DIY Project Using Aluminum Extrusions

Despite being available for around thirty years, structural aluminum extrusions have only recently been gaining widespread popularity. The main draw to using these shapes is the easy customization and connectivity that the system offers. Joining various shapes and configurations usually only requires simple drilling, tapping, and/ or bolts. Because of the large number of sizes and shapes that are available, aluminum extrusions are coveted by hobbyists and do-it-yourself tinkers who need to create a custom structure without spending a large amount of money on fabrication. The assembly process also lends itself to reworking the design while in the building phase, something that is radically more difficult when dealing with other options such as welding or machining.

If you are new to the structural aluminum extrusion scene, or you just want an easy project to get your feet wet, we are providing plans for a do-it-yourself project. We will be building a dual-rack outdoor towel holder, something that you can put next to your hot tub or pool that will be sturdy and weather proof (see the picture below). The dimensions are 1080 mm wide, 600 mm deep, and 1180 mm high. All of the parts used in the towel holder are available from MISUMI, and in a variety of configurations. For instance, we chose a 40 mm by 40 mm square extrusion size, but you can use something larger or smaller as you see fit. Also, there are a number of joining mechanisms available, including the corner brackets we used: blind brackets, gussets, or plate brackets to name a few. The main benefit to using the blind style of joints is that the hardware is hidden from view and presents a cleaner look to the finished product. However, they are usually more difficult to install and more expensive, so it’s a decision that you have to make for your application.

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Dual rack outdoor towel holder

As you can see from the picture, the towel holder is pretty basic. However, the great thing about aluminum extrusions is that you can add or modify the components at will, creating your own custom version of the project. For simplicity, we used the same components as much as possible. For instance, the cross bracing and the shorter rack verticals are the same length (1000 mm). Again, you could modify the design to make the second rack the same size as the first, thereby making even more of the components the same. Here is a bill of material for the project, complete with model numbers from MISUMI:

Number Name Quantity Model Number Description
1 Leg 1 HFS8-4040-600 8 Series, Base 40, Four-side slots, 600 mm
2 Rail 5 HFS8-4040-1000 8 Series, Base 40, Four-side slots, 1000 mm
3 Long rail 2 HFS8-4040-1100 8 Series, Base 40, Four-side slots, 1100 mm
4 Corner 4 HBLCS8-B 8 Series, 2-way bracket with cap
5 Cap 4 HFC8-4040-B 8 Series, Frame end cap
6 Bracket 6 HBLFSNT9-C-SST 8 Series, Base 40, Bracket with cap
6 T Nut 12 HNTTSN8-8 8 Series, Fitting nut, 8 mm length
6 Screw 12 SCB8-20 Socket head cap screw, 8×20

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Since the project was intended to be an outdoor rack, stainless steel brackets and hardware were specified. We also included covers for the end caps and brackets for a nice, finished look. Again, we tried to use the same components multiple times, but if you want to change dimensions of your holder, simply order a different length of extrusion. If you are capable, you can also order a long length of extrusion and cut pieces to length yourself. Depending on how much abuse your towel holders traditionally get, you may want to add some additional brackets on the rails and legs for added support. Another easy modification is to add a short piece of extrusion in between the vertical rails on each side for some more rigidity.

Assembly is relatively straightforward. We are using pre-assembly T-nuts, so you will need to slide the required number of T-nuts into the grooves from the end before installing anything. For instance, find the two 600 mm bars (Number 1) and slide two nuts into the top groove, and one into the inside side groove. Then get one of the 1000 mm bars (Number 2) and slide a nut into each side groove. Then, using a bracket (Number 6) and two screws per bracket, loosely attach the bracket to the leg and to the rail. Your completed assembly should look like an “H” laying flat. Taking care to measure that the rails are in the center of the legs, tighten the screws. Repeat the process for the four vertical rails (two 1000 mm rails in the front (Number 2), two 1100 mm rails in the back (Number 3)). We spaced our vertical rails about 200 mm apart, but you can pick whatever dimension looks the best for you- just make sure to make the left and right sides are the same.

The only thing left to do is to connect the horizontal towel holders at the top of the four vertical rails using the corners (Number 4). The corners attach to the extrusions with the included M12 bolt, requiring the hole in the center of the extrusion to be tapped. You can either tap the hole yourself, or specify “-LTP” for a single end tap or “-TPW” for both ends tapped when ordering (the horizontal rails would need both ends tapped, the verticals only one end). After all the screws are tightened, you can install the caps on the corners, brackets, and the end caps (Number 5).

Congratulations, your structural aluminum extrusion towel holder is now complete! Hopefully you found the experience rewarding and learned a lot about how extrusions can be used for everyday projects. Remember, there are an almost endless number of configurations and options available for extrusion projects. Check out our website or inCAD Application Library for ideas or contact MISUMI Engineering with any questions at engineering@misumiusa.com.

Images:

https://i.warosu.org/data/diy/img/0006/70/1405832153529.png

 

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