work log

Modding the Thermaltake Level 20 HT case

Cutting and drilling holes in the Thermaltake Level 20 HT for water cooling and higher airflow.

Modding the Thermaltake Level 20 HT case

The Thermaltake Level 20 HT case is designed to support two separate water cooling loops, with some bulkhead holes that can accomodate up to 16mm OD tubing, as well as mounting platforms for the Thermaltake pump-reservoir towers. I don’t like the look of the Thermaltake pump-reservoirs, and I already had two Laing D5 pumps, so I got the Watercool Heatkiller Tube 200 D5 reservoirs. This meant I needed to drill some extra holes in the case’s base to fit the mounting brackets for the pump-reservoirs. I also wanted to use some G1/4” pass-through fittings in the bulkhead to make the CPU tubing neat and easily removeable when removing the CPU block as well as two pass-through fittings in the rear section’s base to use as drain ports.

Test fitting and marking out

Test fitting pump-reservoirs
Test fitting pump-reservoirs

Pump-reservoir brackets

I started out by placing the pump-reservoirs roughly where I wanted them to be, and then shuffled the brackets around a bit to see if I could use any of the existing rectangular holes (that are there to provide tab slots for the Thermaltake-compatible reservoir platforms).

Marked out screw holes for GPU loop's pump-reservoir
Marked out screw holes for GPU loop's pump-reservoir

One of the large rectangular holes is in a suitable position for the Watercool Heatkiller Tube 200 D5 bracket, so I marked out the remaining three holes in pencil.

Marked out screw holes for CPU loop's pump-reservoir
Marked out screw holes for CPU loop's pump-reservoir

The same set of three holes was needed on the other side for the other pump-reservoir.

Bulkhead pass-through for CPU loop

Marked out pass-through holes for CPU block
Marked out pass-through holes for CPU block

I held the D-Tek FuZion V1 CPU block roughly in position to get an idea of where the bulkhead pass-through fitting holes would be, and marked those out in pencil too.

Seeing if GPU pass-through holes required

Test fitting graphics card
Test fitting graphics card

As I don’t yet have a modern graphics card for this build (but finally have managed to order one!) I used an old GTX260 with Swiftech MCW60 GPU-only block to get an idea of where my graphics card ports might end up.

Test fitting graphics card, side view
Test fitting graphics card, side view

Using a thin scrap of neoprene foam as a make-shift bendable measuring device (that wouldn’t scratch up the case like a tape measure), I decided that the tubing to the graphics card’s block inlet could use the rubber-grommeted pass-through hole (pictured below the motherboard and just above the CPU radiator-fan stack), and the block outlet could just run down to the pump inlet. So there was no need for G1/4” pass-through fittings for the GPU loop.

Masking out the drilling positions

Masked out drilling points for pump-reservoir screw holes
Masked out drilling points for pump-reservoir screw holes

As standard good practice for drilling holes, I used some masking tape for the marked out hole positions to protect the paint work from slipping drill bits.

Masked out centres for bulkhead pass-through holes
Masked out centres for bulkhead pass-through holes

The same masked-marking was done for the bulkhead pass-through fitting holes.

Masked out centres for floor pass-through holes
Masked out centres for floor pass-through holes

Round at the back of the case, I marked out pass-through hole positions for drain ports for each loop. These positions will allow the loops to have T-sections that can curve around to accomodate a stop valve.

Cut and filed

Screw holes for pump-reservoir drilled
Screw holes for pump-reservoir drilled

With the holes for the reservoir brackets drilled, I used a round needle file to deburr them.

Floor pass-through holes cut
Floor pass-through holes cut

Similarly, for the drain port holes cut with a holesaw, a half-moon needle file deburred the sharp edges.

Bulkhead pass-through holes cut
Bulkhead pass-through holes cut

If you look closely, you can see that the distance between the bulkhead holes isn’t exactly equal, but the threads of the fittings sit loosely enough in the holes that it should be possible to shuffle them up/down to make them appear more equidistant.

Mounting and installing

Pump-reservoir isolation mounts installed
Pump-reservoir isolation mounts installed

These vibration isolation feet are rubber with a threaded hole on top and a machine screw protuding from the bottom. The screw underneath secures with a washer and nut.

Bulkhead pass-through fittings installed
Bulkhead pass-through fittings installed

I used Barrow fittings throughout and these G1/4” pass-through fittings had plenty of room in this section of the bulkhead section that separates the front and rear chambers.

Pump-reservoirs installed
Pump-reservoirs installed

The reservoir brackets have hex head screws that attach through to the isolation feet.

Compression fittings installed on pass-throughs
Compression fittings installed on pass-throughs

These Barrow fittings will ensure a secure fit for the CPU loop tubing. Each fitting has three O-rings internally in addition to a fourth O-ring that is installed on the tubing.

