DIY Article

Build This Wooden Component Rack for $30

November, 2005

Piero Gabucci



Recently I found there was literally no more floor space for the components scattered across my floor. In fact, I began to tiptoe through the space like there were mousetraps everywhere. Cables and speaker wires, remotes, manuals, it was outrageous.

The answer of course was that I needed a rack. I move equipment around all the time, and if Im not moving them, Im constantly switching wires and cables from unit to unit. I needed a rack flexible enough to have access from all sides, sturdy yet lightweight enough to move around and still look good.

Searching websites, local dealers, and shops just didnt quite give me what I was looking for. Most were monstrous: glass and steel, glossy cherry-wood, all quite heavy, over-designed, or just plain too expensive. I realized my only option was to build one myself.

Having said that with the criteria as stated, I decided I wanted it to be entirely of wood, because it would make it much easier to work with and shape, as well as lightweight. And of course sonically I like the nature of wood under my components.

Selecting the Materials

The material I chose was plywood, and the one I was thinking about was called Baltic, or Russian plywood. Its used for furniture and comes in a variety of thicknesses. Made of odd number of layers 5, 7, or 9, its thickness is in millimeters. The layers are tight and visually appealing allowing me to finish the edges without applying another edge-cap. The outer finish layer is birch veneer.

Contacting a carpenter friend of mine about the project, I was surprised one day as he dropped off a sheet 5x5 square and 7 layers thick, about 25mm, or not quite . He said anything thicker would have required special order and certainly increased the price accordingly.

He became quite fascinated and asked me for a sketch. I envisioned four shelves with plenty of airspace on four legs. The idea became then to make use of every bit of the sheet yet not have to buy any more. For under $30, this was quite a challenge.

Further it was my thought to construct the unit without fasteners, purely relying on joinery and glue.

The design is simple, with four legs and four fixed shelves. I turned the legs diagonal to keep the unit visually slender and yet give it more rigidity. We decided for strength to double up the legs making them 50 mm thick. We kept the 22x22 shelves the original thickness of 25mm. Since it would be about 4 fee tall, I was concerned over the shape of the legs making the unit visually bulky. With the legs already turned 45 degrees to the shelves, the decision was to taper them so that they would be more slender at the top than the bottom. Aesthetically and functionally, this would suggest putting the heaviest unit on the bottom, while the lightest on top. Shaped like a tall sail, the legs are nicely proportioned.


The tools required include a table saw, a jigsaw or bandsaw for shaping, a router for easing the edges, large pipe-clamps, wood glue, and polyurethane for finishing.

Making the most efficient use of the one sheet, I laid out the pattern in sketch form first and then full scale on the sheet of plywood. Very little was wasted. I do recommend using scraps to practice making the joints, critical to the design. I also suggest leaving extra material especially on the legs if you decide to shape them as I did.

Once the eight legs are cut, glue two pieces together making note of the grain direction. I decided to alternate vertical with horizontal. After the glue has dried, gang all four legs together tightly in a vice and belt sand the curve desired.

With the legs turned 45 degrees, you must clip the shelf edges, the diagonal measuring the thickness of the legs. The idea of course is once the legs are slid into the notched legs, it sits tightly.

I used a preferred 1/8 round-over router bit on all the edges, shelves, and legs. However, avoid the corners of the shelves where they are to intersect with the legs.

Notch the legs while they are still ganged on your table saw where the shelves will be inserted.

Lightly sand all the pieces prior to assembly; its much easier and youll get a better finish.

Assembly is a matter of gluing one to four shelves to one leg, applying a pipe-clamp, and letting it dry before gluing the other legs.

Wood is not perfect to work with, specifically it warps. You may find upon assembly that one leg doesnt sit flat on the floor like the other three. Also if by chance your joints arent as tight as you need to keep the unit rigid, you could apply diagonal bracing, Id recommend for this design, 1/8 stainless steel cable. This would surely add significant stiffness and maintain the nature of the design.

We finished the unit with two coats (sanding between each) of clear polyurethane. Consider whether youre using a water-based or an oil-based finish. Water-based will achieve a more blonde appearance, while an oil-based will be somewhat more yellow. Of course you could also stain to any color you desire.

As you can see from the photos, it turned out wonderfully and functions exactly as Id hoped. My concern about the unit being able to support the load diminished as I put four components on the rack, including a 97 pound Denon AVR-5805. In addition to the 5805 (bottom), are the Denon DVD-3910, the Onyx CD88 CD player, and beautifully sitting on top, the Onyx Melody integrated tube amp. I can easily move components in and out, as well as access the entire rear of each unit, saving my back and eyes.

Not bad for $30.

I share this with you because I was very pleased with the results, and hope it inspires you to try one yourself. I humbly thank Sean Gibbons for his help.

- Piero Gabucci -


Copyright 2005 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity

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