What happens when PC cooling fails?

So, a few months back, I finished the ultra-cool tower PC build.  A strong motivator for building that system was to utilize a liquid cooling system, because I had never done so before.  So, how has it gone these months later?

Well, it started with some strange sound coming from the pump on the reservoir.  It was making some clicking sound, and I couldn’t really understand why.  Then I felt the tubing coming out of the top of the CPU, and it was feeling quite warm.  Basically, the liquid cooling system was not cooling the system.


But, I’m a tinkerer, so I figured I’d just take it apart and figure out what was going on.  I took apart all the tubing, and took the CPU cooling block off the CPU as well.  I opened up that block, and what did I see?  A bunch of gunk clogging the very fine fins within the cooling block.  It was this white chalky looking stuff, and it was totally preventing the water from flowing through.  As it turns out, the Thermaltake system that I installed came with some Thermaltake liquid coolant, and that stuff turns out to be total crap.  After reading some reviews, it seems like a common affliction that using this coolant: Thermaltake C1000 red will eventually leave a white residue clogging the very fine parts of your cooling loop, forcing you to flush and refill or worse.

Well, that’s a bummer, and I would have been ok after that discovery.  Problem is, along the way, I put the system back together, turned it on to reflush the system, and walked away for a bit…

Luckily, my Android phone that I used to take the various pictures factory reset itself, so I no longer have the evidence of my hasty failure.   It so happens that when the CPU cooling block was slill clogged, and I put the system together, I didn’t tighten down the tube connecting to the block tight enough.  Enough pressure built up that the tube popped off.  Needless to say, I’ll need to replace the carpet in my home office.  And, I can tell you, the effect of spilling about a half gallon of water on the inerds of your running computer motherboard, power supply, and all the rest, is almost certain death for those components…


So, I started by dryingeverything off as best I could.  I used alcohol and q-tips to dab up obvious stuff.  The motherboard simply would not turn on again.  There are a lot of things that could be wrong, but I thought I’d start with the motherboard.

I ordered a new motherboard.  This time around I got the Gigabyte GA-Z170X-Gaming 7.  This is not the exact same motherboard as the original.  It doesn’t have the option to change the bios without RAM being installed, and it doesn’t have as many power phases, but, for my needs, saving $120 was fine, since I lost the motivation to go all out in this replacement.

The motherboard was same day delivery (which is why Amazon is great).  It installed without a flaw.  Turned it on and… glitchy internal video!  Aagghh.  OK, return this, and in another day get another of the same.  This time… No problems.  Liquid cooling system back together, killer video card installed, monitors hooked up, and it all works as flawlessy as before, if not better.

This time around, I’m not installing any fancy cooling liquid.  I’ve done my homework, and everyone who actually does these systems to run for the long run simply uses distilled water, and perhaps some biocide.  I chose to get one of those sliver spirals to act as the biocide.  That way there’s not chemicals to deal with.

When the silver coil arrives, I’ll have to drain the pipes one more time to install it in the reservoir.  I’ll also take the opportunity to use pipe cleaners on the tubes, which have become a bit milky looking due to the sediment from the C1000 cooling liquid.  I now have a checklist for assembling the cooling system, to ensure I tighten all the right fittings, and hopefully avoid another spillage mishap.

Thankfully the CPU, memory sticks, video card, power supply, and nvme memory were all spared spoilage from the flooding incident.  That would have effectively been a new PC build (darn those CPUs are expensive).

Lesson learned.  There’s quite a difference between building a liquid cooling system for looks, vs building one that will actually function for years to come.  I will now avoid Thermaltake like the plague, as I’ve found much better parts.  Next machine I build will likely not use liquid cooling at all, because it won’t be as visible, so the aesthetic isn’t critical, and the benefits are fairly minimal.  Enthusiasm is great, because it leads to doing new things.  But, I have to temper my enthusiasm with more research and caution.  I don’t mind paying more, piecing things together, rather than going for the all-in-one kit.

Lessons learned.

Now, back to computing!

