IKEA Expedit compatible NAS server wood case [Scratch Build]

zrav

Limp Gawd
Joined
Sep 22, 2011
Messages
182
Hi all,

here's the work log of my current humble DIY project, a wooden NAS server case. This is technically not an IKEA hack, as none of their stuff is being modded.

The motivation for this project is of practical nature. A series of home improvements ended up revealing that my NAS, currently housed in a Sharkoon Rebel 12, was taking too much space in my small apartment, and that ideally it would move into an existing shelf. So I started out looking for a case that would fit the following requirements:
  • Must fit into an IKEA Expedit/Kallax shelf, which means a box of no more than 33.5 x 33.5 x 39cm.
  • Must hold an ATX size board, at least ten 3.5" and at least two 2.5" disks.
  • Decent ventilation
  • Living room compatible, i.e. clean visuals and low noise
Some COTS cases were pretty close, like the Fractal Design Node 804 or Lian-Li V33, but which failed on the maximum allowed dimensions or available disk space. I also looked for existing DIY PC case projects or IKEA hacks, of which there are plenty, but none that would fit the requirements. I'm actually a bit surprised no manufacturer has made cases yet that explicitly integrate with IKEA furniture, as I'm sure you can find it in many homes.

Anyway, I decided to design and build my own. I've been building computers for almost 20 years, but this is my first real foray into modding, so I'm curious what the experience will be like :)

Using SketchUp I played around with some ideas until I settled for a concept of a wood case split into upper and lower part that opens like a chest, with the 3.5" disks sitting upright in the lower part, Backblaze Pod style, and the mainboard attached upside down in the upper part. I refined the design over the course of 2 weeks until I was happy and proceeded to order the materials.

The boxes are made of 12mm beech plywood.

5OqGMXM.png


To hold the disks in place I plan to use Forex sheets (hard foamed PVC slabs) with holes cut out.

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Space for thirteen disks, four SSDs and five 14cm fans.

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Technically I'm already ahead a few days of work, but I'll post the stuff to eventually catch up.
 
I settled for internal base area of 36 x 31cm, which results in external base dimensions of 38.4 x 33.4cm. I ordered the plywood and forex cut to the right size. Upon arrival I checked for tolerances, which were mostly near 0, but a few pieces were up to 1 mm off, which isn't perfect, but good enough to work with.

After some initial sanding I drew the basic cutting shapes on the plywood, drilled a few sawing holes and proceeded to jigsaw.

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I few hours later I had this:

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Theres definitely a limit to how precise one can make rounded cuts with a jigsaw and a minimal setup. It should be noted that I am DIY handicapped in that I do not have a workshop (it's all done in the confines of an apartment) and only basic tools (drill, jigsaw and a borrowed sander, apart from manual tools).
I realize I could have gone with CNC milled or laser cut plywood, but I chose the cheaper (and labor intensive and less precise) way.

In the image above you'll note that I also made a clearance for the protruding PSU power plug using a chisel.


Before even starting the project I was looking for a usable mainboard tray and backpanel, or something to replace it with. Interestingly, there aren't many options for ATX sized boards. So I gutted an old Sharkoon Rebel 9 case, drilling out all its rivets to get the individual parts, then cutting tray and backpanel to the proper dimensions with tin snips. Also some bending with pliers was necessary. The inner case dimensions limit the mainboard tray and backpanel to 31cm in length, which is barely enough to allow an intact rectangle hole in the backpanel for the IO shield. Cutting the backpanel sheet while leaving as little as a 2mm thin metal strip without deforming it was quite tricky.

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...and with an old mobo installed for testing.

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Sub'd.... very interested to see the completed build. Only concern would be noise from the open intakes. Keep up the good work :cool:
 
Well, the current Sharkoon Rebel 12 is also quite "open" case with no dampening at all, and the noise level is acceptable, I'm sitting 1m from it atm (though I decoupled the disks using Vibe Fixer III's). I'm more concerned with wood boxes easily becoming resonant bodies tbh. I will use a 2mm thick foam rubber sheet below the lower forex disk matrix to cushion and hopefully dampen the disks sufficiently.
 
