Need help with stoarge shelf design - help me get a new welder!

As part of a project to finish our unfinished basement, I need to create
some storage shelves for all the household crud that has managed to
accumulate in our basement for the past 12 years. I have to pack it all in
what will be my new shop area to get it out of the way for the construction
work. My first thought was to quickly hack temp shelves from lumber which
would be replaced by something more permanent in the storage areas after
the basement project was done. But then one of my friends suggested I
build some metal shelves. This was an exciting idea I hadn't even thought
of because I could use it as an excuse to buy welding equipment (yeah!),
and not have to waste time and effort building crude wooden shelves that
would be torn down later. I could build decent shelves we would use now,
and them simply relocate as needed to the other part of the basement after
the construction.
I'd be buying a 220V MIG welder for this (like a Miller 180 auto-set).
It's more than this project needs but I want extra power to grow if I'm
going to buy a welder. So, if you could, give me some input to see if I
can find a way to justify this to my wife!
I have a catch 22 problem where I need a good rough estimate of how much
these will cost before I can justify buying the welder to make them. But
I've never build anything like this so I don't know what size material is
needed, and since I don't have a welder to make some prototypes, I'm kinda
stuck in the dark.
So, here's what I'm currently thinking. I'm looking at building some free
standing shelves about 2' by 4' by 6' tall with a welded steel frame and 5
wood shelves. They will hold mostly light weight loads such as boxes of
Christmas decorations and other home items but must be strong enough so
they can hold heaver loads like boxes of books - at least on two or 3 of
the lower shelves. I'll need about 5 of these units.
Home depot has plastic snap together shelves of this size for about $55
dollars which would probably work, but you can't adjust their shelf height
and hey, they are plastic. They also have much stronger heavy duty steel
storage shelves of this same size for about $75. They too are
snap-together but have two adjustable height shelves and 3 fixed position
shelves with I think 3/8" particle board shelves.
I probably won't be able to talk the wife into letting me do this unless I
can come up with a design where the materials are less than the cost of the
heavy duty Home Depot shelves, or the design offers features that justify
the extra cost. The $1000 dollars I'll end up spending on new toys for me
and all the time I'll waste building them doesn't have to factor in to the
equation. Part of how that would be justified is that with the equipment,
I could build more projects in the future that would eventually over time
justify the cost. But if I spend all the money on tools just so I can build
shelves that cost more and aren't as good as what we can buy out of the box
from Home Depot, then the argument really falls apart. It might simply be
the case that you can't build it yourself for less than the mass produced
shelves. I hope that's not true. :)
The obvious options I see is to build it with square tubing or angle iron.
The one design I've priced so far uses 1" square (.065 thick) vertical
corner supports, and 1/4" square (also 065) cross members to hold the
shelves. The cheapest shelving material I could find that seems like it
would be strong enough is 3/8" OSB for $6.94 per 8'x4' panel.
That configuration will cost me about $71 per unit for the metal, and $8.50
for the wood. Then maybe another $10 to paint the shelf plus some add some
bolts for the feet so I can level the units. So this design is around $90
per shelving unit. (welding supplies like wire and gas we can just ignore
as well).
So I'm looking at basic materials for $90 compared to the $75 very heavy
duty home depot shelving unit out of the box. Not a very compelling
argument yet.
One question for the group - how strong would shelves built out of these
materials be? It will be MIG welded into a solid unit. Assume I can weld
(whether it's true or not). The OSB shelves would just rest in place and
have their corners cut out so they can't slide out. They are supported on
all 4 edges by the 1/4" square tubing. For extra strength, I could easily
screw them to the cross members if it was needed. Or for not much more
money, I could put an extra 1/4" square tube cross member in the middle of
each shelf if it was needed. Anyone ever work with this size material with
a design anything like this who could give me a gut feeling about how
strong these shelves would be? Could I for example stand on them (I way
near 200 lbs) without damaging them?
