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Howto Build your own Rack Cabinet

CmdrTaco posted about 13 years ago | from the stuff-to-check-out dept.

News 67

OC Mojo News Desk submitted their story about how to build your own rack. Useful for anyone who has a pile of audio gear, or stereo equipment, or perhaps a few rackable PCs that they think should be using space more efficiently.

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Warning (0, Offtopic)

Guillaume Ross (517391) | about 13 years ago | (#2397731)

Too many Athlons in a rack may cause dangerous fire.

Re:Warning (1)

Pulzar (81031) | about 13 years ago | (#2397739)

That's really good, have you thought of that yourself?

Even cheaper solution... (4, Interesting)

cperciva (102828) | about 13 years ago | (#2397743)

Use desktop boxes, and stack them on top of each other without any sort of enclosing rack.

Seriously, the major advantage of rackmount systems (vs. "pile of boxes") is that you can pull a server out from the bottom to fix/replace it without the rest toppling over -- and I don't think that most people replace hardware in their home network all that often.

Another cheap solution (1)

kuhnert (263563) | about 13 years ago | (#2398466)

This is definitly a good solution for cost-aware home users, but when you are often bound to rack devices.
When some friends and I had to set up a scholl network at a very low budget, we used some rooftrees and had them fastened to the walls.
Not suitable for the living room, but quite solid.

Re:Another cheap solution (1)

kuhnert (263563) | about 13 years ago | (#2398584)

Sorry for the thinko in my previous post. The "when" in the first sentence is obviously too much :-(
Hint for new posters: Don't only use the preview button, read the resulting page too...

Re:Even cheaper solution...Earthquake? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2400037)

Oh, that's safe.

Very stylish, too. "Here lies Bob, he was crushed by stack of Athlons"


Webmoth (75878) | about 13 years ago | (#2403343)

He failed to mention that duct tape is required for a Stack O'Boxes installation. He assumed that everyone would by default understand this.

For added seismic stability, baling wire can be used as a supplement.

IIRC, I've got a server soewhere that's held together with duct tape... and a roll is always nearby for any emergency. Works great for securing an emergency recovery disk inside the server. Plugs holes in the case for more efficient airflow. Need to tape a cord to a surface? Duct tape all the way.

I myself prefer gaffer's tape to duct tape. Gaffer's is a more expensive version that's more durable, follows contours better, slightly stretchy, and doesn't leave a gummy residue behind when you remove it. As bad. For the gummy residue, you need De-Solv-It [] .

angelina jolie has a nice rack (-1)

Sexual Asspussy (453406) | about 13 years ago | (#2397745)

straight post

cowboy neal has a nice rack (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2397774)

gay post

Re:angelina jolie has a nice rack (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2397802)

Can anyone tell me what has happened to Geekizoid? It looks as though Vlad has thrown in the towel. Where are all the trolls meeting nowadays?

Re:angelina jolie has a nice rack (-1)

Fecal Troll Matter (445929) | about 13 years ago | (#2397982)

Try my anus, bungcrack.

could use on (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2397751)

I could use one.

Video Game Consoles (0, Troll)

chronos2266 (514349) | about 13 years ago | (#2397759)

I always wanted a rack for my numerous gaming consoles. This seems to be the ideal solution. With this you could probably store as many consoles as you wanted and even create holders for cds and controllers.

Re:Video Game Consoles (2)

spudnic (32107) | about 13 years ago | (#2398943)

AFAIK, game consoles aren't meant to be rack mountable (ie, not 19", no mounting hardware, etc). Why not just buy a cheap shelf unit? If you did a rack you'd have to buy trays for each unit to sit on, and they are not cheap. Of course you could make them, but that just doesn't make sense.

The only justification I could see for this would be the coolness factor.

I like big racks. (5, Funny)

FFFish (7567) | about 13 years ago | (#2397762)

Yup. Great big racks always catch my eye. Don't think I can build my own, though...

Re:I like big racks. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2397787)

Sure you can build your own rack.

Daily beer drinking and fried chicken eating will get you started.

Nice Rack, Awful Colors (1)

gibbonboy (162143) | about 13 years ago | (#2397763)

I like the rack and all, but my eyes are bleeding from reading the page.

suggestion (0, Offtopic)

yobbo (324595) | about 13 years ago | (#2397764)

let's keep all of the actress/singer/girl next door comments in this thread :)

Why bother build your own? (4, Interesting)

DivideX0 (177286) | about 13 years ago | (#2397765)

After all the dot-bombs, there are plenty of professional racks available dirt cheap at the auction sites or through liquidators. In fact, one of the places that I used to work at has 15 7-foot racks available for basically nothing (read: less than $100), right now they are only taking up space.

