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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hey guys,

This one is pretty out there. I am a tech guy, and I am thinking about building my own personal computer. I was thinking about what type of material I would need. Then I thought... Hey! Why not wood?

First, I need a wood that will not bend and bow much with temp changes. A laptop in use gets hot, and then cools again when it is not in use.

I need a wood that is strong even when thin. If it is dropped, it needs to not crack and protect the insides.

I need a wood that I can modify easily. I will be drilling several screw holes, making gaps for ports, etc.

Any suggestions on the type?

Thanks,

ProgrammerOfWood
 

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As a novelty, I totally get this.

OTOH, there are reasons this isn't done commercially. You nailed some of the challenges in your question.
 

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As a novelty, I totally get this.

OTOH, there are reasons this isn't done commercially. You nailed some of the challenges in your question.
I think a big reason wood isn't used by the industry is: 1) price - cheaper to stamp out plastic by a LONG shot 2) weight - wood is going to be heavier 3) durability - for wood to be as durable as the materials used in a laptop case, the wood would have to be much thicker, bumping in to reason #2

There's more reasons, but I think as far as the industry is concern, cost alone is a mitigating factor for wood's potential.

To the OP:
I think there are a lot of challenges to making this work. Namely the strength-to-weight issue. If you want a 1/16th piece of wood, it doesn't matter what kind it is, it's going to break easily. You probably wouldn't get away with making any part of it less than 1/8" thick. Another issue I see is attaching parts. You aren't going to be able to thread the wood to reliably hold tight all those tiny screws, so you would have to epoxy in place tons of tiny threaded pieces.

If you are set on it, I would suggest a hardwood with a tight grain so that dust will be less likely to get caught and build up inside and something with low oils. Maple I think could be a good option for this and is a relatively inexpensive hardwood.

Unless you have a drum sander or planer, thicknessing the panels to the 1/8" thickness is a pretty unreasonable task.

I would say it's a doable project, but it's probably more work than it may seem on the surface, and since you are going to have to making the product "beefier" than a standard plastic rig, you have to ask yourself if that is something you are willing to have in a final product.
 

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If you want to build a computer and use wood, I would not build a laptop. Make it a desktop and you will be much happier in the end.

It is also probably going to be easier and cheaper to buy desktop sized components than laptop sized.

George
 

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We had a laptop that was placed in the same place day after day on a 1" oak table. The heat from the laptop eventually dried out the glue joint to the point the joint split. If you use wood, use a single piece with no glue joints.
 

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I think I would just go for looks. Make the pieces as thin as you can and fiberglass the insides. Just don't use an "oily" wood because the fiberglass won't stick to them. And do a dry layup, as little resin as possible.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I think a big reason wood isn't used by the industry is: 1) price - cheaper to stamp out plastic by a LONG shot 2) weight - wood is going to be heavier 3) durability - for wood to be as durable as the materials used in a laptop case, the wood would have to be much thicker, bumping in to reason #2

There's more reasons, but I think as far as the industry is concern, cost alone is a mitigating factor for wood's potential.

To the OP:
I think there are a lot of challenges to making this work. Namely the strength-to-weight issue. If you want a 1/16th piece of wood, it doesn't matter what kind it is, it's going to break easily. You probably wouldn't get away with making any part of it less than 1/8" thick. Another issue I see is attaching parts. You aren't going to be able to thread the wood to reliably hold tight all those tiny screws, so you would have to epoxy in place tons of tiny threaded pieces.

If you are set on it, I would suggest a hardwood with a tight grain so that dust will be less likely to get caught and build up inside and something with low oils. Maple I think could be a good option for this and is a relatively inexpensive hardwood.

Unless you have a drum sander or planer, thicknessing the panels to the 1/8" thickness is a pretty unreasonable task.

I would say it's a doable project, but it's probably more work than it may seem on the surface, and since you are going to have to making the product "beefier" than a standard plastic rig, you have to ask yourself if that is something you are willing to have in a final product.
Thanks for that thoughtful response. For all the others asking whether it will be laptop or desktop, it will be a laptop.

For the screws, I was thinking that I would drill in to the wood and put a metal screw container. I don't know exactly how that works, but I'm sure it's been done.

I do plan on having it rather thick, and I don't care if it is heavy. Just think about it... that would be like the classiest piece of tech in the world!


Another question: should I oil it? Or cover it with some heat protective something? What about gloss? Will that withstand heat?

