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[Sponsored] Project: Red Iron


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After building my first PC in over decade a few months ago, and seeing so many fantastic mods at Computex 2016, my modding fingers started to itch. With limited space in Hong Kong, I wanted to something small and compact, and it was with great pleasure I received the Elite 110 from Cooler Master to base my mod on. A mini-ITX case, small and compact, and what better challenge than the limited space I had inside the Elite 110.



Let me make a few statements here to clarify my build process:

- I am not a professional modder so everything you see here is all done with just heaps of enthusiasm

- I have limited space, time and tools to work with

- I have had no linear thinking when coming to plan for this build, different aspects and factors meant my ideas would veer off in different directions, so I worked on different parts in no particular order



Cooler Master Elite 110 - Cooler Master

Cooler Master V650 Power Supply - Cooler Master

Zotac GeForce GTX 1050 Ti Mini - Zotac

GEIL EvoX 2x8GB DDR4 3000MHz - GEIL


Blood Red 16mm water cooling fittings - Bitspower

120mm radiatior, 100ml reservoir, pump and pump mod - Bitspower

EK 16mm PETG tubing - Basco HK


As you can see, there were still a lot of parts I needed to get myself, and I will update this log at a later date on which parts I choose and how the decision came about.

My last water cooling build was with soft tubing (a WaterChill kit) which had tubes that were too long as I was still inexperienced with all this wet malarky. Back then I had never seen a build with hard tubing, or different kinds of water coolants around, I was using distilled water with UV dye and UV paint dripped in to give it an opaque color. But when I saw hard tubing mods at Computex 2016 I was bitten by the bug and somehow I will find a way to get a hard tubing water cooling loop into the Elite 110!



Pinning down a theme (and correspondingly a color scheme) was always going to be a challenge with a million ideas going through my head. I've always wanted to do an Iron Man themed build, and we would have done it for a previous mod my buddy was working on, but he insisted on a different theme in the end.




Even having selected the theme, there was still the decision on which tone of the colors to use; the red and gold used on Iron Man's armor vary in tone. I did not want the final mod to be too garish so I opted for a deep red, and a lighter champagne gold:




There's really not much room for maneuvering within the Elite 110. When the Bitspower parts arrived, after assembling the pump to the pump mod and reservoir, and with a 90 degree fitting at the top, the entire assembly was just a little bit too tall (around 1.5cm) to fit inside the case. So I had to opt for plan B and have the pump and reservoir mounted separately.


Please excuse my limited drawing skills. This is a very simplified top view of the left hand side of the Elite 110 and in reality everything is a much tighter fit than the picture shows above. With the pump/res combo being too tall for the case, separating the pump and res meant I had to find a suitable location to mount the pump. The best fit I found, and out of sight is above the graphics card (I forgot to draw in the PSU which would cover the top right hand half of the GFX card). I had a ZOTAC GeForce GTX 1050 Ti to play around with for spacing and it was about 1cm too long to even have the res positioned in the picture above. If I was to keep this graphics card, I would need to cut off the extra plastic covering over the heatsink to accommodate the reservoir.....or get a smaller card.


One thing that did surprise me is the amount of spacing that was available above the CPU slot to the bottom of the PSU. With the Bitspower CPU water block and a 90 degree fitting, I still had ample (relatively speaking here) headroom.


But the biggest hurdle will be where and how the hard tube will run. From the bottom of the res a 90 degree fitting will start the tubing to run on the outside of the graphics car, that is between the graphics card and side of frame of the case, which is only the width of a PCI slot. The reason for this is because the outlet of the pump sits slightly lower than the height of the PCB on a normal graphics card, which would mean I would have to route the tubing over the PCB and then under the pump.

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The Window

Even though the PSU in the Elite 110 sticks out about an inch at the back of the case, it still takes up a big chunk of room inside. I did not want to show too much of the PSU, but wanted to have the radiator/fan and reservoir seen, so I have opted to cut an L shape as my window. This will remove all the ventilation grills already on the right hand side of the case covering, and then I'd have to cut the top bit of the L.