Re:Why bother build your own? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2397803)

Those prices are still too high for the average Slashdolt. Why do you think they subject themselves to the crap that is Linux? It sure ain't for the love of editing 20 text files in order to connect the internet...

Re:Why bother build your own? (0, Informative)

cyborg_monkey (150790) | about 13 years ago | (#2399232)

Yeah, no shit. For example: m& item=1281155510

And that one is brand new. I cannot imagine wasting time and money reinventing the wheel.

Re:Why bother build your own? (1)

JustinHoMi (471764) | about 13 years ago | (#2400060)

That'd be a great deal if it were a 19in rack. That won't hold computer equipment.

Re:Why bother build your own? (2, Informative)

Stinking Pig (45860) | about 13 years ago | (#2400175)


42U = 73.5" = 6.12' of usable space, plus a bit on top and bottom for stability = 7 feet, which is the standard height for a 19" wide computer equipment rack (again usable, actual width between 22" and 24"), though there are also lots of 9' models available so you can get a big patch panel on top of the stack of equipment.

The really interesting part is of course what happens when Joe User racks a home-made Beowulf cluster and finds out that his home's electrical system is only rated to 20 or 30 amps per circuit, with a 100 amp max to the whole house.

15 Amps actually (2)

arete (170676) | about 13 years ago | (#2405747)

If people had what you just said they wouldn't be too bad off - a 30A circuit is over 3 kW of power - which is probably 15 powerhog PCs as long as you don't do the initial spinup exactly simultaneously on all of them.

Most home circuits are rated at 15 Amps, unless they're especially for multiple utilities - usually only the bathroom and kitchen get 20 Amp circuits (And GFCIs) And that 15A circuit might be shared by say, 3 bedrooms.

Normally the entire house is rated at 60A. That's still the USA average. New construction must be 100+A, but that's a big improvement. When I bought my house a year ago, it has a 30A MAIN fuse - whole house, 30A.

Of course, now every bedroom has it's own 15A and a separate 20A for electronics (thicker wires = better ground) and the house (only 1500 sq foot) has a 200A panel. Seemed necessary if I was going to run 12 pair of cat5 and 2 coax to every room.

A work of art (1)

vstat (456161) | about 13 years ago | (#2397768)

The local Mac store has a rack built out of old memory chips. It compliments the couch made of old computer cases nicely.

Re:A work of art (2)

YU Nicks NE Way (129084) | about 13 years ago | (#2397960)

It compliments the couch nicely? Wow! A computer case that praises other furniture? That's really cool!

Do they have a Dorothy Parker model that compliments the couch nastily, too? I might be interested in that one...

US Attacks Afghanistan! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2397769)

The strikes have begun!

Pentagon confirms reports of bombing in Kabul!

Re:US Attacks Afghanistan! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2397780)

Speaking of racks, how about mounting A-Hole Bin Laden's head in a rack on the wall in my living room?

I have not read it... (3, Funny)

Night0wl (251522) | about 13 years ago | (#2397778)

But here's what I think it goes like...

Visit your local wood yard, pick up some 2x4's.
Visit your local hardware store, pick up appropriate screws etc.
Visit your local pro-audio store, purchase rack mount rail kits as needed.

Take home to garage, pique interest of father, procede to have father / son moment, build racks.


Troll, offtopic, redundant, whatever.

Re:I have not read it... (1)

alfredo (18243) | about 13 years ago | (#2397942)

Got mine a Target. It is wood and holds 250lbs. My wife has one for her plants and glass collection.

What we used: Dexion and plywood. (5, Informative)

Christopher Thomas (11717) | about 13 years ago | (#2397779)

My father runs a small business, and had to rack a few systems. He just bolted together some Dexion angle-iron and put on plywood shelves.

Dexion ( [] ) makes all kinds of shelving-related stuff. Their angle-iron looks like giant pieces from an erector set; sturdy L-cross-section steel beams with holes drilled in them. Bolt them together, and you can build just about anything you want. It's fairly cheap, and works very well for racking PCs or just about anything else.

Various shelving offerings are listed on Dexion's shelving page, at [] .

Cheap, and simple (2, Interesting)

linuxbert (78156) | about 13 years ago | (#2397783)

Ivar booksheles from Ikea [] make a good rack for just about anything. they cost are completely configurable, height width depth, sheves or not etc. and cost less then 50$ CDN
and they look really cool painted black.

Re:Cheap, and simple (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2397918)

Have a look at the cluster at
It's called "Ingvar", after the founder of IKEA... Anyway, I'm gonna build my own now...

