Introduction: The $70 IKEA Mini Server Rack

About: I'm the former Frontend Engineer for Instructables. Problems with the site? It may have been my fault... Like what you see? Sing my praises!

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.