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ZEUS (R4 | Blue/Black | W/C) - by alpenwasser

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Table of Contents

(Note: I'll be using the original post dates to allow you to get a better impression

of the build's progress.)

01. - 2013-APR-30: Why Dremel When You Can Drill?

02. - 2013-MAY-01: Progress On Back Panel - First Fitting

03. - 2013-MAY-06: The PSU Mount

04. - 2013-MAY-20: Modding/Sleeving the PSU & The HDD Tower

05. - 2013-MAY-21: PSU Sleeving - Continued

06. - 2013-MAY-22: Making a Custom Fan Controller

07. - 2013-MAY-29: Fan Controller & PSU Finished

08. - 2013-MAY-29: Back Panel - Progress

09. - 2013-MAY-30: Reservoir Modding

10. - 2013-JUN-23: Complete (For Now)

11. - 2013-OCT-20: Small Addendum On the Aquainlet Reservoir


Hello everyone!

suggested I join this place and post some of my work, and he tends to

give some good advice in my experience, so I thought I better follow it (we share

a crippling addiction to copper). I have also been following MNPCTech on Youtube for

quite a while.

And what better way to introduce myself than a build log.... :D

This is a build I did in spring 2013. Its eventual purpose will be to serve as our

HTPC, a file and media server and it will do some computing for BOINC. Until my other

build is up and running, it is currently serving as my personal rig though. Some of

you may be familiar with it.

The basic concept: Replace the back panel of the R4 with a custom one in order to

fit a 360 radiator back there (couldn't do it in the front: HDDs). Also, the PSU

has been relocated to the front.

The End Result

I hope this image size works for you guys, otherwise please let me know and I can

switch to a different resolution.

(click image for full res)


The Name

Zwieback Exceeding Useful Specifications.

Because: Why not? Zwieback is a hilarious word IMO, and in English doubly so

(I don't know why I think that, I just do.)

I have been naming my rigs after Greek deities ever since I played the original

Deus Ex (still love that game). I also might have a slight weakness for Greek mythology

in general...

Main PC Guts

  • M/B: MSI Z77A-GD65
  • CPU: Intel i7 2600k
  • RAM: TBD
  • GPU: Onboard
  • SSD: Intel 335 60 GB
  • HDD's: 4 x WD RE4 2 TB
  • HDD's: 3 x WD Red 3 TB
  • PSU: BeQuiet 550 W
  • Case: Fractal Design R4 w/ window side panel
W/C Parts
  • CPU Block: EK Supreme HF Acetal/Copper
  • Pump: Aquacomputer Aquastream Standard
  • Res: Aquacomputer Aquainlet blue anodized
  • Rad Fans: 3 x SP120 quiet
  • Radiator: Alphacool NexXxos UT60 360 mm
Alright then, let's get to it! :)

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Starting the New Back Panel

The Case

I'm sure all of you have seen an R4 before, so I won't be posting pics of it in its stock form.

Here it is after removal of the back panel.

(click image for full res)


The Back Panel

The old back panel out of its natural habitat.

(click image for full res)



A few rivets had to be sacrificed for the greater good :)

(click image for full res)


Paint Jobs

Ah yes, the happy coincidence of this build :)

The new back panel will be made from the Caselabs SMH10's bottom plate. I have replaced

the stock bottom plate in my SMH10 for HELIOS with a meshed version, so this one is no

longer needed. It has the perfect width for this and is high enough (the unneeded height will

be cut off, naturally).

Besides the good dimensional fit, the Caselabs bottom panel also has a very nice powdercoat

job that matches the R4's very nicely. Not that this will ever be seen (placed in a sideboard),

but it's still nice to have this matching.

(click image for full res)



As mentioned above, perfect width.

(click image for full res)



Low adhesion tape. Sadly it is not available here in a wider version, but this did the

job pretty nicely, too.

(click image for full res)



Starting the tape job at the edges.

(click image for full res)



And the corners.

(click image for full res)


First Tape Layer

The first tape layer completed. I put a second layer of some more robust tape over the

first one since the low-tack tape is rather thin and does not provide very good protection

against mechanical damage.

