How to build Rack Panels and put together a rack

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Bruce Weldy
Posts: 6394
Joined: Fri Nov 27, 2009 11:37 am
Location: New Braunfels, TX

How to build Rack Panels and put together a rack

#1 Post by Bruce Weldy » Sat Feb 03, 2018 6:50 pm

I don't think anyone has ever posted any info on building rack panels, so I thought I'd do it. If this is something that should be saved, then someone can move it to the Build Threads.

Rack panels are invaluable if you want your gear to work the same way all time, every time. I see people sticking their hands in the back of their rack hooking up gear at every gig. Inevitably, cables get damaged, polarity buttons get pushed, ground buttons get pushed, and things just generally get hooked up wrong, then corrected......all in the dark - right before a gig.

Adding a rack panel to your rack will put an end to all of that. I've built several rack panels over the years for my own rig and for many other bands. It takes a little time and it takes a little money, but the time spent every time you set up and tear down is way more than worth it.

Tom Smit brought up rack panels in the thread a week or so ago and I had just ordered all the parts to build one, so I thought I'd document this build. So, here goes.

A local venue that I've done some work for (mostly repairing monitors and mains that live outside - drivers, diaphragms, etc.) has added a new indoor facility and decided to put in a decent PA. They tend to operate in the Ready, Fire, Aim mode on equipment, so the owner calls me from Guitar Center asking which boxes to buy since he's buying - right now.

He ended up with JBL SRX 800 series Tops and a single SRX sub.....all powered....along with some EV monitors. They already had a mostly working Yamaha mixer that I had worked on that would be used for smaller acts on their own, but wanted a better mixer for bigger acts when they'd have me or someone else run sound. He went round and round before finally buying a Presonus Series III 24ch Rack mixer (yeah, gotta use a damned iPad).

Anyway, telling you all of this so you know what I'm working with. So, I decided to build a Panel for the back of the rack that would allow not only for the Presonus mixer to be used, but also the Yamaha or any external mixer that a band might bring. Both options had to be able to access the driverack, so a jumper design was used. There were also the L,R,Sub outs to go to the input on the wall (that we just wired up yesterday).

A second panel would be for the 6 monitor outputs. Those I located on the front of the rack for ease of running cables. The front of the rack consists of a power strip, dbx Driverack, two 4U drawers, the Rack Mixer and the Monitor panel. I purposely located the Rack mixer and the Monitor panel at the bottom of the rack in order to make the drawers accessible without having cables draped over them.

Currently the Rack is pretty much finished, but I can't load the Mixer and drawers until I update the mixer online. So, I'll post the build up through that point and finish up this build in a couple of days.

6 - T39 4-25" 2-22" 3012LF
4 - OT12 2512 Melded/NSD2005
1 - T24
2 - XF210


"A system with a few knobs set up by someone who knows what they are doing is always better than one with a lot of knobs set up by someone who doesn't."

Bruce Weldy
Posts: 6394
Joined: Fri Nov 27, 2009 11:37 am
Location: New Braunfels, TX

Re: How to build Rack Panels and put together a rack

#2 Post by Bruce Weldy » Sat Feb 03, 2018 7:00 pm

This is the rack that the owner picked up used for $200. 16U shock-mount - very nice and in great shape....even had a 4-gang power box at the bottom.
Attachments
IMG_2222.JPG

6 - T39 4-25" 2-22" 3012LF
4 - OT12 2512 Melded/NSD2005
1 - T24
2 - XF210


"A system with a few knobs set up by someone who knows what they are doing is always better than one with a lot of knobs set up by someone who doesn't."

Bruce Weldy
Posts: 6394
Joined: Fri Nov 27, 2009 11:37 am
Location: New Braunfels, TX

Re: How to build Rack Panels and put together a rack

#3 Post by Bruce Weldy » Sat Feb 03, 2018 7:12 pm

Take the time to draw out your plan and check it over and over and over.....then order your parts.

Steel rack panels with flanges. Don't try to use flat panels, they flex way too much.
Attachments
IMG_2225.JPG

6 - T39 4-25" 2-22" 3012LF
4 - OT12 2512 Melded/NSD2005
1 - T24
2 - XF210


"A system with a few knobs set up by someone who knows what they are doing is always better than one with a lot of knobs set up by someone who doesn't."

Bruce Weldy
Posts: 6394
Joined: Fri Nov 27, 2009 11:37 am
Location: New Braunfels, TX

Re: How to build Rack Panels and put together a rack

#4 Post by Bruce Weldy » Sat Feb 03, 2018 7:16 pm

Once you've decided where everything goes, use some tape to layout your connectors. By the way, you'll notice that I always use 2U panels. The 1U just don't have enough room to properly label everything and it's really tight to work in there.