I drilled screw holes and the indentation for the countersunk screw heads, then assembled the boxes for testing. Again I noted the limits to the precision of how perpendicular one can drill without the help of a bench drill. Luckily I didn't produce any true failure like coming out sideways of the plywood, which isn't that unlikely at 12mm.

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Testing out mainboard tray fit.

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I disassembled the boxes again and carefully sawed off a strip of up to 1mm from the plywood due to tolerances making them protrude sideways. Then I permanently glued and screwed the boxes together, then sanded them to reduce any bumps on the contact points. Finally I glued on some wood support strips for tray and the upper forex sheet.

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Installing tray and mobo

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I usually go with Noctua fans, but I wanted to try these Enermax T.B.Silence.

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I had never worked with foamed PVC sheets before, it's quite an interesting material. Easy to work with while staying both hard and flexible. Cut edges are clean, sawing edges not so much, and more annoyingly, the chips are electrostaticly charged and stick to everything. Whittling away small strips with a box cutter does not produce straight cuts; large cuts are fine.

Upper and lower disk matrix.

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Installed PSU detail

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Before starting the project I was looking for a way to handle the articulation between upper and lower box. A regular hinge wouldn't do as I had no room for protruding metal elements outside the box. So I found these cute hidden hinges. They come in different diameters, but ofc the only place that had them in 8mm diameter was china, so I had to order from there, but it all went well. I could have gotten them in 10mm locally, but I deemed drilling that into 12mm plywood too dangerzone.

HmtipaY.jpg


Regulations regarding electromagnetic radiation are a thing around here, so I decided to cover the inside of the boxes with a special conductive copper powder spray paint forming a faraday cage, shielding both incoming and outgoing radiation. Yes, the box openings will also have to be covered with some metal mesh to actually produce the desired effect.

p6mFPem.jpg


eWxtQXB.jpg
 
So I proceeded to paint the boxes with a white alkyd resin based paint. It went... not so well.
Note to self: Don't try to paint all sides of boxes with slow drying paint if you don't have a solid plan on how to deal with holding / suspending them. Especially don't attempt it in an poorly lit, dusty old basement with simply a rolled out big plastic bag as cover for the ground.

Needless to say, I will have to paint over it at least once more in smaller chunks. No pix because no.

This thread has now caught up with my actual progress (or lack thereof).
 
I like your idea for HDD's, as I'm probably going to do something similar. I would recommend putting a rubber lining under them though instead of resting them on the wood.

I feel you on the paint, I had to paint a box I made and it was a pain. These are typically too heavy to suspend.


Question: how do you intend to anchor the the hard drives?
 
Yes, rubber lining under the disks is planned.

While I don't intend to throw the box around I'll anchor the disks via a strip of PVC that lies on top of the disks and is screwed to the sidewalls. To allow me to do this with one single strip over both rows of disks they are oriented in such way that the connectors are on the outside, leaving enough clearance on the inside (see model images).
 
Small update:
I painted the box and metal parts a second time, which turned out much better already, but still nowhere near acceptable in uniformity. Too much paint and you get paint runs, too little and the coverage isn't great. So I scrapped the plan to paint with a brush and went for spray paint. A first pass turned out pretty good, a second will happen as soon as I get another spray can.

Meanwhile, the power push button arrived. Due to the fan placement I had at most 15mm clearance between them for the hole for the button. Turns out there are plenty of options for 16mm or more, but few smaller ones. I finally found one in 12mm, metal, 12V ring illuminated. Will post pic later. I'm still debating if I'll wire it with a potentiometer to allow controlling the brightness.

