Mod­der’s toolkit


Custom PC - - CONTENTS -

From Dremels to hole­saws, Antony Leather shows you how to gear up your tool­box for PC modding.

You don’t need a vast se­lec­tion of tools to get into PC modding. A few se­lect items will en­able you to do the ba­sics, such as cut­ting side­panel win­dows, adding ra­di­a­tor blow holes and deal­ing with rigid tub­ing, but you’ll find that hav­ing ex­actly the right gear re­ally helps with more com­pli­cated jobs. Over the next few pages, we’ll look at the gear you need to per­form spe­cific tasks, as well as more in­volved ones such as ex­ten­sively modding your case, or even build­ing your own one.

We’ve also added a cou­ple of wa­ter­cool­ing es­sen­tial tools, but omit­ted the ob­vi­ous tools such as screw­drivers, Allen key sets, files and Stan­ley knives, as they’re com­mon­place in your av­er­age tool­box. You should also wear eye pro­tec­tion and face masks where ap­pro­pri­ate, and al­ways take care with sharp tools and power tools.

Dremel 3000/£ 45 inc VAT SUP­PLIER USE­FUL FOR Sand­ing, cut­ting and en­grav­ing nearly any ma­te­rial

The Dremel 3000 and Dremel 4000 are ba­si­cally just ro­tary tools (small drills that can take at­tach­ments), but the sheer num­ber of qual­ity ac­ces­sories that are avail­able for Dremel’s own ro­tary tools of­ten means they’re the go-to op­tion for mod­ders. We love them be­cause they of­fer enough grunt to deal with a wide va­ri­ety of tasks, from en­grav­ing to cut­ting through small sec­tions of sheet steel.

The Dremel 3000 is our favourite model, as it has the power to deal with any job its ac­ces­sories can han­dle plus, un­like some mod­els, it’s com­pat­i­ble with all of Dremel’s at­tach­ments and ac­ces­sories. The Dremel 4000 is a lit­tle more pow­er­ful and has a wider speed range, while the bat­tery­pow­ered 8200 gives you a cord­less tool. How­ever, the lat­ter is only good for small tasks – not a day of modding – and isn’t com­pat­i­ble with all the at­tach­ments ei­ther.

Ro­tary tool cut­ting discs/£ 10 inc VAT (Dremel SpeedClic re­in­forced disc kit); £1.20 inc VAT (light duty Sil­ver­line disc kit) SUP­PLIER www.ama­ USE­FUL FOR Cut­ting acrylic and met­als

There are sev­eral types of cut­ting discs for deal­ing with dif­fer­ent ma­te­ri­als. The stan­dard 1in discs are cheap and can deal with most ma­te­ri­als – it’s also worth pay­ing more money for a smaller quan­tity of re­in­forced discs, as they last much longer. It’s best to deal with met­als in small bursts at high speeds, while plas­tics should be cut at low to medium speeds to pre­vent the plas­tic melt­ing. The stan­dard discs are very del­i­cate, so avoid leav­ing them in the tool. You can also buy larger 1.5in re­in­forced discs for deal­ing with steel. With a steady hand, it’s pos­si­ble to cut through 30cm or so of 3mm sheet steel, although us­ing a jig­saw will take less time.

Ro­tary tool drum san­ders/£ 7 inc VAT (80-piece kit)

SUP­PLIER www.ama­

USE­FUL FOR Fil­ing rough edges and shap­ing Drum san­ders are cheap and ex­tremely use­ful – they’re es­sen­tially round pieces of sand­pa­per that can save you a lot of time com­pared to man­u­ally sand­ing. They’re great for work­ing along the edges of re­cently cut ma­te­rial or en­larg­ing holes. Be care­ful when us­ing them on soft ma­te­ri­als such as plas­tics and wood, though, as they’ll eat into them quickly – it’s best to use them on a medium speed.

Ro­tary tool Hakkin en­grav­ing tips/ £9 inc VAT (20-piece kit)

SUP­PLIER www.ama­ USE­FUL FOR En­grav­ing metal and plas­tic Best used with Dremel’s Flex­i­ble Shaft at­tach­ment, en­grav­ing tips are per­fect for scor­ing through paint and into metal to ap­ply your own en­grav­ing de­sign. The cone­shaped tip is good for out­lines, while ball­shaped tips can fill in larger ar­eas and can also be use­ful for deal­ing with thick paint on side pan­els. You’ll want to use them at a medium speed.