And another question, would a welded design like this be strong enough to
support the typical lateral stresses a shelf unit might see without having
to add cross bracing? Or if cross bracing was needed, how much might be
needed? The $90 cost includes no material for cross bracing (but I do have
a ton of 1/8" rod from political signs I took down which I could create
cross bracing with for free). Using extra 1/4" for some diagonal cross
bracing on say the bottom shelf only wouldn't cost too much but would
probably push the material cost near $100.
Or is this size square tubing too small for trying to build a medium duty
storage shelve so I would need to spend more to go to 1" all around, or
1.5" vertical with 1" cross members? I don't want to over engineer and end
up with shelves that cost more than they need to or weigh a lot more than
they need to making them a bitch to move.
The other option I haven't looked into (cost wise) is to use angle iron
instead of square tubing. Angle iron seems to be common in welded frame
designs but seems to me it would have to be larger for the same strength
and not cost any less in the end. Any one have ideas one what size angle
iron would be needed for a project like this either for the cross members
to hold the shelves or for both the cross members and the vertical corner
pieces? I could try pricing that as well to see how it works out with my
local supplier.
One advantage I see to making these welded shelves is that they should be
solid enough to move even when they are loaded. I'm thinking of building
some type of caster based jack I could slide under and lift the shelf and
move it even when it was loaded. Trying to do this with the somewhat
unstable snap-together store bought units would be a bit risky. You can't
for example pull up on a shelf to lift it because the shelf could pop out
and end up with the entire unit falling apart on you. The welded units
should allow us to move them from the temp location to their final location
without totally unloading them - and move them later if we want to
rearrange storage without having to totally unload the shelves before
moving them.
Another advantage is that this square tubing design will have much thiner
vertical profile for each shelf (a bit over 1" per shelf) allowing for
taller boxes per shelf and less dead space. The HD heavy duty shelves have
a profile of about 3" per shelf.
Yet another advantage of course is that I can build the shelf heights to
exactly what I need to fit the types of boxes we have to store (we have a
lot of similar sized plastic bins for example - which will help maximize
the storage density.
These advantages might help justify the higher cost of these shelves to the
Anyone got any other ideas of how a custom welded storage shelves could be
an advantage to help me justify getting a welder?
I'm just looking for any gut instincts you guys might have on this design
or alternate designs that could work and might be cheaper and/or better.
Thanks - with the right answers, I might get a new toy this week and have a
fun welding project to look forward to!
Reply to
Curt Welch
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All of the metal shelving that I have is bolted together. Sorry to rain on your parade. If you want to weld the shelves out of angle and plate, that could work, but the shelves should be bolted to the uprights. Electrical slotted angle works great for the uprights. Just find a slot and drill a hole in the shelf.
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Reply to
Tom Kendrick
The most practical approach is to buy used shelving.
Reply to
You can buy shelves cheaper than you can build them. Especially if you look for used shelving. I've got a ton, some for sale.
Now, a custom shelf you can't buy is a good reason to build. For example, I built a shelf unit that fits under the stairway in the basement. That useless, lost space, now holds tons of metal stock.
Reply to
Karl Townsend
Well, I don't see obvious answers to all your questions but I can tell you what I've done.
Most of my lighter indoor junk is on bolt-together steel shelves from WalMart. It's much sturdier if it is installed in a corner extending out both ways. The braces should be in tension, i.e. lower end toward the wall. If they wobble add turnbuckle braces. I usually leave 2' - 3' underneath for bulky items or platforms on casters, which can be rolled out to vacuum. In one room the shelves are heavy wood below with one section of WalMart metal shelf on top, a good arrangement that puts heavy spare machinery parts on stronger, lower shelves and light boxes up high. Upstairs the WalMart plastic rack with tubular legs was similarly raised with 1-1/4" grey plastic electrical conduit turned down to fit, and I added a taller section for boots under their metal shoe rack with 1/2" EMT.