I had to order new, longer SATA and SFF-8087 cables because the 50cm I had wouldn't reach all disks. And thinking about wiring I realized I will have to do custom wiring work for the SATA power cables at least. Not for aesthetic reasons but simply because I couldn't find options for 8 disks in a row with the correct spacing (35.4 - 36mm) and orientation.
The standard (female) SATA power plugs were surprisingly hard to find around here, but have been ordered now. What I haven't found so far are the male counterparts (yes, if possible I'll want that 3.3V line no one needs. I also found those 4 pin Molex plugs to be pretty unreliable).
I'm also going to try to sleeve the SATA data cables into one strand to tidy things up, we'll see if the plugs fit through the sleeve with cables already in it.
 
I had never worked with foamed PVC sheets before, it's quite an interesting material. Easy to work with while staying both hard and flexible. Cut edges are clean, sawing edges not so much, and more annoyingly, the chips are electrostaticly charged and stick to everything. Whittling away small strips with a box cutter does not produce straight cuts; large cuts are fine.

Upper and lower disk matrix.

XHQkcMM.jpg


Installed PSU detail

Pyac1TC.jpg


YbBw2Sx.jpg


0ToFd1l.jpg


Before starting the project I was looking for a way to handle the articulation between upper and lower box. A regular hinge wouldn't do as I had no room for protruding metal elements outside the box. So I found these cute hidden hinges. They come in different diameters, but ofc the only place that had them in 8mm diameter was china, so I had to order from there, but it all went well. I could have gotten them in 10mm locally, but I deemed drilling that into 12mm plywood too dangerzone.

HmtipaY.jpg


Regulations regarding electromagnetic radiation are a thing around here, so I decided to cover the inside of the boxes with a special conductive copper powder spray paint forming a faraday cage, shielding both incoming and outgoing radiation. Yes, the box openings will also have to be covered with some metal mesh to actually produce the desired effect.

p6mFPem.jpg


eWxtQXB.jpg
For sourcing those hinges
Maybe Lee Valley Tools or Sibling company Veritas... they are here in Ottawa Ontario near Greenbank; Distribution Centre in Carp Ontario & have a Online store I believe.
A few years ago I came across those style of Hinges for Hand crafted Jewelry boxes & Pen boxes..
They have other stuff too

Nice Build. I am going through the process of Decommisioning ThinkTank and Virtualizing an instance of Win Home Server 2011.... that is an After Yule project. Charity Build for a Single Mom whom Homeschools comes first (Plain Jane Educational WorkStation)
Best of Luck
 
After the project was on pause due to all of the end of the year stuff, here's an update:

The 12mm push button with 12V blue ring LED

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I ordered SATA power plugs, wires and sleeves from http://www.gosumodz.com/ and made the custom cables with 5 and 8 connectors and opposing orientation:

sCCWOi1.jpg



To cover the fan intakes I'm gonna use a stainless steel mesh.

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Bending to the correct shape with help of a round object of appropriate size (a small bowl).

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After trimming the mesh an bending it inwards a second time to prevent the stingy bits protruding

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I finally finished painting the boxes with spray paint. The results are okay, considering the previous less successful attempts with a brush. Apart from a few paint runs and stuck dust, what turned out visually less than perfect are the borders of the metal meshes. I couldn't nail or screw them to the box, so had to use glue, which covered some of the mesh holes on the edges and became quite visible once painted. I tried clearing the holes, but you end up tearing away more glue than you want and also some of the paint, so I'll leave it like that.

Upper and lower box connected via the hinges:

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Installing the fans, PVC support and the test mobo:

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And with the PVC strips for securing the spinners and the left and holding the SSDs on the right:

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I started looking into the details of cable management and quickly came to the conclusion I'd better get a (semi) modular PSU as I don't have much space to stow the extra cables. So I ordered one. This will also allow me to rework the SATA power cables to directly attach to the PSU plugs and gives me the 3.3V line.