Compression fittings installed on rear of pass-throughs
Compression fittings installed on rear of pass-throughs

I used a T-junction fitting at the rear of the top pass-through fitting, with a stopper cap on one of the holes to provide an air bleed port for draining/filling. This will be the highest point of the entire CPU loop.

Floor pass-through fittings installed
Floor pass-through fittings installed

The pass-through fittings on the base were fitted, ready to have 90° fittings, stop valves, and stopper caps attached.

90° angle adaptors and stop valves installed
90° angle adaptors and stop valves installed

You can see that the resulting valved drain ports at the base of the rear chamber resemble water taps/faucets.

Improving the rear chamber airflow

In the last picture you can see that the rear chamber has a fan at the top pulling air up. This blows up to the top glass panel and out of vents towards the side of the top. It looks somewhat restrictive, but there is also the option to mount 120 or 140mm fans to the rear panel.

Thermaltake Level 20 HT rear panel
Thermaltake Level 20 HT rear panel

The rear panel has a slotted area to allow airflow to/from mounted fans as well as a rectangular shaped mesh with fine holes that attaches with magnetic strips. This mesh is intended as a dust filter but as I want the heat in the rear chamber to be exhausted from the back it doesn’t make any sense to use the mesh filter. The slotted section of the panel looks quite restrictive too, so I wanted to remove it to stop it impeding the airflow from the fans.

A big hole needs a big holesaw

You can cut steel panels with various power tools including a jigsaw and rotary tool with cutting discs, but for nice circular holes I prefer to use a holesaw. For the Arctic P14 PWM (140mm) fans I’ll be mounting to the rear panel, the most suitable size of holesaw is 127mm.

127mm holesaw and Ryobi 1050W drill
127mm holesaw and Ryobi 1050W drill

A big holesaw cutting through steel needs a powerful drill. My 1050W Ryobi drill in 1st gear has so much torque that when a holesaw catches on the workpiece the drill will almost rip your hand off or turn your entire body around the drill axis!

Rear panel mesh cutouts
Rear panel mesh cutouts

I used an old kitchen worktop as a bench, and some scrap wood and clamps to secure the panel while cutting, and provide a statically positioned hole for the drill bit in the holesaw arbor to keep the holesaw cutting position from drifting.

Big holes cut

Rear panel with 127mm holes
Rear panel with 127mm holes

It was incredibly difficult to holesaw cut through this slotted panel as the holesaw teeth often caught on the slots. Each time this happened the drill jolted in my hand and smashed my left thumb knuckle no matter how firm I held the drill. However, the resulting holes after finishing the holesaw cutting looked almost perfectly aligned, definitely acceptable, and I didn’t scratch up the paintwork.

Rear panel mesh section bent
Rear panel mesh section bent

Some of the slotted sections became bent from the holesaw catching on them, but it looked like I could just bend them back with sniped-nose pliers and file off the protuding excess.

Hole edges neatened with edging strip

Rear panel holes with edging strip installed
Rear panel holes with edging strip installed

After sorting out the bent bits and doing some deburring file work, I used some silicone rubber edging strip to line the edges, cut at an angle on the ends for a glue-free press fit.

Rear panel modded fan holes result

Rear panel with fans and fan grills installed
Rear panel with fans and fan grills installed

I had run out of suitable length black machine screws at this point, so I just used some plain steel ones. I did manage to find some black wire 140mm fan grills though.

Rear panel, full view
Rear panel, full view

The resulting look of the rear panel looks neat and respectable, and like it will allow the two fans to belt out plenty of warm air eminating from the 420mm radiator in the rear chamber.

Case modding complete

I’m going for an understated, matt black, industrial looking build, so these modifications are merely functional to allow better water cooling tube routing and better cooling performance via greater heat expulsion at the rear. With those done, I don’t have any further case mods planned, at least for the initial build.

Thermaltake Level 20 HT modding, done
Thermaltake Level 20 HT modding, done

You’ll notice with most of the hardware installed, there is a fairly large void between the two reservoirs. The case comes supplied with a small platform to mount a 2.5” disk on the case floor. Some sort of snazzy RGB SSD is supposed to be on show here but, as I have no interest in RGB disks nor showing them off, I have some vague intentions to make some sort of bracket to mount an LCD display for hardware info like temps, voltages, frequencies, etc.

Thermaltake Level 20 HT modding, left side
Thermaltake Level 20 HT modding, left side

With all the water cooling hardware installed (apart from the not-yet-purchased GPU block), the build was in a state where I could move on to tackling the hard-line tubing to connect the water cooling components.

So that’s up next! Stayed tuned, stay cool…