The shelves in my storage shed are 1/2" plywood, not OSB, on a 2X3 frame. The shelves are 24" deep, about as far as I can reach, and were strong enough to stand on while I finished the roof. The lumber was selected for no bad knots, I don't know that any random 2X3 is strong enough to hold a person. At less than $2 each the 2X3's were by far the cheapest framing material. The uprights are continuous and the horizontal shelf supports are screwed on inboard of them, so the shelves don't have to be notched and long tools will lean on the front without falling. They were spaced for covered Rubbermaid tubs but can be unscrewed and moved easily.
The metal rack for kilns and ovens was made from 1-1/2" angle 1/8" thick. Unlike square tubing, bolts through angle can be tightened very snug. The frames are welded into rectangles the short way and joined by bolted stringers the long way, so the rack can be taken apart some day. The shelves are cutoffs of 2X10 steel stud. It's on heavy-duty industrial casters salvaged from painters' racks or staging. None of the wheels I've seen in HD would hold all those fire bricks.
All the metal and casters came from salvage stores, mainly one that sells used pallet racks. The steel was painted, rusty and in fairly short lengths so you need to know the general design requirements and engineer the details on the spot. New steel in small orders is several times more expensive than wood of equivalent strength.
I keep several small rugs in the CRV to protect the seats from scrap metal, so I'm always prepared to buy and transport whatever I happen to find. It came with rear tie-downs and I installed the optional roof child-seat anchors and covered the 'spare tire well' (a folding plastic picnic table) with plywood to tie down and haul heavy stuff.
A lot of my equipment is on casters because I have more stuff than space. In general I don't like tall storage racks on wheels because they can tip, the tires flatten with age and small things fall off too easily. If you have one extra temporary rack you can move each rack empty and be able to secure it to the wall.
Sorry, but I can't give you a good argument to buy a welder just to make shelves from new steel. I use mine to learn and practice the skill of welding and to build custom machines that usually differ from the ones you can buy, like the front end loader with a stainless steel bucket for salted snow or the extra-stiff (and heavy) scaffold base section with extension legs for sloping ground.
You posted this at 1:34AM? Were you up late watching Stevie Nicks on Soundstage too?
Jim Wilkins
Reply to
Jim Wilkins
They are not as heavy duty as you think. I have several of those Home Depot shelves and I have had buckling and collapsing problems with several of them at the joint where the middle shelf joins the top and bottom section. In order to make them safe I have had to get it all roughed in and hammered as tight as practical (since they do not fit right) and then shoot tech screws into them above and below the joint. In my case I was also able to screw the rear uprights to a cross pearling of the metal building where they are used.
This is an even more compelling reason to build heavier shelves.
I must note however, that the similar shelves I bought at other places did fit together tightly at the joints, and have not had pop and buckle issues at the joints.
Now all that being said. We had 2X4 and plywood shelves for non-grocery storage in the back room of my parents grocery store for over 20 years. That's about as cheap and as heavy duty as it gets. Of course since you must deal with SWMBO, aesthetics may be an issue.
If you must weld, why not just use light angle for everything, and place particle board in for shelves when you are done. You can buy the stuff with a nice coating and finished edges. You can also make shelf sections to fit exactly to maximize the space, and even go around corners or support beams. While similar in construction to the shelves from Depot you mentioned they will have a couple pluses and one minus.
You can buy enough 1 X 1 X 1/8 steel angle (much stronger than the stuff in the depot shelves) to make a similar shelf unit for about $40 with a little left over to start the next shelf. Three 20 footers from Discount Steel is $40.19 USD. Use 1/2 X 1/2 for your horizontal shelf supports and drop the cost of steel even more. I found various particle board prices on-line from about 6-10 dollars a shelf depending on thickness and finish. I'm sure you can do better though with a little looking around and buying full sheets to cut down to fit.
Just add paint.
Pluses, Flexibility in layout out and design Solid and strong Better finish for the shelves
Minus Won't be able to adjust shelf height

Reply to
Bob La Londe
Yeah, my thought was to use a design with different heights, but the lack of adjustment is of course a real question here for down the road flexibility.