Decommissioning Makerbot Cupcake

This was the first 3D printer I ever had


This picture shows the machine after its last Frankenstein operation circa 2011.  I purchased it as a kit in the first place so that I could ultimately create some simple objects like this: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:11255 to connect drinking straws so that my daughter and I could construct objects like geodesic domes.

Well, this machine never printed more than one or two objects in it wacky storied life until it was replaced with the original Up! machine, which just worked out of the box.

Those were heady days in the 3D printing industry.  RepRap, and the notion of printers printing parts for themselves was still an ideal, and the likes of Ultimaker, Zortrax, and even Prusa, were just glimmers in their creators eyes.

The hotend for this thing (that mass of acrylic and steel sitting on the 5″x5″ platform in the middle there, probably weighed nearly a pound, consumed 3mm plastic, and just didn’t really work.


All those nuts and bolts, tons of acrylic, funky resistors, an even a piece of delrin.  It was all well intentioned, and all very experiemental, and it all just didn’t quite work for me.  Compared to a new modern extruder/hotend combo, this might seem relatively stone age, but it did have all the basics that we take for granite today.

I’m happy we built this machine.  It was a great bonding experience, and it was then that my daughter and I cemented ourselves as ‘makers’.  We went to a MakerFaire, played with electronics, sewed leds into a dress, and generally carried ourselves into the modern age of making.

I have since purchased an original Up!, an early prusa mendel, original ultimaker.  Then I jumped into another realm with a ZCorp 650, ZCorp 660, then back down to earth with an Afinia Up Box, and lately Type A Machines Hub, and Prusa i3 MK2.  That’s a lot of plastic, powder, glue and frustration right there in all that madness.

I purchased the first kit to make a little something for me and the daughter to play with.  I’ve since explored the various ways in which these devices may or may not be utilized in the real of custom on-demand manufacturing.  That journey continues.

This cupcake was both fun and frustrating as all heck.  I’m a bit nostalgic to see it go, but now that it’s real value is in the various M3 screws and nuts, I’m happy to have let this particular nightmare in our printing history go.

RIP cupcake.  You served us well.


Building a Tower PC – The Furniture

This is what home computing should look like…


Reminiscent of a Memorex commercial (for those who can remember that iconic commercial with the fellow sitting in his lounger and being blown away).

There’s no point in building out a kick ass liquid cooled blinky light PC if you’re not going to show off your work.  So, I got to thinking about the piece of furniture that was going to showcase the build, and I came up with this design.  It’s built out of 2×4 lumber and MDF, because that’s the stock I had in the garage, and I needed to get rid of it to make room for more…

My design goal was a workbench like thing whose sole purpose would be to act as a computer work table/cabinet thing.  I don’t need a ton of drawers, I can simply stack plastic bins in there, or outside, if I feel I really need them.  I wanted an ample keyboard/mouse surface, because sometimes I need to place another laptop on the surface, or write stuff, and it’s nice to have the room to just push the keyboard back and use the worktop as a worktop.

I started out with a fairly standard looking garage workbench carcass.


I put that power strip in there because it’s totally hidden when the workbench top is on, and it provides enough outlets, spaced far enough apart, that I can plug in the computer, 2 or three monitors, extra lights, speakers, and other stuff that might so happen to be sitting on the work top.

The thing is roughly 36″ on a side, with the worktop being 36″x33″ if memory serves correctly.


This is in my ‘home office’ room, so there is carpet.  I had the dilemma of how to cart the thing around, because fully loaded, it’s quite heavy, and unwieldy.  I had a package of those furniture moving pads in a drawer, so I whipped those out, and they work a treat!  Each pad has a vinyl plate bottom, with a rubber top.  The 2×4 lumber sits nicely in the rubber, and I can easily move this thing all over my office all by myself.

With the demands of family, this took roughly two days to assemble.  Now that it all works, I can think about actually finishing it.  The things I want to do are to make it more like furniture, and less like something you’d find in the garage.  That means, doing some sanding, mahogany staining, varnish, and the like.  I’ll top the 3/4″ MDF top with an 1/8″ piece of hard board, and put some trim around the edge, to act as a buffer, and to hide the seam between the hardboard and MDF.  This makes for a nice durable surface that I can tape paper to every once in a while if I so happen to do any gluing or other craft work.

