Foreword by Ricahrd Swinburne:This scratch build case is inspired by the Art Deco stylings of 1920s and 1930s Zenith radios, but despite looking back so far in time for inspiration, it still has modern features such as integrated watercooling. Gary has hand cut, sanded and altogether modded a complete build using inspiration of the classic design as ground work. Without a bit of clever handy work (and without looking around the back) you probably couldn't tell this was a post-Millennium product.
We asked Gary to put us together a project log and he provided us with over 8,600 words of detail to go with the several hundred build pictures: for those of you who have a desire for detail: you've got it here! We'll pass it over to Gary now, so he can lead you through this feast of a magnificent mod.
As I enjoy the design and building process, I find myself again working on another custom wood case design. A few years ago, I became so disgruntled with cases not designed for watercooling that I decided to make my own. Since I like to work with wood, this material was my natural choice. This case is my fourth custom case build.
There was a time in particular during the early 20th century when for several decades there was an emphasis on aesthetic quality and workmanship in furniture made for the home. This extended to the central electronic device of the era, namely the radio. My last case I modeled after many of the furniture and architectural designs of the early 20th century with the idea of building a custom watercooled case that would have fit the time period had it been built then.
For this build, I wanted to take things one step further by designing this case directly after a particular model of antique radio. Many radio collectors frequently collect radios built during the 1920s and 1930s because of their stylish appearances. I am not a radio collector in any way, but I do have an appreciation for the styling of many of these radios.
My plan is to build a performance minded system with a regular ATX motherboard with mid-sized tower dimensions. I considered changing to micro-ATX, but given the proportions of the radios that I have researched, using micro-ATX offers me no real benefit as far as size goes.
I spent a lot of time researching and looking around at literally hundreds of antique radio pictures online. Many radios do not have a shape that can reasonably be replicated for use as a computer due to the space and placement constraints of components. It is also necessary to find really good pictures of a radio in order to be able to build a case after it. There are a number of radios that I could build after and like, but there simply aren't enough detailed photos of them to come up with a fairly accurate design.
After doing a lot of research, I ran across the 1930s Zenith 5-S-29.
Click to enlarge
My daughter really likes the look of this radio, which was one vote for sure in its favor, but I also found that I could get a replica radio dial, dial glass, escutcheon (dial bezel), and knobs for it. Buying the replica parts is costing me about $120, but it will add a very genuine look and feel to the case.