Integrating a switch plate into a desk to control fans
By Red Squirrel
From here I proceeded with deciding where to position the switches on the plate. I traced the holes at the right positions to have the drilling spots marked as shown in fig 6 below. I drilled the holes then used my dremel's sanding bit to get them the right size as shown in fig 7 (required holes were bigger than any of my drill bits).
Fig 6. Plate marked, ready to be cut
Fig. 7: Plate cut and a switch installed
I wanted to get a metal switch plate for the looks but could not find one, so I got plastic, but that made cutting much easier.
Now time for the wiring! (my cat loved this part!)
I assume you have an understanding of electricity and circuits to do this part, and that obviously you have some fans to control, or even better yet, an existing switch or fan bus. Fig 8 shows a basic diagram of a fan with a switch. To add a switch simply break the circuit and add a switch in it, turning on the switch will close the circuit and allow current through, and turning off the switch will do the opposite. In this case instead of putting a switch right there, we run two wires through the printer cord that go to the switch box, so for example, take the red and the white stripe red wire and hook them up, and at the other end hook up the switch to those two colors. You can use any kind of cord for this but I recomend a printer cord as you can cut one end off to have sticking out the back and plug in the other longer end to run it to the switch box, that way you can unplug it. Also there's plenty of wires to work with, giving you lot of freedom to add switches. Fig 9 shows how a cut and spliced printer cord looks like, fig 10 shows the plate wiring in progress and Fig 11 shows how the PC can be unplugged from the desk so I'm not stuck dragging the desk and the PC at the same time if ever I move my room around or something.
Fig 8. Basic circuit for adding a switch
Fig. 9: Small wires inside printer cord
Fig. 10: Hanging switch plate being wired
Fig. 11: PC can easily be unplugged from switch box, and existing switches can still be used to control the fans
Note: One thing I noticed about using wires that are this small is resistance. Because they are so small for a current that is most likely overloading it's capacity, there's lot of resistance so your lights may be a tad dimmer and fans may run a tad slower. But this is barely noticeable unless you have a bypass switch like me. On the bright side (no pun intended) it will save the life of the fans and lights by making them run a bit lower then their designed capacity.
There's lot of different ways this can be wired, in my case, I simply connected both red wires (just using red as an example here) to my existing switches. So this basically made it so both the switch built on the case and the one on the switch plate control the same thing. Only one of them has to be on. So it's best to just close the ones on the case and depend on the ones on the desk, but if you bring your PC somewhere you can turn on the switches on the case to get the fans working.
For a more permanent matter, another way you could do this is to have a 12V feed to the box, and directly feed the fans from the panel inside the PC, this would 1: save watts from your PSU and 2: give you freedom to feed a different voltage. You could make more complex circuits this way to suit your needs.
I've had this mod for a few days now and found it to be very useful and even worth writing this article on this wonderful concept. I'm probably not the first to have thought of it either. If I am, well patents pending. Just kidding.
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