25 March, 2018

20u DIY server rack. Final plan in place.

So I have been tasked with a project. What was going to be a dedicated home office / study space for me, is now going to be a shared space home office, / guest bedroom. Meaning the big 48” wire bakers rack LAN rack has got to go! And the structured wiring rack on the wall? Nope. It needs to get hidden.

I have been directed to move all the network gear, AND my virtualization cluster gear, into the closet. But just how am I going to do that?

Simple. Improvise a server rack, and rack mount my mid tower servers. Measurements are good, so I know this is doable.

Credit for the inspiration:

First things first, I found a blog at https://thehomeserverblog where the author had done an open server rack out of wood, and it looked pretty decent, except he used full dimension 2x4s, which is going to be a bit bulky for my use, I need to be more space efficient in my build…

There are 3 critical dimensions. The mounting space side to side of the rack rails, the height top to bottom for the rack rails, and the distance front to back for the rack rails.

To reduce the overall weight, and space down of the rack build, keeping the costs down, as well as simplifying the build by reducing the number of steps needed to prep the lumber, I am opting for 1x4 lumber instead of my initial plan of using 2x4 and planing it down the thickness.

So critical dimensions here are…

Side to side 19-⅝” to keep the centers of the bolt holes at 19” spacing.

Rail opening 35.25” (20u, 1u = 1.75”). Add ¼” to this height for wiggle room.

Front to back. There are 3 standard depths, 19”, 23” and 30”. We are going to opt for the 30” depth to insure we aren’t too cramped for cables, or airflow behind the rack.

Once built, the rack will be populated, from bottom to top as follows.

1-4, 4U desktop converted to rack server.

5-8 4U desktop converted to rack server.

9-12 4U desktop converted to rack server

13-14 2U desktop converted to rack server.

15-17 4U desktop RAID shelf converted to rack RAID shelf.

18 & 20 2 @ TrendNet TEG-S16DG 16 port gigabit ethernet switches rack mounted. Cables to pass through to back of rack between switches. Due to mounting considerations, I do NOT want these switches rear facing as I want to be able to see the link / activity lights when in use.

There is a 7u 10” deep wall mount rack that will be mounted to a mount board immediately above the server rack. That will house from the bottom up.

1 1U rack shelf, housing 2 @ Obi100 VoIP adapters, and resting pigtails from above device.

2 1U rack mounted PDU, front switch, rear ports. Pigtails to allow for wall wart transformers, these will rest on the shelf below.

3 1U TrendNet TK-803R PS2/USB KVM 8 port. This will require a pass through setup from one side of the wall to the other to allow for the connection to the video, keyboard, and mouse.

4 1U TrendNet TEG-S24G 24 port gigabit ethernet switch.

5 1U open space to pass cables behind, and either down to rack, or up to ceiling penetration to pass through the rest of the house.

6 1U TrendNet 16 port gigabit patch panel.

7 1U 10” deep cantilever shelf housing cable modem, WiFi router, and Antenna rotator control box.

On mount board above will be housed.

1x8 amplified coaxial splitter.

4x6 telephone hub 110.

Materials List:

Lumber needed.

5 @ 1x4 whitewood common 8ft long lumber

Fasteners needed.

48 1.25” wood / deck screws.

28 #8 .5” round head wood screws.

Rack Rails.

2 @ Reliable Hardware Company RH-20-SRR-A 20U Full Hole 20 Space Rack Rail Pair.

Rack conversion rail / partial shelves.

NavePoint Adjustable Rack Mount Server Shelf Rails 1U Full Depth 4-pack (These should come with the rack screws).

Finish needed.

Rust-Oleum painter's touch gloss black spray paint & primer in one.

Tools needed.

Measuring tape and marking pencil (Fine lead please!).

Saw that can cross cut in a straight line. Either a miter box and saw, electric miter saw, radial arm saw, circular saw with rafter square and clamp, or table saw and miter fence.

Electric drill.

If cordless, fully charged battery, if corded, well… power...

Drill gauge.

Drill bit set to drill pilot holes.

Counter sinks to relieve for the screw heads and reduce chances of split out.

Phillips screw driver bit for drill.

