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Meet the Maker: Calen Saddler

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A worldwide case modding event occurred in June at the Computex 2017 computer show that featured some of the world's best. Six teams representing Australia, China, Phillipines, Thailand, UK, and USA attended. Each team had 24 hours total to complete the case mod while working in front of a live public audience. Team USA was represented by Jim Weist and Calen Saddler of Envious Mods. We spoke with Calen Saddler for this story.

Calen, we hear you just got back from Computex 2017 in Taipei. Please tell us about your trip.
It was quite the experience and my first time going to Taiwan or Taipei, and my first time at the Computex show which I’ve heard about forever. If I remember right, it's the biggest PC show in the world. This year, there were more PC case modders there than any year prior, so it was historic in that sense.

Do you think some people where seeing case modding for the first time at the show?
Yes. The first four or five days of Computex it’s mostly people within the computer industry but the last day or so the show is open to the general public.

Do you think some of those people were interested in attempting some case modding after seeing the show?
Definitely. And that is the ice breaker for us. Consumers see us doing some crazy technical modding and they love it, but may be scared to take that first step. So we can ask them, “What is something that you want to do?” We’ll sit them down and start them off with a small step and we find that they blossom from there. A big part of why I do case modding is to share my skills with other case modders as well as to inspire people who may learning about modding for the first time.

Is the first time case modder typically a video gamer or a computer expert?
It can really run the gamut. They could be a 13-year-old kid or the 65-year-old man I recently met who was showing me photos of this first case mod. They may be people who love to play video games, or someone who uses a computer for daily use, or they may be someone who may not even own a computer but is into customization. I see a lot of overflow from people who customize the products they own to fit their own needs and/or to express their personality. We kind of see a little bit of everything.  

Do you have a particular modding style?
My personal, natural building style is modern, high-tech, and futuristic but not over the top. I do work that has influences from Asia so it was really neat to see people at the show in Taipei and share my work with them.  

Are there other sources that inspire your work?
I find inspiration in everything. For instance, I was building an acrylic shroud that I had redone a few times trying to get it right. I had walked into a grocery store not even thinking about case modding and I happened to look at this display of oranges organized at a 45-degree angle and the solution just hit me. That 45-degree display showed me exactly where the shroud needed to be so I literally dropped all my stuff, drove home, went into the shop and started working, so I literally find inspiration in everything.  

How do you incorporate Dremel tools into your work?
I use Dremel tools a lot because there’s nothing else that works the way they do and can do the detailed work. It’s easy to get into tight spaces, especially when I have a build that is half way complete. For example, I can't pull a part out of a mod because it would take an hour, so I tape parts off and use the Dremel rotary tool inside the mod to remove it. It saves me a lot of time. Dremel rotary tools are tools we use on a regular basis as case modders so everybody is familiar with them and loves them.  

When did you first start case modding?
It’s kind of a weird story (laughs). I had a brain injury and I was recovering in intensive care looking at photos on the internet. I came across a photo of a piano that a guy had modded in order to put his computer, monitors and keyboard inside it. Since then, I haven’t been able to get case modding out of my head.  

Has your work evolved over time?
It evolves on a daily basis. In an industry that is so fast-paced, you have to evolve with it. My personal goal is to always make the next one better than the last one, if not, then I’m doing something wrong. A big part of case modding is learning new techniques, skills, and using tools in inventive ways.  

Do you feel that case modding changed you in any way?
Yes, I get to interact with people on a daily basis from around the globe. Before case modding I really didn't have a lot of experience with people outside of the United States. Now I regularly talk with people from all around the world and from different walks of life--and that has changed me a lot as a person because I’m able to see how other people live and mod, and I get to enjoy their culture. I’ve changed because I get to see life from their perspective.  

What advice to you have for people wanting to get into case modding the first time?
For the novice, start small. Start with something you feel comfortable with and don't be afraid to take chances. If it’s an expensive case and you are afraid you will ruin it, get one that doesn't work anymore and test on it so you’re comfortable to take the first step. To the professional, I’d say do it because you love it. It’s very competitive and most people won't make it unless they do love it. It’s so demanding and time consuming, my life literally revolves around modding in one way or another.

Thank you Calen

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