Putting a computer in a drawer (part 2)

In the second post on this project we’ll talk about the modification of the cabinet box. A few things are obvious. A couple are not. We’ll start with the simple things first.

We’re going to need a way of getting cables through the countertop. This will provide a route for the speaker cables, the monitor cable, and a couple USB cables so we can plug various things in. A hole saw does the job nicely, and we can trim it up with a wire nut obtained from the local hardware store (in our case, Lowe’s).

Hole in the countertop

The next step is getting cables into the cabinet from the side. This provides the route for the network cable and the power cable. We turn once again turn to the trusty hole saw and cut a hole into the side of the cabinet box near the back and top.

A hole for power and network

So now we’ve taken care of getting cables in and out. The next question that comes to mind is “how do we ventilate the thing?” Fortunately, the task is simpler than you may think.

Cabinets inherently have gaps between them. It’s just the way they are built. Additionally, they almost never EXACTLY fit the spaces they fill. Cabinet installers will put trim pieces in various places to make up the difference between standard size cabinets and the space that needs to be filled. These shim pieces cover the gap in front, but they don’t extend all the way to the floor. There’s a hole at the bottom that’s not visible unless you lie on the floor and look up at the bases. This provides an air channel we can draw intake air from. We just have to cut another hole.

Air intake via cabinet installation shim

This time we’ll cut a hole big enough to mount a 12V fan on. I didn’t have a hole saw large enough, so a Rotozip was used. A jigsaw or hand saw would also do the job. We want the fan to blow across the top of the computer, so we’ll mount it fairly high in the box.

The leads of the fan had to be lengthened a bit to reach a source of power, in this case a drive power cable. The fan was installed using long wood screws.

Cabinet cooling fan

One detail that you need to note: there’s a gap between the cabinet box and the underside of the countertop. If we just install the fan, some of the cooling efficiency will be lost due to air leaking back to the intake side. We solve this problem by stuffing some foam in the gap. You can see it in the above pic.

That’s about it for the cabinet modification. Here’s one more pic of the inside of the modified cabinet:

The inside of the modified cabinet