After locating my punch points, I use a center punch and whack it two or three times with a hammer to get a decent starting point for the drill bit.

After several years of drilling holes with a step bit, I finally bought a Greenlee knock-out punch. Can't believe I waited so long - it's the only way to go.
Attachments
IMG_2226.JPG

6 - T39 4-25" 2-22" 3012LF
4 - OT12 2512 Melded/NSD2005
1 - T24
2 - XF210


"A system with a few knobs set up by someone who knows what they are doing is always better than one with a lot of knobs set up by someone who doesn't."

Bruce Weldy
Posts: 6394
Joined: Fri Nov 27, 2009 11:37 am
Location: New Braunfels, TX

Re: How to build Rack Panels and put together a rack

#5 Post by Bruce Weldy » Sat Feb 03, 2018 7:17 pm

After putting a good dimple in the panels, they get drilled with a 3/8" drill bit.
Attachments
IMG_2227.JPG

6 - T39 4-25" 2-22" 3012LF
4 - OT12 2512 Melded/NSD2005
1 - T24
2 - XF210


"A system with a few knobs set up by someone who knows what they are doing is always better than one with a lot of knobs set up by someone who doesn't."

Bruce Weldy
Posts: 6394
Joined: Fri Nov 27, 2009 11:37 am
Location: New Braunfels, TX

Re: How to build Rack Panels and put together a rack

#6 Post by Bruce Weldy » Sat Feb 03, 2018 7:20 pm

Next up is the knock-out punch. Put it in the hole and start cranking on the bolt. It makes perfect holes. The 15/16" hole is perfect for all of the D series Neutrik connectors - XLR, Speakon, Powercon.
Attachments
IMG_2228.JPG

6 - T39 4-25" 2-22" 3012LF
4 - OT12 2512 Melded/NSD2005
1 - T24
2 - XF210


"A system with a few knobs set up by someone who knows what they are doing is always better than one with a lot of knobs set up by someone who doesn't."

Bruce Weldy
Posts: 6394
Joined: Fri Nov 27, 2009 11:37 am
Location: New Braunfels, TX

Re: How to build Rack Panels and put together a rack

#7 Post by Bruce Weldy » Sat Feb 03, 2018 7:22 pm

Here they are with some punched....
IMG_2229.JPG

6 - T39 4-25" 2-22" 3012LF
4 - OT12 2512 Melded/NSD2005
1 - T24
2 - XF210


"A system with a few knobs set up by someone who knows what they are doing is always better than one with a lot of knobs set up by someone who doesn't."

Bruce Weldy
Posts: 6394
Joined: Fri Nov 27, 2009 11:37 am
Location: New Braunfels, TX

Re: How to build Rack Panels and put together a rack

#8 Post by Bruce Weldy » Sat Feb 03, 2018 7:30 pm

It's always been tough getting the connectors lined up perfectly.....normally, I don't worry too much about it, but decided to figure out a better way this time.

So, I built a down and dirty jig that allowed the panel to rest on top.
IMG_2231.JPG
Then I used a straight edge to line 'em up and keep 'em square. With that clamped in place, I drilled all the holes for the 4-40 machine screws (available at Lowes and HD).
IMG_2230.JPG
IMG_2232.JPG
All punched and screwed down.....ready for cable....
IMG_2233.JPG

6 - T39 4-25" 2-22" 3012LF
4 - OT12 2512 Melded/NSD2005
1 - T24
2 - XF210


"A system with a few knobs set up by someone who knows what they are doing is always better than one with a lot of knobs set up by someone who doesn't."

Bruce Weldy
Posts: 6394
Joined: Fri Nov 27, 2009 11:37 am
Location: New Braunfels, TX

Re: How to build Rack Panels and put together a rack

#9 Post by Bruce Weldy » Sat Feb 03, 2018 7:38 pm

The monitor outputs on the Presounus are 1/4" TRS. I soldered up the ends first, then solder that to the Panel.

A quick note.....if you don't know which pin on and XLR goes to which part of a TRS connector, remember this:
Pin 1/Sleeve - is always the ground/shield/drain
Pin 2/Tip - T for two - T for tip
Pin 3/Ring - Three RING circus
IMG_2234.JPG
IMG_2235.JPG

6 - T39 4-25" 2-22" 3012LF
4 - OT12 2512 Melded/NSD2005
1 - T24
2 - XF210


"A system with a few knobs set up by someone who knows what they are doing is always better than one with a lot of knobs set up by someone who doesn't."