Note: Neither mobo, PSU nor disks shown in the images are final, these are only for testing. My current NAS is in production and I'll move everything over once all things are done.

tbyyZHz.jpg


The temporary setup allowed me to test one thing though: Noise.
The good news is that there is very little vibrational noise from the disks, but more of airflow noise, to which the case adds a bit in the lower frequencies. I think it'll be fine once the case is installed in its cubicle on the corner of the expedit shelf.
 
The modular PSU came, as did some more plugs and cables. I reworked the custom SATA power cables to add the 3.3V line as well as have both attach directly to the PSU via a single connector.
To attach the 3 fans on the "disks" segment of the case with minimal clutter I made another custom cable with multiple mini-Molex connectors on one end. The 2 fans on the "mobo" segment are fed via the... mobo.

The thin blue SFF-8087<-> 4x SATA cable seen in the previous image was out of stock (they sent me a single one instead of two, and more couldn't be ordered in time). Although I'd preferred to have these thin ones, I had to get two of the thicker red ones, without the arresting notch, because of the 1m length requirement. In hindsight 0.75m would have probably sufficed.

Anyway, with everything readied, I proceeded to move my existing NAS components over to the new case, and this is the result:

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Currently, that is a Crucial M4 for the OS (Ubuntu), Samsung 850 Pro as storage backend for MariaDB, a pair of Samsung F3 disks as ZFS mirror for the live torrents and 6x WD greens in RAIDZ-2 as my main storage pool.
Most components are a couple of years old already and the main pool is nearing its capacity limit, so eventually I'll move to a proper Supermicro board with ECC ram as well as a bigger pool.

All is working flawlessly and temps are great. Noise, however is still a bit higher than what I'd like. But it seems its mostly fan noise, so I'll look into ways of controlling/reducing the speed of the 3 lower fans, the other ones are already controlled.

Here you see the server in its new habitat:

YljC5aT.jpg


As you can see it currently doesn't fit all the way in (that's what she said), I still have to get an angled power connector for that.

The project is now pretty much concluded. Looking back I can say there was more work and cost involved than expected, but it turned out good, apart from the paint job. If I did it again with the same materials, I'd make some, but not huge improvements to the design. To significantly improve it one would have to use metal.

For anyone interested, I uploaded the SketchUp file here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/4ivpgyuo75khyq7/Wood Server Case for IKEA Expedit.skp?dl=0

There's already another project planned, modding a Jonsbo UMX2 to fit a 280mm rad, but that is still some time off, as it's going to happen after AMDs Zen release.
 
That's truly super cool man.

I'm now going to do the same thing. What a wonderful idea. I even have a cat 6 rj45 next to my kallax shelf currently holding decorative shit hah.
 
That's an awesome build. It's exactly what I'm thinking of building for my FreeNas box, and I'm glad I looked in this section of the forum.
Do you think you could get away with a slimmer wood for the case body? I have 1/8th inch sheet of MDF in my garage I plan to use, but not sure if it'll be strong enough. My box won't be as big as yours. I only need room for mATX board, ATX psu and 4 HDDs.
 
That's an awesome build. It's exactly what I'm thinking of building for my FreeNas box, and I'm glad I looked in this section of the forum.
Do you think you could get away with a slimmer wood for the case body? I have 1/8th inch sheet of MDF in my garage I plan to use, but not sure if it'll be strong enough. My box won't be as big as yours. I only need room for mATX board, ATX psu and 4 HDDs.
1/8th inch MDF sounds a bit thin and bendy tbh. 5mm could work for a smaller box I guess, but you'd definitely have to use angle joints as well as look for a different solution for the hinges. Let us know of your progress :)
 
That's an awesome build. It's exactly what I'm thinking of building for my FreeNas box, and I'm glad I looked in this section of the forum.
Do you think you could get away with a slimmer wood for the case body? I have 1/8th inch sheet of MDF in my garage I plan to use, but not sure if it'll be strong enough. My box won't be as big as yours. I only need room for mATX board, ATX psu and 4 HDDs.