(click image for full res)


Second Tape Layer

The second layer serves as the main protection from mechanical damage.

(click image for full res)


Radiator - Corner Bolts

First I drilled the corner holes for bolting the radiator to the panel.

(click image for full res)


Mesh Pattern

Here it is: The masochist inside me has spoken :lol:

Instead of going the usual route of just dremelling (or jig-sawing) out the opening for the radiator,

I've decided to go a different path and "simply" make the relevant part of the new panel into

mesh by drilling lots and lots and lots and lots of wholes.

I made a pattern which I printed onto sheets of paper and then taped onto the panel. This

served as a reference for drilling the wholes.

For those interested: Pattern Link (pdf)

For different spacings you can easily scale the pdf up or down.

Anyway, on to the work:

(click image for full res)



Since the radiator is longer than a sheet of A4, I needed to compose the pattern from several

sheets of paper (well, two).

(click image for full res)


Red Zone

The red zone denoted where there ought to be no drilling.

(click image for full res)


Drilling - Start

I soon realized that I would have to overlay the entire paper with a protective sheet of adhesive

tape. It just tore up too easily. Should have used adhesive paper.

(click image for full res)



Right before the finishing line of phase 1, the drill bit broke! Aaargh!

(click image for full res)


Phase 1 Complete

After about four hours of drilling (ouch, my wrist :( ):

(click image for full res)


Phase 1 Complete - Naked

And without the tape. Clearly I have made some mistakes, but it's not screwed up too badly.

Since nobody will ever get to see this anyway once the rig is in service, it doesn't matter

that much if it's not perfect (although my pride would certainly have liked that :lol: ).

Somebody on OC3D actually counted the holes, he said there were 1174 of them IIRC.

(click image for full res)


Bottom Line

I really like this approach instead of cutting out a huge opening and placing a grill

over it, but if I ever do this again, it will be with at least a drill press, if not

with a CNC machine. The precision you can achieve by hand for such a highly repetitive

task is just not that great, no matter how patient and careful you are. But still, overall

I'm pretty happy with the result, it was a cool experiment to do. :)

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That is a lot of drilling, when I did my retro HTPC, I used small square dowels as fan grills... 2 toothpick sized holes in each, plus 2 reciprocal holes in the face of it... so tedious! lol Keep up the good work :)

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That is a lot of drilling, when I did my retro HTPC, I used small square dowels as fan grills... 2 toothpick sized holes in each, plus 2 reciprocal holes in the face of it... so tedious! lol Keep up the good work :)


Wow, that sounds even worse. Ah well, sometimes our inner masochist just needs some

feeding. :D


You could have glued the template to the tape with paper glue.

Haha, now that you mention it, it sounds ridiculously obvious! :lol:

Alright then, onwards we go:

New Back Panel - Progress

Back panel cut to size and first work on cutout for I/O area. The fan grill holes

have been drilled and deburred, but not yet painted.


It fits almost perfectly into the R4. I did need to make a few minor adjustments (taking a mm

off here or there), but overall the fit is near perfect.

(click for full res)


Perfect Width

Not much to say here. Width of the SMH10's bottom panel is perfect.

(click for full res)



To give you an impression of the concept behind all these shenanigans ;)

(click for full res)



A closer look at how the radiator fits in.

(click for full res)


Space Left

The space left between the M/B and the rad.

(click for full res)


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The PSU Mount

External Shot - No Front Panel

As you can see, there's still some refinement required, but this gives you a pretty good idea

about how everything fits together. Since the front panel will hide this anyway, it does not

need to be absolutely perfect.

(click image for full res)


External Shot - Front Panel Mounted

The 90 degree plug fits just behind the front door, so it does close. :)

(click image for full res)


Internal Shot

Do not worry about the cables at this point. I started to sleeve them to get some practice,

and I was not yet aware at that point that I would be completely changing the PSU location.

Naturally, all the cables were way too long now, so I had to shorten them to get

everything to look neat and tidy.