I’ve added the speaker system to the workbench, but right now it’s just kind of there, with the wires hanging all over.  I’ll have to drill a couple of circular holes for wire pass through.  To further make it kid proof, I’ll add some plexiglass siding, to keep their delicate little fingers out of the silently whirring fans.

Putting the computer in the corner as it is, is a pretty good thing.  It’s not taking up main floor space like the desk I was using.  That gives me a ton of space to do other stuff, like setup a mini 3D printer farm.  There’s a corner over by the window ready for exactly that.

In a fit of inspiration, I also removed the couch and chairs, which more often than not were collection places for junk.  Now I have an entirely open wall, ready for yet another workbench something or other.  Oddly enough, the wall on that side of the room is totally bare, and would be a perfect place to receive a 150″ micro projected image, as a large book case is on the opposite wall.  Perhaps that would be good for video conferencing in the large?

At any rate, the killer PC is getting a custom built piece of furniture.  I’m getting a new perspective on my home work space, and life is grand.

Building a Tower PC – 2016, part 1

Last time around, I outlined what would go into my build.  This time, I’ve actually placed the order for the parts.  I was originally going to place with newegg, but the motherboard was out of stock.  This forced me to consider amazon instead.  Amazon had everything, and at fairly decent prices.  That plus prime shipping, and good return policy, made it a relative no brainer (sorry newegg).

I did a hand wave on some of the parts in the last post, so I’ll round out the inventory in detail here.


this item used to require a ton of thought in the past, but today, you can spit in generally the right direction and things will likely work out.  I wanted to outfit my rig with 64GB total ram.  I wanted RAM that was reliable and looked good.  I probably should have gone for some red colored stuff, but I went with the black G.SKILL Ripjaws V Series DDR4 PC4-25600 3200MHz parts (model F4-3200C16D-32GVK).

Image result for g.skill 32gb (2 x 16gb) ripjaws v series ddr4 pc4-25600

They come in sets of two (32GB per set), so I ordered two sets.  Who knows, maybe I’ll get lucky and they’ll be red.

SSD Storage

I know from my laptop, and my current Shuttle PC that having a SSD as your primary OS drive is an absolute must these days.  Please, no 5400 RPM spinning rust!  On this item, I chose the Samsung V-NAND SSD 950 Pro M.2 NVM Express 256 GB.

Image result for samsung 950 pro series - 256gb pcie nvme
What’s this NVMe thing anyway?  Well, turns out that flash disks are way faster than spinning rust (go figure), and yet we’ve been constrained to the spinning rust interfaces and data transfers of old for quite some time.  NVME represents a different interface to the flash memory, going way beyond what Sata can provide.  Luckily, the chosen motherboard supports this interface, so I should be able to boot up from this super fast thing.  I probably should have gone for the 512GB version, but things being the way they are, I can probably install a much larger 1TB version in 3 year’s time for the same price.  This will be more than good enough for now, and for the forseeable future.
Mass Storage
I did get some spinning rust to go in the box as well.  Western Digital Black 2TB – WD2003FZEX (7200 RPM SATA 6 Gb/s).
Image result for wd2003fzex
I have a pair of these spinning away in my Synology NAS, and they haven’t failed in the past 4 years, so I think I’m good with this.  I could have gone with a bigger size, like 6TB, but I’m thinking why put so much storage on a single disk.  Better to spread the load across several disks.  As long as I’m spreading the load across several disks, why not just use a giant NAS with an optical link, or 10Gbit ethernet or something.  As this machine is going to find multiple uses with multiple OSes, I didn’t feel the need to make it a storage monster.  Rather, it is a show piece, workstation with decent performance.  More specialization can come through additional equipment outside the box.
I have yet to consider my cooling options.  When the boxes arrive, I’ll assemble once just to make sure all the parts work.  I’ve been eyeing some cool looking Thermaltake liquid cooling gear.  I’m considering the whole reservoir/pump/tubing thing.  It looks cool, and there are ready made kits that look fairly easy to assemble.  The open case I’ve chosen just begs to be mod’d with the liquid cooling stuff.
At any rate, boxes should arrive in a week.  I took advantage of the Amazon offer to get $5.99 gift certificates towards using their pantry service instead of getting next day delivery.  How crazy is that!  I figure I won’t be able to assemble until next week anyway, so why not get some free stuff from Amazon in payment for my patience.
Having this kit arrive will be an incentive to further clean up my office (man cave) so that I’ll have enough desk and floor space to spread things out, take pictures, and assemble without losing any of the pieces.