Bruce Weldy
Posts: 6394
Joined: Fri Nov 27, 2009 11:37 am
Location: New Braunfels, TX

Re: How to build Rack Panels and put together a rack

#10 Post by Bruce Weldy » Sat Feb 03, 2018 7:43 pm

You'll notice that I'm using install wire. There is no reason to use rubber-jacketed mic cable inside a rack - it is harder to work with, takes up too much room, and is hard to bundle. The wires inside the install cable is the same as mic cable. I'm using 22ga - same a all of my mic cables.

Now, if you don't have a good soldering station - get one. I messed around with stand-alone irons for years. And don't buy a cheap station - I tried. Bought a $30 one from a different manufacturer and it wouldn't get hot enough to solder up 12ga speaker cable. Took it back and got the Weller for $50. Never a problem - been using it for years now.
IMG_2236.JPG

6 - T39 4-25" 2-22" 3012LF
4 - OT12 2512 Melded/NSD2005
1 - T24
2 - XF210


"A system with a few knobs set up by someone who knows what they are doing is always better than one with a lot of knobs set up by someone who doesn't."

Bruce Weldy
Posts: 6394
Joined: Fri Nov 27, 2009 11:37 am
Location: New Braunfels, TX

Re: How to build Rack Panels and put together a rack

#11 Post by Bruce Weldy » Sat Feb 03, 2018 7:44 pm

This is what good solder joints should look like......
IMG_2239.JPG

6 - T39 4-25" 2-22" 3012LF
4 - OT12 2512 Melded/NSD2005
1 - T24
2 - XF210


"A system with a few knobs set up by someone who knows what they are doing is always better than one with a lot of knobs set up by someone who doesn't."

Bruce Weldy
Posts: 6394
Joined: Fri Nov 27, 2009 11:37 am
Location: New Braunfels, TX

Re: How to build Rack Panels and put together a rack

#12 Post by Bruce Weldy » Sat Feb 03, 2018 7:50 pm

Here's the finished back panel.

You'll notice the rubber-jacket cables on the far right. That is for connecting to an external mixer should they not use the rack mixer.
IMG_2237.JPG
IMG_2238.JPG
Jumpers are used to determine whether the external mixer or the rack mixer is being used.
IMG_2242.JPG
As soon as I get the mixer updated, it will be installed along with the rack drawers to finish this thing up.

More pics to come.

6 - T39 4-25" 2-22" 3012LF
4 - OT12 2512 Melded/NSD2005
1 - T24
2 - XF210


"A system with a few knobs set up by someone who knows what they are doing is always better than one with a lot of knobs set up by someone who doesn't."

User avatar
Tom Smit
Posts: 6529
Joined: Sat Jan 05, 2008 1:24 pm
Location: Sarnia, Ont. Canada

Re: How to build Rack Panels and put together a rack

#13 Post by Tom Smit » Sun Feb 04, 2018 1:13 am

Bruce Weldy wrote:
Sat Feb 03, 2018 6:50 pm
Tom Smit brought up rack panels in the thread a week or so ago and I had just ordered all the parts to build one, so I thought I'd document this build. So, here goes.
This is very timely, and a good thread. I remember that you had done up a write-up on a mixer rack that you had built a few years ago. Thanks.
Bruce Weldy wrote:
Sat Feb 03, 2018 7:38 pm
The monitor outputs on the Presounus are 1/4" TRS. I soldered up the ends first, then solder that to the Panel.

A quick note.....if you don't know which pin on and XLR goes to which part of a TRS connector, remember this:
Pin 1/Sleeve - is always the ground/shield/drain
Pin 2/Tip - T for two - T for tip
Pin 3/Ring - Three RING circus
Excellent memory hook!
TomS

himhimself
Posts: 130
Joined: Fri Nov 13, 2015 9:34 pm
Location: Bloomington IN

Re: How to build Rack Panels and put together a rack

#14 Post by himhimself » Sun Feb 04, 2018 5:07 pm

Thanks Bruce, especially for all the pictures along the way. Very helpful.
2xT30 (20", 3012lf)

byacey
Posts: 945
Joined: Thu Jun 14, 2012 9:09 am
Location: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Re: How to build Rack Panels and put together a rack

#15 Post by byacey » Sun Feb 04, 2018 9:15 pm

Good info. I use a straight edge as you do, but only long enough to mark the holes with a fine tip sharpie felt pen, and then I remove the connectors and center punch and drill to the center of all the felt pen marks. I also prefer mounting the connectors from the back side of the panel as it has a cleaner look and offers a little more room for labels.

You can buy pre-punched panels from Middle Atlantic that have knockouts. They can save a lot of time for those that don't want to purchase a punch.
https://www.middleatlantic.com/products ... uni-2.aspx
Built
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WH8s
SX212

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