Built a Flexi-type rack?

I'm wondering about building a thread rod and butcher block type rack. Anthing other than the appropriate size nuts for for spacing the shelves? (Washers? Bushings?) Attractive treatment for top of rods? Effective treatment for footers? (Rack would sit on hardwood floor.)


Hi John,

I used 3/4-10 steel rods from McMaster Carr and the hex flange nuts for spacing. For a cleaner, top acorn nuts (the high dome hex version) work well. I never did find bolt-on feet to match, I ended up using maple blocks drilled to fit the rod and attaching teflon(?) skid discs to the bottoms.
I used Pennsylvania slate instead of the butcher block. Rubber bushings in between the washers and stone to provide some damping. I'm currently in the process of building a new one with granite. Good luck.
My "flexi" was built using 2" maple, sized at 24" x 24". My upright support rods are 3/4"-10 threaded brass from McMaster-Carr, with all brass fittings - nuts, washers and top acorn nuts. For the spikes, I used Audio Points (model 2.0AP-1OINT). I have four shelves and a total height of 48 inches. The rack weighs in at around 300 lbs, and sits on a fiberglass reinforced concrete basement floor. Holes were cut in the maple using a 13/16" forstner bit. Rear legs offset toward center by 1" (each side) from the front legs, mainly to break up vibrations as a result of symmetry (think of a perfectly square listening room and the resulting sound - I believe the same problems occur on a much smaller scale vibrationally in a rack). I had prototyped several flexi models using steel rod and hardware, and several types of shelf material (furniture grade plywood, MDF, several composite laminates, etc) but found the thick maple to perform the best. I also believe brass to be one of the better metals to use in audio applications (there are numerous discussions online as to the relative merits of various metal types for audio use). Personally, I found that rubber-type damping materials either as through-hole bushings or as spacers between the washers dampened the sound to a degree I personally didn't care for, and seemed to detract from the overall dynamics of the system. Since I utilize brass Audio Points under all my components on the rack, the coupling/mechnical diode effects of the points seem to form a synergistic relationship with the rack itself, and measurable vibration seems nearly nonexistent. Of course, YMMV depending on existing substructure (wooden floors, etc), other types of isolation products already deployed, and personal taste. Happy building.

I did an estimate based on your description and parts list, and it comes exactly the price of a similar rack from Mapleshade Records.
The only difference is that Mapleshade uses steel rods, not brass.
Could you please share how much $$$ it cost you to built yours?
As I recall, the final cost of materials was right around $550 - a simple breakdown was $275 for the maple (sourced from a local millworking company), another $125 for the brass audiopoints, and around $150 or so for the brass bits from McMaster-Carr. A similar rack from Mapleshade is right around $1000 + shipping. The basic differences are in upright diameter (1.25" steel on the Mapleshade vs. my .75" brass ), and in the shelf dimensions, where I use a 24" x 24" shelf, the Mapleshade uses a more "standard" rectangular audio size of 24" x 15". I also dispensed with the Amish craftsmen ;-))

Thanks Richard,
I got a price from McMaster website:
Brass rods 3'-$47x4= $188
6'-$77x4= $308
They don't have 4' length listed

Brass nuts and washers- appr. $150
Plus maple.
You obviously didn't pay much for 4 shelves in that size.
A guy of Timbernation that sells maple blocks on A-gon would charge $720 for 4 18x24x2 shelves.
Are you in Pennsylvania or NJ? If you could share a source of the maple, it would be greatly appreciated.
If you want to consider alternatives in shelving materials for a DIY rack, I would suggest you look at http://www.johnboos.com
You can get "BoosBlocks" from them in an 24 x 18 x 1 1/2 dimensions for as little as 60.00 each. They are made from 100% eastern rock maple, and work very well with brass rods, nusts and washers from McMaster-Carr. I have built several of them in two and three shelf versions and they can be seen on my virtual system page. A three shelf model I built came in at under 300.00 for parts, until I had Lloyd Walker custom machine a set of Valid Points and Discs for the bottom...
BoosBlocks can also be purchased from Williams-Sonoma and Sur L'Table.
Thank you Slipknot,
I'll look into butcher blocks option.
I would like to point out that I constructed this rack about three years ago. With the wild upward fluctuations on the world metals market, I am not at all suprised by the price quotes on the raw material. Material such as copper has nearly doubled in price over the past 4 years, and wood seems to rise continuously in price. Last night, I dug up the invoice for the brass - $178.44 (so I was off by $25), but still this is indicative of how much the price has risen over the past few years. BTW, my invoice shows $31.14 each for the threaded rod - a considerable increase to $47 each!! I'm in Albany NY, and actually sourced the material through a millworking company outside of Utica. I'd recommend them, but since I'm trying to be helpful, won't - since they were a pain to deal with. Nice product, but it took forever to complete. Cheers,