Re:Cheap, and simple (2)

ibbey (27873) | about 13 years ago | (#2401151)

Actually, the deeper Ivar shelves, when turned to the side, are almost the perfect width for a rack. My rackmount cases will fit between the uprights, but it is a tight fit (a bit of sandpaper would make them ideal). Since I only have two computers to rack, my plan is to pick up one of the 29"h x 16"w x 19"d units (when oriented normally) & use it. If I can shorten it by about 2-3 inches, & put it on casters, it should be an ideal under-desk rack, though the computers will stick out a bit at the back. The whole thing should run under about $70 dollars including 5 shelves, and all hardware.

Re:Cheap, and simple (0)

Dufffader (164439) | about 13 years ago | (#2400985)


I've been living on an IVAR rack for the past.. almost 2 years already. Its a little flimsy (more like shaky) especially when you have an ink jet printer. Trying to upgrade a full 2m height config to fit another PC and a new printer.

Just remember to put the heavy stuff (i.e. UPS, Subwoofer) at the bottom so it doesn't topple over.

i hope (3, Funny)

austad (22163) | about 13 years ago | (#2397798)

I really hope this guy doesn't build racks like he chooses text and background colors.

Re:i hope (1)

donpardo (128815) | about 13 years ago | (#2398038)

And that he put more thought into the racks than he did into his server/bandwidth before submitting to /.

Hrm (0)

KuNgFo0 (519426) | about 13 years ago | (#2397845)

I so coulda swore this a story quite similar to this was posted here not so long ago...

Does anyone have a cached copy or mirror? (N/T) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2397880)

Does anyone have a cached copy or mirror?

cool stuff, but I have to redecorate to use it (2)

budgenator (254554) | about 13 years ago | (#2397935)

lot of possibilites for creating an industro-geek motif for you living room or home office.
The best part is you can lock the doors you put on to keep the rug-rats from trying to read your floppies upside down or backward :)
I've found that rackmount equipment realy isn't all of that much more expensive and a rack mount enclosure is ideal for controling cable clutter.

Re:cool stuff, but I have to redecorate to use it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2402308)

If you can find a 1U RM case for cheap, I'd love to know. The better calpc 1U cases are $$$ more than the $50 mid-towers I'm currently using.

Would love to RM gear, but the RM cases are just about as much as mid-level machines these days.

Racks of the world. (4, Offtopic)

Krimsen (26685) | about 13 years ago | (#2398189)

Don't worry. No goatse links. Just a collection of "Racks of the World"
rack [] rack [] rack [] rack [] rack [] rack [] rack [] rack []

Re:Racks of the world. (1)

tinrobot (314936) | about 13 years ago | (#2398359)

Nice. You must have a LOT of free time...

Re:Racks of the world. (1)

Krimsen (26685) | about 13 years ago | (#2398411)

No, just this [] and a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Re:Racks of the world. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2398442)

Great Zargs, please tell me that's not Chelsea Clinton in the middle at

hmmm (1)

blueAcid (526907) | about 13 years ago | (#2398205)

Why use one of these when you have legos [] ? : )

(please excuse free logitech quickcam)

/. Already (1)

Peale (9155) | about 13 years ago | (#2398261)

If I could get to it, I'd post a mirror at my usual

Article, no pics (2, Informative)

purduephotog (218304) | about 13 years ago | (#2398311)

Build Your Own Rack Cabinet
Or, how to rack 'em and stack 'em for a third the price...
By Tom H. - Team Florida Mojo

Rackmounting equipment is so far the best means we've come up with as a species for packing a lot of processing power in little floorspace - 40 or more computers in a
single storage space that uses 4.5 square feet of floor space and stands 8 feet tall. Rackmount cabinets are, on the other hand, appallingly expensive, often costing well
over a thousand dollars US. And they're so heavy that you can pretty much be guaranteed another couple hundred dollars' worth of shipping charges will be tacked on if
you buy one.

But if you're a home user with a lot of equipment, run a small office, a budding musician with a lot of rackmount toys, a home theater enthusiast wanting more functional
and adjustable mounting space for your gear, or any of a number of other possibilities, rackmounting your gear may be the only game in town. But the expense, ouch the

In this article we'll do something that so far we're not aware anyone has done yet - discuss building a small 18-unit (18 units of height x 1.75" of height per unit = 31.5" of
mounting space) rack cabinet for as little as $50. If you're in need of a light- to medium-duty rack cabinet for lightweight gear such as musical effects and recording gear,
home theater equipment, and so on, you'll be able to accomplish rackmounting for cheap. If you need EIA-standard-compliant storage for heavy equipment such as servers,
UPSs, telecom gear, and so on, then you'll end up spending $200 or so (assuming you know how to weld and have the equipment to do so - if not, figure more $ to hire
someone to do this work) on the 18-unit steel-framed cabinet we'll discuss in detail.

