Build A Freestanding Material Rack

Sooooo I recently bought some wood. Wait, that’s not accurate. I recently bought a lot of wood. A lot being a 16’ trailer that had four pallets stacked with maple, walnut, mahogany, rosewood, white oak….and I’m not even sure what else yet as I haven’t had time to pilfer through it.

A friend of mine stumbled across a shop that shut down over 10 years ago and was looking to sell off their wood inventory. It was such a great opportunity that I said I would take it. You would have to right? Ha, only problem is I didn’t think about where I was going to put everything.

For the mean time I was able to store two pallet loads on the covered porch of my shop, but the remaining two were shelterless. I wasn’t willing to give up inside shop space for it so I decided to very quickly fab together an outdoor lumber rack. Something I could store in my woods, in front of my shop, and cover it with a tarp until I can come back and build a carport….which has been on my to-do list for a while anyways.

So now that you have the backstory and see what I’m working towards, lets get into how I built this material rack. 

I recently built a giant bandsaw mill and when ordering steel for that project, I had to buy 20’ joints of material even if I only needed a few feet. This meant I had a pretty good pile of left overs especially in the 2” x 2” square tubing so that’s what I decided to make my rack from.

I first took stock of what I had and let the material on hand determine just how big I could make the unit without having to buy more. I started by cutting down all the material at the chop saw first.

I do have a plan for this project available if you are interested. The plan includes a material list and a cut list for you. 

Working off my cut list, there were plenty of parts cut to the same length so I grabbed a scrap and would clamp it to the wing of my Chop Saw Station to make a stop block. This way I could make my cut, then slide the material down until it was hitting this stop to make the next cut. 

To start assembling, I first put my two welding tables together to form one long table then rolled over my Power Mig 210 machine. BTW: I love this welding cart because it not only holds my welder but also has a shelf where I can keep my plasma cutter on it as well. Very handy. 

Again, I’m using what I had on hand which is a bunch of 2×2 stock that has a 3/16” wall thickness. I started by joining the top rail to the far left vertical member and to help with this I used a 90 degree magnet. This magnet is so cool because you can actually turn off and on the magnet feature. So I can slide it in place without it sticking to everything, but when things are lined up it has a knob on it I can turn which activates the magnet and causes it to stick and hold things in place. That is savvy. 

I tacked that corner in a few places to hold it still then measured over to where the next vertical needed to be placed. I’m not sure why I thought it was smart to use my worktable as the holding area of my parts as well, but since they were already there, I placed one up at the top and also one a little bit further down, to act as a spacer for setting this next vertical. I got that one tacked in as well then repeated the same process until I got to the end and all the verticals were tacked to the top rail. 

Next was to start tacking in the horizontal pieces that I was using as spacers. I placed these to give the back support and rigidity. Since I already cut all of them to length, this step went really quick as I just had to measure down and tack them in place on both sides. Since I was in a hurry on this one, Scott worked ahead of me to place the joints in place, with magnets, so I could just come and secure them with a few tacks. 

Once I made it to the end, I moved the entire rack back to gain access to the portion of the verticals where the next horizontal braces needed to go in. Of course if you have a larger work surface than you won’t have this issue, but to keep the entire thing from tilting forward, I held it while Scott placed an auto adjusting Armor clamp on it. This is a great example on how the holes in the weld tables come in handy….being able to use a variety of clamps anywhere. Now I could go to the bottom and tack the bottom cross members in place. 

Now with everything tacked in place, I could check to make sure everything was not only positioned correctly but also make sure the entire back was square. Since I didn’t have any mistakes, I went back to each joint and started closing all the seams. 

Ok that’s done, now to start attaching some arms. Since I made a cut list before getting started, I knew I would run out of the 2×2 stock if I tried to make all my arms from it. So I switched to some 1.5×1.5 for the top row of arms. I started off by measuring down where I wanted them positioned then used a right angle clamp to hold them in place.

After I got all the arms positioned but before I tacked them down, I used a straight edge, which in my case was just a long piece of angle iron, to make sure these were all perfectly in line with one another. If you have a straight edge that spans every arm that’s best but I didn’t have anything that long on hand. 

Once I got to the second row I switched back to my bigger 2×2 stock but repeated the process with all the rows of the arms. Now a different option I was considering had I had enough material was to add arms to the back side of the unit as well so it would be duel sided. If you have the room for accessing both sides then this would be a great use of space. In fact, I’ll just add to this one any time I get enough spare steel of one size in the future. 

Alright on to the legs, or feet. For this I moved up to 2.5”x 2.5” tubing, again just because it’s what I had on hand. At this point I exhausted all my 2×2 stock. I marked a line on the side of the foot then against the on/off right angle magnets to get these positioned just so on the back assembly. Not only lining up the mark to that bottom rail, but also using a square to make sure it wasn’t going on crooked.

