Half of the fun of modding is trying something new, even if it's been done before and of course, even if you make a hash of it. For this reason, building your own case (otherwise known as a scratchbuild) is considered the ultimate modding challenge. You'll need to not only design the shape and layout of the case, but also think about the materials you'll use, how you'll cut and shape them, and even smaller details like to how to create the I/O panel and make sure it lines up with the motherboard. You'll also need to consider cooling.
Many modders make building your own case look easy
The plus side is that you can create a case that's completely tailored to your needs and made completely in your own image. If this has lit a flame of inspiration but you've never built a PC case from scratch before, then you'll be glad to know that despite having been on the modding and water-cooling scenes for over ten years, I’ve never actually built an entire PC case from scratch either.
I’ve certainly modded them beyond all recognition and combined several cases into one, but I’ve never taken to pen and paper or Google SketchUp with a blank canvas and designed a case that I intend to build.
This isn’t for lack of wanting to – it’s always been something I’ve thought about, but off-the-shelf cases have usually managed to satisfy my needs for a good base for a mod. However, small form factor cases are usually boxy HTPC-types or small cubes – neither of which appealed to me when I was planning this project.
They’re also rarely any good for a high-end PC, and since I’ll be combining both small size and high-end components (and all the difficulties they bring in terms of heat), I decided a few months ago that I’d build my next PC from scratch.
So what’s the difference between this article (actually it will be a series of articles), and a project log in our forum? Well, not a lot really, except this project will be a part guide, part project log and will hopefully answer lots of requests that have been thrown my way about how to go about making your own case - a 'noobs guide' to scratchbuilds if you will, focusing on a first-timer's approach and assuming you have little more than a Dremel at your disposal.
It will also, I hope, serve to inspire the more casual visitor to get involved in modding by appearing outside our forum and showing that making your own case isn’t as impossible as you might think (if I can do it, anyone can).
Each installment will include both an update on the project’s progress, the tools I’ve used and also any advice I've received or guides I found useful (feel free to comment as I go along). This first part covers the design phase and also choosing hardware, with future updates looking at making your own waterblocks and USB ports, dealing with acrylic and aluminium and of course all the small details and things you can't plan for.
Head over the page to see the first update and feel free to send us your comments and advice to firstname.lastname@example.org - if your advice is particularly useful we'll include it in the next update.
You can also see Part 2 of our Scratchbuilt PC guide.