We will discuss the basic ideas and a how-to on building a light- or medium-duty wood-framed 18U rack cabinet for less than 200 lbs. of equipment, and then we'll jump
into building a VERY heavy-duty 18U cabinet that can safely handle 600 lbs. Of gear. If you need more or less height, you'll naturally need to scale the height accordingly,
but 18 units is about the most comfortable height for home, small-office, or studio use.

Rackmount 101

First, the basics on racks and rackmount gear...

Rackmount equipment sizes are standardized, thankfully, so you'll most likely have and/or see equipment that designed for a "19-inch rack." This means that the faceplates
or front panels on the equipment are 19 inches wide. The minimum height for any piece of equipment is called a "unit," (abbreviated as an uppercase 'U') and each unit is a
multiple of 1.75" of vertical space. So a 3U device is 3 units x 1.75 per unit = 5.25" tall.

The standard also calls for the body of rackmount equipment to be 17 inches wide and can be however deep, although anything deeper than 28 inches is unusual for a 19"
rack. Most rackmount computers that are 4 units tall are about 22 inches deep, for example.

Rackmount equipment is attached to a pair of rails, each of which has a series of holes drilled into it in a regular pattern, which is 1/2"-5/8"-5/8" and repeated for the
entire height of the rail. The mounting holes for rackmount equipment require that the rails be aligned vertically to within 1/16", and must be as close to 18 1/4" apart
center-to-center as you can get, although tolerance will vary with the mounting holes on the equipment's faceplate. As long as the horizontal distance is within 1/16" all is
generally well.

Some rails use captive nuts, which are nuts with retaining clips that clip onto the rack rail over or into holes provided for this purpose, while other rails simply have drilled
and tapped holes that can accept screws directly. Most US-made rack equipment is secured with 10-32 screws, although 10-24, 12-24, and M6 screws are also used. The
screws have to be able to hold at least 30 lbs. per screw though, due to the next item for discussion:

Rackmount equipment weighing less than about 50 lbs. has to be designed so that the entire weight can be supported by the equipment's faceplate, and heavier gear
generally requires a set of rails in the back of the cabinet to hold up the back end. (Sometimes the heavy stuff includes a set of rear rack brackets that attach to the side of
the item in question, and other times a rackmount shelf is provided for this purpose.) Thanks to this requirement, rackmount equipment tends to have very thick faceplates
and very stiff side panels to handle the weight. Rackmount equipment also usually will have a pair of handles on the front to make installation and removal easier.

If you have a front and rear set of rack rails, more options become possible, such as the use of rack slides to allow equipment to be pulled out like a drawer. Also, there
are pullout shelves and storage drawers, keyboard drawers (these require narrow keyboards, obviously), even rackmount monitors.

Building a Light-Duty Open Rack Cabinet

Now that the basics have been covered, let's discuss the basic idea behind building a light-duty 18U rack cabinet for about $50 in materials. This design would be suitable
for home-theater, professional audio, and in some cases light-duty computing/networking applications where only a front rail set is required, and the total weight of
equipment to be mounted is less than 150 lbs. The resulting cabinet is 33" tall, 20 5/8" wide, and 24" deep.

What you'll need for this design:

Two pieces of 5/8" thick plywood (DO NOT use particle board or OSB) cut to 24" wide x 31.75" long - these will form the sides;
Two pieces of 5/8" thick plywood cut to 24" wide 20 5/8" long - these will become the top and bottom;
Four pieces of 1" steel 90-degree angle stock, each 21" long
One box of 100 each (you'll only use about half, but buying them in this quantity is generally cheaper than buying them in sets of 50) of the following: 8-32 flat-head
machine screws 1 1/4" long, #8 washers, #8 split lockwashers, and 8-32 nuts;
Eight each of the following: 1/4-20 x 1 1/8" flathead machine screw, 1/4-20 nut, 1/4" external-tooth lockwasher;
Sixteen 1/4" flat washers;
Two 18U rack rails from MilesTek, their part # 50-70226;
A drill with two drill bits: 3/16" and 5/16";
A tube of construction adhesive (and a caulk gun if using that style of tube);
Measuring tape;
Two or more (Preferably at least four) clamps capable of opening at least 2";

And now, to build it:

First, use the construction adhesive to glue one piece of steel angle to the each end of the side panels along the 24" long edges, and make sure both steel angles are on
the same side the plywood (presumably the worst-looking one, as whichever side the angles are glued to will be the inside of the cabinet.) Be sure to align one end of each
angle with the edge of the panel, and also ensure that both angles on one panel align with the same side, so that there's a 3" gap between the angle's other end and the
edge of the panel. These gaps allow clearance for the rack rails, and the edge with this gap will be the front of the cabinet.