(click image for full res)


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Sleeving - Part One

Opening the PSU

I'm sure you all know that opening a PSU is not a very good idea if you don't know what you're

doing. It's not magic of course; as long as certain precautions are taken it's perfectly safe

(how else would a manufacturer's technician do maintenance and repairs? ;)), but people

who do not take those precautions leave themselves open to being nominated and possibly

awarded a Darwin award.

Anyway: It's not a terribly impressive PSU, but it doesn't need to be. It just needs to do its

job, and do it well. Going by BQ's reputation, that should be the case here.

Feel free to mock me for the terrible hideousness to the left of the PSU. :lol:

(click image for full res)


Cutting Unneeded Wires

Since I need neither the PCI-E auxiliary power cables nor all of the SATA and molex

power connectors, some of the wires were cut and their remains kept inside the PSU.

I left enough wire to have something to solder on to should I ever need to do that

for some reason.

The brownish stuff on the red wires is just tape residue, not a burnt wire, for those

worrying. ;)

I numbered them and written down what connects to what in case of restoration.

(click image for full res)


Cable Lacing

I must admit: I'm not terribly fond of zip ties. They look ugly IMO, it's much too

easy to overtighten them and crush a cable's mantle, and they are terribly wasteful

with all that remaining plastic being chopped off and binned.

I therefore started to investigate alternatives a while ago, and stumbled upon the

rather ancient are of cable lacing. Before the advent of zip ties, this was how cables

and wires were organized. Since it's rather time consuming to do this properly, it

has fallen out of favour in many areas and been supplanted by zip ties. However,

there are still areas where cables are laced instead of zip tied, most notably the

aerospace industry (NASA has a rather nice manual on it somewhere).

Those of you who have worked in telecommunications will probably have learned and used

this, depending on how old you are. At this stage I was still very much only develping

my technique.

These were some first experiments.

Front side of my very first try during the process:

(click image for full res)


Same try, later stage:

(click image for full res)


The back side of that wire group:

(click image for full res)


24 Pin

Ok then, let's try this on a double layer cable with a bit more wires:

(click image for full res)


Notice that the 24 pin is rather short at this point. This makes it a bit tricky to get it neat

and tidy. This is not the end result though.

(click image for full res)


HDD Tower

Since the top of the HDD tower (or however one chooses to call it) is anchored to the

5.25" bay enclosure in the case's standard config and said enclosure had been discarded

in this build, I had to devise a new plan to make sure the HDD's stay in place and

everything looked right.

I decided to anchor the HDD tower's top place directly to the underside of the PSU.

So, let's make a few holes:

(click image for full res)


HDD Tower - Overview

The tower is pretty much straight now, its top end is 0.5 mm further away from the case front

than its bottom part. It's measurable but not really noticeable.

(click image for full res)


SATA Power Cable

Let's make this nice and straight, shall we? The PSU was still open at this point

because I still needed to make a few adjustments to it.

(click image for full res)


Current Overview

I placed the pump in for taking some measurements, and I moved the fans between the

back panel and the radiator.

(click image for full res)


RIP - Trusty Friend

After more than seven years of loyal service my lighter gave up on me. It's a jet

flame lighter, so it's actually pretty well suited not only for melting paracord,

but also for heat shrink since it's possible to quite accurately regulate the heat

output getting to the heat shrink (also, it does not leave any black residue).

I originally bought this during my army time for officer candidate school; it was

very well suited for lighting those pressed charcoal sticks you use for warming

your hands (it was rather cold and we were outside a lot :lol: ). It's served me

extremely well during the years, although I've not used it all that much as a non-smoker.

I took it apart to see if I could fix it, but it seemed the valve for the Butane

tank was defective, so no luck. :(

(click image for full res)


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PSU Sleeving - Continued

Got a new lighter to continue sleeving:

(click image for full res)


SATA Power Cables

While the 90 degree SATA power connectors allow for extremely neat wire routing, they are

not really well suited for sleeving. This is what I came up with:

(click image for full res)


The HDD tower's back side:

(click image for full res)


Pump Power Delivery

Obviously the pump can't run without some voltage goodness. :)

This is not the final cable routing, but it shows the rough idea.

