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Make a $350-$550 mini server rack for $70!

Let's say you have some rack-mountable servers in your house. For example, you might have a web server for your corporate website, a file server for your terabyte of (un)pirated media, and sundry networking equipment. Let's say all of this gear totals 8U, or about 14" of vertical height.

If you're like my housemates and me, then the obvious thing to do would be to purchase a hulking, steel 42U (over 6' tall) server rack and put it in the the entryway of your house.

After a few years of cohabiting with the 42U monstrosity, we decided that it should be replaced with a smaller, 12U server rack. Ben decided to price this out and found this one ($565) and this one ($341). We looked at these racks, then at their price tags, then back at the racks, and then realized that we were about to drop hundreds of dollars on a glorified end-table.

So, why not just use actual end tables?

Hence, this Instructable. In a nutshell: epoxy together two of IKEA's CORRAS bedside tables. Two are needed because each is only about 15" deep, and most rack-mount servers are 20"-30" deep. The project is pretty simple because these end tables just happen to have exactly the right inside width to fit servers. They even come with handy shelves to set the servers on.

A few photos of the finished product are below (apologies for the crappy mobile phone photos, throughout; it's all we had on hand at the time):

Step 1: Figuring Out How to Get a Strong Bond

Like many pieces of IKEA furniture, these CORRAS bedside tables are made of a composite material. It's basically a paper core with thin panels of wood laminated to the outsides. The images below were excerpted from this paper, whch studied the strength of this material and its usefulness in furniture construction.

As the paper notes, it is strong and inexpensive. The manufacturing difficulty, however, is in devising a way to attach the panels together. IKEA's stuff, for example, has connection hardware integrated into special parts of the board to make joints that can handle the loads.

We go into all this detail for a reason. The face-to-face attachment that we want between these end tables requires joining the boards together in a way they weren't designed for. Imagine the end of the board in the picture below being the front or back of the bedside table. The cutaway part would just be covered with "cap" of wood, laminated on. Unlike solid wood or MDF, we can't just drill holes in the ends of each one, plug in dowels and glue, and push the surfaces together. There is no wood inside to drill into, and the veneer will just peel away from the paper under stress.

Instead, we take advantage of the large surface area of the top and bottom panels, epoxying metal rails to them to distribute the load on the joint across the entire panel. The next few steps in this Instructable detail how to do this.

Step 2: Get Your Materials Together

What you need:

Two CORRAS bedside tables: It just so happened that Ben had these on hand and was ready to get rid of them, so this part was free for us. You, however, will probably need to hand over $29.99 for each of these at IKEA. Hit their website if you don't feel like spending a whole afternoon wandering a maze of Scandinavian goodness.

Nuts and Bolts: I got a handful of nuts and bolts for sandwiching the bottom panels of the tables between two pairs of metal rails. A few dollars altogether.

Metal Rails: These are for strength, and to raise the lowest server off the bottom of the bedside table. We found these at the hardware store for about one dollar each. We used two on the underside of the tops of the tables and four sandwiching the bottom panels. More explanation on upcoming steps.

One-hour Epoxy: Another few dollars to hold everything together.

Step 3: Set Up Some Entertainment!

And by entertainment, I mean distraction. That way this project can take all afternoon instead of the hour and a half that it should.

Step 4: Prep the Rails

Take the shelves out from inside the end tables, then push them together so they from a long "tube". The rails will run the length of this tube.

Measure, mark, and cut the rails down to size. To make things easier, we used sliced lengths of old bicycle inner tubes to hold the whole bundle of rails together and sawed through all of them at once. It's faster and gives you a cleaner cut.

Step 5: Glue Together Tables and Top Rails

Flip both of the end tables upside-down, since the casters on the bottom may make the joint uneven. Apply epoxy to the ends of the top and bottom panels that will be joined together. We used old bicycle inner tubes to tie the two tables together. Old inner tubes are amazing for compressing things while they set. Careful if you go around more than once: With enough turns, inner tubes are strong enough to crush a lot of things that you work on.

There will be a larger gap between the side panels that makes them harder to epoxy together, so we skipped those. Also, if you avoid getting any epoxy between the top panels and side panels, the whole thing will still disassemble easily.