Clamp the angles in place and let the adhesive set. Repeat this to make the two side panels.

Then, starting 1" in from the angle's end that aligns with the panel, drill a hole every 4 inches through angle and wood with a 3/16" drill bit, centering it in the flat part of
the angle. Repeat for the other angle, and then repeat for the other side panel.

Slide an 8-32 screw into each hole from the outside (the wood side) and slip a flat washer, lockwasher, and nut onto the angle side. Tighten them all evenly and with
enough pressure to pull the heads of the screws flush with the surface of the wood. Again, repeat for the other angles on both panels. This finishes the side panels.

The top and bottom panels are then attached to the sides. The sides rest on the bottom, and the top rests on the sides. Since a 3" gap was left for clearance of the rack
rails, make sure that the gaps on both sides are pointed in the same direction or you'll be unable to mount one of the rails. (Flip the side over to change which way the
gaps point.)

Use more construction adhesive to glue the wood panels to each other where they butt together, as well as to glue the angles to the top and bottom. Again, clamp and let
the adhesive set.

As was done for the sides, drill holes every 4", starting 3" from the corner where the angles align with the back edges of the top and side, and 1 1/8" in from the outside
edge. Use the same means to attach the top and bottom to the angles as was used to mount the angles to the sides.

Check for square by taking diagonal measurements across the open inside of the rack - if both measurements are within 1/16" of each other, you're square, otherwise
carefully flex the cabinet slightly to force it into square.

Finally, it's time to mount the rack rails. Hold each rack rail flat against the side panel and centered on the panel vertically, keeping the shorter side that has the rack holes
on it flush with the front edge of the side panel, and mark the second and fourth holes in from each end. Remove the rails and drill through the wood at each marked
location with the 5/16" drill bit.

Slide all four 1/4-20 screws into one side panel and slip one flat washer onto each. Then slip the rail onto the screws and apply a flat washer, lockwasher, and nut to each.
Gradually tighten each in sequence until the heads are pulled flush with the side panel's surface. Then repeat for the other side.

Double-check your handiwork, and if all looks well you can start mounting you gear into the new cabinet. Or, finish its exterior however you feel fit and then start to fill it. If
you plan to cover the exterior AND the screw heads (which is NOT a good idea), you might want to apply some form of thread-locking compound on all the hardware used
to secure the rack panels and rails, to prevent them working loose later.

If you want to include a door, you'll need to either alter the design to suit the addition of a door, with the most notable change being the need to increase the depth by 3"
and recess the rails at least 3" in from the front edge of the side panels. And then there's the door itself. Since the door can be anything - a cut-down interior door, a
simple piece of plywood, even smoked acrylic (my personal favorite), the details of the door are left to the builder to work out based on the chosen material and

Building a Medium-Duty Open Rack Cabinet

A medium-duty cabinet, suited for basic computing/networking use for more heavy equipment can be built using the same plywood structure, but adding steel tubing
vertically, spaced 1" in from each rack rail and corner to add rigidity. This design is good up to about 250 lbs. if properly constructed.

The tubing would need to be spaced out from the panels enough to rest flush against the angles used to connect the panels together. This can be accomplished with flat
washers. Additional tubing running diagonally from the top front to the bottom rear may be required to shore the cabinet up from racking due to the weight of equipment
mounted into it.

If your rackmount gear will weigh more than about 200 lbs., you might want to consider the heavy-duty version, below.

Building a Heavy-Duty Steel-Frame Open Rack Cabinet

And now, the granddaddy of homebrew rack cabinets, the steel-frame heavy-duty EIA-compliant cabinet. This design is suited to loads up to about 600 lbs. (assuming a
height of 18U) and requires welding (stick or MIG) skills and equipment as well as some means to cut steel plate and tubing. However, for heavy equipment such as
rackmount UPSs and multiple servers, this is the only way to go.

Since this design was actually built by the author (Ed Note: Seemed like a good excuse to teach myself how to weld!), this is the only design that will be included here with

First, a few caveats:

1.This project requires welding. If you lack the equipment and/or skills to do this safely, you may want to hire someone to perform this process.

2.This project involves cutting steel. Usually, fiber-reinforced cutoff wheels or a bandsaw are used to perform this, and such tools are EXTREMELY dangerous. If it can
cut steel, it can certainly go through bone. And then there's the eye hazards from flying metal particles. If you perform the steel cutting operation yourself it's
advised that you not get a MRI or any other form of medical magnetic imaging procedures performed for a minimum of six (6) months, as a MRI can literally pull an
iron filing through the body and this is NOT a good thing to have happen. (MRI technicians will usually refuse to give perform MRIs on any person employed as a
metalworker for precisely this reason.) Again, this might be a good thing to pay to have done.