And if we move, the ability to take a shelf apart and pack it up is a win. And if someone else has to deal with it (say when I die) they could be stuck with no clue how to get rid of something large. However, in the past when I've moved, I've never done that - the shelves were always moved without taking them apart. :)
Thanks for that info. I've never built anything out of OSB and wondered if that might be the case. I've seen first hand what happens with particle board which is too thin for a wide span. Even though it seems strong enough at first, it will sag over time.
Thanks, all good and helpful info. But no help with getting me a new toy! :)
My real goal here is to find an excuse to buy a new toy and not to solve my shelf problem which is not a significant issue at all, there are 20 easy solutions to that. :)
One solution to my temp self problem is to not use selves at all and just make very high piles of the crap we have already. I have 9' ceilings in my basement so I could make some very nice big piles. :)
Reply to
Curt Welch
There are some better quality taller shelf units available.
Bob La Londe
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Reply to
Bob La Londe
Yeah, most the stuff we have to put on these shelves are large plastic bins or large boxes (larger than book boxes). So I need something deeper and higher than the more standard 18" depth range which are cheap and easy to find. Even the stuff that could fit on an 18" shelf needs to be put the long way to allow more space on deeper shelves. But still, I'm sure what you and others are saying about looking around for used shelving would be the cheapest solution.
Yeah, the idea of creating something custom shaped which you can't easily buy is a good excuse I could use. I've have to think more on that angle to see what I can come up with.
I've really got two problems here. When the basement is done, there's going to be a small area (well 15' x 20' sized area) which is going to be nothing but storage. Currently, our crap is taking up 5 times that much space (the whole basement), so we have to reduce it down (sell throw out and give away) what we can, and fit the rest as efficiently as possible (leaving room for further accumulation) in this much smaller space. The smaller space BTW happens to also include the space under the stairs. :)
But there's a logistics problem we are looking at first. Right now, that space is my shop - it's packed to the gills with multiple power tools and 4 shelves of tools and supplies and the air compressor and custom lighting and power outlets and air hose system and air collection systems and a dust filter system etc. The shop is going to move to a different (larger) corner of the basement so I can't set up the area for storage until the shop moves out. But the shop can't move out because the other areas are all filled with crap. And the shop to some extent needs to be set up to do the construction work, so I can't just take it apart and pile all that stuff to make room for the construction project.
So one idea was to build temp crude shelves in the area where the shop will be, and pack all the crap we are going to keep tightly into that corner of the basement. Then do the construction, them move the crap out into the new living space, then build the new shop (power lighting, air systems etc), then move the shop to the new area, then as the last step, build out the storage area and move all the crap into the storage area.
This idea of building custom shelves now sounded nice because it would prevent the construction and tear down of temp shelves. But it also limits what I can do, since the custom shelves will have to be small enough to move through a normal sized door (80" high) 2.5' or 3' etc). That's what led to approach of using fairly normal sized 2'x4'x6' shelving units.
But maybe we should reverse all this. Maybe we should just clear the crap out of the new shop area, build the new shop and relocate my equipment, then build the custom storage shelves in the old shop area (which can include high shelves to make good use of my 9' ceilings and the exact configuration of the space to allow us to pack a maximal amount of crap in there), then relate the crap into the storage areas, and then finally, do the construction work for the finished area.
Logistically I think this makes more sense, however, the wife and kids only care about getting the finished part done while the kids are still around to take advantage of it (I've got one going into 7th grade and the other going into 11th). If I try to tell them I need to spend weeks (drawn out to months) building my new shop and the storage area first, that's not going to make them too happy.
I'll have to think more about what we might do with that final storage area configuration. Maybe it makes sense to build large complex shelving units custom designed for that area. There's basically three walls of that area that need to be turned into floor to ceiling shelving. Hum....
Thanks for the ideas....
Reply to
Curt Welch
Good point. If I want to make any of it bolt together I can see why that would be an advantage.
Yeah, the HD casters top out at 250 lbs. But there are caster stores on the internet that sell everything up to multiple tons. Of course they get expensive fast when you get to that size.
