After running Cat-6 for my home network I started looking at Keystone patch panels. I like the keystone system because of the versatility, I could add video, audio. phone, etc., and put them all in the same patch panel. After doing a little shopping I was surprised at how much they were! I got the bright idea I could build one cheaper than that so I set out to. By the time I finished I had spent around $20. Unfortunately, by the time you figure in the labor involved, the total investment is a lot more than buying a production model, but building it sure was a lot more fun!
Minimum/Best Tools for this project are:
Hack saw / Cut off saw
Drill / Drill press
Jig saw / Table saw
Sandpaper / Disk and Drum sander
Hammer / Brad Nailer
(3) six hole keystone cover plates - $2 each
(1) 1/16"x1/2"x3/4"x3' aluminum angle - $4
(1) 14"x9"x1/4" sanded plywood - scrap I had laying around
(1) 1"x10"x12" pine board - more scrap
(2) 6-32 brass wood insert nuts - $1.50
(2) 6-32x3/8" machine screws - $1.00
(4) stick on rubber feet - $4
Keystone plugs - 15@$0.11=$1.65
Loctite Weld or JB Weld
Now we have the tools and the parts, lets get started on the face....
Step 1: Building the Face
I chose three six hole covers so I would end up with an eighteen port patch panel but you can make your patch panel any size you like.
Start by looking at the back of the cover plate to determine "Up". You want all your covers running the same direction as it will make it easier to insert your keystone jacks when the time comes.
Next I used a band saw to cut off the ends of the covers. This will reduce the overall size but more importantly it will give us a flat gluing surface. Cut the outside edge of the end pieces so the alum. angle just covers them.
After cutting I squared up the ends using a disk sander and miter gauge.
Next apply purple primer to the edges of the covers, apply cement and clamp together. Use the cement sparingly, it melts plastic. Apply the cement to one surface and press together. When using this on pipe, you turn the pipe a 1/4 turn to set the cement. Mimic this by sliding or twisting the pieces before clamping.
When clamping make sure to keep face flat.
The cement will set quickly but let the face dry overnight to ensure a strong bond. Once dry, remove the clamps and inspect your work. You will probably see purple and cement on the face. Simply get out your sand paper and start sanding.
Step 2: Building the Box
Now that the face is done and ready for painting we will start building the box....
The size of your box will depend on how many cover plates your using and how much you cut off the ends. Remember the old saying "Measure twice, cut once".
Start by ripping the 1x10 to 1/2" narrower than the face. Cut the length the same way. We cut it 1/2" short so that when you add the sides, the edges of the box will be flush with the edges of the face.
Now we can cut the sides, top and bottom. Again your dimensions will vary depending on the size of your face and you can also make it as deep as you want, I chose 4 1/2". I cut these pieces from 1/4" AB plywood.
Now we need a way for the wires to enter the box. To do this we will cut an oval on one end.
Start by drilling your fist hole, using a hole saw, to the edge of your hole. Drill your second hole just to the left or right of your first hole. This will leave two little points in the middle of your hole. You can sand, file or cut these off. If you have access to a drum sander it will be the easiest way to smooth your hole. You will also want to round over the edge a little so your wires will not catch on them.
Next, using wood glue and brads, attach the sides to the back. Then glue and nail on the bottom and top to finish the box.
Now we can paint the box and the face. I chose a spray paint called "Hammered Black". When dry it will make it look like a metal box.
Step 3: The Face Frame
The face frame will not only dress up the front, but also holds the face plate to the box. Later we will add threaded inserts, in the sides of the box, for the 6-23 machine screws. This will allow you to remove the face plate, to add more connectors, without worrying about the threads.
To start you need to measure your face plate. This will determine the lengths you need to cut your pieces. This, for me, is the hardest part of this project as the miters need to be almost perfect. This is where a cut-off saw is the perfect tool. Lacking that you could use a hack saw and miter box in a pinch.
Notice that one side of the angle is wider than the other. When cutting make sure that the narrow side goes around the face plate and the wider side will encircle the box.
After cutting you will probably have a burr on the edges. Simply file these off will a mill file. Be careful that you don't change your angle.
Now it's time to epoxy it all together. To square everything up, I used my table saw, miter gauge, a box and a piece of wood. With it laid out I mixed up the epoxy. This is a two part epoxy and needs to be mixed correctly to harden. Start with equal amounts of resin and hardener. Thoroughly mix the two compounds until a uniform color. Working quickly (this stuff will start to harden in less than five minutes) apply the epoxy to the inside corners. Use just enough to hold the joint together, we will re-enforce the whole thing later. Once the inside has hardened turn the frame over and epoxy the outside corners. Once the epoxy has fully cured, about 16-24 hours, sand the outside corners until just the filled miter remains.
Step 4: Painting the Plugs
While the epoxy is hardening we can paint the plugs for the empty holes.
The hardest part of painting small parts is trying to hold them. It's quit simple with the keystone plugs. They fit snugly over two pieces of 1/4" plywood.
For the paint to stick the surface of the plugs needs to be roughened up. Do this with a piece of 220 grit sandpaper laid out on a flat surface. Rub the plug in circular motion till the gloss is gone. Then run a tack cloth over the face to remove sanding dust.
Place the plugs over the boards and clamp to a saw horse, or anything that will hold them upright, and apply the paint.
Step 5: Threaded Inserts
Next we will insert the threaded inserts and re-enforce the face frame. The insert will allow you remove the face repeatedly without stripping the threads.
Start by finding the center point of frame ends. Position your hole about an 1/8" from the outside edge of the frame. When drilling, support the end pieces themselves to prevent cracking your epoxy.
Now put the face plate in the face frame and put in position on the box. Making sure that your box is vertical, using your frame as a template, drill matching holes in the box. If you don't have a slot in your drill press you can use a piece of aluminum at the back of the box to make it level.
Now screw in your inserts. One end of the insert is slotted so you can use a screw driver to put them in. I screwed mine from the inside so the surface would be flush and the slots would not show.
Now to finish the face. Put a bead of Grab-It ( or the adhesive of your choice) and press the face plate into the fame making sure to make contact with the adhesive. Clean any squeeze out from the face and secure the whole thing to the box with the machine screws.
Let it all dry and take a deep breath, we're almost done!
Step 6: Add the Feet
To keep the patch panel from sliding around I added some "Gripper" feet. You simply peel these off the paper and sick them to the bottom of the box. Make sure you get the front ones behind the face frame.
Step 7: End Results
All that's left to do now is to start filling it with keystone jacks. Oh ya, sit back and admire our work!
Thanks for reading and I hope enjoyed the build!
"Now if I could just figure out how to build a gigabit switch....."
Step 8: Updated Communication Center
Well it's been almost a year since I built my patch panel and my communication center has evolved quite a bit. I now have two internet connections, a DSL connection and a high speed microwave connection. I've also added HDTV from Direct TV, a land line phone and I still have a couple more wires to add. I still need to bring in a HDMI cable from the kitchen and living room, a couple more network cables and a phone line. All in all I think it's coming together pretty well. I really need to work on cable management though! The second picture has all the components labeled.
Update 08/15/11...Added a UPS to the system and worked on cable management as seen in the third picture. We live in the country and for some odd reason the power will blink out sometimes. Sometimes it is just a second or two, sometimes it may be as long as a minute, either way this keeps my network from resetting each time.