How to Make a Wooden Computer Case for a Garage Computer
Build | Garage

Building a Computer from Scrap Wood

I’ve tinkered with the idea of a garage computer for some time. 

I use 3D design software for a lot of projects, creating designs on my office computer and then making printouts with handwritten dimensions.

The problem with that is I can’t rotate the objects in the printouts – or zoom in to see more detail.   

It would be nice to just have a computer down there in the garage so I can view my model data in a more real-time and interactive format. I could definitely see it boosting my productivity during projects in the garage. It would be like having an interactive garage assistant.  

Technically I could just use a laptop down there. However, a workshop filled with sawdust is not ideal for me to bring my laptop in and out of.

So, a dedicated computer customized to better suit my workshop would be superb.

Unique Twist on a Custom-Made Computer

Being a computer guy practically my whole life, I’ve built a lot of computers from scratch. Once you’ve built one, the task becomes pretty straightforward and repetitive.

For my garage computer idea, I wanted to try something different.

Besides, my garage was already full of unique inventions (see my folding workbench or sliding storage shelf project). So, becoming an addition to my garage requires a certain level of oomph.

Here’s what a weekend of work resulted in:

How to Make a Wooden Computer Case for a Garage Computer

The insides of a computer are fairly standard and not that exciting to look at. To garner attention, you’d want to focus on a fancy exterior.  

So for my garage computer to earn an admission ticket into the garage, I decided to figure out how to build computer case out of wood – something I had never done before.

Simple Intro to Computer Design

Before I jump into details of my project, it may help a bit to know a little about how computers are built today. So, here’s a quick primer on computer design, in case you’re not too familiar with the topic.

A barebones computer system contains the following parts:

How to Build a Computer for the Garage or Workshop

Computer Case

The case just houses all the components. Technically you could build a computer without a case (which I have in the past – you can get pretty creative with a bunch of computer hardware and a milk crate), but leaving all those parts exposed increases the likelihood of physical damage.

Motherboard with CPU and Memory

The motherboard is a large circuit board that almost every part plugs into and allows all these parts to talk to each other. Parts on the motherboard are typically fixed and non-customizable, with the exception of the CPU and memory.

The CPU is the brain of the computer and performs most of the calculations necessary for you to surf the web or do your taxes.

Memory is a necessity for the computer to operate. In general, the more memory you have, the better performance you’ll see, as more programs can run simultaneously.

Hard Drive and Power Supply

A hard drive stores all of your programs and documents. The bigger your hard drive, the more data you can keep.

A power supply distributes power from your electrical outlet to the various components inside the computer. Without a power supply, your computer is just a large paper weight.

Keeping It Cool

Cooling fans help maintain a proper operating temperature inside the case. Ideally, you have a fan pulling cool air into your case (where it is heated up by different parts – mainly your CPU) and another fan exhausting the hot air.

That’s it for minimum requirements for building a computer.  

Now that you are enlightened, unto my custom build.

How to Build a Computer from Scratch

For this homemade computer, I wanted to make the case as small as possible, so I focused on using small parts to fit the bill. Now that you have a basic understanding of computer parts, here are the parts I used for this DIY computer.

Choosing the Right Motherboard

After some motherboard research, I settled on a Mini ITX version. These are small boards meant to fit in small cases.

There are lots of Mini ITX motherboards on the market. The one I bought came with a CPU already. Actually, it was a CPU/GPU hybrid chip (GPUs boost the graphics performance on your computer, like how smoothly I could rotate my 3D designs in tinkercad), so that was a nice bonus.  

How to Build a Computer from Scratch

Passive Cooling

Even better, my motherboard came with a passive cooling system. Most CPUs get really hot and need a metal heatsink (a metal block with lots of fins) and fan directly on top to dissipate the heat.  

This extra hardware equates to more space needed in my case. 

A passive cooling system ditches the fan for just a low profile heat sink, and relies on the case doing a good cooling job. Passive cooling really only works on low powered CPUs, such as the one that came with my Mini ITX motherboard.

Additional Components

As for the rest of the components, I had a 4 GB memory stick lying around from previous builds that would be adequate for my usage.

I also had a spare 64 GB solid state drive (SSD) that I was able to reuse. An SSD type hard drive was a must-have for this build. They are a lot more reliable than alternative mechanical hard drives, and also take up a lot less physical space.