Timbernation sells the same dimension maple shelves as Mapleshade's Samson for $150 per (shipped). So, $600 for shelves and then the hardware gets you very close to the price of the Samson.

Any other decent sort for the maple? Also, how about a source for 4' brass rods? McMaster goes from 3' to 6'.

Thanks guys!
Slipknot's suggestion of Boosblocks in very well taken: 24X18X1.5 $86, 24X18X2.25 $107. I have one of their blocks, put to the more conventional use of a cutting board -- very nice. The blocks come with a very minimal oil finish, which might be an advantage, depending on your tastes. You might try to get Boos to ship unfinished, if you want to stain. Boos has a lot of local dealers, which could save you a reasonably hefty shipping bill.

In contrast, a local mill here in St. Louis asks for $175 for a 5'X2'X1.5" piece, which gets you your three shelves for a bit less than Boos, but with more work at your end, depending on how much sanding is required.

On the rods, another source is Mutual Screw. They don't seem to do brass, but they do zinc plated steel, and $66 gets you 2 very beefy 1.25"X3' rods (http://mutualscrew.com/products.php). A decent bit less than the brass, but less attractive. Do the metalugists out there have any thoughts on zinc plating?

One possibility for the footers is the relatively inexpensive spike kits sold by Adona and others. These might be mounted to the inside of the rods on the bottom shelf. Thoughts on that?

Two questions on technique:

Sounds like you go 1/16" larger than the rod size with the holes. Is a drill press mandatory?

Some people suggest clamping the shelves together and drilling the holes through all the shelves at once, to assure alighnment. Any thoughts on this? Drilling a hole through five or six inches of maple is no joke, even with a drill press.

Now, the big question: This is not quite a budget DIY project, say $500 for a nice three shelf rack, and very possibly more. $500 doesn't get you into the highest end stuff of course, but it does get you into some stuff that people seem to like pretty well, like a three shelf rack from SolidSteel (new). I like the look of the flexi design, but can anyone weigh in on the bang for buck of the overall project, regards both visuals and sonics?

Thanks to everyone; this has all been very helpful!

Measure twice and cut once! When I drilled my shelves (on a drill press which I know to be mandatory - it is nearly impossible to cut a perfectly perpendicular hole with a hand drill), I made a small jig out of thin aluminum, which guaranteed the position of the hole - just align it to the corner, and go. I think the most important aspect of cutting the hole is to use the right speed, and the right bit. As I said, I went 1/16" above the rod size to get a little play, and used a brand new forstner bit (most will state the correct speed for the material you are cutting), which gave me perfect cuts - no splinters or tearing of the grain at all.

My problem with most commercial products, and hence the impetus for building my own, was the near ubiquitous use of tubular material which rings like a bell. Who the hell wants to fill a rack with lead or sand? Commercially available racks in the price range we're looking (or building) at, are built to a price point, and are filled with compromise(s). There are many exceptions, but we begin to start talking serious cash. I also think it quite nice to be able to customize your dimensions, your choice of materials and finish, and to make the rack a customized unit that suits your needs. I also find great joy in building things myself - pride of workmanship, if you will. My rack seriously outperforms (sonically) everything I've heard under the $1000 mark (and of course I've not heard everything), but as a bang for the buck DIY project, I don't think you'll ever look back.
Thanks, Palasr!

I'm about convinved to give it a whirl.

