ANTONY LEATHER SHOWS YOU HOW TO GEAR UP YOUR TOOLBOX WITH THE BEST EQUIPMENT TO MODIFY YOUR PC
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 www.diy.com 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.amazon.co.uk 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)
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.amazon.co.uk 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.clasohlson.com/uk 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 www.reichelt.de 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.amazon.co.uk 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.hobbycraft.co.uk 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.amazon.co.uk 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.screwfix.com 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.amazon.co.uk 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.amazon.co.uk 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.aquatuning.co.uk 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.aquatuning.co.uk 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.amazon.co.uk 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.