3.Welds generally get ground smooth - see above re: cutting for the hazards typical to grinding a welded bead.

4.Since there's welding and cutting involved, expect a lot of flesh-hostile things to be a concern, such as cutting yourself on a jagged metal edge or burning yourself on
a fresh weld. For instance, a bit of glowing metal at about 1,800 deg. F is NOT a good thing to have land on your hand. Consult the manuals for your welding and
cutting equipment for safety precautions appropriate to that equipment.

(Click the image for a larger view in a new browser window.)

The design is simple, a basic ladder frame construction that's deliberately designed to be slightly larger than the rack space within, in order to allow room to adjust the
vertical alignment, horizontal mounting-center spacing, and front-to-back alignment. Since rack rails are generally 1/2" longer than the number of units of mounting space
they permit, an extra 1/8" was added to the inside height of the frame to allow some room to adjust the rails' heights. The front-to-back rail spacing was set at 18" in this
design, as only two components destined for its use in the prototype cabinet are deeper than 18", and 18" is really the safe minimum depth for the rear rail set for most
rack shelves, drawers, etc.

(Click the image for a larger view in a new browser window.)

The material chosen was 0.62" wall, 1" x 1" square steel tubing. This tubing is widely available at home-improvement stores and usually costs about $7 for a 6-foot length.
For this project, six pieces of 6-foot tubing are required. As an option, a flat metal bar can be used to create corner reinforcements that double as mounting points for

(Click the images for a larger view in a new browser window.)

The tools used for the project are shown above. At left, a Hobart Handler MIG welder to perform the union of metal pieces, and a couple welding magnets to ensure angles
are maintained and tubing held in place when the welding is performed. At right, a 10" miter saw with a metal-cutting blade. NOTE THE GUARD IS STILL ON THE SAW - if
you use a miter saw and you removed the guard, put the guard back on, fool! The metal cutting blade is a compressed-abrasive type, and are also widely available at
home-improvement stores. These must be used with caution though, as too much speed or pressure in the wrong direction may cause one to explode violently, and the
little bits can do a number on anything nearby. (Thus the admonition to reinstall any missing guards.) They also throw sparks and dust during use, so cut outside or in a
very well ventilated area only.

The first part of the process is to cut the stock tubing into pieces. For this project, we need 4 pieces that are 31 3/4" long, 4 pieces that are 21 3/8" long, and 10 pieces that
are 16" long. If done correctly you can get all these lengths out of six 6-foot tubing sticks and have enough scrap left over to practice your welding and/or set the welder up
for the material. Since the tubing walls are 0.062" thick, most MIG welders would work effectively at their lowest or second-lowest power setting and still get adequate
metal penetration. Be careful about the power setting or you'll burn holes through the tubing.

(Click the image for a larger view in a new browser window.)

Once the cut work is done, two of the 31 3/4" lengths and two of the 21 3/8" lengths are welded to form a rectangle. This is repeated to form the second. These will be the
front and back openings and rack rail support struts for the rack cabinet's frame. Welding magnets make this process easy, by holding the tubing in place and keeping the
angle 90 degrees.

Once the two rectangular sections are welded and the welds have been checked and allowed to cool, the sections are each checked to ensure that they aren't warped or
bent into a slight "taco" shape (which is where diagonally opposite corners lift toward each other), which can happen with welding if a joint slips a bit during welding. Slight
cases of warping can be corrected with a little brute force to bend the section flat, but more extreme examples might require cutting out and redoing the welds in one or
more corners. Taking the time to do this job right the first time pays dividends.

(Click the images for a larger view in a new browser window.)

Next, risers are welded at the corners of one of the sections. Again, welding magnets make this easier. When that's finished, the other section is placed onto the risers,
indexed properly into place with magnets, and welded to form a basic enclosure.

(Click the image for a larger view in a new browser window.)

The next step is to weld in the remaining 16" pieces that will serve as supports to reinforce the frame. One per side is centered into the top and bottom, and two into each
side. These help distribute weight from the rack rails and help prevent the tubing buckling under extreme loads.

When the welding is completed and checked, the joints are ground smooth.

(Click the image for a larger view in a new browser window.)

The next steps are to clean the frame thoroughly, and then to paint the frame completely with primer and then a good quality paint. This isn't intended to be cosmetic so
much as to prevent corrosion - exposed steel will eventually rust.

(Click the image for a larger view in a new browser window.)

