SkyVue: A gorgeous hand-crafted PC by Jeffrey Stephenson

PC case virtuoso Jeffrey Stephenson is back with another inspiring hand-built PC design.
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Say hello to SkyVue

I once called Jeffrey Stephenson the Frank Lloyd Wright of PC case design. He has an amazing talent for creating hand-crafted PCs.

Back in 2013, I showcased many of his incredible designs in a gallery. It's definitely worth another look. In 2014, I showed another case design, this time inspired by the old-time Addison radio, popular in the 1940s.

We've waited more than a year for another Stephenson masterpiece. When Jeffrey told me he had another work of art, I knew you all would want to take a look.

If you want to follow along with all of Jeffrey's build steps, click on over to Stephenson's site. He's been kind enough to allow us to show you his finished design, along with some of the work that it took to put it all together.

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The relative size of SkyVue

I spoke to Stephenson about what went into the design and building process. We'll show you that in a few slides. But first, let's get to know SkyVue.

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Another view of SkyVue

Leveraging off of Stephenson's talent for Art Deco, it looks like a retro-modern skyscraper.

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A side view of SkyVue

Here's another look. You can start to see some of the details.

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The interior chassis

Stephenson told me, "SkyVue is comprised of two separate units. The interior chassis and the external enclosure."

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The slide-over enclosure

He says, "The enclosure slides down over the chassis and is not connected in any other way. The chassis can operate autonomously."

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A low-profile water cooling system

Stephenson tells ZDNet, "The idea for the chassis was formed when Corsair released their new H5 SF low profile water cooling system. It is a very unique CPU water cooler in that it uses a small radiator combined with a blower instead of the usual axial fan. It is very compact and allows for a low system profile. I imagined a design that would mind better displays that dimension."

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Mining an old case for a frame

Stephenson says, "To keep the system narrow I chose an old Silverstone LC-02 aluminum HTPC case that included graphics card risers and extensions to allow for a "laid down" card position or in my design, a straight-up position."

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Building around the case

Stephenson told us, "I cut up the case leaving only the minimum needed to mount the equipment. I termed this a bikini chassis. Only what is barely necessary. I reinforced the remaining structure with aluminum angle to regain rigidity."

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Paper spacers

Stephenson describes, "There weren't any measurements as I built the enclosure directly against chassis using pieces of paper as a spacer."

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Placing the power supply

According to Stephenson, "The original case came with Flex-ATX power supply that I would upgrade to a larger (size-wise) SFX PSU form factor. This I mounted at the bottom of the chassis where the original was formally located."

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A closer look at the power supply

Another view of the power supply.

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Finished view of the supply

Here's another view of the power supply.

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Stepped structures going upward

He continued, "After I mounted all the equipment I noticed a near perfect symmetry split down the center with ever narrowing stepped structures going upward."

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Near perfect symmetry

Talking about his design approach, Stephenson told ZDNet, "Three years earlier I had designed a lamp that looked like an Art Deco skyscraper and I realized that this design would easily adapt to SkyVue's chassis. It was a near perfect match requiring little modification to the design."

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Components in each stepped section

He continues, "The external enclosure was constructed around the chassis with each stepped section representing a separate component. Power supply, motherboard/cooler combo and finally graphics card."

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Sapale veneer

According to Stephenson, "I found some sapale veneer for a bargain price. It is in the mahogany family and I love working with mahogany. Surprisingly, the sapale has a cedar-like odor when being worked. SkyVue has 94 pieces of sapale veneer covering an aircraft grade birch plywood frame. The graphics card vent system alone has 40 pieces of veneer."

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Design challenge

Describing a design challenge, Stephenson told us, "Cooling for the air-cooled graphics card was a design challenge."

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Vent system

He continued, "I decided to build a vent system at the top of the enclosure that the graphic card's cooling fan faced."

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Vents as windows

Technical requirements can often drive design, as Stephenson described, "To tie in the vent design to the overall design I made it look like stylized windows."

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More venting

Stephenson described another vent, "I also included a smallish vent on the other side to provide for a fan in case that was needed."

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Aluminum trim

Stephenson told us about how he trimmed out the SkyVue: "The aluminum trim is T6511 bar stock cut up, sanded and polished to a matte finish."

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Another view of the aluminum

Here's another view of the aluminum trim.

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Eight weeks of work

I asked Jeffrey if he had anything specific he wanted ZDNet readers to know about this project. He replied:

The project took around 240 hours to design and build over an eight week period.

Companies like Gigabyte, Corsair, Silverstone and Kingston eagerly participated with equipment donations. The only company that wasn't thoughtful enough to participate was the one located in Santa Clara which is why you will see no mention of a CPU in this build. Their assumption that I would pay to help promote their product was misguided. Other than that struggle this project was a tremendous amount of fun and I hope that shows in its presentation.

Once again, I'd like to thank Jeffrey for his amazing, inspiring work and for sharing it with all of us. To see more about Jeffrey Stephenson's work, visit his site and his project forum.

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