When an APC rack meets a homelab, machining, and TIG welding

I’ve been meaning to pick up a real rack for my gear for a long time.  I cruise Craigslist and eBay but usually see people selling them for $400 – $650+ and they’re usually in bad shape.  I am a bit picky, so I wanted something that was not beat up too bad, something nice like a Dell or APC with all panels/doors, and it must have square holes for mounting rails.  I had been on the lookout for a long, long time, when one day I came across an eBay listing that simply said “I have 18 racks for sale for you to choose from.”  Interesting – it was $150 pick-up only and about an hour away.  I noticed in the images he posted that there was an APC rack.  I asked and he said they were all APC – deal!

I drove my truck to work and left right from there getting me to the seller’s in about an hour and a half.  I arrived, and sure enough, he had 18 racks in his garage and they were all APC!  A few were locked with no keys – bummer, but not a huge deal.  A couple were so large they couldn’t roll/fit out the garage door opening.  So, I ended up getting one of the lower height 42U APC AR3100 racks.  I threw it in my truck, strapped it down, grabbed the doors and was on my way with my $150 APC rack!  Sweet!

It was sweet – it’s probably the best deal I’ve seen for a long time and the rack itself is in great condition.  Even sweeter was that there were two APC AP7930 PDU’s in the rack which I hadn’t even noticed.  Deal!  I also got a railkit for my MD1000 in the rack and a 4U rail kit that I am not sure what is for.

However, I didn’t realize until I got home and unloaded the rack (by myself – I do not recommend this!) that I had two sets of back split doors.  Uh oh.  I realized the rack didn’t have a front door at the sellers location and we grabbed a set of back doors by mistake.  The split doors won’t work front and back because the racks only come with 6 hinges since the front is hinged only on one side.  So, I had to either deal with the back doors flopping all crazy by one hinge or hinge them somehow.  I did ask the seller if I could come up and swap for a front door and he agreed without issue, but after driving there an hour each way today I arrived only to find out that the other AR3100 he had also had no front doors.  Ugh.  He insisted he does have them some where, but at I had also ordered some material in order to make my own hinges in case he did not – that ended up being the route I’d have to go.  So, thankfully my homelab is only a few rooms away from my machining and welding tools!  I could have just left the front doors off, but I didn’t want my awesome deal to be ruined by that!  So, let’s make some stuff!

I ordered 2′ x  1.25″ x 1/8″ 304-L stainless flat stock along with some flat screws in the M6x1.0 – here is what I cut the piece into and what we’ll be starting with:

Rack bracket pieces

You should be able to see how I am going to make a sort of copy of the original brackets.  Now we get to welding:

APC bracket welded

I am a little rusty with my TIG welder since I probably haven’t welded in about a year or so, but I can still stick parts together.  I basically just built the “U-channel” part of the original bracket by welding flat stock together.

APC rack bracket welded

I had to make two identical brackets because, as mentioned earlier, the rack would only come with 6 brackets and we need 8.  Here they are done except for the one not being drilled for the screws and neither having the pin part yet:

APC rack brackets welded

This is where I stopped and went over the to the seller to see if he had the front single door.  The next step is a bit of a pain in the ass.  I could have found a generic pin or stud and just welded it to the bracket for the door to hinge on, but I wanted to replicate the APC part as best I could (well, without going nuts).  So, I threw some 304-L stainless rod I had laying around in my lathe and started turning it down:

APC bracket pins

First I turned down the long part that would be welded to the bracket plate.  This was easy because I could use the diameter to change the placement of the pin into or out of the rack.  I machined  it down all but about 1/3″ because that would be the thicker part with the taper on it that locates the rack holes as you lower the door onto the hinge:

APC rack pins

 

After I finished turning the long portion of the pin, I flipped it over and went to work on the tapered portion.  This is all just rough cut stuff – I didn’t bother with finishing passes or changing tools for better cuts, I just wanted to make the parts and be done with it since this afterall a rack door hinge:

APC rack pins

 

I don’t believe I have a picture of turning the taper down using the compound since I needed two hands to do that portion.  But, I do have pictures of the end results:

APC Rack Bracket

 

It fits just like the original part.  I didn’t bother profiling the base plate like the original since these will be on the lower portion of the rack and probably painted or powder coated black anyway:

APC Rack bracket

 

And of course, after careful measurement and design, it works just like the original piece:

 

APC Rack brackets

 

So, while my $150 APC AR3100 didn’t come with a front door it did come with two sets of rear doors and two PDUs and some rails so I can’t complain.  The seller says he’ll find the front door and let me know, but for now this is fine also.  I didn’t let the lack of front doors rain on my parade too bad, and I got to use my machining/welding gear which I haven’t touched for a while so win, win, and win.  This is what happens when a homelab meets machining and welding equipment and a little bit of OCD!  This isn’t my finest machining or welding job, but these are door brackets after all.

Here’s a picture of the finished product:

APC AR3100 Rack

Hope you enjoyed!

Author: Jon

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3 Comments

  1. Looks good as usual. The back doors don’t look bad on the front either. If you have to fit that rack into an suboptimal space, the double doors give you more room to work with.

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  2. All that and no picture of the finished product?

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    • Sorry forgot to add the final image – added it above!

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