Cutting and bending hard tubing for a water-cooled gaming PC isn’t a job for the faint-hearted, but it can achieve amazing results, as shown by the tight bends in this Joker gaming PC build. Created by PC modder Tom Keen, this colorful rig takes design cues from various guises of Batman’s flamboyant nemesis, and it features loads of custom parts too.
Custom PC has been celebrating the best PC builds since 2003, and our Facebook group has over 300,000 members. We’ve seen many custom gaming PCs, from case mods to scratch builds. Here we talk to Tom about how he made this Joker PC build.
Custom PC: What inspired you to build a PC based on The Joker?
Tom: The build originally started as a form of rehabilitation, where I was trying to help with my brain condition and it snowballed from there. Originally, I was trying to improve my short-term and multitasking memory and it sort of went from there. Comics inspire me more than anything when building a PC. I’ve had an interest in comics for decades now, especially when it comes to the villains and anti-heroes.
I feel like I relate to The Joker in a way, and I love his over-the-top nature, not to mention the colors. This PC also contained my
first real attempt at a proper custom loop, so I wanted to do it justice. I have other projects down the line waiting to become a reality as well.
Custom PC: What distribution plate is that at the front?
Tom: The distro plate was supplied by Barrow, and it’s not the best example of that company’s work, as it didn’t fit well. It was being used with components that weren’t compatible with it, and it had no instructions, so it took a while to work out the flow paths.
Not many distro plates were around when I was building this
PC, although I now own my own CNC machine, as well as a lot
more tools and parts that I couldn’t access at the time. I now mainly focus on making my own parts where possible.
Custom PC: Those are some tight bends and turns in the tubing – why did you go for this look?
Tom: When I think of The Joker, the first word I think of is ‘twisted’, so I tried to incorporate twists in various places – I hadn’t tried doing this before, so I was glad it worked. Also, if The Joker built anything, I thought it was probably going to look industrial and built to serve its purpose, rather than looking clean and structured, so I tried to incorporate that look into it.
Custom PC: What material did you use for the tubing, and how did you go about measuring, cutting and making those bends?
Tom: I tend to stick with 16mm PETG tubing, usually from Thermaltake, although I’m starting to look more into using glass in the future. For cutting, I use my trusty little pipe cutter, but I tend to gauge measuring and bending with my eyes and do it freehand, which I find a lot easier. On this particular occasion, the tubing was finished with a satin spray to give it a frosted effect.
Custom PC: How did you make the custom Joker fan grille?
Tom: The design was my own, and it was manufactured by Gorilla Gaming in Gateshead, UK. The laughter was probably the hardest factor to design, because I wanted it to look a certain way, but the end result turned out amazing.
Custom PC: Where did you get the custom purple and green PSU cables?
Tom: The cables were custom-made by Adam at Simple Sleeving. At the time, I believe this was one of his first sets of cables. I’m quite lucky in a way, because there are quite a few PC modders and builders in my local area, as well as businesses that have helped a lot as I’ve been learning. I would have been lost without some of them.
Custom PC: How did you plan the cable routing?
Tom: I have a thing about being able to see cables, so I hide them wherever and however possible! I had very few issues keeping all the cables neat in the Lian Li case – if anything, I had room to spare. Routing the cables for the Corsair fans was probably the most tedious job, due to the amount of wires, but even then, I managed to get them all neatly tucked away.
Custom PC: Take us through the water-cooling loop. Is it just the one radiator?
Tom: It is one radiator. It wasn’t originally supposed to be a single radiator, but it just ended up that way due to various factors. The performance was still impressive, so I stuck with it.
Pretty much every cooling component used is made by either Bykski (GPU block) or Barrow (fittings, distribution plate, pump and tubing), and I still use both companies’ kit. I can’t fault them for their price-to-performance ratio, and they offer some designs you don’t tend to see normally. I’m a sucker for anything that’s out of the ordinary and eye-catching.
Custom PC: What’s the picture on the GPU waterblock?
Tom: It’s actually Joker art I came across quite a while before I started the build, and I loved it. The picture is based on Jack Nicholson’s Joker, and he was the first Joker I ever knew so it holds nostalgic memories for me. It was difficult to make this choice, as I have a few favorite variations, but I love the circus-oriented and flamboyant side to The Joker more than anything else.
Custom PC: Does the water-cooling system allow a decent overclock, or is it more optimized for quiet operation?
Tom: It’s actually more geared toward quiet operation than overclocking, and the Corsair ML fans definitely help. At that time, I was more interested in gaming than other software, although that has changed dramatically and I now spend more time designing and planning on my PC.
Custom PC: What’s the bright green coolant?
Tom: It’s a mix of XSPC UV green dye and white coolant – it was a fantastic color, until around three days after the pictures were taken and then it separated, which wasn’t pretty. I tend to stick to Mayhems Pastel UV Green now, which has no issues.
Custom PC: Did you come across any difficulties?
Tom: The biggest difficulty was mapping the distro plate’s flow path, as it wasn’t designed for the components I was using – it was a completely different model from the one I ordered. That sounds simple enough, but it took me a while with my memory loss. There was also nearly a major issue when test-filling the loop, as the radiator that was installed at the start had some unseen manufacturing damage.
After filling the loop, I could hear a faint hiss of air from above the 8-pin CPU socket on the motherboard, and I just managed to get my hand underneath the radiator in time to stop the liquid hitting the motherboard. That was pretty nerve-wracking, especially when you consider that this was my first main modding project.
Custom PC: How long did it take you to complete this build, from start to finish?
Tom: From design to the end product, I would say a few months, mainly due to having custom work made and waiting for parts. The physical building took around two days, including leak testing. I have
a habit of not stopping unless I absolutely have to.
Custom PC: Have you got any tips for people who are interested in building a system with hard-tube water cooling?
Tom: Research, don’t be afraid to make mistakes, don’t try to please everyone and enjoy it!
Custom PC: Are you completely happy with the end result, or do you wish you’d done some of it differently in retrospect?
Tom: Overall, it’s one of the nicest builds I’ve done, and I’ve come much further since, thanks to this great end result. If I had the knowledge and tools I have now when I started, it would have looked very different.
Joker PC specs
- CPU: Intel Core i7-7700K (delidded and overclocked to 4.8GHz)
- Case: Lian Li PC-011 Dynamic
- GPU: MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Gaming X Trio
- Storage: 512GB Aorus 512 M.2 NVMe SSD, 500GB Samsung Evo 840 SSD, 500GB Samsung Evo SSD
- Memory: 16GB (2 x 8GB) Aorus 3200MHz DDR4
- Motherboard: Asus ROG Maximus XI Code
- PSU: EVGA Supernova 750W G2
- Cooling: Barrow 240mm radiator with 2 x Corsair ML120 Pro fans in push configuration, 3 x Corsair ML120 Pro fans on back intake, 20 x Barrow Hard Tube Fittings (10 x red, 10 x white), Barrow DDC PWM pump, Barrow distribution plate with Alphacool and Phanteks 90-degree fittings
The PC builder
- Name: Tom Keen
- Age: 36
- Occupation: Modder and parent
- Location: Co Durham, UK
- Main uses for PC: Gaming, design work and running machinery (CNC)
- Likes: Family, hoodies, comics and any form of electronics
- Dislikes: Bananas, needles and feet
This rig shows amazing commitment to your theme, Tom, and we particularly love the tight twists and turns in the hard tubing, as well as the custom-made fan grilles.
If you want to see more outstanding custom PCs, check out our best PC builds feature, and if you’ve built an extraordinary PC of any description yourself, then we’d love to see it! Join our Facebook group if you’d like to submit your own work for consideration.