Local Manufacturing – Is that a factory in your garage?

Why the whole table saw cabinet thing?  Well, I first purchased the SawStop a few years back because I wanted to make some fairly good triangular bases for a 3D printer project.  I figured that as an occasional workshopper, it’s better to have more expensive tools with safety features, so that I can preserve my white collar hands.

More recently, I’ve wanted to expand the capabilities in the shop.  I want to cut wood of course, but I want to cut it in infinite variety.  I have a nice heavy duty router, which gives me some capabilities.  I have a cheapo band saw with still others.  I probably need a scroll saw for really intricate stuff.  I could use a mill to play with various metals, and a lath might be interesting as well.  Well, that’s adding up to be a lot of different bits of equipment, all with their own safety and space concerns.

Then I got to thinking, what I really need is an automated (CNC) platform that I can use various tools on.  After quite a lot of browsing around, I came across the Grunblau Plaform CNC kit.  What’s so great about this particular machine?  Well, it looks good for one.  It’s uses 80/20 extrusions, like most DIY CNC machines, but it throws in just enough steel to make it more subtle, and easier to assemble than your typical machine.


This is what mine looks like after a couple of weekends of assembly.  First weekend was laying out parts, and assembling the base.  Second weekend was assembly of the gantry, and mounting to the base.

But this begs one question, where to put this thing.  It’s roughly 3’x5′ and a couple feet tall.  It takes up more room than a table saw, but less than the combination of tools that I intend for it to replace.  So, of course it needs a piece of shop furniture to go with it.

WP_20150126_008[1] WP_20150126_010[1]

That’s a base made of 2×6 and 4×4 lumber, with a 3/4″ maple plywood skin.  The skin will be closed on 4 slides, which leaves the ability to slide it back if that’s ever needed.  The skin is not fastened to the base in any way, as gravity working on the skin, as well as the machine itself, should be enough to hold it in place.  If not, then a couple of screws at strategic positions should be more than enough to hold it in place.  I’m awaiting some nice leveling casters which will make this as portable as the table saw.

I wanted to try the leveling casters as its yet another option for mobility.  In this particular case, the machine will mostly stay in the same place all the time.  But, when it comes time to move it, I want it to be a relatively easy operation.  These Footmaster GDR-60F Leveling Casters seem to foot the bill, so I’ll see how it goes.

This makes for interesting theatre.  The other day, I had a neighbor wander into my garage and exclaim “wow, you have a lot of tools, what do you build with them?”.  Well, I, uh, that is, you see, I just like to tinker.  Fact is, mostly I’ve built shop furniture to deal with the various tools that I’ve been buying over the years to build shop furniture.

But, this time is different.  Now I’ve got my 3D printer setup.  I’ve got my table saw squared away.  I’ve got the CNC Router coming into existance.  Surely a Murphy bed, or some kids playscape in the downstairs, or at least a jewelry box for the wife?  The fact is, I like designing and building “furniture”.  I can’t help it that my man cave is the primary beneficiary of said furniture.  But I think there’s something else here as well.  As the machines become more versatile (through the beauty of software), my ability to manufacture all manner of things locally improves.

