case mod 101: cutting a freestyle, low-profile window

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Become a Dremel Jedi; learn the techniques and tricks of cutting your case by adding a freestyle, low-profile window.

In this article, sparks fly as we put the Dremel rotary tool to our case panel. The Dremel tool is certainly not the only way to cut your case, but it offers a great deal of control and flexibility in experienced hands. Beginning modders ask more questions about the Dremel tool than almost anything else, so we’ll take you through cutting a window. Along the way you’ll meet the tool and learn the techniques that get professional looking results.

the finished window mod
this is a freestyle window mod with a unique, custom shape

Window mods draw a lot of attention, especially in conjunction with lighting effects. Window kits offer a prefabricated solution, but designing and cutting your own freestyle window lets you stand out even more. You can vary the shape, size, or orientation of your window cutout to achieve a huge variety of effects to further the custom look of your modded case. Window moulding can help conceal mistakes in cutting, but with some practice and the right techniques, you can have a low-profile window cutout that doesn’t need moulding to look finished.

In addition to your rotary tool, you’ll need a benchtop with room to clamp your panel, masking tape, and protective goggles. Clamping the workpiece to a secure surface prevents it from moving away from your tool bit when you cut. Masking the finished surface of your panel will reduce the likelihood of damage if your tool bit jumps. Some people prefer to cut from the back of the panel. In order to visualise the position and layout of our window opening, we’ll cut on the finished side. I’ll show you some marks made by the bit jumping, but since we’ll be painting this case (in a future article), even these minor marks will get sanded and eventually vanish. If you’ve already painted your case, you can still cut a window with excellent results, although cutting first and then painting is preferable.

safety first
always wear eye protection when working with a rotary tool

Using a carpenter’s square allows marking out the area of our window and keeping edges running exactly parallel to the panel edges. Masking the painted panel makes it easier to mark with a pencil. Leaving a two-inch border around the window cutout keeps enough metal to make sure the panel retains its stiffness.

mark out the straight lines
a carpenter’s square is a highly useful modding tool

A rotary tool can cut a window in almost any shape you can imagine. Rounded corners on an overall rectangular window keep a strong geometric feel while picking up on the curved shape of the case handles we installed. Adding a “kickout” to our window shape increases the custom look and allows us to keep the handle that’s stamped into this case panel. To get a consistent radius on rounded corners, use a template. In this case an 80mm CD served the purpose. Lining it up with the corners and tracing gives a consistent radius to all the corners.

CDs make cheap templates
use a round object for a radius template
mark your rounded corners
the radius corners are all marked out for cutting

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