Introduction: Compubeaver --> How to Case Mod a Beaver - in 29 Easy Steps!
Turn a taxidermy animal into your desktop PC.
Both neat and handy!
Step 1: Purchase a Beaver of Your Very Own
There are lots of old taxidermy mounts out there - garage sales, antique stores, ebay are all good sources for older pieces. You'll probably want a high quality mount since you'll be removing the bulk of the internal structure, so better quality (ie not falling apart) probably means stronger.
Step 2: Purchase Computer Components
Purchase your computer components. You'll want to do this before you start so that you have a general idea of how much room you'll need to create inside the beaver, and what sort of slots you'll need to cut for specific components. For a basic machine, you'll need a motherboard, a hard drive, some ram, cd or dvd drive, a fan and a power supply.
Step 3: Purchase a Motherboard
There are a variety of boards you can choose from. I went with a MiniITX board because of size - it's 17cm x 17cm versus the much larger standard motherboards. If you have a HUGE beaver, it would be possible to install a standard board, but you really need to make sure that it will fit. Another plus with the MiniITX board is that it included an external power supply, which means a good bulk of the heat will not be inside the beaver. Good news, trust me.
Step 4: More About Components
These were the components I decided to go with:
- Intel Core 2 Duo processor - T7200 2.00 GHz 667 4MB 1.0375n1.3V
- Motherboard: AOpen Mini ITX A-I945GTT-VFA (RoHS) with external power supply
- 160G Hard drive - laptop drive
- 1G RAM - NBM 1G|PATRIOT DII667 PSD21G6672S R
- Panasonic UJ-85J 8X Slim DVD Burner- Tornado 80mm fan - ACCES FAN|80X38 3/4PTD8038H VTTD RT
I needed a machine that would run CAD, so went with a fast processor and 1G of RAM. The slim DVD burner is a laptop, slot drive. I thought it would be neat to be able to simply slide the discs in, versus having a cd/dvd tray. Also, the slot drives are slightly smaller, and anything that would conserve space is a plus. The hard drive is a laptop drive - it's tiny, but still holds 160G.
The Tornado fan is super powerful, and sounds like a jet engine. Loud! Surprisingly, cooling did not end up being a problem, so I was able to swap out the ultra-loud fan with a quieter one.
There are many different components to choose from, depending upon your budget and needs. Get what is right for you and put everything together to make sure that it works.
Step 5: Putting the Computer Components Together
You'll need to install the processor, install your RAM and plug in all of your components according to the manufacturer's instructions. Thankfully, the bulk of the wires that attach to the motherboard will only go to one spot, so it's somewhat difficult to mess it up - whatever you do, DON'T try to cram something into a spot that it 'kind-of' fits in. They should be exact fits and should slide in and click easily. Don't force anything!
Your motherboard will include a reference map that will tell you what parts go where, and also will let you know what pins relate to different things, like your on/off switch, LEDs, etc. These are important, because you'll need to modify these later.
Step 6: Turn It On!
Once you have everything plugged in, hook up your monitor, keyboard and mouse and start it up. You can start your motherboard by touching both of the on/off switch pins with the tip of a screwdriver. Be careful not to touch anything else. Hopefully things will run beautifully, and you can install your operating system on your new machine. Exciting!
Step 7: Figure Out How Much Room You'll Need in Your Beaver
Take a look at all of your components and try to figure out the best way that you'll be able to feasibly rig them within your beaver. How much space do you think you'll need? Break out your tape measure and do some fancy math if you have to.
As far as placement, it's important to try to keep all of the ports somewhere accessible, so keep that in mind when figuring stuff out.
Step 8: Making the First Cut
Once you have a general idea of how large a space you'll need in order to get everything in, it's time to start working on the beaver! For the shape and position of the beaver I used, it seemed to make the most sense to create a hole at the bottom for all of the components.
In order to find out what was inside, I took an exacto, and made the first slice. Not having a large amount of taxidermy experience, I figured that the inside would either be foam or a hollow manikin. Note on using an exacto on fur: it works best to part the fur with a comb, then cut along that part. This will give you a better cut, and is easily camouflaged later because the fur will tend to be less damaged.
