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Build a DIY Lab Frame for $20

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As promised, here are our DIY instructions for building a Lab Frame. When we first started collecting glass for our lab, we realized we needed some way to support our distillation train and other set-ups. A quick search online resulted in many expensive and inexpensive options ranging from thousands of $ to a guy who said he drills a screw through the back of a wooden chair to support his clamps.

The dimensions you want your frame to be will determine the size of materials you will need. Also depending on how much strength you need your frame to have, you may want to use metal pipes instead of PVC. PVC works fine for what we use this for plus it is easy to cut. We also used pre-cut wood so we didn't have to pull out the power saw and because we found a couple of cool looking pieces pretty cheap. All materials can be found at Lowes or other hardware store.

Our Materials:
2- 3'X1'X3/4" Wood Boards
6- 3'X1/4" Threaded Rods and 12 matching long nuts
1- 12' of 3/4" PVC
4- 90˚ 3/4" PVC Elbows

Our Tools:
Hand saw (for PVC)
Wood Glue (optional)

Screw two inch boards together for a sturdy base. We purchased two pieces that were pre-cut 1'X3' and rubbed them down with Flax Oil. Gives it a nice look and provides a bit of protection.

Next, Drill 3 holes evenly across the center of the board. We did ours 15” apart, starting 3 inches in from the edge. This puts the holes at: 3” in, 18”(center), and 33”(or 3 inches from the other edge). Make the holes big enough for some long nuts to fit snugly inside. Drive the nuts with a hammer in the wood as if they were dowels. You can add a small amount of glue to help keep them in place.

Then cut your PVC pipe into four 33 1/2" pieces. With the elbows on each side it will come out to about 35 , which just about spans the entire board ( space on each side). The reason for this is because the rods we are using are 36”, and we need some thread exposed to screw onto.

Now we are going to drill 3 holes through each pipe. We want these spaced the same as our nuts in the board so the rods can slide through them and thread into the nuts. So that would come out to about 1 3/4” in for the first hole, and the rest 15” apart. (we actually spaced ours 2 inches from the edge and 16” apart, but found out that the rods got in the way of elbows. We made it work, but that's why my outer edge holes are so close to the edge. You can space it however you would like).

Grab your 3 foot rods with threads and nuts. We used 6 rods and 12 nuts; you can use more if you want, for every additional rod add 2 nuts. The rods will screw into the nuts in the wood vertically, and also slide through the PVC horizontally.


Screw the three vertical rods into the nuts in the wood, through the PVC pipe(top and bottom pipe). Screw some nuts on top too.

Put the PVC pipe together, and slide the horizontal rods through the PVC. Puts some nuts on the end to keep everything tight.

Here is a picture of our frame in use.

This was our first try and though it is functional there a few things we will probably change for our next frame. For example, our base is 1'X3'; This is fine as far as stability goes but it creates an awkward situation for our hot plate. The back feet stand on the wood but the front feet do not. We put a few 4"x 4" tiles under the front feet as a rigged solution. Also we only attach clamps only to the vertical bars. We have 3 but you can add as many as you need. The horizontal bars are more for stability and we noticed the clamps don't screw down well on the vertical threading of the horizontal bars.

This is just one way to do it. We hope this is helpful to anyone looking to build their own lab support frame. Let us know if you have any questions, suggestions for our next version, or need any clarifications.

Good Luck!

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Updated 10-30-2013 at 09:51 PM by Dr.Zoidberg

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