How did you do the jig? Just a perfectly square piece with a hole to line up the pilot?



PS: "Measure twice and cut once," indeed. If you've got reservations now, you'll be making 'em later. ;-)
The aluminum (or whatever material) jig doesn't have to be square - simply consistent - though being square certainly helps align to the corners of your workpiece. Mark the jig as to what the top outside corner should always "key" to -- in other words, if you use a square jig, and don't mark it for consistency in alignment, there will always be some margin of "play" in the way the workpiece is marked/drilled since you may inadvertently rotate the jig during workpiece marking. I used a 3" x 3" piece of aluminum with a thickness of around .0625" (1/16") , and cut a hole to size that matched (and some) the diameter at the tip of the forstner pilot arbor. This ensures that ALL the holes will line up consistently, since the pilot on a forstner extends perhaps a quarter inch below the actual cutting head. Be sure to mark (with tape et al) which side of your workpiece is your top, and then mark the edges (front or back). I tend to pick the best finish on any given workpiece, and then go from there. Since no piece of material is ever truly square in all dimensions, it helps to start at one corner, and "jig" around the workpiece clockwise so that each shelf is consistently marked and drilled. As long as everything is marked and well-planned, you'll have no problems.

If you have a drillpress, great, but you really don't need one. I built my flexitable with a only a circular saw and a hand drill(used a clamped, metal level to serve as a guide for the saw to insure straight cuts). Make sure to start all measurements from the same corner (left front, say). That way if your shelves aren't exactly the same dimensions, it won't matter. Also, the holes you'll be drilling will be slightly larger in diameter than the support rods; thus your holes don't need to be perfectly perpendicular. As far as far as footer go, I brought my threaded rods to a machine shop and had them grind the ends down to a point. Cheap and looks good. You can protect your floor with expensive disks or do what I do--use quarters (cost? twenty-five cents, and free if I steal from girlfriend's change jar).

This is a fun project. The combo of wood (especially the maple you're considering), industrial size hardware, and shiny electronics is quite fetching (imo). My modest, oak-trimmed, mdf shelved flexitable garners a lot of compliments.
Hey guys

I'm getting close to ordering up the stuff I need for one of these racks.

Does anyone have a source for 4' threaded rods? I would even consider steel rods (a la Mapleshade's 1.25").

The problem is finding anything in 4' length.

Any help would be GREATLY appreciated!

John and others -

I did one of these [two actually] and am about to start a much more elaborate [and expensive] rack project.

I used solid 2" and 4" cherry shelves though [the 4" are just two 2" glued together] and simple 5/8” steel rod because this size rod would easily thread into the salamander spikes you can get from just about anywhere - like Audio Adviser. Cherry is also a super hard wood like maple...just try to sand it and you'll see.

As for drilling the holes, I used a forstner bit too because it is nice, clean, and more precise. But I made a full sized drilling jig from 1/4" hardboard and simply drilled small holes, like about 1/8", to mark the four hole centers – the forstner pilot was easily aligned with this hole. This assured that all the rods would line up perfectly even if the cherry boards where slightly different in size.

I also built steel pieces that would be placed just under two shelves [the bottom and the top ones] that carried mounts for attaching cables. The cables would then very tightly "X" on the two sides and the back for stiffening triangulation.

John, are you in PA…I am in W. Chester, PA, and might have some extra cherry boards when I complete my new rack…whenever that will be.
Thanks to everyone for their suggestions!

Shersta: Elegant solution, having a machine shop point the rods. Could you still thread things on at that end? Don't suppose it matters too much.

Jdubs: My noodling around the web found only 3' and 6' rods. If you need 4' and go with steel of a reasonable diameter, it might not be prohibitive to get 6 footers cut down. I expect a good shop could re-tap the threads at the cut end, too. How many shelves do you need? You might be able to put 4 on 3' rods, depending on shelf and gear thickness. The design is so open, I doubt cooling would be an issue.

Dbld: I'd just picked up a scrap of sheetmetal to make a template as in Richard's helpful instructions, but I like your full size template idea too. Question: why should it matter if the holes in the template match the size of the pilot on the bit? Mightn't one drill the hole to match exactly a center punch, mark all the holes on the piece with the punch, and then drill it? Seeps like there would be next to no slop that way.