While that sets you can also epoxy the rails to the underside of the top surface.

Step 6: Epoxy and Bolt the Bottom Rails

Now we just need to attach the bottom rails. Unlike the top rails which were just epoxied to the underside of the top surface, here we are going to drill through the bottom surface and bolt rails to both sides. And epoxy for good measure.

When you are drilling through, you will feel how there isn't anything except paper in the core of the surfaces. Try not to let the drill wander, so your bolt will be approximately perpendicular to the surfaces and so the holes in your rails will line up.

Step 7: Test!

If you've done everything cleanly, you should now have a small, strong server rack. The casters on the bottom make it nice and mobile.

Here, Marc shows us an interpretive work entitled "Web Surfing." Soon after, he performed another one entitled "Falling on My Own Ass."

Step 8: Mount Up Your Servers

Any 19" rackmount equipment should fit snugly inside. The top surface now provides a nice place to put a printer or whatever other non-rackmount equipment you have.

Adjust the shelves inside both units to the same height, and you can raise up half of your stuff to provide an additional airflow path. We did not screw in the "ears" of any of our servers, nor do we recommend doing so because the material you'd tap is mostly paper. A good extension to this project would be to machine rackmount rails and epoxy them to the front to provide standard rack screw-in points.

<p>I was looking for an IKEA Mini Server Rack but found it very costly, and then found your article which gave me a second thought to try something myself.I was referring to many such sites before giving myself an attempt to make one. There are good online portals where we get affordable deals for server racks. You can refer https://www.martinenclosures.com/ to know such offers. They look very genuine. </p>
Thanks for the tip! Thankfully, I'm long past the days of needing a server rack :)
<p>Thanks for the idea. However, I had noise as an extra problem, so I had to add acrylic glass doors and active ventilation. No extinguisher yet, but at least some fire alarm...</p><p><a href="http://www.slideshare.net/fra_ber/diy-acoustic-server-rack-silent-pretty-cheap-30538833" rel="nofollow">http://www.slideshare.net/fra_ber/diy-acoustic-ser...</a></p>
Good ikea rack <br>thats a good idea.
the ikea lack table<br /> <br /> google lackrack<br />
Sweet, thanks for that!
what is the internal width of the eina table?
Great 'ible!!&nbsp; I want to comment on your awesome style of being informative AND&nbsp;entertaining.&nbsp; I have to remember to make my next one more fun.<br /> <br /> You came up with a great solution to a problem I've been thinking about for some time.&nbsp; Thanks again!<br />
what is the specs of&nbsp; your server?<br />
Absolutely beautiful.<br /><br />A few friends and I&nbsp;are looking at putting together a 16U rack from scratch for some projects we have, and I&nbsp;was curious if anybody had already done it on here. Unfortunately, there is no IKEA&nbsp;near here, so this is not really feasible for me. Great instructable though!<br /><br />Back to Home Depot for me :D<br />
Cool
This is a pretty cool project but, I can't help but think about how deafeningly loud those rackmount servers would be in my living room. Especially with hardwood floors. What can you do to quiet this system down? Can it be inclosed instead of left open? Can you add sound deadening foam?
Hey, thanks for reading. Yeah, it is a bit loud, but luckily our server lives in a hallway, away from our bedrooms and kitchen/living areas. I'm not sure how to sound-proof something like this; sound proofing is really difficult when you also want good ventilation.
Well, for $50 or so, you can pickup some sound deadening sheets to stick to the insides of the cases or perhaps inside the enclosure and some sound deadening foam blocks to stuff stuff inside the empty 3.5 and 5.5 inch drive bays. Which in some ways and increase airflow and improve cooling but, I don't know how effective it would be. All of the know alternatives are incredibly expensive. Pretty much starting at $600 and going up to and beyond $3,000 (depending upon the size of the enclosure (6U to 42U). I'd be really curious to see what could be accomplished for under $150 (or twice the cost of the original enclosure; or less).
Cool server rack, I guess I will be out of a job soon then...how can my enclosure cabinets compete ;)
Well, as you can see from the comment below, noise is certainly an issue with this homebrew setup. But otherwise, yeah. These are working quite well for us.
Wow in that picture of your friend standing on the rack he looks just like Nicholas Brendon
Cool!