Power sander hand sandpaper

Drop cloth.

Cut list for 1x4 final dimension lumber.

4 @ 19-⅝” for spreaders.

4 @ 21-⅛” for top UPS support

4 @ 29” front / rear runners top and bottom.

4 @ 43.25” uprights.


Measure, mark and make cuts for each component.

Lay out and mark upper and lower box joints.

Pre drill pilot holes for upper and lower box joints.

Relieve screw holes with counter sink.

Assemble upper and lower box joints making sure the boxes are square.

Set up boxes to uprights on one side, insure everything is square, mark, and pre drill pilot holes, and countersinks.

Assemble uprights onto boxes on first side, flip over repeat process.

Disassemble entire assembly.

Sand all assembly pieces relieving any sharp edges

Paint all pieces allow paint to fully cure add second coat if necessary


Measure, and assemble rack rails onto rack body.

14 March, 2018

DIY 20u server rack. Prepping and planning.

As life progresses my requirements for the home office are changing fairly quickly. What was once going to be a shared office space, IT training lab, and music studio is being forced into being converted into a guest room and home office.

This means the large 4 foot LAN rack and the wall mounted switch rack just aren't workable anymore. What I'm going to have to do is move the computer armoire from the bedroom into here this will has the monitor keyboard mouse and printer as well as a docking station for the laptops.

The real meat of the matter and where massive things are changing is the entire structured wiring is going to stay on the mount board but the mount board switch rack and all are being mounted in the closet and the desktop computers are going to be converted to rack mount as is the RAID cabinet.

This is a fairly massive change as I have already started pulling the ethernet telephone and coaxial cabling as you would already know if you watch my videos.

Now I can fairly easily go out and buy a prefabricated 20u four post server rack for about $175 but that just wouldn't be Dave's Workshop. No I'm going to have to make one.

Now I'm not much for metal work it's just not my thing so what I did was I went out to Amazon and sourced up two pairs of 20u rack rails. They were less than $30 a pair after taxes. I have way more than enough screws for this job but I still need to go to Home Depot for some supplies.

It's hard to believe but I am down to only one 2 by 4 in my inventory so I need to buy three more that's straight and dry as possible. I will also need a can of brush-on gloss black acrylic enamel. Yes I could do this with spray paint but I don't really want to.

The dimensions that the frame has to enclose is 19 and 5/8 wide by 35 and 1/4 High by 30 in deep. The height is 1/4 inch over the standard however I am wanting a little bit of Slack to allow 4 Non standard size components.

My idea is to get some adjustable depth rails that will act as shelves for the desktop Pcs, and stack them up along the rack. The cheap cases I got actually come right in at 4u high, I have a small mini ATX based system that is being used as the storage controller and cluster front end and of course the RAID cabinet itself which will be placed on a deep 19 in rack Shelf.

The cluster switches will be moved into this rack so that all of the components for cluster are in this rack. That leaves the TV coax distribution the 24-port ethernet switch and its associated cables the telephone distribution the cable modem the Wi-Fi router and the VoIP adapters to go into the switch rack which will be mounted immediately over the server rack.

the server rack build will be the subject of a video on my channel and will be linked here. The process should be fairly simple however I want to show it being done with as minimal of tools as possible so my plan can be followed by pretty much anybody. I will be using a circular saw a rafter Square a clamp a cheap cordless drill drill bits countersinks a driver bit and a sander.

I will have to double back on this post to give credit for the inspiration rack build as this is not entirely my idea I mean yes I had the general idea in mind but I didn't really have the dimensions squared away right off the bat. There is a user that built one and use some Minwax dark stain of some kind is a finish for his I don't particularly want mine stained and unlike this other person I don't want mine on casters I want mine solidly on the floor.

So I will be posting up again somewhat shortly with some progress once the rails arrived from Amazon and the other stuff comes home from Home Depot with me.

And like always I will link the products I am using as much as possible if you would like to reproduce my project. Not all of the tools that I am using are on the market anymore such as my 1990's vintage skill saw has been replaced by a much newer model. And the Ryobi drill bit set that I have likewise has been replaced with a newer version I will however link that newer version. I am happy with the Ryobi bit set I should mention.