With the frame finished, the rack rails can be mounted. Since the design leaves the rack slightly larger than required, the rails can be centered into the frame vertically by
using something to gap the bottom of each rail up from the bottom tubing. A cheap but workable tool for this is an ordinary coin of roughly 1/16" thickness, such as a
penny. Simply place a penny on the bottom tubing and stand the rail vertically onto it.

(Click the image for a larger view in a new browser window.)

With a rail held in place, its mounting holes can be marked. These should be centered on the tubing for greatest strength, and may result in the rail's rackmounting surface
extending out from the front of the tubing. It's a good idea to use the second and fourth mounting holes from each end of the rail if there are enough holes. That way you
won't drill close enough to the corners to risk disturbing a weld or unnecessarily weakening the structure of the frame. 5/16" holes are then drilled completely through the
tubing to allow the use of 1/4-20 bolts to mount the rails. If you're using 1/4-20 carriage bolts, a rotary tool with an engraving bit can be used to square up the outside
holes in order to provide something for the square portion of the carriage bolt's head something to grip.

(Click the image for a larger view in a new browser window.)

Each rail is mounted with four 1/4-20 bolts, flat washers, lock washers, and nuts. An additional flat washer is placed between the rack rail and the frame itself in order to
make sure the space between the rails is proper to produce the required horizontal mounting-hole spacing of 18 1/4". The rack rails are then checked to ensure they're
level vertically as well as the right distance horizontally, and then hardware if tightened down to complete the installation.

The rear rail set is installed the same way.

(Click the image for a larger view in a new browser window.)

If all goes well, faceplate filler panels, shelves, etc. should drop right in without interference or alignment problems.

(Click the image for a larger view in a new browser window.)

At this point, the rack cabinet frame is complete enough to use as-is, or you can attach side panels to the frame using whatever hardware you need. One nice-looking (if a
bit pricey) suggestion is to drill and tap holes and use cap screws to attach the side panels, and use tinted acrylic for the side panels themselves.

(Click the image for a larger view in a new browser window.)

The prototype shown in this article was stuffed with gear without the addition of any side panels, as the author's need for the setup was a bit too immediate to allow for the
wait time needed to get large enough acrylic panels. Despite not having side panels, the cabinet looks pretty slick (especially for a home-build setup!)

Now you've got all the know-how you need to build your own rack cabinet, and make it look however you want, without having to spend a fortune to get it. If only the
rackmount gear was less expensive...

Tom H. is the Webmaster for OC Mojo, as well as the Group Coordinator and Grand-Poo-Bah of Team Florida Mojo, the eastern OC Mojo review team. He can be reached

This Space For Rent - Advertise on OC Mojo!

Copyright © 2001 by Electronic Fantasy World. All Rights Reserved. Usage constitutes acceptance of the OC Mojo Terms of Use.

test (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2398372)


I Beams (3, Interesting)

tinrobot (314936) | about 13 years ago | (#2398379)

Pixar uses steel I-Beams for their racks. Sturdy, simple, and mega-industrial looking.

Rack Sources (3, Informative)

N3Bruce (154308) | about 13 years ago | (#2398431)

One good source for racks is your friendly neighborhood hamfest. At the larger shows I frequently see rack cabinets to 6 foot height often going for a song, sometimes even for the hauling away. Go to the ARRL Website for a hamfest near you.

Bruce N3LSY

great start for home user (4, Informative)

Lumpy (12016) | about 13 years ago | (#2398546)

Build that rack, but add Fixed wheels to the bottom and create a case that the rack fits into with about 1/4 inch clearance around it. That way you can slide the unit out and work on it. (I added a turntable bearing on the bottom to allow rotating the unit 90 degrees for even easier access.) If you dont need cabinet grade racks I suggest going to your local industrial equipment reseller (people that buy old used industrial systems and the re-sell them) and get most any size rack in a better price range... Like less than $100.00 to free.

I personally have never paid for a rack in my life. I've had 12 so far, the first 3 were free, the last 9 I was paid to take away.

If you really want a rack, most anyone that isn't impatient or is willing to clean up and repaint it can get them for free.

Convert 23" to 19"??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2398594)

Anyone know of a place that sells 23" to 19" rack conversions? Or, anyone who sells 23" shelves so that I can place 19" stuff on them?

Re:Convert 23" to 19"??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2403477)

"Anyone know of a place that sells 23" to 19" rack conversions?"

Try BlackBox [] .

Re:Convert 23" to 19"??? (1)

foonarf (471520) | about 13 years ago | (#2405053)

23" to 19"? Try a chainsaw.

My eyes! My eyes! (2)

HardCase (14757) | about 13 years ago | (#2398606)

I'm sure that the article is a good one, but whoever put the page together must have gone to the JeffK school of web design. Black text on dark background == completely unreadable page.


racking at home (1)

gnurd (455798) | about 13 years ago | (#2399204)

i asked a question in july about home racking, no so much a matter of space, but mostly dampening the sound of your servers. the girlfriend doesnt always like the sound of a lawnmower in the living room...