Yeah, my SUV is the only transport option I have (without renting) so I too am limited by what I can get as well. For the size steel order I was looking at for this project the local supply would deliver for free however.
:) nope. Just up late trying to figure out how to talk the wife into :letting me by more toys. :)
I work for myself and tend to stay up late and sleep in late by default anyway. Had to get up a 7:30 this morning however. It happens at times. :)
Reply to
Curt Welch
I could do it the painful way with my angle grinders and cut off wheels (or the hack saw), but my thought was to also use this as an excuse to buy the 14" chop saw as well as the welder (smaller and easier to fit in than the horizontal band saw I also want at the moment). I'll have room for more of that when this project is all done and I've relocated to the new shop area of my basement. The new area will give me room for the mill and lathe as well as a bandsaw and maybe a bit more.... :)
I've also expanded out to the garage which is where most welding would actually take place. But the garage has to be used for the cars as well so it has limited room for equipment (lots of yard equipment and bikes and my oven for powder coating already filling it up as it is).
Yeah, checking the web site, that looks like the same design as the HD units I talked about and which I have two of in my current basement shop. Nice strong shelves which work fine for my shop. The HD units are a snap-in rivet design instead of bolt together. They hold very securely, but you can't level them and after pounding the shelves in, they are _never_ flat, so they always want to wobble slightly. Putting 1000 lbs of tools and paint etc holds them down nicely however so once loaded, it's not an issue.
The design I came up with I think wouldn't be as strong and would cost more.
Yeah, same thing HD sells and which I have two of already in my shop. Made from something like 16 gauge steel (I measured mine for reference yesterday). Very strong heavy duty shelves. They might weigh 50 to 75 pounds per unit empty. Not the typical cheap bolt together stuff made from light 22 gauge or less and weighing 5 lbs when empty (have about 5 of those around the house as well).
Most of what I have to store now doesn't call for such strong shelves but it would be nice to have them that strong so I could put anything on them in the future if need be.
Sounds nice. Thanks for the feedback.
Reply to
Curt Welch
Interesting. As it happens, I've never put much weight on the top half of the two I have. All the heavy stuff (like paint cans) are on the bottom. I could see however how that join between the top and bottom could fail.
Yeah, but the final result here is to create pure back-room closed-door storage so 2x4 and plywood would be ok and is exactly what I have been thinking for the past 12 years (this project has been on the todo list ever since we moved into the house 12 years ago) until I got this flash that maybe I could leverage this into an excuse to by my own welder (after all, I've finished the full welding program with a 4.0 average - don't I deserve something for all that work? :)).
But one think I don't like about 2x4 construction is that it tends to take up a lot of space for the thickness of each shelf and the thickness of the vertical supports. I'm thinking I can get the same strength with steel with a thiner and more elegant shelf design. But I see it's going to cost a lot more.
Yeah, the built-in to fit the space idea sounds like it might be the way to go. Using standar size units always ends up with lots of wasted space.
Ok, so 1x1x1/8 would be the size angle iron to go with? That's one factor I just have no feel for since I've never built anything out of it. I've seen that same size talked about for other simple welding projects. I'll see what I can get it for around here.
It should weigh about the same as the 1x square @ 1/16 I was looking at, and I would guess it would be about the same strength (half the number of sides, twice the thickness). If it's cheaper because it's more common, that might be a win.
The idea that angle iron works better if you want to do any bolt-together parts that someone else mentioned is a win as well for angle iron.
Thanks for the ideas.
Reply to
Curt Welch
Golly. Sounds like an awful lot of clones. The lesson is to think ahead before making any temp copies of yourself.
Reply to
James Waldby
:) But what about my spelling problem? How do I solve that! :)
Reply to
Curt Welch
I just spent 10 minutes trying to find your post so I could reply again! Though I was losing my mind because I couldn't find it. Turns out you changed the subject to fix my typo and I was only searching for the typo! :)
I called my local suppler and they have about the same rates as discount steel for angle iron (I didn't know about that site, thanks for that as well). Except for this size order I get free home delivery for my local store. I don't even have to go pick it up!
