Franken-Monitor - Behold It Lives Again!
A few months ago my laptop died - some form of motherboard fault, which started by the profile getting lost all the time. When Vista tried to regenerate the profile, it ate a load of files. I bumbled along for a week or so and then the LCD would only illuminate during the boot process. As soon as Windows started, the backlight went out. So out to PC-World for a new laptop as I could not afford to be without one for long. Proudly clutching a new Windows 8 box, I was up and running within a week. However the old laptop had a rather nice 18.4” screen with a good resolution. I had seen some articles on upcycling scrap LCD panels - most of them used the old laptop lid as the case. I thought this would not be appropriate for me - given that I have a supply of nice wood left over from building a kitchen in the house I thought something nicer could be done and I would end up with a monitor that would be better for CAD and coding than the laptop panel and the secondary monitor I was using (1680×1050 rather than 1024×768 or 1366×768).
First Stage was to get a driver kit - after a hunt on EBAY I tracked one down:
This came from a seller by the name of njytouch in China - got to say there were no complaints in dealing with them - they confirmed the LCD type quickly, the goods came quickly and they even dropped the price a couple of dollars when I pointed out that the two packages (kit & PSU) could be shipped together. The kit was exactly as shown on the web-site:
The next stage of the process was to design the case - I used my aging 3D package to create a design and build up the piece parts. I ultimately did not follow the design to the letter - partly due to my own incompetence and partly to cope with changes. There were some problems with the design due to me incorrectly swapping left and right several times and because of the limitations of the length of the cables provided. Still the design was produced. The drawings are in this ZIP file as PDFs - please feel free to use them for yourselves:
The aperture for the monitor was designed so the inner opening was the same as the display face, but the rebate was cut to be significantly bigger - about 5mm all round. This is because wood expands and contracts with temperature and humidity. A close fit would stress the LCD panel and could break it - I have seen 10mm ceramic tiles shattered by wood expansion. The idea is to hold the panel in place using closed cell foam of about 6mm thickness. Any expansion and contraction will be taken up by the foam without stressing the panel. The depth of the rebate was set to be about 2mm deeper than the panel to give space to get the cabling out.
Build of the Woodwork
Once the plan was together, it was straight-forward to build up the woodwork - the timber was cut using a mitre saw and profiled on the router table. The holes were drilled for the controls - here was the first failure. I got the drilling on the side arms back to front so I have ended up with the controls on the left. The holes for the controls are counter-bored to make space for the buttons and the recess for the PCB
Here you can see connector for the control cable has been removed - it will be remounted on the back of the board. The recess is all very well but again left and right are swapped over - I seem to do this a lot. Nothing for it but to re-cut the opening. Fortunately this is hidden by the instrument cover.
The instrument cover was modified from the drawings - as drawn it was 40mm wide, radiused on the outer edges only. I modified it to be 50mm wide with radius on all edges. The recess was cut in it to take the cable - this needs to be quite deep as the cable is quite stiff - a 2mm opening on the inner edge was cut for the cable to pass to the rear of the unit. Assembly also flagged up another problem - the screw holes for the instrument cover were conflicting with the edge of the PCB - a bit of judicious work on the grinder cut away the excess without breaking any of the tracks. The control buttons were originally intended to be acrylic but I went for oak. These were turned on the lathe - in retrospect I should have used a closer grained wood - the grain of the oak was a bit coarse. In the end the buttons are nicely flush with the front - the power and Auto-adjust/enter buttons are slightly proud, but this can be argued as a good thing as these are the most commonly used buttons (that's my story and I am sticking to it!! )
The base provided another fail - I deviated from the original design - this was going to be just walnut but I decided to use a centre of pippy oak to lighten the whole thing up a bit and make it less imposing - The first time around the edges were biscuited to the core but just butt jointed to each other. Couldn't get the edges to sit flat as I clamped up. No problem I thought - a quick run through the planer would sort it. And it did, apart from tearing off the edges of the cross-grain. It is at this point I should have decided to climb out of the hole rather than carry on digging. But I carried on and flattened off both sides in the planer tearing off the cross-grain on both ends. No problem - cut off the affected bits and radius all round as planned. Did that and it looks OK but not right - the edges are too thin - and the mitres do not met the corners.
I could have carried on digging and trim the long edges as well but decided to re-make - this time biscuit jointing the mitres as well
The results were much better - I even made cut a pen groove in the front edge.
The rest of the build went OK - the only real modification to the plan was that I designed the support to be 40mm all the way down, but did not have a 40mm Forstner bit or hole cutter - the largest I have is 35mm. No problem, the hole was cut at 35mm and a shoulder cut on the support shaft. Once all the bits were built everything was sanded down to 400 grit and waxed to give a shine - mostly satin on the display frame with a higher gloss on the base - this is to stop reflections off the frame becoming distracting as that is looked at a lot.
The locking knobs are M10 with a 50mm thread depth - these came from Axminster Tools. I used separate ones for height adjustment and screen angle. This is because they need different torques - the height will need a much higher torque to stop the unit slipping down the column. The support is pegged with dowels so it cannot rotate. To make the support shaft two length of wood were used and glued together - one is longer than the other. To allow the support to be turned an extra piece was screwed onto the top with the screws positioned so the holes would be cut out when the support slot was cut. This allowed the shaft to be turned between centres.
Building the Plastic
The cable was reattached to the rear of the control PCB and it was assembled into the instrument housing. The foam strips to hold the display were fitted on one long and one short edge of the frame and the LCD placed in, making sure it was in the correct way. The other foam strips were then carefully pushed into place using a screwdriver. Once this was done the assembly of the housing for the rear and the electronics could begin. I chose not to use wood for this but 2mm styrene sheet, partly for rapidity and partly because the creation of the mounting and casing for the electronics was difficult to arrange in advance because of cable lengths.
The first stage was to make panels to cover the rear of the LCD panel - cut-outs were made to allow the data cable and inverter cable to be brought out to the rear - the cutouts were made big enough to allow the connectors to be removed if the panel or the CCFL tube need replacing.
The casings were made from Styrene with screw-on covers. The finish is a bit rough in places - normally I sand and fill then paint but this was going a bit far on this. The result is neat but not perfect. The PCBs are held in with velcro to allow easy replacement.
Of course the acid test is use. Here the unit is being tested and what better for a high definition screen than a low resolution video feed:
Here is Frankenmonitor in its new environment