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AzTtec by dmcgrath

AzTtec by dmcgrath

Project log: Here

Wood is an interesting material to work with. However, while it's much softer than metal, or even acrylic, this doesn't mean it's necessarily an easy thing to work with when it comes to modding. Even more challenging is making the end result look good, rather than a first grade woodwork project that's covered in fingerprints of PVA glue.

dmcgrath talks us through his unique-looking Thermaltake Level 10 GT mod, AzTtec, and how he mastered using balsa foam (actually a form of expanded plastic) to make his project look more like an Aztec artifact than a PC. It's over to Dan...

During the submission time line of a contest for modding Thermaltake's Level 10 GT, I chanced upon an amazing substance called Balsa Foam. The natural texture it created, as it was carved, looked and felt a bit like sand stone. Thus was born the Mayan mod. As soon as I had gotten an approval to be a contestant I got to work on carving tests. The little Mayan chief was really just an experiment. But it was such a successful experiment, that I had to keep it.

AzTtec by dmcgrath AzTtec by dmcgrath
Click to enlarge

To gain confidence with this mod, I just had to go for it. I had only around 60 days and a lot of work ahead of me. So the chassis arrived, and I tore it down to its basic parts. And my confidence grew just by seeing that thing take shape before my eyes. I was really intimidated at first. Here was this fantastic case (I had only ever owned a beige rectangular box before I started modding) and I was supposed to tear it to pieces and make something from the mess of it.

AzTtec by dmcgrath AzTtec by dmcgrath
Click to enlarge

I really did my research. I went to every place online I could find, art websites, forums, Google searches, among others. I even went to my local library, yeah, they still have those! I created a sort of collage on several sheets of paper, along with my own drawings, to use as my source materiel. The only direct copy/transfer I did was the calendar though. I had to have that as close to exact as I could get it. I was really trying to not only do it well but to give it respect. The real calendar, heck even some smaller copies, are very detailed works in themselves. And I refused to make a sham of that effort.

AzTtec by dmcgrath AzTtec by dmcgrath
Click to enlarge

As for tools, they were pretty basic. I used a small etching spike, some Dremel bits fit into a craft knife handle, and my specialty tool. It's a little air bulb thing they give you at the hospital after your kid is born. It's to help clear out snot from the infant's nose until they can learn to blow. Now it's got a great re-purposing job of blowing air to remove carving dust from where I'm working.