DIY Cable Ladder Rack

When setting up my remote site server rack I specifically left enough room between the wall and the server rack itself in order for people to walk.  The problem with this, though, is that any cables that connect from the wall (power, structured wiring, etc.) will hang between the back of the server rack and the wall itself.  Below is an image of what I mean:

Space between wall and rack

Space between wall and rack

So, there is about a 48″ gap that the cables from the patch panel and PDUs will have to extend between.  The best way to handle these cables is to buy a rack that is essentially a single side of a ladder that has rungs that allow you to strap the cables to which keeps them from falling down in between locations.  These are very common in building IDF (Intermediate Distribution Frame) rack closets as well as in data centers to handle both power and data cables going from one rack to the other.  Here is an example I found of a conventional commercial ladder rack:

Commercial ladder rack

Commercial ladder rack

You can see how simple this device is yet it costs about $72 + s/h for some of the cheapest solutions I have found.  Even still, after I spend about $115 with s/h the bar will not have any provisions for mounting it to a wall or anything, so I still need to come up with that.  As someone who is able to zap a few pieces of metal together I couldn’t see spending over $115 just for a rack like this.  So, I gathered some pieces of metal off of the cheapest sites I could find and for about $50 (including shipping) I found some 1″ x 2″ x 0.065″ tubing and 1″ square tubing also with a 0.065″ thickeness.  I threw these pieces in my cart and they showed up a week or so later.  I had to travel for work so it was about a week or two before I was able to knock this little project out which is unfortunate because I was just up at the location I have the server rack at and could have knocked out the install had I actually had time to create the piece.  Oh well.

Here’s what I started with:

Ladder Rack Parts

Ladder Rack Parts

I made some brackets out of 90-degree  aluminum by drilling some holes for screws that will mount to the wall and using a countersink bit to recess the screw heads.  Also a little tip for anyone who may try this – if you have a wood-cutting miter saw then you can also cut aluminum!  Using a  wood blade on aluminum works remarkably well.  All end cuts in the picture above were made using a wood saw on aluminum.  Do not try to cut steel with a wood saw!

Once I had my rungs cut and my long side rails cut, I started zapping them together with my Miller Diversion 180 TIG welder:

Welding rack together

Welding rack together

You’ll notice in the image above that there is a gap between the rungs and the table – I used the 90-degree brackets (not yet welded on at this point) to space the rungs off the table about 1/8″.  I did this so that I can weld the opposite side by having a bit of a recessed joint rather than the weld sitting on top of the side rails which would look a little sloppier and also be a not-so-smooth surface that the cabling could rub on.  This also means that the each 1″ square tube rung is off-center from the side rail center-line so that it leaves about 3/4″ of side rail height to keep cables from falling out of the ladder rack (even though I’ll Velcro them as well).  I only welded two sides of the cross rungs because even if this is filled with heavy power and data cables, it is not necessary to weld the rungs 360-degrees around – it is plenty strong with just two sides!

After welding the first side of the rungs I flipped it around, welded the second, and then attached the opposite rail side:

Second rail added to ladder rack

Second rail added to ladder rack

After  both rails were welded to the rungs I stood the ladder on end and welded on the brackets that will hold it to the wall.  You’ll notice in the image above that one rung is closer to the end than the other.  That’s because the one end goes near the wall and the other will be over the server rack.  The left hand side of the rack in the image above is going against the wall.  I placed the first rung closer to the wall so that the cables have a rung to rest on as they enter the rack and do not droop between the wall and rack.  The rack will only be fixed to something permanently on one side.  The server rack itself will support the rack adequately.  I can fasten it to the rack using Velcro straps or U-bolts if needed though it’s very rigid and I’ll likely just attach it at the wall side.

Here is the rack completed!  It’s about 72″ long which will leave more than 18″ of its length resting on top of my server rack but also means if I needed to move the server rack out farther from the wall I can.  The rungs are space 12″ between centers:

Ladder rack complete

Ladder rack complete

Ladder rack complete

Ladder rack complete

In all this is very simple to make and it cost me about 50% of the price of a commercial unit while providing a means to attach it to the wall.  The quality is higher than some of the racks I have seen throughout years of working in data centers.  Many commercial designs I’ve seen using flat stock as rungs and so the ladder is not very rigid and requires the side rails be hung from the ceiling using threaded rod for stability.  Since I built this completely out of rectangular and square tubing it has a lot more torsional rigidity and being 100% aluminum it is extremely light!

I will update this post tomorrow when I install the ladder rack above the server rack.  I am thinking of leaving it natural aluminum but have considered painting it black – what do you think?  Leave me a comment if you have an opinion!  Thanks for checking it out!

Author: Jon

Share This Post On

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Share This
%d bloggers like this: