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Gear Cabinet Project

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I love modular things, which might explain why the SLR camera system became so attractive to me exactly 20 years ago. If I buy something and it can be accessorised I tend to go a bit nuts and of course get as many of the accessories as I can. As far as my photography gear addiction goes that became a very serious problem at one point in the early 00's. I bought way too much gear. In the past few years though I have managed to reign it in and sold off a lot of the stuff I accumulated, but I still have a fairly decent amount of gear that I need to accommodate.


So I was looking to get a cabinet or something that I could store my camera gear in and easily access it when needed. I don't like the idea of shelves on a wall to hold my gear, because they have a tendency to collect dust and also if your gear is elevated and you have a bad case of dropsy it won't survive a fall. When I first got the idea I was looking at getting some of those Ikea-like TV cabinets that look a bit industrial. We don't have Ikea in South Africa, but there are some knock-offs available. I looked at this one in particular and came very close to buying it, but then I also saw on Facebook Marketplace that somebody who lives very close to me was selling a 16U server cabinet with a tempered glass door. I went to have a look, liked it and made an offer there and then. The seller accepted and I had it back at home a short while later. 




What's really cool about server cabinets is that they are completely modular. On this one the doors and sides clip off easily and you can insert purpose made shelves into the standard size cage using "cage nuts". My cabinet is quite deep at about 700mm and it stands exactly 900mm tall, which made it a perfect height to act as one support for my makeshift standing desk, the other being a wooden trestle I have had for years. I bought two 700mm shelves for the cabinet from a local supplier and while I had a bit of a problem getting them to fit the standard width (so much for modularity, eh), I got around this by cutting a few wooden shims that I could use to fill the gaps that these shelves had. 




The cabinet also came with a pair of sliding rails that were originally made for sliding out servers. Each rail has 4 screw holes where whatever they supported would be able to slot into them easily enough. I thought it would be really nice to have a deep drawer that I could slide out and keep all my lenses and camera gear in. The problem though was that it would be very difficult to build a drawer to the exact specification of where those holes are and then get them to line up on the rails. 1mm out and the whole thing wouldn't be able to open and close. So I had another idea. I bought a piece of 20x20mm pine and cut two rail extensions to the right length, then using some appropriate sized screws I managed to fit them on and the rails still opened and closed. Hooray! Now I could make a drawer and secure it to the wooden rail extensions. 


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I was having a conversation with one of my website clients who also happens to be a cabinet maker and he said he would be able to make up the drawer for me, no problem. However, while I was waiting for him to make this up (he's a busy guy), I also ordered my first powered saw because I could see myself getting into this woodworking stuff a bit deeper. Then one day when I was out doing my regular photography work I came home to this sight. The tempered glass cabinet door had pretty much exploded into a million pieces all by itself. Crikey! I have no idea how that happened, except to say that this now presented me with a bit of a problem. How was I going to make a fancy looking cabinet without a glass door? I was pretty dejected, considering how much time I had devoted to re-purposing this old server cabinet. 


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My friend finished the drawer part of the project and I picked it up on the weekend. I then had to figure out how I was going to secure it to the wooden rails. Hmmm. Not as easy as I had hoped because the drawer had been made with an inset bottom using thinner plywood. I had intended screwing it onto the rails from above, but obviously that wasn't going to work, so I had to lay the cabinet on its back and secure the drawer by driving screws in from below. The problem is that those rails when extended fully don't like to sit straight, they tend to bow inwards slightly, so this became a very tricky thing to get right. Get the measurement wrong and you won't be able to close the drawer. Anyway, long story short, I managed to secure the drawer and it slid in and out perfectly. Phew! 


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The job wasn't done yet. I still needed to make a fascia board for the front of it and find an alternative door. My circular saw arrived and I got myself some reclaimed plywood from a local supplier (no point in getting good stuff for your first project). Cutting the fascia was easy, but finishing it wasn't. These boards were full of holes from crate screws, motifs and other wording stencilled onto them, etc. I filled the holes, sanded it all down, painted it with my new favourite paint (Rustoleum Flat Black), screwed it onto the front of the drawer, added a pull tab handle and Bazinga! 


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I have decided to use the rear door for the front in the interim while I try to find a supplier who can replace the shattered glass for the front door. I'm thinking though that a perspex front would be much better. Imagine if the glass had shattered while all my lenses were inside...






One of the things I wanted to do was keep the lenses in this drawer with a light constantly on so that no fungus will be able to survive in there, but the problem is that now that I don't have a back door, dust ingress is a real issue so I can't leave the lenses with their caps off until I tackle that problem. What I might do if I get a perspex front door is also have a lid made for the drawer. That way no dust will get in and the light will still reach the lenses. 


So that's my gear cabinet. The other shelves I am currently storing my most used camera bags on, but I will have to re-order the shelves and put the drawer at the top because that's where the light is and the bags block it completely. Good thing it's all modular! 

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