Using 1/8" thick angle iron instead of 1/16" square tube, the steel costs drop from around $70 to $50 per shelf unit and now it's looking more in the ball park. Even with more expensive stronger wood for the shelves I can keep the costs to below or at least near the cost of heavy store bought shelves of roughly the same size and strength. Though instead of building the standard sized shelves I was talking about, I might do a custom built-in wall of shelves design to maximize the storage space use (and get a result I can't make with store bought shelves). If the numbers look reasonable, I can move forward with buying the welding hardware and then build some prototypes to see what I like and go from there. Fun fun....
Still got to tell the wife I want to put a tank of 75/25 in the garage. She might be a bit uneasy about that....
Thanks for all the input from everyone! If I go forward with this I'll have to share the results of what I ended up doing.
Reply to
Curt Welch
Why? Its stable unless she drives over it with the car and brakes the valve off.

Reply to
Bob La Londe
To her, it will just look like dangerous welding "stuff" waiting to kill us. :)
She's actually being a good sport about my addictions. She understands what she married. I told her I was getting all the guys on the net to help build an argument for me getting new toys. She just rolls her eyes.
Reply to
Curt Welch
the welds go if you are going to MIG weld the stuff. So I guess you will need to buy an angle grinder if you don't already have one. Oh well. ERS
Reply to
Eh... I have 125cf Argon, 84/16 (Airgas Steel Mix), Oxygen, Acetylene, and Propane tanks in my garage^H^H^H^H^H^Hworkshop :) That is 5 tanks total, not counting small disposable ones...
Reply to
Sergey Kubushin
I have to agree with the majority - welded steel is a bad idea for standard sized utility shelving, because no matter how you space the shelves it always ends up being the wrong size spacing for the boxes. If you could guarantee that the stuff would forever use the same size plastic shelf boxes it would be fine - but "stuff" always comes in too many sizes.
The only time it works well is for dedicated shelving for specific equipment, like a working unit for a drill press with drawers and doors underneath and overhead for all the accessories.
Go for the "InterMetro" style round post open wire shelving, the Seville Classics 18" x 4' x 6' 6-shelf units at Costco are around $80 each including a set of casters - if you need to move the shelves, three minutes and a dead-blow hammer and they pop loose and move wherever you want. They look good enough to use inside the house, you can make two three-shelf carts/tables out of one set, and they knock down for moving.
Use the welder for making work tables and carts for all your tools, and when they aren't in use they can be rolled into the corner and take up a lot less room.
Or if you get inventive, you can always take the welder and modify the wire shelving shelves to fit your custom uses. But then you have to send it out to be re-plated or powder-coated when you finish.
Sorry, but it kind of is true - they get quantity discounts on the materials you can't even dream of, and building them in bulk cuts the labor costs drastically. And then you have to spend time and effort to paint and finish your shelf unit, when the factory made units come pre-finished.
Where 'making it custom' pays off is when you can't get what you need premade. Or you would have to severely modify the pre-made unit for your use, like to fit under a staircase or in an odd sized gap between the furnace and the water heater.
1/4" square tube is way too small for structural work, you need at least 3/4" to have some meat to weld together. 1" makes the math easier for planning. I used 1-1/2" square (1/16" wall) for my bead blast cabinet stand/cart, and it would hold up to light machines fine. For heavier stuff, go for the 1/8" wall.
Changing sizes on the same project can work, but it's easier to use the same size so it looks clean, changing sizes all over just doesn't look right. Use the heavy wall tubing for the uprights, and the light wall for crossbars and non-structural bits.
Oh, and always tack your project together first and get it good and square first - including tacking all the diagonal bracing. Then weld each joint an inch at a time and move to a different joint while it cools, watching that a warp doesn't sneak into the work...
Once it's all done and welded and *then* you find out it's warped, pulling it square is a major task - as in cut a slot in it to relieve the stress, straighten with big clamps, and then weld the slot closed.
Reply to
Bruce L. Bergman

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