After all four were in place, I stuck them on permanently. You can see that they aren’t centered….this is because I would have run out of material but if you plan to use both sides of yours then I would center these feet so that an equally amount is overhanging both sides. When I add arms to the back, I’ll also have to extend the material on the backside so it won’t want to tip over once it’s loaded down. 

Annnnd that’s an almost completed material rack. Now it was a matter of standing it up so I could have access to the backside…and of course so I could admire it and climb all over it. ; ) Which is always a fun part of a build this big. 

So I probably could have just left it alone there, but this rack will be loaded down with some serious weight from all the wood I purchased. To add just a little bit of rigidity I went to the bottom first and added in some…..would these be called gussets?….Maybe angled gussets….the purpose of them though is to help keep the back from angling forward when it’s loaded down. 

Next I started capping off the ends of all the exposed ends of this tubing. For this I used this scrap piece of I believe it was 3/16” and my hand held Tomahawk plasma cutter

The bottom tubing caps I made square and fit them inside the legs. However for the arms, I went ahead and made them into a lip of sorts to create a stop for the material I’ll place on here later on. I’m planning on storing flat wood on this rack, but you can easily use it for storing metal as well. And a slight design change to consider if you do that is instead of attaching the arms at a 90, to angle the arms up slightly so round material won’t roll away. 

To make attaching these lip caps easier, I would place a magnet on the bottom side to sit the lip on top of and flush it up to the bottom side of the arm. I also cut these 1/8” oversized on both sides to give myself a good welding corner. 

The last thing I cut out and welded on for support was some flat gussets to connect the arms to the back. I first grabbed an angle grinder with a flap disk to get these end welds nice and flat so the plate would sit flush. Honestly, I don’t know if these are needed or not. I tested how the arms felt and the entire thing seemed really secure, however It didn’t take any time to add these on so I figured why not. If it’s much stronger than I need it to be, then I won’t ever be restricted on what I can store on it. 

Ok and then just finishing touches, I went over the entire unit with a flap disk on my grinder and rounded off any corner that was particularly sharp. 

Oh, I almost forgot about these top end caps…..instead of making these square and a standard cap, I also made them a lip cap which I don’t know if they will come in handy or not, but if I’m adding it anyways, why not add an arch to it and give myself a spot to possibly hang something from? 

And that’s really it for the build process. Lets move this beast outside shall we? This was actually the following day that my new shop crane got delivered and I was stoked to not only try it out but to put it to use. I used the crane to pick up one end with the other end being on a furniture dolly. This allowed me to move it outside of my shop and onto the porch where I could then grab onto it with the tractor.

Scott drove while I held onto a strap to try and prevent it from swing around too much and hitting itself on the bucket. And you can see that I went straight off the porch but back into the woods. This is where I’m looking to build a carport for the tractor, my old 72 Chevy, and this material rack. 

Once it was set in place, I gave it two coats of paint, let it dry then started loading it down with the wood. Thankfully my friend Erin was over that day to take some photos (any awesome photos of my stuff you see come from her BTW) and she was kind enough to give me a hand on unloading the two remaining pallets of wood onto the rack. I was surprised and happy at just how much it was able to hold and even fully loaded down, the rack felt very rigid and secure. 

Until I can make time to build a carport, I will be keeping a large tarp over it all.  

That’s it for this project guys. Don’t forget I have plans for this material rack for sale here. Also, don’t forget I am have some pretty cool products such as my plywood dead blow mallets and some new shirts up for sale.

Have a great week and I’ll see you on whatever I’m building next. 

Things I Used in This Project:
ISOtunes Bluetooth Hearing Protection: http://amzn.to/2pEjNtv
Cermet Blade: https://amzn.to/2Fb8yPl
Chop Saw Station Plans: http://bit.ly/2If8ORY
Metal Marking Pencil: http://amzn.to/2wMHgJi
Lincoln Power Mig 210: http://amzn.to/2vJD7ZI
Lincoln Plasma Cutter: https://amzn.to/2neJf6s
Welding Hood: https://amzn.to/2LRGI0t
Welding & Grinding Hood: https://amzn.to/2MkdSlK
Welding Jacket: http://amzn.to/2vJuQ7R
Welding Gloves: http://amzn.to/2uuxhat
Welding Cart: http://bit.ly/2E7GZpC
Lincoln adjustable magnet: https://amzn.to/2WCYAgF
Armor Tool Self Adjusting Clamps: https://amzn.to/2TJsq56
Cordless Grinder: https://amzn.to/2KzmiEg
Bessey Welding Magnet: https://amzn.to/2FJNLmh
Woodpeckers Square: https://amzn.to/2F43pvp
Grinder Rack: http://bit.ly/2HPZq6a