After the basic Elements, the single most-used accessory in my gym is the plate rack. Four days a week, the plates come out of the rack, get loaded on the bar, and get returned to the rack; sometimes multiple times in a single session.
I’d seen a few examples of DIY plate racks online, and decided I liked PVC the best. PVC is one of the most versatile and easy to work with materials, and it’s widely available at very low prices.
The design is quite simple, but requires a lot of cutting. I used a hand saw the first time I built a set of plate racks, and a miter saw the second time. Obviously the miter saw is faster, but I want you to know that it can be done with just hand tools. Remember to use all of the appropriate protective gear.
I used ¾” Schedule 40 PVC pipe and fittings. When I first built the plate racks, I was fairly certain I’d end up with broken pieces of PVC, or at least cracks over time. I’ve been using these racks for nearly two years, and there are still no cracks or breaks.
There are only two basic components in the plate rack: ends and dividers. The ends, two per plate rack, should be 8 ½” pieces of pipe with an elbow (90 degree fitting) on each side. On both sides, like book-ends, and in between each plate will be a divider. Each divider should be two 5 ¾” pieces of pipe with an elbow in between, and a Tee on each end. The ends join the dividers at the Tees, and each divider joins the next at the Tees. Each of those connections is performed by cutting a joint of pipe to mate with the Tees (for the dividers) and the elbows (for the ends).
The first time I built the PVC Plate Racks, I only added space where the wider plates would go. In my case, that meant the 25 lbs and 45 lbs bumper plates. All of the others were left loose, as the gap between two Tees is 1 ¾”, which is wider than my 10 lbs bumper and all of my iron plates. There was a bit of wiggle room, but no real drawback to leaving the looser spacing.
The second time around, I cut the Tees down to make a tighter fit. I did this mainly for cosmetic reasons, but I find it to be a little nicer when retrieving the iron plates. Less wiggle room correlates with a reduced risk of pinching my fingers when retrieving or replacing the plates.
If you decide to go with the tighter fit, measure the thickness of the plate, then compare that to the 1 ¾” gap of two joining Tees. To maximize the strength of the joint, I removed equal amounts of material from both Tees, rather than simply cutting the extra material from one Tee and leaving the other alone. The bumper plates required a bit of test-fitting and adjusting, while the iron plates were fairly direct.
As an added touch, I primed and painted my racks to match the rest of the gear in my gym. Be sure to select primer and paint that’s intended for use on plastics.
Take a minute to count up how many plates you need to store, and factor that out into the appropriate length of PVC pipe and the correct number of elbows and Tees. Head out to your local hardware store and get to work!