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Modding outside the box
Integrating a switch plate into a desk to control fans
By Red Squirrel

I first decided on how I would hook up the wiring box, and where. A wiring box is usually nailed in sideways to a stud in the wall, but in a desk, there are no studs. So I had to fix myself something for that. I measured where to place the box in the desk and where to cut the hole, and after measuring I made the right marks to proceed with the cutting, which is the part in modding that I usually don't do too good at. But the switch plate covers my horrible crooked cut anyway.

To get the corner brackets properly positioned on the box, I had to measure how much the box will stick out of the desk, including the thickness of the wood, so I positioned the brackets accordingly to screw them in, as shown in fig 1 below. After that I proceeded to measure and mark the hole as shown in fig 2 and started cutting it with the jig saw. The reason for all this crazy piece by piece cutting is because a jig saw can't really do 90 degree corners so sharp without round edges so I would just do one section at a time to try and get this perfect rectangle, which required sanding to make it better and it still looked horrible but as long as the switch plate hides that. This created a ton of dust in my room, so be prepared for this when you cut through your desk, especially if you need to sand anything to get a good fit.

box thingy
Fig. 1: Box arrangement

Desk ready to cut
Fig. 2: Hole is ready to be cut

Fig 3: Cutting in progress, one piece at a time (sanding after to get a perfect fit)

Screwing the box behind that part of the desk was tricky because I was in a corner and the keyboard rack was in the way, but I managed to get it done, as shown in fig 4 below. From where the switch plate will be, it did not look too bad as shown in fig 5 and now it's time to start wiring and running the cable to the PC, which in my case was several feet. If you installed real house switches before, this is basically the same process.

Box installed
Fig 4. Box screwed in to fit in hole.

Installed box
Fig. 5: The biggest part of the job done

On the next page we'll look at getting the switch plate ready for the toggle switches.

Next Page
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Latest comments (newest first)
Posted by syb on August 08st 2004 (22:13)
Nice job red. Never thought of that.
Posted by Red Squirrel on August 08th 2004 (17:58)
I sort of forgot to put a pic of the whole desk with it. But basically before would be just black, and after would be with the panel. The looks of it is very simple, this is more of a functionability mod then anything and just an introduction to the concept. I'm hoping to do other mods like this such as integrating speakers in the desk, but not sure if I'm brave enough to do that much cutting. (my parants would kill me if I screwed up)
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