Build Your Own Compactus




Introduction: Build Your Own Compactus

About: Electrician, Lift Engineer and IT Manager. Living on 11 acres in country Australia and is making, hacking, cooking and growing things (-:

I was looking for a good storage solution for my new workshop. A compactus seemed to be the ideal space saving solution but they are very expensive. So I decided to build my own. Keep in mind you will need a VERY level floor to house one of these puppies (-:

Step 1: What You Will Need

I wanted to use some readily available materials to build my compactus.  MDF is cheap and readily available so I decided to go with a MDF cabinet on a steel base.  I got most of the materials from my local hardware shop.  The only components that may be slightly tricky to get hold of are the rollers.  The best ones are typically used on the doors of lifts (elevators).  Fortunately I used to be a lift mechanic so I had some used ones in my shed.  These are a part that are periodically replaced on all lifts so try calling your local lift maintenance company to see if you can obtain some used "bar track rollers".  If you can't source these you may need to make a visit to your local bearing supplier to see what they have in stock that will do the job!

* Please note that the following materials list does not include the shelving in the unit, I have not decided how many shelves I'll need so that part will be updated soon (-:

Materials used in my compactus:
eight bar track rollers
two 3 metre lengths of 13 mm by 5 mm flat steel bar
eight 11 mm bolts each with 2 washers, a spring washer and a nut
eight 8 mm bolts each with 2 washers, a spring washer and a nut
two 16mm thick sheets of MDF - 900 mm wide by 2400 mm high
one 16mm thick sheet of MDF -  1168 mm wide by 2400 mm high
two 16mm thick sheets of MDF - 900 mm wide by 1200 mm high
four 32mm by 18mm pine DAR shorts - 1200 mm long
two lengths of 40mm steel box section - 1200 mm long
two lengths of 40mm steel box section - 1120 mm long
ten 6mm philips head concrete anchors
PVA wood glue
thirty 60mm long MDF self tapping screws
thirty 25 mm long MDF self tapping screws
5 welding rods

Tools required to build the compactus:
battery drill
electric hammer drill
a hammer
metal drill bit set
6mm masonry drill bit
adjustable wrench
safety glasses
electric grinder
jig saw or small power saw

Step 2: Building the Unit Carcase - 1

I started by placing the large 1168 mm by 2400 mm MDF sheet that will become the backbone of the compactus unit flat on my workbench. Ideally you will want to have the short edges overhanging slightly, this will make assembly easier.

Step 3: Building the Unit - 2

Next I placed one of the 900 mm by 1200 mm MDF sheets on top of the large sheet, ready for measuring and marking. Now we measure the mid point along the long edge of the MDF sheet. Once you have found and marked the centre line you can then mark lines to fit the pine cleats that will hold the top and bottom of the unit. In my case this resulted in a line 8mm either side of the centre line. Now screw your pine cleats to the MDF sheet using the 25mm MDF screws. I had a scrap of 16 mm MDF that I used to ensure the cleats were perfectly parallel. Repeat this process for both of the 900 mm by 1200 mm MDF sheets.

Step 4: Attaching the Top & Bottom Sheets

Apply PVA glue to one end of the large MDF sheet. Now lift the 900 mm by 1200 mm sheet on to the end of the large sheet so the large sheet is located between the cleats. Make sure you have the edges aligned and then use the 60 mm self tapping screws to fix the end sheet on the large sheet. repeat this for the other 900 mm by 1200 mm sheet.

Step 5: Attaching the Top & Bottom Sheets

Your compactus should now look like this (-:

Step 6: Attaching the Side Sheets

Now we can attach the 900 mm by 1200 mm "side" sheets. Run a bead of PVA glue along one side of the large sheet and then lift a 900 mm by 1200 mm sheet into position to form the side of an MDF box. Use 60mm self tapping screws to hold the sides in place. Repeat this for the other side.

Step 7: Attaching the Side Sheets - 2

Your compactus should now look like this!

Step 8: Building the Base

The compactus unit will sit on a steel tube base. This spreads the load across the four rollers and provides a rigid platform for the shelving unit. Here are the various components of the base laid out on my bench. Mark the position of your rollers and pre-drill the required holes (in my case 11 mm). Then mark and drill the holes for the bolts that will hold the shelving unit down. Once they are done you can start welding it all together. Be sure to use the appropriate safety measures when welding. If you don't have a welder you may be able to get your local metal shop to make these up for you. You could also screw everything together with angle brackets and TEK screws.