I don't plan on using any window panels just yet as I don't particularly like how difficult acrylic is to keep clean and how easy it is to scratch it, but I will review this later on in the build. 


I got out my rotary tool, a dozen or so cutting disks, and most importantly a pair of safety glasses. I cannot stress how important a pair of safety glasses is as whilst I was cutting the case, the one of the cutting disks snapped and a piece flew by my face.


This is the cover freshly cut. I still needed to filed down the edges and smooth out the lines. To be honest, I'm not very satisfied with my cutting skills, I've filed down the edges and they are not straight enough.  I doubt my skills can ever make the window edges completely straight, and the metal edges are quite sharp. So I'm on the look out for plastic trims to line the window edges. Will update when I find some decent ones.



After that, I wrapped some 180Cw waterproof silicon carbide paper around a sanding block and went to town on the outside of the case. The Cooler Master Elite 110 comes with a 'gritty' paint coating on the outside, and I wanted to get a smooth finish before I started slapping the paint on. By laying the groundwork with a smooth surface, this eases all the sanding down and buffing needed later on between each coats of paint. There's no need to sand down to the bare metal, just a smooth surface before laying on the primer.


The benefits of using waterproof sanding paper is that they don't turn into mush when you wet sand. After a good going over, I rinsed the cover in soapy water to remove the dust, and saw which parts needed more sanding by spotting the remaining original paint gloss that was still present, they will feel slightly more rough as well.

A second sanding session, and the covering is ready for the primer.



To be honest, I have never spray painted anything in my life, but after watching hours of YouTube videos on how to spray paint, I thought I would give it go.


I'm aiming to get the paint job done in 4 to 6 coats altogether. I'm starting off with a primer which I got from a model store that is suitable for both plastic and metal. The primer will coat both the frame and it's pieces, and the cover itself. The base color for the mod was posted in the previous post.



I did not want to lose too much heat dissipation properties of the 120mm Bitspower slim radiator, after all it is designed to remove as much heat from the liquid coolant as possible. So to prevent this, I had to mask off all the cooling fins to protect them from the paints.


On with the primer.....


Luckily I found a suitable location on my rooftop for spray painting.



If you look closely at the above photos you will see oversprays of the primer running down the casing, and bubbles of paint. This is why it is crucial to let the casing dry completely before a quick sand down so that I can get a smooth surface at the end which a good about of shine.

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Arc Reactor

One of the aesthetic pieces I was drawn to was a DIY Arc Reactor which I saw online and which I subsequently purchased and assembled: 





Next was having to cut the front panel of the Elite 110 to accommodate the arc reactor.


Measuring up the centre.....took me several attempts......



Using a circular stencil cutter, rather like the compass we used in schools to draw circles, but with a razer blade....



Going round and round for a good 30 minutes to cut through the plastic on the front cover.



And finally out it popped. The edges were very sharp and scruffy and need to be filed down.



Here's is the arc reactor placement.


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Time for some color

Back to spray painting the Elite 110.


The dark red paint came out much better than expected, drying to a very nice deep red.



That's some of the overspray runs after the first layer of base coat. I had to get out a coarser grit sandpaper to remove them.



That's the Bitspower slim 120mm radiator, the PSU backplate, and the Zotac GeForce GTX 1050 Ti Mini heatsink guard. Notice there are some bubbling on the paint, I've tried to sand them out before the second base coat, but there are a few still in the paintwork. I've also bought matching color touch-up pens for this purpose.



Here's the frame sprayed in champagne. This is a very difficult paint to spray on as it is almost like a suspended liquid with metallic bits in, it was very easy to overspray as you think you haven't covered some areas.



As mentioned previously, my limited cutting skills with the rotary tool meant that the edges of the L-shaped window is a little uneven. I've look at various products that I could use to cover the edges, from bathroom edges, car door protectors, to thin plastic A4 paper clip binders. I did get a set of the A4 binders only to completely mess up the measurements and cut them too short.....

