Awning and Storage Rack




Introduction: Awning and Storage Rack

About: Tim Anderson is the author of the "Heirloom Technology" column in Make Magazine. He is co-founder of, manufacturers of "3D Printer" output devices. His detailed drawings of traditional Pacific I…

Very elegant awning and kayak rack that hangs on the back of a standard shipping container. Or on the back of your house, garage, or barn.
Protect your kayak/lumber/stock from getting wrecked by the elements. And keep it all handy for instant use.
Put some boards on the bottom rack and use it for a workbench!
Park your motorcycle and HPV under it.

Made from 100% scavenged materials.
The metal came from railings off the fire truck and from a wrecked chainlink fence.
The maroon truck tarp material was gym floor covers from MIT.
The blue sunbrella fabric came from the dumpster of our neighbor the sailmaker.
The heavy threaded rods and nuts were left behind in our space by a defunct building contractor.

All welding was done with a homemade AC stick welder.

The excellent metal and canvas work on this project was done by Ita, Zan, and Franziska

Step 1: Hunting, Gathering and Butchering Metal

Thanks volunteers!
if I didn't manage to get a good shot of you at work, the help is much appreciated anyhow.

The railings from the firetruck were pretty close to the right shape, but there was still a lot of work to be done.

In these photos

Ita uses a portable bandsaw to cut down the old railings from the firetruck.
She's from Uzbekistan and is savoring the proletarian-type work she never got to do in the old Soviet Union.

Zan grinds the arms.
Ita and Zan weld arms and hooks using the homemade welder.
As you can see we've got every kind of commercial welder, but the homemade one is more fun.

Zan climbs a partly done frame to see if it's strong enough. It is!

"do you sail?" I ask. She: "Not really."
That turns out to mean she sailed a square rigger for several months.
Always check people's references!

Step 2: Painting

Franziska spraypaints the finished frames.
We used scavenged white oilbased paint thinned about 15% with lacquer thinner.
Every town has a reuse center/dump/toxic dropoff place where you can get free paint.
The Chinese spraygun cost $10 or so from harborfreight.

Step 3: Rack Frame

Here's what a finished rack frame looks like.
The hook at the top hangs onto a hole in the heavy casting at the corners of all shipping containers.
The iron loops at the ends of the arms are to tie boats or light stock in place. It gets really windy out here at the base and we don't want anything to blow off.

You could also make the rack and arms adjustable like my container shelves.

Step 4: Heavy Duty Sewing

The awning cover is 16' long and 6' wide with a 6" hem for the rim frame all around the edge.
We could have just folded the edges but it seemed more festive to put blue sunbrella on the edges.
Also that allowed us to cut a big tarp straight down the middle without making it too narrow.

Franziska: "Why are you taking all these photos?". She's done a lot of sewing. She devised these slick strap reinforcements around the pushrod and rack frame holes.

Ita with heissschneider. It's a hot knife for trimming cloth so it won't unravel.
For the second awning we used up a lot of distressed sunbrella fabric, and we probably breathed too much plastic smoke from the heissschneider.

Step 5: Awning Rim Frame

The awning has to be tight or it will flap and wear out in a hurry, besides making a disturbing noise.
Here's a miniature version of the frame that goes around the edge of the awning.
The L-shaped threaded pieces at the corners let you tighten the edges of the awning.
They aren't welded to the pipes, they just insert into them and are held there by the tension of the awning. Each corner piece must point in a clockwise orientation as seen in the 2nd photo in order to fully tighten the awning.

The threaded push rods in the middle insert into the ends of the rafters.
The other long pipe rests against the top of the support hook above the shipping container.
Tightening the nuts on the threaded rods tightens the middle of the awning.

All the welds were done with the homemade AC stick welder.

Step 6: Trying It on for Size

Here's the awning stretched onto the frame.
The pipes are just long enough to force the L-thingies into the corners.

The long pipe slides into the rings on the pushrods at the same time you slide it into the hem pocket.
It's a lot easier than it sounds. You could do it all totally differently and grommet the edges and lace it tight onto a welded frame, but I'd already had my grommeting and lacing for the week.

Step 7: Installation

Put it on from above with just the long tubes and pushrods installed.
Tie ropes to the top pipe and let it hang down so you can insert the pushrods into the ends of the rafters. Then pull the top pipe over the end of the rack hooks and lash them down to the corner blocks of the shipping container. You don't want this thing flying away in a storm.

I'm wearing my cozy airline blanket hat. Now I don't have to have a cold head anymore. When I lose my hat I just make another!

Step 8: Install and Tighten the Frame

I installed the second awning with my jackhammer heaphones on.
I listened to war stories from the Winter Soldier conference. Many more war stories from there.

As you can see here, the first awning didn't have tighteners at the corners. Instead I made L-shaped side rods that were just the right length. It was a pain in the neck stretching the cloth enough to install them. So the next one has these tighteners.

After you tighten the corners, tighten the pushrods at each rafter. Ta-daa! You're done!
Start organizing everything and putting it on the racks!

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    10 years ago on Step 2

    I don't know where you live, Tim, but in my town, it's strictly forbidden to take anything home from the toxic / dump / reuse drop-off. Most of your otherwise imaginative projects are not-so-inexpensive here.


    14 years ago on Introduction

    Nice! I want a container now. Maybe I'll build myself a small workshop this summer.......


    Reply 13 years ago on Introduction

    Totally agree to this idea. I want such container bad. It's amazing to see how widely spread things can have so much different uses. Namely that container, which can be turned into somehow a workshop, cheap storage, and even some kind of bunker (Mythbusters, anyone?). Also, think about duct tape. :D


    14 years ago on Introduction

    where i live, the city code people would freak out about anything thing like this. our wood fence had to be redone cause it wasn't proper???


    14 years ago on Introduction

    Ha! You were up there yesterday!

    Thanks for the encouragement! :P

    Was encouragement what you said?


    nice one tim, yet again you have incidentally helped in my goal for my two forty foot containers, once the stuffs out of them, except the couch, it should stay... *walks into distance murmuring insane thoughts of container projects...