Here’s the hard drive and memory stick I used:

How to Build a Computer from Scratch

Finally, for cooling fans, I used spare ones lying around my office:

How to Build a Computer from Scratch - Cooling Fans

How to Build a Computer Case from Wood

Once the computer was built, I was ready to move on to building the computer case out of wood. It was a pretty simple process.

Assembling the Case

Constructing the case was pretty easy. Using the measurements from my design, I cut various shapes and lengths of wood. Then I used a combination of wood glue, screws and finishing nails to secure everything together.

Power Supply Holder

Here’s the power supply section coming together:

How to Build a Wooden Computer Case for a Workshop Computer

Motherboard Risers

Here I have motherboard risers in place (six wooden pegs that the motherboard will rest on):

Motherboard risers on a DIY wooden computer case

Here’s a close-up of one of the risers, showing a screw that will secure the motherboard to the case:

Building a homemade wooden computer case - motherboard risers

Cooling Fan Brackets

Next I made plywood cutouts for the cool fan mounting brackets:

How to Build a Wooden Computer Case from Scratch

Almost Done with the Case

The case design was mostly completed at this point:

How to Make a Wooden Computer Case

Installing a Plexiglass Window

To complete the design, I needed a piece of plywood for the cover. To give the case some more character though, I decided to put a plexiglass window in the cover.

Here I am using a Forstner drill bit to make rounded corners for the window:

Making a homemade DIY wooden computer case from scrap wood

Next I used a jigsaw to cut out the rest of the window:

Making a plexiglass cover for a wooden computer case

To install the plexiglass, I cut it slightly larger than the hole. Then I attached it to the cover with some screws.

Here’s what the plexiglass looked like from underneath:

How to Make a Plexiglass Cover for a homemade computer

Here’s what the cover looks like from the outside (I had given the cover a coat of yellow paint by now):

How to Make a Homemade Wooden Computer Case from Scrap Wood

Applying Paint and Polyurethane

With the whole case spray painted yellow, I decided to give it a few coats of polyurethane to make it shine.

Look how glossy a little polyurethane make things:

How to Make a Computer Case Out of Wood

Installing the Electronics

With the case was completed, I could install all the electronics:

How to Build a Computer Case out of Wood

Shining Light on the Situation

For a final wow factor, I added some yellow LED lights to the interior.  

Here is the case lit up at night:

How to Make a DIY Computer Case out of Wood

Mounting in the Garage

To install in the garage, I built a simple wooden mount for the computer and attached it to the wall:

How to Build a Garage Computer for Assistance in the Workshop

Controlling My Garage Computer

To control the computer from anywhere in the garage, I’m using a mini wireless keyboard with built in touchpad.  

I also use a wireless trackball mouse too for when I need extra precision.

How to Build a Wooden Case for a Garage Computer

This was a really fun project to work on. It put a nice twist on the mundane task of building a computer.  

Not only does the computer look really cool in the garage (especially in the dark with the LED lights turned on), but its been a huge time-saver for me.  

I just have to look up at the screen when I need measurements for cuts or to plan out last minute design changes.

Time and Cost

In total, the project took a weekend to complete (mainly because of the paint/polyurethane drying times). Final cost was around $150 for the electronics.  

No cost for the case as it was made from scrap wood lying around the garage.

Have you built a computer of your own? Share your design with me!

How to Make a Wooden Workshop Computer

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30 Comments

  1. Fun to watch and really I couldn’t do that if I tried. I’ll tell you what you make me one and I’ll make you a pan of Lasagna! bwahahaha that’s about all I’m good at. Have a great week and thanks for sharing… super interesting…

  2. Very creative! It would be unique and great on a budget. We build a computer about once every five to eight years, this would definitely be a fun project to work on.

  3. This is absolutely amazing. I’m not sure I could make something like it, but i still find it amazing. Thank you for sharing at The Really Crafty Link Party. Pinned.

  4. What a fun project! My husband is always into building computers, I’m forwarding this to him! (Although kind of hoping it doesn’t give him ideas, he spends enough time on it as it is!) Thanks for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove

  5. You’ve blown my mind with this post! I wouldn’t know where to start! Thanks for sharing with #TriumphantTales, please do come back on Tuesday to celebrate our 1st Birthday, we have a surprise in store!

  6. I showed this project to my son who has built several computers but never with a custom case like this. He was impressed and intrigued. Nice job! Thanks for sharing with us at Creatively Crafty #ccbg 🙂 I will be featuring your project this week. Have a great day!

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