I’ve wanted to build things out of aluminum for the longest time.  Now, with the CNC Router, I’ll be able to do that.  This is the same sort of enabling that occured with the birth of the 3D printers.  I can at least design and prototype my own stuff, and print it in plastic.  Now I’ll be able to actually build some molds for injection or other molding if I so choose, which is a next logical step to the all too slow process of using FDM printers.

So, am I building a factory in my garage?  Well, I consider it a definite evolution of the American garage.  A CNC router can take the place of a lot of typical woodworking tools.  It also adds the ability to mill soft metals, cut with a knife, draw with a plotter pen, carve with a plasma torch, or possibly a laser.  Add another axis, or two, and suddenly you’re doing 5 axis milling in your garage.

Yah, this is way cool.  Not necessarily a factory in the garage, but certainly a “local manufacturing plant” in our neighborhood.

SawStop Contractor Saw Cabinet – Part 2

Last time around, I had finished my torsion box base with low riding sliding drawers.  The next step in the journey was to construct the box upon which the saw itself will sit.  I looked at many options.  Solid wood, plywood, open frame, closed frame.  I needed to integrate dust collection as well, and possibly storage.  In the end I created a design which is a combination of a couple of things.


The box is constructed entirely of 3/4″ oak plywood.  The bottom is constructed of a rectangle which is put together using Kreg pocket screws.  The top ‘mid-top’ is the same.  They are held up on the sides by solid plywood.  The very top is a solid piece of plywood, with a hole cut out of it to match the swing of the motor and dust collection port on the saw.  This could also have been constructed using the Kreg framing, but I wanted to try this way as well.

That forms the basic box.  It was pretty solid, but I wanted to go one step further.  I put additional plywood sides on with full surface gluing.  This should prevent any rocking forward/back.  Before usage, I will stick a false front on the thing, and that should eliminate any side rocking.  It’s feeling pretty solid though, so I don’t think there will be much.


Here’s what it looks like with the saw sitting atop the box, atop the rolling base.  I had to strip it down so that I could then slide it off the base and onto the box without the help of others, or a hoist.


There’s the old steel base, ready to go for its next adventure.

Most of the builds I have seen have the forethought of incorporating a sloping slidey thing for the dust chute, or a drawer, or sliders, and what have you.  I could not think through my dust collection options completely, so I just designed the base as an open box.  That way, I can build any type of drawer, slide, tubing, what have you, and just slide it into the open slot.  If I want to change it later, I can, without having to build a whole new base/box.

I also decided that I don’t need to go for a full integrated unicabinet design.  In fact, it’s better to make this whole thing modular so that I can change it easily over time as my needs change.  For example, most builds have the saw mounted as I’ve shown here.  Then they have large outfeed tables so that they can do long rips.  Well, truth be told, most of what I’m going to be doing on a table saw is probably longish rips, or fairly short stuff where a sled will be utilized.  So, having all this width isn’t really that beneficial.  Easy enough, I can just turn the box sideway, and layout an outfeed table atop the torsion box, and be done.

To that end, the base is simply screwed down to the torsion box.  It’s not glued.  Other boxes will be constructed, and just screwed down as well.  Whether it’s drawers, a router extension, or what have you, just throw it on there, and get to making chips!

Almost done.  Now I need to construct the simple supports so I can reassemble the table.  The easiest thing will be to simply go back to what I had for now, that is, the super long rails, extension wings and table.  I’ll just have to adjust the length of the legs on the support table, and call it a day

SawStop Contractor Saw Cabinet – Part 1

I have this great table saw, the SawStop contractor saw.  The great thing about it is the ability to stop the saw blade instantly if it ever touches flesh.  Considering that I’m an occasional woodworker, this sounded like a good idea, and actually came from a recommendation of someone who was a regular woodworker, with half a sawn off finger.

Besides being a finger saver, the saw itself is quite a nice saw.  Mine is configured with the nice T-square fence system, rather than the regular contractor’s saw fence.  In addition, it has the 52″ rail, which means the overall length of the thing is 85″.  That’s a pretty big and unwieldy piece of equipment for the garage.