I just saw this: an <a rel="nofollow" href="http://helmer.sfe.se/">industrial-strength server rack</a> built out of a Helmer filing cabinet. This guy was using it to create Linux server cluster for 3D rendering. Pretty awesome. <br/>
Nice. Are PC servers the same dimension as most rack mount audio equipment, 19 inch? I would like a more furniture like rack for my sampler collection.
Yeah, 19". This should work great for rackmount audio gear, too. Good luck!
thanks. i sent that ? before i read the final step. IYO is that faux wood strong enough to hold heavy equipmnt if only secured to a metal rack that is epoxied to the cabinet? im worried about torsion stress, as most kit is only supported by 4 screws at the front.
Yeah, I don't think it would be strong enough, either. Our setup works because we simply stacked stuff with rails in between for airflow. The shelf provided some separation. If you really need to be able to quickly add and remove components without disturbing the stack, this setup isn't ideal. We almost never need to move things around, though, so this was perfect for us.
Great writeup! I just got myself a Dell server and was looking for a rack for my home... Nothing 42U big, just something to keep it from being stored on a table or on the floor. After seeing that even for an 8U rack it costs almost $500 (rounding); I found this... can't wait try it out! I'm going to take that idea also to drill some vent holes on the shelf as well as maybe on the sides. For a couple of servers, I can see this as very cost effective. You can even go as far as putting some fans in at the top to vent air out that way too.
Nice. Post some pictures if you do do it; I've to see what variations you come up with.
As long as you're using epoxy, you could common trick used to repair delamination in boat hulls: drill your holes through the veneers. put tape over the bottom hole. mix up some epoxy (the thin runny boat kind works best) and fill the cavity. Now drain most of the epoxy out. Doesn't matter too much if you drain all or a little, you were just trying to coat the inside of the cavity with the thin stuff. Thicken the epoxy with something (sawdust, We$t Marine Filler #50456098..., flour??). Cover the bottom hole with tape again. Fill the cavity with the thickened epoxy and wait for it to set, say, overnight. Re-drill your holes and you have a strong surface for the bolts to bind against w/out crushing the paper or twisting the veneer.
That's a great tip, danlocks. Thanks.
Nice one.
Thanks!
Hi there, I'm about to build one of these and I was just wondering how it was holding up for you heat/vent-wise.
It's been doing just fine. All of our equipments vents front-to-back, so constriction around the sides doesn't seem to be a problem. Also, the hottest components (the web server and the Dell file server) are separated. The rails along the bottom surface lift the Dell, too, allowing for some airflow. If you're concerned, you can add spacers or even cut large vents in the shelves. I'd love to see how yours turns out. If you get around to making one, post a pic!
wow.. ya.. token rings... that was the most pointless thing i learned in my networking class i took. besides everything else around the same time. wait a seconds... that whole class was about obsolete networking.... i want my money back.. damn online expert....
Token ring networks were all the rage among computer scientists. FDDI even got pretty far in the market before they got heavily trampled by the engineering behind real networks and ethernet implementations. "with a gaussian distribution of packet sizes a 4 Mbit token ring should out-preform 10Mbit ethernet." "But my packet sizes don't have a gaussian distribution of sizes and my ethernet card was 1/10th the price of your token ring card!" "Oh."
It's not useless if it wins you a prize in <a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.notacon.org/events.html#abe">Anything but Ethernet</a>! ;) Seriously, there's still a lot of legacy Token Ring hardware out there, especially in legacy IBM shops, and there's no harm in knowing how it works, and especially how it fails. Kick the MAU!<br/><br/>The Token Ring is just that much funnier because it's inches away from a GigE switch. It's gratifying to know I'm not the only one with a hardware collection like that.<br/>
A token ring concentrator? Even the cisco labs, bastions of ancient technology that they are, have been throwing those away for years now!
Note that there are no LEDs active on that thing. It's there simply to impede airflow over the file server :)
$70? i guess it looks pretty, but would could have gone way lower
We considered making the cabinets ourselves. The basic shape of the thing is really simple, after all. But my housemate was tossing these end tables out, so we used them. Really, for us, this was the $10 IKEA Mini Server Rack. But yeah, it looks nice, too.

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