I might well be interested in the cherry, depending on timing, etc. I'm now in St. Louis, but I'm through PA a lot, for work and family. Feel free to email, jdoris@artsci.wustl.edu

John, It was a while ago when I made these, but you are right. The holes in the template are 1/8", and I just used an automatic punch to mark the cherry through the template. I was mistaken in my desription.
To cut a threaded rod is not that hard.How do you think the contractors do it when they cut hundreds of lenghts of 3/8 rods to hung the ducts on ceilings in the buildings.Measure the rod from the end down to 48 inch mark with black marker,run a nut through and passed the mark,use a hack saw with fine metal blade or small grinder,please use eye protection.Once cut remove the nut from the cut side to retool the threads.Sometimes a small file is needed if your cut is sloppy.
For drilling holes on wood shelves,here is what I did.I used a drill press that has a round work table,I made a double fence out of 1x2x16 wood strip,two pices joint together to form a 90 degree corner.Then I secured on the drill press table in the desired distance from the drill point ,mine was I think 2 inches,I think.Every time you drill the shelves your make sure they contact the 90 fence.You can't go wrong assuming the shelving is cut accurate at the store,Home Depot.
Hey Guys

I got a great deal on maple shelves...exact same size at the Mapleshade ones. 4 of them for <$250, shipped!.

I haven't received them yet...hope to by the end of next week. They're from a place called Tony's Wood Shop:


Tony is a super nice guy and I have no doubt they will turn out great.

Now onto the hardware. Samson hardware goes for just over $600, before shipping.

I'll likely just go for McMaster 3/4" 6' rods for $300 for 4 of them (pre shipping) plus all the various brass bits. Will save a few bucks over the Maplesahade hardware.

Anyway, just an FYI for those looking to build one of these racks.

Hi Jim, and thanks for the lead! I've already emailed Tony. Could you give a report once you've seen the blocks, re how much finishing is required, etc.?


What size shelves did you buy? And also, do you know if they are air- or kiln-dried?
Hey guys

I will certainly post once I receive them. I don't anticipate much finishing if the photo on his website is any indication:


Maril555, I'm not sure if its air or kiln dried. This is a pretty uncommon process (as far as I know) for drying maple.

Oh, and the shelves I bought were 24" x 15" x 2".

Hey guys

I got my shelves from Tony's Woodshop.

They are really great! I'll try to take some pics if anyone is interested.

I would highly recommend them!! A terrific deal at 4 for $250 shipped!!

Thanks for the update, Jim.

I've got two 24"x18"X3" maple blocks coming from Tony; cutting boards for gifts, @ $101 ea., shipped. I'm tempted to go for cherry for my rack, a wood I'm partial to; Tony offers it at the same price as maple. Are there strong reasons to prefer maple, which seems to be the more typical choice?

On another part of the equation, http://www.jamestowndistributors.com has 3'X3/4" brass rod for > $35 ea., the best I've seen. They're a boatbuilding supply place, with a lot of cool hardware. Their brass acorn nuts come to a point, and might make viable footers, though they do not list 3/4".



Nice find on the brass rods!! I think I'm going to buy Mapleshade hardware just to make it a little easier...especially the footers part of the equation.

Regarding maple, I think alot of people feel (myself included) that it is very good sounding in terms of a base for equipment. Mapleshade and Walker Audio have done quite a bit of comparative work with the maple vs. other woods and they found it be at or near the top of the pile.

I agree, though, cherry looks very nice (although Tony's maple sure looks good, too!!) :)

Hello Again, Richard.

The audiopoints look a clean way to go, if a bit pricey. Leaning that way, but do you have ideas about how to handle leveling when using them? I'd be shocked if the floor of my 100 yr. old house was anything like level.