(click image for full res)


Fan Power Delivery

Remember those clipped wires I mentioned and how I left some cable to solder on to

in case I ever needed them again? Good thing I did that. Originally I was going to

run the fans off the same cable as the pump, but then I realized that I would have

to do double wires inside the crimp connectors, which I really don't like.

They're almost impossible to crimp unless you have very thin wires (I don't), and

they're an absolute nightmare to sleeve.

So I decided to to a dedicated fan cable. This is where I soldered the new wires

onto the remains of the old ones:

(click image for full res)



(click image for full res)


And this is how I planed to connect the fans at that stage:

(click image for full res)


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Making a Custom Fan Controller

As some of you may know, the SP120's are not exactly all that quiet on 12 V. Now,

I could have just used the old 5 V or 7 V wire switcheroo mod, but that would not

give me very good control over the fan speed. Since I didn't yet know what the temps

were going to be like, and since I needed this machine to be as quiet as possible,

I decided to make a custom fan controller.

The idea of this was not so much to constantly change the fan speeds, but to be able

to adjust the fan speed to the optimal level and then leave it at that, possibly

changing it if it gets very hot in summer. But other than that, it's more of a

set-and-forget thing.

The Phobya Fan Splitter PCB

First things first: I needed some connectors. So I desoldered this Xigmatek fan splitter.

(click image for full res)


The New PCB

Then I soldered those connectors onto a new PCB, along with a variable resistor.

(click image for full res)


Cutting it down to Size

Obviously it couldn't stay like that.

(click image for full res)


And another angle:

(click image for full res)


The Backside

I gotta say: This was one tricky bastard. I'm talking about tweezers and taking more

than an hour to solder these few wires. To be honest I would have required an additional

pair of hands, doing it like this wasn't really an optimal solution. Since my soldering

iron can't be adjusted I ended up melting off some of the insulation on the wires (they

heat up extremely quickly since they're so short and tiny).

The red tape was just for support, that's already gone. To give it a bit of extra strength

and to compensate for the melted insulation I encased the connections with epoxy glue.

If I was to do this more often I would definitely get a proper soldering iron and make

myself some sort of contraption which could hold everything in place so that I could do

some properly precise work.

(click image for full res)


It Lives!

Yeah, despite the not exactly stellar soldering job it works as planned. And there are

no loose connections or anything like that. I applied some force to the connectors while

it was running, no problem at all. So it might not look very nice, but it's solid,

especially once it had some additional strength from the glue (the 4 pin connector still

wiggled around quite a bit when I took out the plug, so that definitely needed additional


(click image for full res)


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Very nice work on the sleeving. I love long SATA chains like that, for some reason.

Thanks! Yeah it's just so nice and parallel and tidy. At least that's why I like it. :D

Fan Controller - Finished

I strengthened the fan controller with quite a substantial amount of epoxy glue. It might

not be the prettiest, but it won't be visible and it's pretty much bomb proof at this point.

(click image for full res)


(click image for full res)


PSU - Finished (More or Less)

There was still some very minor finishing touches to be applied, but it's as good

as done.

(click image for full res)


24 Pin - Detail

There's a minor mistake in my lacing in the middle lacing section, but I didn't redo the whole

thing just for that. The lacing was not 100% straight at this point, that was done

once everything was mounted, there was enough flex to do that.

(click image for full res)


Fan Cable

This cable connects to the fan controller, hence only the 12 V wire. Obviously I couldn't

use the same technique for this as for the 24 pin.

(click image for full res)


That's it for today, thanks for stopping by. I'll post the rest tomorrow since I've

had a very long day and am very tired. So long. :)

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Hey Alpenwasser Glad you finally made it over to the dark side Lol.  Welcome to The Mod Zoo.  Everyone this is my good friend and he suffers from the same copper addiction that I do.  So don't take it out on him because of me.  Glad to have you here bro I love all your work!  If you need any further Embarrassment you know I'm here for you! Dx

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Hey Alpenwasser Glad you finally made it over to the dark side Lol.  Welcome to The Mod Zoo.  Everyone this is my good friend and he suffers from the same copper addiction that I do.