P.S. yes I do have a planer.
 

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Thanks for that thoughtful response. For all the others asking whether it will be laptop or desktop, it will be a laptop.

For the screws, I was thinking that I would drill in to the wood and put a metal screw container. I don't know exactly how that works, but I'm sure it's been done.

I do plan on having it rather thick, and I don't care if it is heavy. Just think about it... that would be like the classiest piece of tech in the world!


Another question: should I oil it? Or cover it with some heat protective something? What about gloss? Will that withstand heat?

P.S. yes I do have a planer.
I've never done anything like the project you're looking in to, so any other advice I can give would be my best guess.

For attaching some of the internals you might also look in to some kind of epoxy product like wood weld. Such as for mounting maybe the motherboard or something. Wouldn't work for stuff you want to readily remove later obviously. Maybe even an epoxy glue for any joints could be better too, considering it will be hard to apply clamping pressure and the glue surfaces may be minimal.

I wouldn't oil it because you will have to reoil it later which means you'd have to break the whole thing down again. I'd think hitting it with an oil polyurethane would be your best bet for durability. Sheen isn't going to affect heat resistance.

The concern I' have has is cracking in the future from drying out due to the heat/fan inside the laptop. Take a piece of hardwood and lean it on a wall over top a heater vent and within a few days it will start cracking.

Not sure how about this, but good luck. Let us know if you get it to turn out the way you envisioned.
 

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bzguy
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If you treat wood with Polyethylene Glycol it stabilizes it, virtually turns it into plastic. The cells get filled with the plastic and cannot absorb or shed moisture. Sounds like a good application for this, google PEG treated wood.
 

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Have you thought about how the bezel that holds the mouse pad will be added. They are usually integrated into it and not removable. Everything else seems possible. Heat for the laptop shouldn't be a problem. Plastic is actually worse for heat. Would love to see this done but would hate being the one doing it. Good luck
 

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Wow what a cool idea!

I hate looking at my computer sitting under my desk and thought about building a desk to hide it, but it takes up too much room space. It would be easier to just buy a laptop and hook it up to a monitor and keyboard, but then I can’t work on a lap top like I can a desk top.
So a desk top computer made out of wood sounds pretty nice. :yes:
 

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Wood Snob
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bzguy said:
If you treat wood with Polyethylene Glycol it stabilizes it, virtually turns it into plastic. The cells get filled with the plastic and cannot absorb or shed moisture. Sounds like a good application for this, google PEG treated wood.
I wouldn't doubt that for a minute.

Al

Nails only hold themselves.
 

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That sounds like it could be cool or a complete disaster. Either way, it will have plenty of challenges for you to figure out. Here are some of my recommendations for you to consider.

- I was thinking an epoxy finish would be the best way to go, but the polyethylene glycol was a good idea. I would be concerned about the effect of temperature on a finish like polyurethane. Make sure whatever finishing and gluing materials you use they have a high temperature rating. (ie I probably would look for something in the 100C range, probably nothing less than 80C, though you may be able to get away with less.) I wouldn't use anything that didn't have a thermal rating.

For wood you have many options, but you will have to make some trade offs between looks, weight, hardness and toughness. In contrasting hardness and toughness, a hard wood will be less prone to denting and a tough wood will be less prone to breaking. I wouldn't worry about expansion and contraction too much, because that is a moisture issue, not a thermal cycling issue. I would do everything I could to make moisture a non-issue.

For the main body I would hollow a box out of a thicker piece of wood, making sure to leave thicker walls for the end grain. I would also try to keep radii for the inside corners as sharp transitions break easier. Where I could, I would leave ribs and walls going across the bottom (keeping in mind airflow needs). I would also try to form bosses for wood screws or probably brass inserts epoxied in place.

Another place to look is at the materials they use for for radio controlled model airplanes. I know they use some thin, tough plywood that could be useful, possibly with a decorative veneer.

The most important thing to do is pay attention to temperatures. You don't want your new showpiece to turn into a fire hazard.

Good luck and post questions when you run into problems.
 

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I wood if I could.
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Al's Google search gave me an idea: a wooden laptop WRAP might be the way to go. Keep all (or at least most) of the plastic enclosure structures. But add wooden highlights and panels to fit over it. That way, strength would barely be an issue at all. And that means that thinner wood might be much more acceptable.

Oops, looks like Gilgaron beat me to it.
 
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