Building a Windows Home Server – Craftsman Style, Part 2.

In part one of this series I described how my need for a new office cabinet, and my desire to build a Windows Home Server came together in a single project, the craftsman style home server.

With a cabinet design roughly sketched out on a piece of A4 refill, it was time to start cutting some wood. I’m not going to go into detail about the woodworking and cabinet building process, as this blog is mainly about the server. Suffice it to say that there wasn’t a lot of mortise an tenon jointing going on as I have neither a dado stack, nor a mortising chisel. The cabinet was largely constructed using concealed screws, with through dowels to strengthen the face and door frame. The following pictures will give you an idea.

Now my Belkin N1 Vision router might have a nice LCD display, but it doesn’t have a cutter head that spins at 24,000 rpm! In this shot the venerable De Walt 621 makes short work of cutting slots in the sides for the shelves. My wife’s doing the work here while I take the photo. Computers leave her cold, but she loves those power tools.

In this photo, the sides (pre-stained on the inside to make life easier) are attached to a face frame by screwing through concealed blocks into both the side and frame. Note that I have also attached strips under each shelf slot to both strengthen the shelves, and make ensure that the the sides, which are made from two edge glued boards, are held firmly together.

Here’s the frame for the door, waiting to have a plywood panel fitted. Around this time I also cut out the shelves from both 17 and 12mm plywood, and applied a 5mm pine veneer on the visible front edge of each shelf. The thicker ply was for the base, and lower two shelves (including the server shelf).

After fitting the server shelf to the cabinet, I was able to finally construct the server drawer. The slot in the upper left of the drawer front is for an acrylic insert, which will serve as a diffuser for the server power LED.

This picture shows the LED in place below the acrylic. The LED is a 3mm high intensity blue type. After I cut the slot for the acrylic, I drilled a 3mm hole down through the center of the bottom of the slot. I then drilled a larger hole into the back side of the drawer front, just below the slot, and far enough in so that I could access the 3mm hole (I squared the hole out with a chisel to allow flush fit of the LED into the 3mm hole). I fitted the LED to a lead, bent it at a right angle and fitted it up into the 3mm hole as can be seen above. The acrylic itself has roughly sanded edges to better diffuse the light.

This is the power switch, hidden just behind the front of the drawer and easily reached by opening the drawer a few centimeters. I didn’t bother with a reset switch, and so far I haven’t needed one.

Once the drawer was finished I was free to start setting up the server hardware. Here I have placed and screwed down the motherboard, after fitting the RAM and CPU. To mount the board I started by placing the board on the wood, then marking through the mounting holes with a pencil. I removed the board and drilled small guide holes for the screws. At first I wondered how I was going to give the underside of the board clearance from the drawer base, then, whilst browsing my local electronics shop (probably for switches or LEDs) I found a packet of small rubber grommets, about 8mm high with a 6mm hole in the middle. Perfect! I placed them over the holes I’d drilled, then sat the motherboard on them and screwed it down with stainless screws. This also met my requirement of mounting any part that could possibly transmit vibrations through to the woodwork on a rubber washer or pad.

You’ll also notice in the above photo, that I’ve used the stock CPU cooler. Early on I spent some time puzzling over CPU cooling, as I wanted the server to be as quiet as possible, and my previous experience with stock Intel coolers for higher end processors was that they were quite noisy, especially when running flat out. I thought I was going to need to buy an after-market low noise cooler, and went to some trouble considering the options and whether they’d fit into the drawer space available. Luckily I waited until the CPU turned up. I’d never bought a low power processor before, and when I opened it I was amused by the small cooler, about half the height of those I was used to. I plugged it into a spare 12V supply and was pleasantly surprised to find that even at full speed it was almost inaudible. Problem solved.

In this photo I’m test fitting the drawer to the cabinet in order to mark on the back where the cutouts for the power supply, LAN cable, and a drawer ventilation fan should go. The power supply is a 480W Enermax that I had spare. I would have rather had a lower rated supply with plug in cables, but I couldn’t justify the expense since this supply was available. What this supply does have is fans that can be turned down to run very quietly. As with all the parts, the supply is mounted on foam rubber pads.

I fitted a fan to the inside of the back board (mounted on foam rubber of course) to blow air into the drawer. The fan in the photo was my first attempt, a high volume Delta fan I had spare. I fitted a resistor in order to run it at 6V and reduce its noise. Once the server was running, I realized that this was still by far the noisiest component, and replaced it with a new silent Sythe 500rpm fan (I had also determined that only minimal ventilation was required).

The server build was completed by fitting the Samsung hard drive behind the power supply. I made some mounting brackets out of right angled metal brackets I found at the hardware store (they are actually “concealed perlin cleats”). They allow enough height for me to eventually add a second hard drive underneath the first, although at this stage that space is filled with the surplus power supply cables. I may have to eventually remove some cables from the power supply. The metal brackets are screwed through foam pads into the drawer base.

At this time I don’t intend to use the server with more than two drives (apart from perhaps an external drive used as a shared folder backup). By my calculation, two large drives will give me backup redundancy, plus plenty of storage, whilst keeping the noise, heat and power consumption to a minimum. If I did ever want to add more drives I would have to build them into the shelf above.

The cabinet and server are finally finished.

At the back of the cabinet, I added a filter holder over the fan inlet to reduce dust ingress. The hole next to the filter is for the LAN cable.

And here it is, ready to take its place inside. The next task will be setting up the Windows Home Server, but more about that in Part 3.

7 responses to “Building a Windows Home Server – Craftsman Style, Part 2.

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