Yeah, I do. :D

So don't take it out on him because of me.  Glad to have you here bro I love all your work!  If you need any further Embarrassment you know I'm here for you! Dx

Will do, sir!



Bloody hell,he is following me about!..



Ooops, he's figured it out!


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Back Panel - Progress


Since I didn't want to repaint the entire panel, I used this to paint each hole individually.

Yes, it was a rather slow process. :lol:

(click image for full res)


Back Panel - Inner Side

The unpainted side. I thought this would provide some good contrast to see the difference.

(click image for full res)


Back Panel - Outer Side

The screw holes weren't painted, since they're not visible (also, they are threaded).

(click image for full res)


Back Panel - Test Fit

It fits nice and snug, and it's all solid and good.

(click image for full res)


Back Panel - M/B Test Fit

The M/B fit nicely to the new back panel. The I/O shield lined up perfectly.

You can also see the screws used to mount the panel. As you can see, there's no nuts involved, the threads

are directly in the back panel. It's thick enough for this to work nicely, as long as you're not too brutal there's

no danger of ripping the threads out of the aluminium.

(click image for full res)


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Reservoir Modding

The Problem

A few years ago (probably ~2007) I bought this nice little reservoir for my Eheim 1046.

It's a very handy little thing, and it's built like a bloody tank (seriously, you could bludgeon

somebody to death with this).

However, back then Aquacomputer had not yet fully jumped on the G1/4" train and was still

using G1/8" in many of their products (as they had since their inception).

This required a rather ugly and unwieldy adapter when wanting to use modern fittings, such

as the lovely blue Monsoon ones I've bought.

The adapter itself looks like this:

(click image for full res)


And with a fitting on it:

(click image for full res)


The Plan

Well, it was quite simple really: Retap the hole to G1/4". However, this would leave me with a

slight problem: Naked aluminium exposed to the coolant. I do use a corrosion inhibitor

in my loop, but I wanted to reduce the chance for corrosion to ruin the party by painting over the

naked aluminium and sealing the hole thing against the coolant.


I'm well aware of what galvanic corrosion is and how it works (well, I'm not a chemist, but I have

a better grasp of it than most people I'd say). I'm not saying that this is a good

idea or something you should necessarily try yourself. It's an experiment. If it works,

great, if not, I haven't lost anything since I have no more use for the reservoir anyway. But don't

anybody start panicking about corrosion please. I was aware of the risks, I weighed them and

I made an informed decision to go ahead.

So far I have encountered no problems (the loop has been in use for about four and

a half months now, 24/7).

Protecting the Insides

Obviously I didn't want to crash into the opposing inner wall with the drill.

(click image for full res)


The Drill and Tap

The 11.80 mm drill bit with the G1/4" tap.

(click image for full res)



The 11.80 didn't fit into the drill bit adapter, so I had to improvise a bit. The adapter actually

belongs to a Bosch pneumatic drill hammer, but that thing is way too powerful for this sort

of thing, so I decided to go with this configuration. It worked surprisingly well.

Naturally I didn't just drill the G1/8" to 11.80 mm, but first to 9 mm, 10 mm and then to

11.80 mm (a 11 mm drill bit would have been handy, 10 to 11.80 is a rather large step as I fount out).

(click image for full res)



I didn't have any actual lubricant specifically for this, so I just used some of the gun lubricant I have

laying around (both for drilling and tapping the thread). Since it's made for the high speed movement

of a gun action, it works very well for this.

(click image for full res)


Tapping Hole

The 11.80 mm hole before threading.

(click image for full res)



And after cutting the thread. You can clearly see how thick the walls are on this thing. That's

why you need to lubricate very well. Otherwise the drill just blocks.

(click image for full res)


Test Fit

As expected, much better. :)

(click image for full res)



Alright then, let's paint that sucker! I did one coat of etch primer and two coats of paint.

Obviously I can't really do proper surface treatment within the thread, or put on too much

paint since it will just get stripped off by the fitting's thread anyway, but this should work

well enough to prevent the coolant from getting to the naked aluminium.