Re:racking at home (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2402418)

Try Eggcrate foam with a cardboard backing.

Had a heck of a time with wood floors + my servers
echoing through the house.

The foam(Check target/wallmart for bed egg-crates) is about $20 for a boatload, and use heavy cardboard backing for further sound damping.

Just make sure the interior stays cool, you may have to make baffeles(few right angled passages) near the top to allow heat out, but not as much sound. The HF waves are pretty directional, so a few rt angles with sound damping material should really help cut down.

Plastic milk crates (2, Informative)

ecarlson (325598) | about 13 years ago | (#2399318)

Plastic milk crates make good cheap 19" racks if your equipment isn't too deep, and you don't care about looks. I knew some local bands that used to use them for their audio equipment. They're very durable, and provide plenty of ventilation, and they're free (if you don't get caught).

Here's my self built rack (1)

MonkeyPaw (8286) | about 13 years ago | (#2399633)

I built a nice rack for my recording studio. Here's my method:

I hit up some furniture shops in search for an already built fixture. I had in mind something like a smaller bookshelf.

I stumbled on a section of a waterbed unit. It was being sold in several pieces including the bed, two shelf units on either side of the headboard, and the headboard unit itself. It was all made up in oak and oak laminates.

The shelf unit was just over 19 inch wide, about 19 inch deep, and just over 5 feet tall. It had two drawers in the bottom of the unit.

They wanted $100 USD for each shelf unit.

I priced similer units at various music stores and they wanted at least $200 for something of this size (if not much more).

I bought the shelf unit and headed over to a music store and picked up two 4 foot rack rails. I pulled the 3 shelves out of the inside, pulled the back off, cut the rack rails down to size, mounted them with a handful of bolts. Presto! A very nice looking 20 space rack unit with two drawers.

Here's a link to few pictures. here [] and here [] .

The entire thing cost me about $150 USD ($100 for the shelf, $40 for the rack rails, and about 10 bucks for bolts and other hardware)

super-cheap do-it-yourself (2)

novarese (24280) | about 13 years ago | (#2399787)

For the ultimate ghetto rack, just get some of these bad boys [] and a few 2x4s and go to town.

they're called shelflinks, and they're just some little plastic things that turn 2x4s into big tinkertoys; they're specifically designed to make custom shelves easy.

Just buy it (4, Informative)

srichman (231122) | about 13 years ago | (#2400019)

In this article we'll do something that so far we're not aware anyone has done yet - discuss building a small 18-unit ... rack cabinet for as little as $50.
Just buy it. Raxxess [] , Middle Atlantic [] , and other companies make budget racks for home use.

I've got a 20-space Raxxess elite rack, and it looks and works great. The Raxxess economy rack series is probably closer to what you would get if you built it yourself. Zzounds [] (a leading online music store) has the best prices I've seen on Raxxess gear. Their website is down right now for some reason, but the cache of their rack section [] shows that the Raxxess 20-space economy rack is $84.95 (+$5.00 shipping).

A professional 20-space rack for $84.95 sounds better to me that a "do it yourself" 18-space rack for "as little as $50," particularly when you consider the cost of your time and labor.

zZounds link (2)

srichman (231122) | about 13 years ago | (#2400816)

Okay, zZounds is back up. Here's the link to the 20-space Raxxess economy rack [] .

Allow me to summarize: (2, Informative)

wholesomegrits (155981) | about 13 years ago | (#2400252)

As the article grossly overstates even the most mundane details:

Take plywood for light duty, metal for heavy duty
Fashion it together into a rectangle shape.

Install a back and sides, insert equipment. Viola!

Whilst I applaud them for illustrating what a rape job most rack cabinets are, I think if you can install Sendmail or configure innd, you can probably have enough wits to use a skillsaw and a few screws.

Easy, in two simple steps.,.... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2400481)

1. Invite a few chicks with nice racks to your place.

2. Stack 'em up in a woodden cabinet.

Professional racks are made of steel for a reason (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2401018)

I'm sure a rack made out of wood will burn real well in the event of a major electrical problem.

By the way... (1)

hackshack (218460) | about 13 years ago | (#2404487)

Yeah, the "to-do" guide was a little simpler than I'd have liked, but it wasn't nearly as bad as the guides on SOME other hardware websites ("REPLACE j00R GR33N POW3R LED WITH A BLU3 ONE!"). I found the bit about metalworkers and MRIs pretty interesting. I use grinders and metal saws quite a bit, and I'm going to have to look into this.
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