Dremel Flex­i­ble Shaft/£ 30 inc VAT

SUP­PLIER www.cla­ USE­FUL FOR Pre­ci­sion work such as en­grav­ing If the bulk of the Dremel is pre­vent­ing you from do­ing a job, due to its size or weight, then the Flex­i­ble Shaft is here to help. It re­places the end lock­ing ring that’s present on mains-pow­ered Dremel mod­els, such as the 3000 and 4000,

con­nect­ing an in­ter­nal shaft to the mo­tor, so you can in­stall Dremel at­tach­ments on the end of the shaft in­stead. You do lose some torque, but there’s still enough power for most tasks, and you’ll find it makes en­grav­ing and sand­ing much eas­ier, es­pe­cially with del­i­cate tasks. It’s an es­sen­tial ad­di­tion to your tool­box if you own a com­pat­i­ble Dremel.

Prox­xon 27006 ta­ble saw/£ 87 inc VAT

SUP­PLIER­ USE­FUL FOR Long, straight cuts in thin­sheet wood, plas­tic and alu­minium If you’ll be deal­ing with lots of sheet ma­te­rial, such as acrylic or alu­minium, then con­sider buy­ing a ta­ble saw. There’s a huge range of mod­els avail­able, but you don’t need a mas­sive space for one. In fact, Prox­xon’s 27006 mini ta­ble saw fits in­side a shoe­box, and it’s is fan­tas­tic for cut­ting wood and acrylic sheet up to 5mm thick and alu­minium up to 2mm thick. There are sev­eral types of blades avail­able too. A cir­cu­lar saw blade sits in the mid­dle of the ta­ble area with a guide rail on one side, al­low­ing you to sim­ply move the ma­te­rial in a straight line

down the ta­ble for a dead-straight cut. There’s no limit to the length of ma­te­rial you can cut ei­ther, and it of­ten cuts faster and more cleanly than a jig­saw, of­ten need­ing no fil­ing ei­ther. This model is ideal if you’re lim­ited on space and bud­get, but larger, more pow­er­ful mod­els only cost a lit­tle more and can deal with thicker ma­te­ri­als as well as steel.

Am-Tech Rivet gun/ £5 inc VAT

SUP­PLIER www.ama­ USE­FUL FOR Con­nect­ing your case back to­gether after drilling out riv­ets for spray­ing The most com­mon need for a rivet gun is to reap­ply riv­ets to your case once you’ve drilled them out to dis­man­tle it. Re­mov­ing the riv­ets is es­sen­tial if you want to spray the in­side of your case, so you can get the paint into all the nooks and cran­nies, or if you want to cut out holes for wa­ter-cool­ing com­po­nents. Once you’re done, the rivet gun squeezes new riv­ets to­gether, lock­ing two pan­els in place. You’ll need the cor­rect size riv­ets for the holes, which are read­ily avail­able on­line.

Glue gun/£ 5 inc VAT

SUP­PLIER www.hob­by­ USE­FUL FOR Pro­vid­ing a quick, strong and flex­i­ble way to stick ob­jects and ma­te­ri­als to­gether A glue gun can be ex­tremely use­ful in PC modding, thanks to the speed the glue sets and the strength and flex­i­bil­ity of the join – just make sure the glue is out of sight, as it can look un­sightly once dry. A glue gun of­fers cheap way to glue ob­jects to­gether – it’s cheaper than buy­ing end­less sticky pads, and it can be more ef­fec­tive than 3M’s leg­endary mount­ing tape too.

Step drill/£ 6 inc VAT

SUP­PLIER www.ama­ USE­FUL FOR Elim­i­nat­ing the need to swap drill bits or drill pi­lot holes If you’re tired of swap­ping be­tween drill bits, then some sim­ple step drills could blow your mind with their use­ful­ness. They’re cone-shaped drill bits with stepped di­am­e­ters that in­crease by 1 or 2mm in­cre­ments, en­abling you to use a sin­gle tool to drill a va­ri­ety of hole sizes. They’re avail­able in a range of widths too, start­ing from 4mm for a pi­lot hole to up to around 30mm. A step drill can re­place dozens of in­di­vid­ual bits. The depth of each seg­ment means they’re lim­ited to cut­ting sheet ma­te­ri­als, but that’s fine for PC cases, and they can be used as stan­dard drill bits too.

Cop­ing saw/£ 14 inc VAT

SUP­PLIER www.screw­ USE­FUL FOR Cut­ting rigid tub­ing, and cut­ting acrylic, wood and met­als cheaply The cheap­est way to cut al­most any ma­te­rial is with a cop­ing saw and, thanks to a va­ri­ety of blades, they can deal with wood, acrylic and metal. The blade is much smaller than that of a hack­saw, and can be de­tached and threaded through a pi­lot hole. The blade can of­ten be an­gled too, mean­ing that there’s no limit to the depth of cut. They’re great for cut­ting rigid tub­ing, and a steady hand can achieve a rel­a­tively straight line too, al­beit with some fil­ing needed af­ter­wards.

