Building a custom ITX HTPC computer with wooden case mod – Part 3

Welcome back for yet another riveting post on my computer building adventures.

If you haven’t read Part 1 or Part 2 of this excellent writing exercise, well you oughta!

So now I have the box for the case. What I’m going to do next is making some measurements and working out how everything will fit in, then I will start on cutting and drilling process.

To do this though, I am going to need a few tools. Here’s some of the tools I used during that process. I hope some may find this useful as a guide.

Dremel 4000

The Dremel 4000. Some of you might have heard of it. For those who haven’t yet, there’s a great intro for it on Jeff Atwood’s website in his 2011 Gifts for geeks article.

The Mighty Dremel 4000

I purchased it – well, requested it as a timely birthday present – in good faith from reading about it in articles such a the above-mentioned review, and I must say it’s been an excellent tool to work on the box.

In addition to everything that has already been said, if you are going to work on a wooden box with a Dremel 4000, there are a few accessories which have been incredibly helpful and that you should definitely consider.

The magic Dremel cutting wheel

The Dremel kits usually come with a set of standard cutting wheels and cut-off wheel. This one however, you must buy separately – I don’t think it exists in any kit – and it is a bit pricier than the standard one but it is well worth it.

That cutting wheel is the EZ544 EZ Lock™ 1-1/2″ Carbide Cutting Wheel.

EZ544 Carbide Cutting Wheel

This thing cuts through wood so easily and, compared to the standard cutting wheels, it’s practically indestructible (I have only bought one). It is seriously awesome.

Note: This is for wood, do not try this wheel on metal.


Although the Dremel makes a pretty good all purpose cutting tools, it can be a bit bulky to handle which may limit the precision of your cuts.

The 225 Flex Shaft Attachment really is a must if you’re going to do precision work.

225-01 Flex Shaft Attachment

Some Dremel 4000 kits come with this attachment – mine did – so check and make sure you’re not getting one already, otherwise you can buy it as a separate attachment.

You will need something to hang the dremel off when using this. You can build one yourself, use a hook or get one of the other accessories that allow you to hang it off (the 2222 or the 220-01 Workstation both allow that)

The magic Dremel fix everything

This particular item did not show its true might until I got well into the project but it has saved my ass so many time that it is well worth a mention. That particular item is the 194 High Speed Cutter or the fix everything as I like to call it.

194 High Speed Cutter

Combined with the flex shaft above, this thing will allow you to make tiny correction to your cuts, grind and polish rough cuts, to a good degree of precision.

There are other sizes of high speed cutters but this would was definitely the most versatile for the type of work I was doing.

Enough talking about the Dremel. What else did I use?

Quick Grips Mini Clamps

Oh boy! I had bought a bunch of standard G clamps as I would likely need to hold things down while cutting & drilling. I also bought a couple of Quick Grips Clamps, pretty much as a total impulse and holy donkey have I been using them!

One-Handed Mini Bar Clamps

I’m not 100% sure but I get the feeling this is proprietary to the Irwin brand, haven’t seen them by another manufacturer (correct me if I’m wrong).

Anyway, these things are excellent for that kind of work as you can move them around really fast and since the ending is plastic you can get a pretty good grip on a wooden panel without living any marks or causing any damage.

Seriously helpful.

A Calliper

I also acquired a calliper as I needed to confirm measurements on multiple items (buttons, plugs, screws, etc). It’s a simple handy tool to have.

I was really hoping to find a simple good quality mechanical one – apparently called a vernier calliper – but these are near impossible to find in hardware stores these days. They’ve all been replaced by digital ones with tons of features I really don’t need (mine apparently has some kind of serial bus like RS232 or something, goody!).

Since that was the only choice, I ended up buying one, and it did the job fine.

A Drill

I was fortunate enough to be given a drill as a birthday present a couple of years ago so I didn’t need to purchase one just for this project.

Death to the imperial

Although fortunate to have been given a drill for my birthday a couple of years ago, I was also given an imperial drill bits set and I do feel the need to briefly dwell into the notable insanity that is the imperial drill set.

For those who don’t know the imperial system, it’s a measure system that includes among others a unit called the foot, yet they don’t even use that to measure shoe sizes!

Maybe it is because I was born in a different country where the mighty metric system rules with an iron, standardised, fist but dealing with the imperial system is such a pain in the everything that hurts.

Trying to use it to measure things precisely makes so little sense.

And nothing showcases its insanity better than the imperial drill bit set.


Goddam Imperial Drill Bits

Son of a diddly!

Right, so the first size is 1/16, then the next one is of course 5/64, followed by 3/32.. then why not 7/64? how about 1/8?

That’s right, your drill bit set sizes are going to be given in fractions of inches. Can’t think what the next size up from 11/64 was? turns out it’s 3/16, obviously.

Hey, you know what? I’ve got an electronic calliper to measure diameters. I can switch between millimiters or inches. That sounds great, but do you think it’s going to give me the matching fraction or a number like 0.00139? Great, now need a calculator just to workout the drill bit sizes.

This is insane..

Death to the imperial system!

(Note to self: Must buy a metric drill set when I get a chance)

Wood spades

Although I had my precious drill bit set already, the set only covers holes up to a certain size.

As you may have read in Part 1, the front panel switch had a 16mm diameter shaft, which I could drill with the set.

If you need to drill slightly bigger holes in a wood surface, the best options are wood spade bits.

Here’s what a wood spade bit look like:

Wood Spade Bit

The ones I bought were wood spade bits from Irwin, but I’m pretty sure there a few other brand making them.

They look like they’re going to be causing damage but they actually do some rather delicate drilling and are quite precise. Clever things.

A good tip – which I think I heard on a woodwork DIY video on YouTube (I know, I know) – is to put another wood plank behind the panel you are going to be drilling through (holding them together with a clamp). This can prevent the back part of the panel to chip when the drill comes out on the other side.

Other tools

Obviously, you’ll need a few basic things, like screw drivers, spanners, etc. Probably not worth going further in details with these. I’ve also used a few electronic-related tools but I’ll cover these more in details in a later chapter, this page details only those used to put the box together.

Ok, here’s the bulk of the tools I’ll need to put the box together.

In Part 4, I will go further in details with the box surgery

Soon to be continued in Part 4

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Building a custom ITX HTPC computer with wooden case mod – Part 3 by Dog In The Hat is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
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