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Reclaimed Desk Fan


I've had this old 12v computer fan for years. I salvaged it from something at work long ago. I think.

I've also had these ancient 12v power supplies for an equally long time. (Next photo) Based on the name "Hayes", I beleive that they must have powered old modems at some point. (People below a certain age have no idea what a telephone modem was...) By hooking the two together I had a small compact desk fan. I used this as an adhoc fan both at home and in my office at work for years. (I have two sets)

I decided to try and make some sort of a stand for this, to turn it into a slightly more polished and stable fan, and less of a mess. The first thing I needed to find was an on/off switch. I have plenty of large wall switches around, but I wanted a small one. After a bit of thought I again salvaged some small switches -- this time from some scrapped PC power supplies.

So I'm startig with a bunch of salvaged computer parts.

After a bit of prototyping, I decided to make a wooden frame to hold the fan. The switch would get embedded in that. The frame would stand between a pair of uprights above a base and pivot. This was all figured out in my head and with some bits of scrap wood as props -- no sketchup this time!

I used my miter jig on the table saw to make the 45-degree cuts in some scrap maple to make the frame and then glued it up. (I still need to get a strap clamp or something someday to make this type of glue up easier!)

Glued miter joints are not tremendously strong, so I then used a spline jig to cut spline slots in the corners of the frame. (Sorry, I don't have a better photo of this -- it is a simple L-shaped piece of wood which is fastened between two other bits of plywood so that it can slide over/above the tablesaw blade. The saw blade can then cut a slot across a corner joint.

This whole project is quite small and was made with small scrap offcuts.

I cut some small bits of padauk and glued those into the splines and clamped them tight.

I had planned to embed the on/off switch in the center of the bottom of the frame. However, I changed my plan to instead cut a notch on the inside of the frame to hold the switch. I think this is a stronger design in that it leaves more of the frame alone. I think this is also a lot simpler, as cuting a notch is easier than fitting a mortise! The switch (see above) has little tabs on the sides so it should fit snug in the notch and be held by friction. However, once the fan is installed in the frame, it will also serve to lock the switch in place. Finally, by having an open notch it makes it far easier to assemble the project, as all the wiring and soldering can be done before the switch is layed into place.

But I wish I had thought of this before I assembled the frame, as it would have been a lot easier to make before the frame was built!

With the frame assembled, I moved on to the rest of the fan base. I picked out some oak to use for the base and also some 1x2 (ish) pieces of oak to serve as uprights to hold the frame. I took measurements off of the actual project and then cut the base to length.

I decided to notch the uprights into the base. This was purely for fun and aesthetics. I could have just fastened the uprights to the base with screws and it would be plenty strong. I traced the uprights and cut out the notches on the bandsaw. (Of course, jigsaw or scrollsaw would also have worked!)

I planned to use some 1/4-20 bolts and knobs to attach the frame to the uprights, and I needed to drill those holes in the uprights next.

I traced a small stain can to make arcs at the corner of the base and cut those at the bandsaw to give the project rounded corners.

I then sanded all the loose pieces before I glued the uprights to the base. If possible, always sand the pieces before assembly as it is much easier at that point. I tried to make sure that the uprights were glued at a perfect 90-degree angle. (I didn't quite make it...)

I drilled a 1/4" hole through the uprights into the base and added some dowels. This adds a lot of strength, but it also is for looks as I used some reddish (padauk/jatoba/I-dunno-but-it-is-reddish) exotic wood dowels to pin the joint.

I did not take any video or still photos of my soldering. It was not a big deal. The wire from the fan goes to the switch, and from there to a small jack. I also attached the mating part to the jack to the AC adaptor. This allows me to easily attach and remove the cord if needed.

And here is a look at what it looks like with the fan and switch mounted in the frame. It was now time to take the wood parts of the project outside to spray on some lacquer. (Again, not filmed -- it's just a rattle-can of spray lacquer from the local big box home store.)

Before applying the lacquer, I used the Acetone-laser-toner-transfer method to put my name and the date on the bottom of the project.

(Print a messge with the laser printer, making sure it is flipped mirror image. It must be a laser printer, not an inkjet! Then tape down one side to hold it firm. Moisten a rag with some acetone and wipe the back of the paper firmly. Allow the acetone to evaporate and then peel back the paper. It's never 100% perfect, but usually better than 95%)

I wanted to add some washers to the side of the fan assembly. This would introduce just a bit of a gap, to keep the frame from rubbing on the uprights. Getting those washers to stay in position can be tricky and frustrating. I added a few dabs of CA glue to the washers ... which worked great! The washers stayed firmly in position while I wedged the uprights open a touch to work in the fan frame (Next photo) The uprights had leaned in a bit while being glued into place, so it was a tight fit. I then fitted in the bolts and attached the knobs to hold things in place.

I thought about adding a small dab of hot glue, in the spot indicated by the green arrow, to help hold the wires and switch in place. But it really isn't needed, as the fan will lock the switch in place once the fan is screwed into the frame.

I tried drilling mounting holes through the fan shroud while it was in place, but there just wasn't enough room to fit in the drill. So I took the fan out and then drilled the mounting holes. I then needed to pre drill two small holes inside the frame. If I were to build this a second time I would try to get these drilled before assembling the frame. Fortunately I have a right-angled drill that was able to fit into the frame and drill the holes.

A right-angled drill/driver is one of those tools that you almost never need, but when you do, you are very glad to own one.

As expected, by fastening the fan into the frame, it nicely locked the switch into place at the same time as locking the fan in place. I used a couple short #6 robertson screws.

And I thought I was done but I had forgotten about the feet. I added some rubber feet to the base of the project. The fun thing about these feet is that the fan was salvaged from a computer, and the switch was salvaged from a computer power supply, and now the feet are also from old computers. I was rummaging around the back of a storage room at work and I found a box (about the size of a shoebox) that was packed full of sealed packages of rubber feet. These had come with Sun Ultra 10 workstations back when my employer had bought a bunch of them about 15-20 years ago. I just get kick out of the fact that all of these are salvaged computer bits.

One of the nice things about these feet is that they are recessed in the center. Therefore, if the adhesive were to fail, I could use a small screw to attach the feet, and the screw would not stick out.

And it works!

Here is a photo of the finished project. It turned out a lot better than I had anticipated. I had thought that this would be a fairly homely project, but I don't think it is. I'm pretty happy with the result! Now I need to make a second one with the other fan and AC adaptor that I still have at my office.

Some of the Tools/Supplies Used In This Project: (Affiliate Links)


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See Also:

Headphone Holders

Endless Calendar

Fan Hack Job