech station. The best way to measure the precise height of the card holder is to put a couple of PCI cards or an AGP card into the motherboard itself, then see the exact height you need to place the slat.
  1. You'll need some small computer case screws or tiny 0.5in wood screws in order to mount the expansion cards to the card holder slat. You can either drill and tap the holes, or use self-tapping wood screws for this step. Watch the dust near that motherboard!
  1. Some 1in aluminum extrusion is ideal for the hard drive rails. Using a Dremel tool or any other rotary-type tool, cut two identical 13in-long rails from the angle iron and file the ends off so they are nice and smooth - these will hold your hard drive below the upper deck of the tech station.
  1. Place the angle iron of the top of the deck (with a hard drive and a 0.25in spacer sitting in it for exact spacing). Line the rails up exactly where you want them to go and clamp them to the upper deck. Pull the hard drive out, mark four holes on the back of the rails and drill them through the upper deck.
  1. After you've drilled the mounting holes for the hard drive rails, prepare to mount them below the upper deck of the tech station. You'll need four fairly long bolts and some nylon spacers from the hardware store to mount the rails. We've set ours up with two mounting bolts to each rail, making four in total.
  1. Here you can see the tech station from below, with a hard drive set inside the rails. If you wanted, you could mount a fan in front of the hard drive rails using a pair of 90° angle brackets like the ones used to mount the card holder. Note the cult classic Voodoo 5 5500 video card in our tech station.
  1. And that's it! Start enjoying the benefits of being caseless - better airflow, less case-cut hands and easy peasy upgrades. For the full effect, sit your drives on top of the tech station with your power supply to one side. Sure, it's noisy, but it looks just great.
  1. The best way to power the station on and off is with a set of modified controls. You can always use the screwdriver method to jumper the power pins on the motherboard together, but here we've opted to wire up some LEDs and a few tiny switches to control our tech station.