Nice score on the brass. I figured that since the final weight of the rack was in excess of 200 lbs while fully loaded, there was no need to firmly tighten all of the weight-bearing brass cones - the sheer weight of the rack alone would provide sufficient coupling in this instance. What I did was thread them all the way in (flush to the bottom brass nut on my rack), and then slowly loosened the sagging corners (in effect raising that corner). My basement floor, while ostensively level, was in practice nothing of the sort. I came up with a perfectly level bottom shelf, and levelled everything else from there. McMaster-Carr also has laminated brass washers in the requisite size that are layered in .01 inch increments. These allow firm coupling of the cone to the rack hardware, and can be trimmed in thickness (by peeling off layers) so that firm coupling can be achieved. I used these layered/laminated brass washers when installing the AudioPoints on the bottom of my speakers to great effect. Happy listening,

Hi guys,
Question: how do you plan to attach cones (Audiopoints or Mapleshade) to the brass rods?
And what do you think about just grinding rods to a point, compared to above mentioned cones?
I'm planning to go with 1'' rods. Looked-up requisite size nuts on McMaster-Carr, very expensive ($9.75 single nut), and I will need #32 for 4-shelf version. That's $300!!!
Holy cow...Jamestown is incredible if those prices are legit. I just looked up 1" threaded rod, and a three foot length is about $38 and 1" brass nuts are only $4.64 each. I must be looking at it wrong...
Maril555: Looks like audiopoints does a version that is threaded to fit 3/4-10 rods. Not cheap, though, at about 42$ a pop. As Richard's last post indicates, you will still need to think through the leveling issue, if you go that way. Another, much cheaper (but less elegant), way to go would be to get a set of spikes from adona, or oregondv.com, etc., and mount them to the inside of the posts on the bottom shelf. I'm leaning towards Audiopoints, on Richard's advice, which is forcing me to resist the temptation Dbld notes, to go for rods thicker than 3/4". It would be cool to have really beefy rods, but my web-noodling has persuaded me that it is harder to find attendant hardware, such as points and acorn nuts, to fit the larger sizes.

The way I went isn't cheap either. I had Lloyd Walker custom tap a set of large Valid Points to fit my rods, which are 5/8 -11 right hand thread. If you use 5/8-11 right hand thread, you can get a set of Salamander feet that work for about 39.00/set of 4. A compromise to be sure. Audio Advisor sells these. Depending on the weight you expect the rack to hold - I would be inclined to go that way before grinding the ends of the rod to a point. At least with the Salamander solution, you have the ability to level the structure. something much more difficult to achieve if you grind the rods down.
You're right, Jamestown prices for nuts are about half of McMaster-Carr's.
I did see the inner thread Audiopoints, seems like a way to go.
Thanks for the info on Salamander stuff.
Regarding leveling the rack, I thought, that using threaded rods would serve exactly that purpose, allowing to level each shelf individually, by moving holding nuts along the rod?
Please, correct me if I'm missing something here.
Slipknot raises a good question: How thick does the rod need to be? I handled some 3/4" stock today, and it struck me as a bit slight, but it ain't bending in this application, either. Put a dollar value on the question: Is an 1/8" thicker rod with Audiopoints worth $120 more than an 1/8" thinner rod with Salamander feet?

Maril555: Haven't handled the materials yet, so this is speculative. But you might get a tighter assembly "bottoming out" the rods in the cones and using the bottom nut on the bottom shelf to level it, and build up from there. The locknut option is also a likely one, at the cost of 4 more nuts. Can't say which would be easier.

Maril555 is right; the beauty of the threaded rod is the ability to level anything anywhere. Looking at Jamestown's pricing, it will cost you no more than $12 and no more than 1" of space on the bottom shelf to simply level that bottom shelf on its own with four extra nuts.

Getting those extra nuts will also save a lot of time...and it will keep the whole rack more versatile since the wood might warp a little. The ultimate goal in my mind is to get the components that are on the shelves level, which is what I always use as a reference. My 2" and 4" cherry shelves ended up not as flat after two or three years as they were when they were new. They are not butcher block though, they were very BIG boards originally [like 12” x 2” I think].

The 1" rod does pose an issue with the points. However, you could always rifle drill and tap into the end for a simple 1/4-20 thread and put stock Mapleshade or audio points on them.