You could probably face it with 1/8", but as zrav mentioned, its not really a structural material. You could keep it thin with the 1/8" if you glued some steel aluminum sheet to the backside, which would also give the added bonus of the workability of MDF for the face.

I just cut new sides for an Expedit, to turn it into a TV stand for the kids playroom. I may have scrap the 250D that my son trashed and build a gaming box right into the stand. Thanks for the inspiration!
 
1/8th inch MDF sounds a bit thin and bendy tbh. 5mm could work for a smaller box I guess, but you'd definitely have to use angle joints as well as look for a different solution for the hinges. Let us know of your progress :)

You could probably face it with 1/8", but as zrav mentioned, its not really a structural material. You could keep it thin with the 1/8" if you glued some steel aluminum sheet to the backside, which would also give the added bonus of the workability of MDF for the face.

I just cut new sides for an Expedit, to turn it into a TV stand for the kids playroom. I may have scrap the 250D that my son trashed and build a gaming box right into the stand. Thanks for the inspiration!

You guys are probably right. I went out to home depot this morning and picked up 1/2" x 2" x 4" Beech Plywood (same thickness you have). I made the mistake of having them cut it in half so I could better fit it in my trunk. So basically I have 12 inches of width to work with, leaving me with 11 inches internal width. I really wanted this to be compact, but this was pushing it.
So I came up with dimension of 18 x 12 x 8 inches, leaving internal dimesions of 17 x 11 x 7 inches. I used Microsoft Visio to muck up the floor layout (I'm not fancy like you). The fans I plan to use are Thermalright TY-140s which are 140mm x 160mm hence the size difference in the diagram. The PSU will not contribute to the air flow in the box, and the SSD will be fixed to the side wall not the floor. Not sure what I'm going to do about the expansion slots since I don't have a metal case to gut. But then since this is going to be running FreeNas, I'm not planning on any expansion cards at this time, as my board has two Intel NICs on board. I just need to cutout room for I/O.

I don't mean to steal your thread, but what do you guys think?


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As drawn you'll have to have the IO shield on the side of the box. Depending on the size of the shelf compartment you plan on putting the box into this might or might not be an issue for the external cabling. Also note that if you'll be using any PCIe cards they'll be blocking the airflow somewhat. Another minor issue that see is that the 24 pin ATX connector is typically on the opposite side on the board of where the PSU is in your diagram (but hey, my build has an issue with requiring long SATA cables).
 
As drawn you'll have to have the IO shield on the side of the box. Depending on the size of the shelf compartment you plan on putting the box into this might or might not be an issue for the external cabling. Also note that if you'll be using any PCIe cards they'll be blocking the airflow somewhat. Another minor issue that see is that the 24 pin ATX connector is typically on the opposite side on the board of where the PSU is in your diagram (but hey, my build has an issue with requiring long SATA cables).

Thanks for the reply.
I wasn'tplanning on putting it in a cabinet. I was just going to put it on (or screw it unto) a shelf I that will place high almost to the ceiling in my basement. This shelf will also hold my router, network switch, Internet phone box and so on. I just wanted to do a wooden box because just because....
It's something I've always wanted to try.

It's no issue if the I/O comes out that side. In fact I would consider that side the back of the case and the side with the SSD the front. Airflow is from side to side, not front to back.

As of right now, I don't plan on any PCI cards. But even if I add some, the plan is for the case to only have airflow through those three fans (no other openings in the case) creating positive pressure in the case to fight dust. Since air can only leave through the fan behind the hard drives, they'll always get they air that is trying to escape through that fan.

In terms of the atx power connection, I'll have to measure to see if the cable will reach. I initially had the PSU on the other side, but I moved it with the idea of having PSU power cable close to the back of the case. We'll see what my measurements show.
 
A nice grill (built like a removable speaker grill with color matched cloth streched over a frame) would be pretty nice too, it will look like a subwoofer.
 
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