Step 9: Attach the Base

Once your base is welded / screwed together you can use it as a template to drill the holes for the bolts that will hold the shelving unit to the base. Then attach the base with the bolts (9 mm in my case). You now have a compactus unit, albeit laying on its side!

Step 10: Preparing & Fixing the Rails

The bar track rollers I used run on a 13 mm track. To provide a "track" for the compactus I will screw 13 mm by 5 mm steel bar to the shed floor. I pre-drilled and countersunk holes for the 6mm anchors that I used to attach it to the floor. I needed 3 metres of travel to fit into the space I had in my shed so my tracks are 3 metres long. The tracks are secured to the concrete floor and spaced 1210 mm apart, the matches the tyres of my rollers perfectly. Your rollers may be different so adjust your spacings and bar size to suit.

Step 11: Install Your Compactus!

The final step will see us placing the compactus unit onto the rails. The unit will be very heavy so be sure to have a couple of friends on hand to help out. I had three helpers and we could install it fairly easily. The installation process is pretty simple. You just manhandle your shelving unit onto the rails! Be careful as you don't want to damage your floor, rollers or yourself....

Step 12: Now Tweak Your Storage Solution

As you can see my first shelving unit does not have any shelves! I'll add those once I decide how many I need. I will also be building a fixed unit and another rolling unit to complete the job. I'll update this Instructable once I have it all finished (-:

Please let me know what you think as this is my first go at creating an Instructable.

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    3 years ago on Introduction

    Based on my own childhood, I would have cut my own toes off with those wheels being on the outside. Do you think it possible to mount the same wheels and track on the inside of the frame? I think that would prevent toes getting in front of wheels, etc.

    Do you also use a simple wedge to prevent the compactus from rolling?


    Reply 3 years ago

    Hi Richard,
    You certainly could modify the base frame to conceal the rollers, you will need to allow some sort of access to them in the case of a screw or similar falling on the track & jamming it. I have found that with a level floor the units don't roll by themselves. And once they are full you need to use some effort to roll them.


    6 years ago

    This is such a cool instructable! Thank you for sharing this! I've always wanted to have some similar storage system installed in my garage but looking at the ones that are available in the market and even ignoring the installation costs, I was thinking that I'd never get anything of the sort in my house, ever! Now at least I've got a bit of hope that I might be able to get a cheap or small version of this to hold my modest collection of tools! Thanks again!


    Reply 6 years ago

    Glad you like it Cameron, it's still going strong but I do need to vacuum the floor every now and then to keep it from catching on tiny bit's of stuff.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    IMPOSSIBLE TO TIP OVER: I made two modifications for my two compactus: taller & swivel wheels. To make sure my compactus can never fall over, they go all the way to the ceiling (with 6" clearance). They work great. Thanks for the ideas.

    In Step 9: Attach the base, you show the base attached incorrectly but is corrected in Step 11: Install your compactus!


    12 years ago on Step 10

     It should just be noted that the tracks need to be perfectly level for the compactus to work properly. I have installed several "proper" compactus' (compacti? :-) ) and if the bottom tracks are not dead level, once you load the shelves up with a workshop full of bits and pieces they become quite unstable and dangerous.

    I'm not suggesting you did not think of this, just pointing it out for others that may construct this.

    I would probably beaf up the bottom track if possible but apart from that it looks Great!

    Callum Snowden
    Callum Snowden

    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    Put castor swivel wheels on the bottom of it so you can wheel it everywhere :)


    Reply 12 years ago on Step 10

    Thanks dwosullivan,

    That's a great point, I went to some trouble to ensure the slab was level but should mention that it's a major requirement.  I'm building the second cabinet soon so I will have a few more detailed photos to add.  Thanks heaps for the feedback, it is very much appreciated.




    12 years ago on Introduction

    Library reserves have two forms of storage: light, and heavy. Heavy storage features bookshelves which slide (so that # of aisles + 1 < # of shelving units. Heavy rolling shelves...could be a good precedent to study for your 2nd build.