I have a set of solid 1.25" brass rods that I will be using for my new rack. A local machine shop cut them to length, truing each end of each rod, rifle drilled and tapped all three rods, then cut the excess material into 6 - .75"x 1.25” spacers that are also all drilled and tapped. All this for the whopping grand total of...$40 cash.

My guess is that having any of these rods drilled and tapped for 1/4-20 thread would be very easy and reasonable. Plus...you'd have more options as to what to use for the points/feet.
Leveling a rack of this type can only be done by varying the depth the threaded rods are threaded into the cones at the bottom. Example: all rods should be the same length, so, on a level floor, the last nuts on top would all be threaded evenly onto the rods so that the rods are flush with the top nuts. If however, the floor is not level, then the threaded cones at the bottom of the rack would be unscrewed until level was achieved, this way, the top of the rods would still be even in the top nuts. A jam nut would have to be used on the bottom cones for this purpose.
Or use Acorn nuts on the top to hide the rod's end.

Mijknarf - Nice rack BTW [stereo rack]
I just heard back from Jamestown Distributors, they have changed vendors for the brass all-thread rods and can no longer honor orders at the old pricing. The new price is now $75 per 3' rod! I re-ordered through McMaster at $45 per...
Gordus: I just had the same experience with Jamestown. Guess I dallied too long. The price of brass (which may well continue to rise, I'm told) makes this a more than budget project, for sure; I just spent about $160 @ McMaster Carr for the nuts and washers alone (!). John
Same deal here,
They gonna try to check with the other vendor, but I doubt that very much.
I'm going with McMaster-Carr as well.
The price of brass is going up daily. If you add up the cost of 4 threaded brass rods, enough nuts and washers for a three shelf unit these days, you are close to 400.00 BEFORE adding in the cost of the shelf materials and cones for the feet. If you are using rock maple butcher block (18 x 24 x 1 1/2) you are going to be over 600.00 before the labor and finshing time.

The Mapleshade Samson rack is starting to look like a good bargain.....

As a point of reference, two years ago I bought 8 3ft 5/8-11 threaded brass rods from McMaster-Carr for 112.00 (14.00 each).
Slipknot1: And that's before you do anything about footers; go with the fancier options and you are into it for another $175 or so. Sheesh! Starting to have a lot of rack options, for that money. I'll try not to dwell on your "point of reference"!

Slipknot1 and I did a rack for my system that uses all McMaster-Carr hardware and maple shelves from perfectplank.com(thanks Trelja for that source).
I agree with others that the key to the rack is easily adjustable shelves that are easy to level. Threaded rods and bolts/washers above & below each shelf are they way to go.
If anyone wants to check my system page(http://forum.audiogon.com/cgi-bin/fr.pl?vevol&1036941919&read&keyw&zzwarming ), you can see photos and a post with a parts list. Cheers,
I must say that the rack that Joe (Slipknot1) and Spencer (Sbank) put together for Spencer is the finest audio rack that I have encountered.

I encourage anyone interested in pursuing this to go for it, I doubt you'll do better. But, as Joe pointed out, those Mapleshade Samson racks right now are looking VERY sweet from a dollars and sense perspective.
Not only the price of brass has gone up, Star Sound Tech. is out of internal thread Audiopointsas well.
I know, it's one of you people, who bought the last four of them yesterday. I've got my sources.
Maril555: Heh-heh. Robert at Star Sound has been great. If it's any consolation, I got killed on the rest of the brass; I expect the total nears 600. I hope to be able to post a detailed project description shortly. Menwhile, the advice of Slipknot1 & Trelja is well taken: we're getting up to the price point of pretty nice commercial stuff.

I knew it was you. The price is really pretty high. I just got brass rods, nuts and washers from McMaster yesterday. Looks very nice.
The only minor "problem" is, rods are covered with some grease and need to be cleaned. Any ideas what's best to do it with?
I left the the grease on till near completion. I did remove the excess with a cotton rag before starting. You are going to be threading A LOT of nuts when you put the thing together. It makes the work somewhat easier. When you are ready to clean, Dawn dish soap with water and a sponge works, then use Brasso polish to shine things up. Then a final buff coat of paste wax on the shelves.