Step 9: Hollowing Out the Inside
The inside ended up being foam, which meant that there would be a lot of carving in the days ahead. I tried then to figure out the best way to tackle it. The foam is really rigid stuff, and using an electric knife and some wood carving tools seemed to be the best approach.
Step 10: Carve Out the Foam
This is a very painstaking process, because you don't want to harm the structure of the animal, however, you need to use enough force to be able to carve appropriately. Plan on this taking hours, and hours and hours. I wanted the inside to be fairly consistent on all sides, and to not have bumps, etc, so this added to the time spent. While carving I did run into a couple of large wire pieces, which may have been there for structure when the foam was originally placed. I was able to cut them out with a small hack saw.
Step 11: Does It All Fit?
After you have the appropriate mass carved out of the beaver, you need to make sure you can fit your components in there. Do a dry run of placing the components inside, and be sure to leave at least 1/4 inch on all sides to account for change in mass after fiberglassing. Be sure that you're able to move your hand arround sufficiently when everything is in there, just in case you need to screw components in later or adjust cords, etc. The more room you allow yourself, the happier you'll be in the long run. It's worth carving a bit more, even though chances would rather poke your eyes out than look at foam any longer.
Step 12: Cut Some Holes
It's time to make space for your fan, DVD or CD drive and a spot for all the cords to exit. Where these go is entirely up to you. Keep in mind here that you'll need to be able to attach your pieces internally and also have room for the wires and cords for each component.
Step 13: Placing the Fan
I chose to put the fan at the base of the tail because it looked better there than anywhere else, and it also ended up being really near where the processor would be seated, which is good for cooling purposes.
Step 14: Placing the DVD or CD Drive
The DVD drive I placed in the chest area. It fit well seemed like a good spot for it. You'll need to measure and cut the slots for each of these areas carefully, testing continually so you get a perfect fit. Also, be sure to leave some room here for fiberglass if you plan on fiberglassing in these slots. I only glassed the slot for the fan, because the others were just too thin and prone to disaster. Thankfully, the foam being so rigid helps here - the chance of it caving in is quite slim, particularly because the bulk of the interior will be fiberglassed for extra support.
Step 15: Spandex Your Beaver
When all of your slots have been cut, and you're happy with the interior carving, pick up some spray glue (Super 77 or higher) and spandex to cover the interior of the foam so that the fiberglass resin doesn't dissolve the foam. This is important.
Step 16: Fiberglassing Your Beaver
Now you can start fiberglassing. Be warned - fiberglassing is a messy, disgusting process. Do it somewhere that is well ventilated - use a respirator if you have one - and make sure to do it somewhere that can stand to get sticky and gross. This is not a project for your living room!
You can pick up fiberglass goods at an auto parts shop. You'll want to get a container of fiberglass resin and some fiberglass cloth. Get the cloth that has a more defined weave - it's less of a clumpy mess when you're working.
I recently received this warning --> Please for the sake of me and everyone else out there using fiberglass for any project, never use a dust mask like you used, when using polyester resin. I REPEAT NEVER USE A DUST MASK WHILE USING POLYESTER RESIN!!!! The resin is very toxic and can kill you with short term and prolonged use. Take it upon yourself and buy a NIOSH approved respirator at homedepot. Make sure that the filters say they block organic chemicals and the packaging says it is NIOSH approved. trust me the 30 dollars is worth your life.
So yeah, definitely buy a respirator. I'm sure I lost some brain cells there. Sigh.
Step 17: Mask Your Beaver
Mask every single inch of your beaver. You definitely don't want to get resin all over the place, least of all in your beaver's fur, so be sure EVERYTHING is masked and your work area is as neat as possible.
Step 18: Cut Some Glassing Strips
Cut the glassing cloth into strips. Wear gloves when you're handling and cutting the cloth, otherwise you'll get little tiny glass niblets in your fingers.
Step 19: Mix Some Resin, Coat Your Strips and Lay Them in One by One
Mix up a bit of resin. It will be a two part mixture, just follow the directions included with it.
Using a disposable brush, cover the glassing cloth with resin and turn the cloth over, and brush the other side. Pick up the pieces individually, and apply them like papier mache. Fiberglass is really like a smelly, chemically charged version of papier mache.