(click image for full res)


And on the inside:

(click image for full res)



The coat is pretty thick and bonded nicely to the surface.

(click image for full res)



The Monsoon fitting hides the paint job very well, and it goes in and out without

stripping the paint off the threads (there were two small patches of paint stripped

off, but I've covered those with the Humbrol enamel paint and things are nice and

sealed now).

As you can see, the reservoir has sustained the occasional scratch over the years.

(click image for full res)


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Complete! (For Now ;))

Overall I'm pretty happy with how things have turned out. I won't claim to be the

first one who's ever done a similar mod, but I'm the first one I know of, and I think

it's a pretty neat idea for my specific usage scenario. Not having to use any add-

on cards has allowed me to use the internal space of the R4 in a very optimal

fashion for the hardware I've put in this rig.

Some Niggles and Thoughts

I'm not 100 % happy with the back plate, and if I had to redo it I would either have

somebody CNC it or at least find a workshop where I can use a drill press, but

considering nobody's ever going to see it anyway I'm actually still pretty satisfied

with the result. And now that the black fans are underneath the holes and the holes

have been painted inside and outside the errors in the hole pattern are actually

much harder to spot and don't just jump out at you anymore (at least not with

me :lol: ).

I must admit that the SP120's, even though they are the quiet edition fans, are

not really quiet and the fan controller I've made has definitely been a good

investment of my time. So with the fans turned down it really is a pretty quiet rig,

especially considering that the WD R4's are enterprise HDDs and are therefore

not exactly the quietest of drives.

Aside from that I'm very happy with the rig, I think it's a pretty nice little machine. :)

It's not perfect, but with the means I had at my disposal I think I've done pretty well.

It's also been a very good learning experience, and I intend to incorporate the lessons

learned into HELIOS (which is one of the reasons I completed this project first).

There is one thing I would probably change if I were to redo this project: Use a Xeon

CPU and another M/B with ECC RAM. I did not originally plan on using ZFS as my file

system solution, but it became production ready shortly before I undertook this project

(but after I'd already ordered the parts). I have been extremely happy with ZFS so

far, but it would be preferable to have ECC memory (I won't bore you with the details,

it's just what it is).

But yes, for the past four and a half months this rig has been serving me very nicely. :)

Anyway, enough with the chit-chat.

(click image for full res)


(click image for full res)


(click image for full res)


(click image for full res)


(click image for full res)


As said, I'm using ZFS:

(click image for full res)


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Small Addendum On the Aquainlet Reservoir

] suggested I put up this sweet vid on how the reservoir is made. It should

give you a pretty good impression of just how massive that thing really is, plus some

good ol' machining pr0n is always nice IMO. :D

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Thanks alpenwasser I LMAO when people say there is no skill in machining parts! the skill level required to make that machine do all that would make my head explode. Some people have a head for that kind of thing, but you still have to put the time into learning the techniques just like any other skill we develop.  There are a few people here that could make some serious Aluminum chips with that mill.  I thought I was looking at FanBlades shop when I saw all the round stock aluminum.   

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Thanks alpenwasser I LMAO when people say there is no skill in machining parts! the skill level required to make that machine do all that would make my head explode. Some people have a head for that kind of thing, but you still have to put the time into learning the techniques just like any other skill we develop.  There are a few people here that could make some serious Aluminum chips with that mill.  I thought I was looking at FanBlades shop when I saw all the round stock aluminum.

One of the most awesome machining videos I've seen so far was about milling an

off-road motorbike helmet out of a solid block of alu in real-life size. Holy Poopadilly! :o

And yes, correctly programming a milling machine or a lathe is no trivial matter. I

once did an internship at a company which makes 35 mm and 20 mm AAA guns,

among other things. They had this totally and utterly awesome CNC lathe, and

even their chief mechanic said of himself he could maybe use 5% of its capabilities

after two years of working with the thing.


Haha, I just noticed: The profanity filter on this forum can lead to some pretty

hilarious results, nice job on that one! :lol:

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