So when I was out earlier getting some extra primer, I saw these model 3mm L-shaped plastic beams. Just what I needed! Easy to paint, easy to stick on, and easy to cut!



And here they are spray painted in champagne to offset the red of the case covering.



One coat of primer, and 2 coats of base color, and the front panel has been painted.



The arc reactor was stuck into place.....



....and here it is lit up!

I am running out of the champagne paint spray, and I need to conserve it for another part of the cover which should be arriving in a weeks time

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  • 3 weeks later...
  • 3 weeks later...

I apologize for the delay in the updates, I've had to take a break from everything (work, mods, webpage, etc) at the end of last year so I could reset myself. It took me a little while to get back into the swing of things.


Spray painting continued

One of the most unsightly hardware components in Project: Red Iron has to be the Cooler Master V650 power supply. Not that it looks like a mess, but rather it takes up a large space inside the Elite 110. So with that in mind, I wanted to paint the V650. To be honest, I was a little apprehensive with fiddly with a PSU, so I finally opted not to try and take the cover off, but to color it in an another fashion.



So I got a permanent gold marker from my local stationary shop, and this was used to painstakingly color in the grills of the V650.



This turned out not too bad at all. Spray painting these grills without removing the cover would have meant getting the spray paint all over the insides of the V650.


The grills were then masked off, ready for some primer and some colored spray paint.


Primer goes on.


Lots of primer bubbles when it dried, which required a quick sanding down before the color went on.



Next up was the Bitspower slim 120mm radiator.




You can still make out the Bitspower logo faintly, which was a little nice touch to one of our sponsors.


A rich dark metallic red finish.


Matching the radiator up with Bitspower Blood Red fittings.


The Blood Red fittings temporarily placed to show that there’s not that much difference in the red tone.


….and here’s radiator with a Corsair HD120 RGB fan mounted.


Window trims

Remember I spray painted some thin modelling bezels? These were used to trim the L shaped window of the Elite 110’s cover, covering over, protecting fingers, the jagged metal edges.



Fitting the bezels on, and cutting down to the right measurements, took a lot of time and effort. These were subsequently super-glued onto the cover.


The most difficult part was the protruding part of the L shaped window.


And here’s the final effort. Notice that some of the corners are not flush. I’ve tried redoing these corners, but my modelling skills are just too limited.




Oh….and here’s the ZOTAC GeForce GTX 1050 Ti Mini with the cover painted as well.


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Pump and reservoir placement


As previously mentioned, when the Bitspower reservoir was mounted on top of the pump mod and pump, with a 90 degree fitting at the top of the reservoir, it was about 1cm too tall to fit inside the Elite 110. This meant that the reservoir and pump had to be located separately inside the case.



The best location was to have the reservoir remain at the end of the graphics card, and the pump positioned above the graphics card. Another 90 degree fitting was placed at the bottom of the reservoir so that it would be easier to route a piece of hard tubing from it to the pump.


The biggest concern with these positions was having the pump positioned higher than the reservoir, which would make priming the pump and getting the air pockets out of the water cooling loop a lot harder.



Motherboard and CPU

At this stage of Project: Red Iron, I could not mount the components or do the water cooling loop as the most important pieces had yet to be purchased, namely the motherboard and CPU.

There’s were a few factors I had to take into consideration for these 2 parts:

  • The motherboard had to have similar colors to the project (red, gold, black)
  • I did not want to wait for Kaby Lake as an mini-ITX motherboard would take a little while longer to be released
  • I wanted to do a little overclock with the project
  • Takes DDR4 RAM

So with this in mind I settled on a Z170 chipset motherboard paired with an Intel Core i5-6600K CPU as I’ve always had great results with these. But this still leaves me with which Z170 mini-ITX motherboard to get. In Hong Kong, we only have these options to pick from:


…not too much to choose from. Looks-wise it was a choice between the ASUS boards, the Gigabyte one, and the MSI one. In the end I went with the MSI Z170I Gaming Pro AC motherboard…….as somehow the shop advertised it for only HK$930, nearly half price.