Step 20: Glass Each Side Individually
I learned the hard way that gravity will win if you don't have a little patience and do each side separately. All the innards and the spandex caved in on me by trying to save a little time.
Also, try not to mix up too much resin at a time, as it sets rather quickly.
Step 21: Sand the Interior of Your Newly Fiberglassed Beaver
Let the fiberglass dry and air out for at least 24 hours before you start working on it.
Use a dremel with a sanding attachment to get rid of any sharp or misshapen areas. Sand by hand with sandpaper to get it as smooth as you want it. You can mix up resin to fill areas that need it as well, and coating it with some resin after you've smoothed out the surface will leave a nice finish.
Step 22: Test to Make Sure Your Components Fit
Test to make sure your fan, DVD drive, and cords still fit post fiberglassing. If you need room, make it by sanding, cutting, or use a dremel.
Step 23: Drill Some Holes for Air Circulation
Using either a drill or a dremel, drill holes in the front side of the beaver, through the fiberglass for air circulation. Hold the hair away from where you're going to drill as much as possible, because it will get caught in the drill bit. These holes are hardly visible because the fur on the belly is so thick.
Step 24: Figure Out Where You Want to Put Your LEDs
If you're new to LEDs, for basic information, go here http://media.nbcmontana.com/id/E9NFEFO2ZGEV2Z9QKZ/
I originally wanted to place LEDs in the eyes, but decided not to mess with the facial structure because it was done so well to begin with. If you're up for experimenting with something like that, great, otherwise, drill holes wherever you'd like LEDs placed. I put three holes above the DVD drive. One for power, one for the hard drive and one that just blinks nonstop, because, hey, it's a computer in a beaver.
I ran wires through the holes for the LEDs as placeholders, so that the holes didn't disappear into the fur, and then later soldered the LEDs on.
Step 25: Give Your Beaver a Power Switch
You will also want to figure out where you'd like the power switch. I placed it on his belly. The hole that you drill for this will likely need to be larger than the others, but will depend on what you use as a switch.
I purchased a push button switch, which needed to be extended. I was able to extend it by putting some JB Weld in a straw and placing the straw filled with JB Weld over the 'push' component.
Step 26: Time to Place Your Components
Time to start placing components. You'll want to make sure you have a fair amount of small screws, nuts and bolts on hand. Some aluminum sheeting helps - I found some aluminum grid sheeting at a tech surplus shop that came in very handy. Also, you can pick up standard computer hardware mounts that you can modify by bending or cutting as needed. This will all depend on what components you're putting in there. Plan on spending a lot of time on this. It's the equivalent of building a ship in a bottle.
You can screw directly into the fiberglass, or if you need to build a larger surface area, you can use dental acrylic to build yourself a better surface mount wherever you need it.
It's important to remember when installing your components, that you will likely need to access them in the future. Making them as easily removable as possible will definitely help if you run into any problems down the line.
I installed a bar across the top for the DVD drive to rest on, with enough room for the cords and the LED wires to wrap around the far side of it. I then mounted the hard drive to the side of the beaver with the aluminum sheeting and some screws.
Attach the power button internally. The switch I used just required two screws, which went into the fiberglass just fine. The modified straw filled with JB weld then stuck out his middle. I then attached a standard red power button on the other side.
Step 27: Install the Motherboard
When you install the motherboard, you need to make sure all the cords are properly placed. You'll also need to attach the wires for your LEDs and the power switch. Chances are you'll need to get creative here in order to attach the wires. Solder all your wires. Because there's not a huge amount of room, maneuvering isn't all that easy once everything is positioned in there, so doing it right the first time around will help.
Try to figure out a reasonable way to attach the motherboard. I ended up drilling a few holes towards the bottom of the beaver and attaching small aluminum tabs to the motherboard which were then attached to the beaver with screws and nuts. Make sure all the components are in securely, and voila!, you're ready to plug everything in.
If it's not working, trouble shoot it until it does, check wires, kick things, etc.
Step 28: Turn Your Beaver On
Now go eat some puddin'.
The project took me about 3 months, working on it when I had time.
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Step 29: Hey, Thanks for Checking Out My Beaver!