Moving, and thus using, the saw involves lifting it up using that foot lift thing on the saw’s base, and shoving it around, hoping the action doesn’t knock the thing out of alignment while I’m doing it.  So, I’ve scoured the interwebs looking for inspiration on what to do about the situation.  There are quite a few good examples of cabinetry around table saws:

There are myriad other examples if you just do a search for ‘table saw cabinet’.

Many of these designs are multi-purpose, in that they include a router extension as well as the table saw.  I don’t need that initially, as I have a separate router table that’s just fine.  So, my design criteria are:

  • Must support the entire length of the saw and fence system
  • Must provide some onboard storage
  • Must be easily mobile
  • Must be stable when not mobile
  • Must support adding various extensions

A fairly loose set of constraints (looking just like software), but good enough to help make some decisions.

The very first step is deciding on what kind of mobility I’m going to design for.  I considered many options, but they roughly boil down to, locking swivels, on at least 2 corners.  For the wheels themselves, I chose a 5″ wheel, where each wheel has a 750lb capacity.  That seems heavy duty enough for this particular purpose.  I could have gone with 3″ wheels, but that seemed too small, and I read from other efforts that the bigger the better, considering the resulting weight of the cabinet could be several hundred pounds, and moving that with small wheels might have a lot of friction and be difficult.

I chose to use 4 locking swivel wheels, one at each corner.  The overall length of the cabinet is 86″, which had me thinking about sagging.  Perhaps I should stick more wheels mid-span just in case.  But, I chose instead to go with an engineered solution.  The base is built out of a torsion box.  The torsion box consists of 1×4″ lumber forming the internal supports.  That is trimmed by 1×4″ on the outside, and it’s skinned top and bottom by 3/4″ oak plywood.


I studied many different options for constructing this beast. Probably the best would have been to cut slots in crosswise members and laid them uniformly down the length of the base.  But, I don’t currently have a dado blade on my sawstop, so I went with these smaller cross pieces instead.  I think it actually turns out better because I get the offsets, which allow me to fasten the cross members to the long runners individually.

Also in this picture, you can see that the corners have been filled in with blocks.  This is where the wheels will mount, once the skin is on.  I didn’t want to have bolts protruding with nuts and washers on the ends, so I went with lag screws into these think chunks instead.  The chunks are formed by cutting playwood pieces, and gluing them together down in the hole.  That basically forms a nice 3.5″ chunks of wood that is glued through and through from skin to skin.

Here is the base with the skin and wheels on it.


It may not look like it, because the base is sitting atop an assembly table which itself is pretty long, but this thing is pretty big.  It’s also fairly solid.  When I put it on the floor, I stood on it, tried to kick it around and the like, and even without any other supports on it, it’s not moving, bending, flexing, or what have you.  I believe the torsion box will do a nice job.  One deviation I made from the typical cabinets that I’ve see is that they will typically have the wheels touching the ‘top’ skin, the the rest of the torsion box hanging down towards the floor.  Well, I wanted to get the wheels solidly under the whole thing, with not potential for a shearing force breaking the plywood along the mounting plate of the wheel, so I went this direction.  But, that begs the question.  There is now roughly 5.5″ of space that just hanging below the bottom skin and the floor.  What can be done with that?


I thought, well, I can put some drawers down below of course.  I could have just put some hanging drawer sliders down there, and called it a day, but I went with a slightly different design.  I wanted to have something that could change easily over time, so I went with a French cleat system, which could take any attachments over time, starting with some drawers that I had laying around from some cabinet that wasn’t being used.


So, two side by side sections of hanging French cleats, the one on the left with drawer installed.

And finally, the whole mess turned right side up with some junk thrown into the drawer


With the offset from the base, the drawers are about 4 inches tall, leaving around 1.5″ to the floor.  That’s a great usage of space as far as I’m concerned.  With this setup, I can keep some things that are commonly used with the table saw, or assembly, or just things that don’t quite have anywhere else to live at the moment.

So, this is phase one.  The non-sagging base, ready for the cabinetry work to be set atop, which will actually hold the saw and table surfaces.