Not a bad looking board, and the color scheme matches the internals of Project: Red Iron.


Here’s the CPU already in position. Notice I’ve already put in place the Bitspower CPU water block’s back bracket, this is one of the most straight forward ones I’ve come across to mount. At this point I used from Cooler Master Maker Gel as thermal paste between the CPU and bottom of the water block.


Here’s the Bitspower CPU water block mounted into position.



Surprisingly, there is a lot of real estate left within the Elite 110 around the motherboard, which will come in handy for cable placements, and LED lights.


The motherboard was secured to the frame of the chassis using Jonsbo hex M3 screws and red grommets to give it a little more highlight.


The I/O back panel doesn’t look too shabby either.


The helmet arrives

At this stage, I was now a little nervous with the upcoming tasks of tube bending, leak tests and cable management, so it was with great pleasure that my last piece of aesthetics arrived.



Yup, its a 1:1 cosplay Iron Man helmet. The helmet is made from a molded plastic resin, and comes in a plain grey color ready for me to spray paint it to match my build.


The face plate is detachable, and it is at this stage I am debating whether to use just the face plate on the top of the Elite 110, or the entire helmet, but it would be as big as the chassis!



Still deciding on how to use the helmet, it was time to spray them both! On with the primer first.


Champagne spray paint for the face plate, this is why I had to keep some of the spray left over for this piece.


…and the rest of the helmet in dark red.


Here is it is fully dried. Notice there are lots of over-spray due to the helmet having so many nooks and crannies to cover.


I purchased some 12v light blue LEDS, and these were stuck in place behind the eye sockets, and wired up to a 4-pin molex.




Here are the LEDs lit up. There is still room between the eye sockets and the LEDs, and I’m wanting to look for some semi-translucent material to slide in to smooth out the light emitted.

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Installing the components

Back to the chassis, and it was time to mount on all the hardware components before measuring up the hard tubing and bends.



I knew one of the stumbling blocks was height of the GEIL EVO-X ram, so these were slotted onto the motherboard first.


The Bitspower slim 120mm radiator and Corsair HD120 RGB fan was mounted into position. I had to settle for the orientation of the radiator as seen in the above photo as the GEIL EVO-X ram when slotted onto the motherboard, blocked any route for tubing.


Here’s the top view so far, it is already looking a little cramped in there.


The Cooler Master V650 power supply was temporarily put into position (after the ZOTAC GeForce GTX 1050 Ti Mini was slotted in) to let me gauge how much room, or rather lack it, I was left to play with.


And if that wasn’t cramped enough, the motherboard 8-pin extension and 24-pin extension cables were slotted in and tidied away for now. Notice I had to bend down the 8-pin extension cable a lot to allow a piece of hard tubing to be place horizontally above it linking the CPU water block to the bottom connector of the radiator.



Bending the tubes

Now comes one of hardest tasks for the build; hard tube bending and getting the tubes to fit inside the chassis securely. I have never done hard tube bending before and the only times I have seen it done is watching Winston and YouTube videos…..


Armed with a hard tube bend kit, a ruler, a marker, and plenty of 16mm OD EK PETG hard tubing, it was time to dive in.



This was the first piece of tubing, running from the pump outlet to the CPU water block. 


I’m actually quite chuffed with this. The tubing runs between the side of the graphics card and power supply, then detours over the top of the I/O ports then into the CPU water block.


The next piece of tubing was from the CPU water block to the bottom fitting of the radiator. I had to do about 5 attempts as the angle from the radiator fitting was very acute, and I had to make sure that it was secure enough to prevent any leaks.


So at this stage, the top view looks like this.


This piece of the tubing was the most difficult to do, not because of bending it, but because of getting the length exact and securing it into the fittings at the pump inlet and bottom of the reservoir, with next to no room for my fingers to get in.



The final piece of hard tubing was runs from the top fitting of the radiator to the top of the reservoir.





With the power suppler again put into position, this shows how little room is left inside the Elite 110.

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