Introduction: Viola & Violin Rack for Middle School Orchestra

After my daughter volunteered me for a project to build her orchestra class a rack, I figured why not. The school needed one it appears to help store, transport and protect students and county owned instruments. Like all Music & Arts programs, funding is normally tight so each purchase is like robbing Peter to pay Paul. I researched commercial racks and they ran upwards of a grand each. The idea, could I build one for pennies on the dollar saving the school money to buy more instruments, pay for orchestra trips, and otherwise be put to much better use. In addition to, the less wear and tear on instruments and their cases would save the school and parents a little money in the long run.

A bit of experimenting went into this one and I did not take pictures along the way mainly because I simply forgot and partly I was not sure it was even going to work. In the end, the rack seems to be working just fine with minor adjustments to be made on the next one I build.

This particular rack is mobile, can hold 24 full sized violas or violins, and total cost was in the area of $150. I actually had about $250 or so into it but a few design changes and errors along the way cost a few extra bucks.

This plan will be more general for someone that would like to tackle this idea and make their own adjustments. With such said, I will briefly describe some of what I did and did not do during the build with out going into too much detail. I will likely build a second one in the near future and create a detailed step by step guide with detailed pictures.

Feed back on Instructables will help me refine the next build to the end user a littler better. Like always, we know what we are doing and it is in our heads but sometimes we may not put down things in a way the end user can easily pick up.

Step 1: Identify the Requirements

First things first, what is it going to be used for?

Will it be mobile or set in the same place for the rest of its existence?

How many instruments will it have to hold?

Identify the sizes of the instruments. Sounds like a no brainier but I found out many instruments have a variety of sizes and then your toss in the variety of cases, you may have to make some adjustments.

Where is it going to go? Keep in mind transportation may be an issue given the space of the storage room, how wide the doors are, if it is mobile how large is the vehicle(s) the unit will be transported in?

This rack as for most are narrow, long, and tall. If it is too tall it may become a little top heavy, younger children may not reach the top rack, and too long, weight distribution issues in the middle and turning corners in hall ways may be difficult.

Step 2: Materials

Casters (4)

Wood Screws 1" (60 +/- a little)

Wood Screws 2" (30 +/- a little)

1" x 1" Wood Stock (48")

1" x 12" Wooden Dowel/Stock (20)

24" x 36" End Board (Shelving Sides) (2) (*sides are a guess but should be close)

4" w x 1" t x 60" (8) (*cross members running horizontal on the rack, the sizes are a guess adjust fire as needed)

1/4" Wood Hole Plugs (40) (*Guess, every hole was given a pilot and drilled out 1/4 down for the screws to set in and remain hidden)

L Brackets (use your own judgement, I put a small L - Bracket on every joint just in case)

Stain, Sand Paper, Wood Glue, Two Drawer Handles, Misc. other supplies.

I could be missing something here but I think for the most part, this is the main stuff.

Step 3: Rack Base Creation

I started with the racks, top and bottom. Depending on how many violins you wish to have is how long it will be. I felt 12 was max for unit stability and safety. The formula I used based on 1" wooden dowels at the bottom of the rack and 1" x 1"'s at the top to separate the tops of the cases.

Width of the cases + 1" (Dowles) + .5" x how many cases = how long you need the rack base. (Roughly)

After identifying the dividing line between cases I clamped the front and back board together making the dividing line. I then drilled a 1" hole at each mark all the way through the first one and 1/2 way into the second one.

I then cut the 1" wooden dowel to size and inserted it into each of the holes and if all cuts are correct, it should square up. I did use glue on this part to hold the dowels in place. I repeated this step with the other bottom support. For extra, I did put a screw into the back of the back of the rack into each dowel to make sure they do not go anywhere.

Next is the three supporting cross members. I took two additional boards of the same size, attached them into 90 degree angles.

Step 4: Attach Racks to Side Boards

Now the interesting part.

In the picture starting at the top. Square up the cross member/top back support with the inside, back, top corners and attach.

Second one down (middle) will serve as the back top support for the cases as well as a middle horizontal support. Measure it out where you want the case to rest and in the angle you desire and attach.

Bottom one is simply squared up with the back bottom corners and is only a support.

Step 5: Base of Rack Install

Now the top rack is off set, setting slightly forward of the bottom rack a few inches. This was done to allow the cases on the bottom to be inserted and turned up into their slots yet still allowing easy access to the top. The angle chosen was determined to be the greatest angle to keep the cases in place yet not over extend beyond the back of the rack hitting any doors, windows, or walls.

Install the bottom rack ensuring the same angel and ease of access of the cases.

Middle support. Another overbuild maybe but given the overall length of the rack, I felt over time it may be needed. The last part of the support system I installed was the middle support. It was right in line as a divider between cases thus no wooden dowel there. It was fairly easy to get in and its only function is to prevent future sagging and any twisting in the rack.

Step 6: Casters

To make it a little more mobile, I added 4 casters to the bottom. No pictures of them but they are nothing special.

I did add the extra part on the bottom of the outside boards. This was to give the casters a little more support around where they were installed.

Step 7: Finishing

Sand, sand, and more sand. I tried to figure out where the high friction areas were and sand them heavily to add a little distressed look and to round out any corners that would later chip or splinter out.

Once sanding was done a little clean up and stain. How much sanding and stain is up to you.

I added a handle to each side for two reasons. First of all, it helps moving the unit around. Secondly, not pictured I have a little wooden contraption that fit onto the handles and all along the front of the unit to keep them in place during movement and it even had a little hole to add a lock. Not that it would keep anyone out or anything but its there.

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