Hole­saw kit/£ 9 inc VAT

SUP­PLIER www.ama­ USE­FUL FOR Cut­ting holes larger than drill bits can achieve Whether you’re cut­ting a fan blow hole, mount­ing a power but­ton or rout­ing tub­ing out of your case to an ex­ter­nal ra­di­a­tor, a hole­saw is a use­ful tool, along with a stan­dard drill to hold it. Hole­saws are avail­able in a range of sizes, and even come in kits with blades up to around 130mm in di­am­e­ter, plus you can usu­ally buy var­i­ous sizes in­di­vid­u­ally. If you’ll mainly be deal­ing with one size of hole, the blade qual­ity of in­di­vid­ual bits is of­ten bet­ter than those found in kits.

Sil­ver­line Dig­i­tal Vernier Cal­liper/£ 14 inc VAT

SUP­PLIER www.ama­ USE­FUL FOR Tak­ing pre­cise mea­sure­ments of ob­jects and holes Us­ing a ruler to mea­sure the size of a screw thread or hole in your case is never go­ing to be

ac­cu­rate, but thank­fully there’s a rel­a­tively cheap tool that can do this job down to hun­dredths of a mil­lime­tre. A dig­i­tal Vernier cal­liper can be one of the best pur­chases you make, and you’ll find it use­ful for all sorts of jobs, es­pe­cially if you start ex­ten­sively mod­i­fy­ing your cases or build­ing your own. Most Vernier cal­lipers have two mea­sur­ing por­tions, which can gauge dis­tances around the out­side or in­side of an ob­ject. You’ll have the op­tion of us­ing var­i­ous scales too, depend­ing on whether you have a met­ric or im­pe­rial brain. Best of all, you don’t need to spend more than £20 to get one that will do the job – just make sure you opt for a metal one.

Dr Drop/£ 25 inc VAT

SUP­PLIER www.aquatun­ USE­FUL FOR Dry leak-test­ing your wa­ter-cool­ing loop A rev­o­lu­tion in leak test­ing oc­curred re­cently when some­one hit on the idea of us­ing a com­mon au­to­mo­tive main­te­nance tech­nique for iden­ti­fy­ing leaks in PC wa­ter-cool­ing sys­tems. By com­press­ing the air in­side a wa­ter-cool­ing loop and check­ing for pres­sure drops, you can iden­tify leaks with­out even fill­ing the loop with coolant. The Dr Drop is a ded­i­cated tool for the job, com­bin­ing a bi­cy­cle pump, pres­sure gauge and G1/4in thread to con­nect to your cool­ing sys­tem. Sim­ply build your loop, con­nect the pump, ap­ply up to 6psi, de­tach the pump sec­tion and see if the pres­sure falls. If it doesn’t drop, then you’re good to go.

ATX jumper/£ 2 inc VAT

SUP­PLIER www.aquatun­ USE­FUL FOR Pow­er­ing your pump with­out the rest of your PC when leak-test­ing Once you’ve used the Dr Drop pres­sure tester, it’s still a good idea to power on your sys­tem with coolant for the first time with­out power go­ing to the rest of the com­po­nents, which is where an ATX jumper is an es­sen­tial tool. Sim­ply dis­con­nect all the power ca­bles from your PC’s com­po­nents, but hook up the pump to the PSU. At­tach the ATX jumper to the ATX con­nec­tor with the PSU pow­ered off. When you power on the PSU, the jumper shorts the usual power pins and will fire up the PSU and, in turn, the pump. This way, noth­ing else will be pow­ered, so your hard­ware will be safe if there is a leak.

Wet and dry sand­pa­per/£ 8 inc VAT

SUP­PLIER www.ama­ USE­FUL FOR Paint prep­ping, sand­ing and CPU lap­ping An es­sen­tial part of paint­ing will in­volve sand­ing both the orig­i­nal sur­face and the primer. You may even have ap­plied filler that needs to be sanded down. In all these cases, you’ll need wet and dry sand­pa­per. By adding wa­ter to the mix, a grind­ing paste is cre­ated that al­lows for a much smoother fin­ish than nor­mal sand­pa­per, es­pe­cially at the finer end of the scale. For just £8 on Ama­zon, we found a bril­liant se­lec­tion of 36 pa­pers, from coarse 400-grit pa­per all the way up to fine 3,000-grit pa­per, all in hand-sized sheets with four sheets per grit level.

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