Rio Reptiles
Rio Reptiles - A Rescue Resort



How to build baby rearing racks!


Now that I have had several emails asking for details on how to build my baby racks, I have decided to make a list of supplies and instructions on how to build them.


Material List:
6 - White Outdoor Spotlight Fixtures
3 - White Outdoor Spotlight Mounting Plates
3 - 8ft White Extension Cords
1 - Power Strip 6 Plug w/ 4ft Cord
3 - 2ft Walmart Fluorescent Fixtures
10 - 8ft 1x2 Deluxe Pine Boards (bring a measuring tape to make sure they are 96 3/8")
2ft - 1x4 Deluxe Pine
16 - #10 x 1.5" (recessed) or 2" (not recessed) Pan Head Machine Screw w/ Hex Nut
1.25" Finish Nails
Plastic Nail In Feet
1qt Water Based Polyurethane
Sand Paper
Wood Filler
Wood Glue
Butt Connectors
1/2" Pan head wood screws
For tools, you will need a saw, screw driver, T square, measuring tape, drill, bits, counter sink, hammer or finish nailer, wire cutter, wire crimper, electrical tape.
Vertical Upright Legs - "A & B" Using 2 of the 1x2s Cut each one so that 1 piece is 42" and the other is 54" so that you have 4 legs. Two shorter ones "A" make the front legs and two longer ones "B" make the back lets. Click the image below to enlarge.
Side Shelf Supports - "C & D"Using 1 of the 1x2s, cut it into 6 sections measuring 15 1/2" each "C". These will attach to the vertical legs on the insides to support the horizontal shelf pieces. You will also need 2 smaller ones for the top light bracket cut to 8.5" "D" .

Horizontal Shelves -"E" Using 4 of the 1x2s cut them into three 32" equal sized piece, these will make the horizontal shelf bottoms going across from side to side to hold the bins. The bottom, middle and top shelf will each need 3 pieces, and the top light bracket will need 2 pieces.

Side Braces - "F" Cut 4 pieces at 12.5" to fit horizontally between the insides of the vertical legs. These will make the side legs rigid if you use screws to attach them to the shelves. Wait until assembly to cut these so that you can make them fit perfectly, you will want them to be tight. There are two ways to make these depending on your tools and ability.
Vertical Supports - "G" Cut 2 pieces of 1x2 at 12" to make the front legs for the top light bar. Wait until later to cut these pieces if you want to make sure they are flush with the top bar.
Spotlight Plate Bases - These are made using a 5.5" piece of 1x4 that will fit in between the back two shelf slats, wait until you are installing the light slats so that they fit tightly.
Measuring - this is where you have to be very careful taking the actual size of the boards into account. A 1x2s actual measurements are 3/4" x 1.5", and you will want to make sure everything is accurate before drilling. I will try to take out as much of the guess work as possible for you.

Drilling - I like to take a scrap piece of 1x2 to make a jig for drilling the ends of the shelf supports, this way you only have to measure one time and it helps to keep your bit straight. If you drill a hole at the slightest angle, you will have problems with lining up and fitting where the screws go through to hold the shelves to the side legs.

Drilling Jig - Make a jig by using a 3 to 4 inch long piece of 1x2, and measure 3/4" in from the end, directly in the middle so that it is also 3/4" from each side. Very important, do this on both sides and then drill only half way from each side, to make sure the hole is straight through the middle. Now you have a pre measured jig to drill the ends of all the 15.5" shelf supports and to help you find the center easier for the side posts..
Now drill each of the 6 side shelf supports on each end with a hole going all the way through. If you drill half way from each side, your holes will be much straighter and line up better.

click picture to enlarge for measurements

Measuring the legs for holes
Next, measure the side legs from the BOTTOM and mark the first hole at 3.75" or 3 3/4" up from the bottom, this will be the hole for the first shelf support.

Then measuring up from the bottom again, make a mark for the second hole at 20", then check between the marks to make sure they are 16.25" or 16 1/4" apart.

For the third hole, measure up from the bottom at 36.25" or 36 1/4" so that it is exactly 16.25" up from the second hole.

On the back leg, the fourth hole is going to be 1.5" from the top so that the top back slat lays flush with the top of the leg. You can do this later to make sure everything lines up perfectly.

This is easy to do by laying all 4 boards evenly side by side, using a T square to line them up. Double check all your measurements and marks before drilling.

Now measure in from each side 3/4" to find the center of the board and make a + at each of the above measurements. If you have a small 6" ruler that is 3/4" wide, it makes this part a lot easier, if not, a good metal ruler works just fine. Now line all 4 legs up side by side and make sure all the hole marks line up with each other perfectly.

Drilling the holes in the legs

It is most important to get these holes drilled as straight as possible. I start by using a smaller drill bit to make pilot holes about 1/8" deep where each of the + are marked. This will give your bigger drill bit a more accurate place to start and lessen the chance of getting off center.

After drilling all the small pilot holes, I use the bigger drill bit to round out the hole a little bigger, then use the jig I made earlier to help guide the bit as I drill the actual hole. Again, it is better to drill from both sides if you want to take the extra time and make sure they are straight through.

dont pay attention to the exra holes, i built this rack to be adjustable so we could take it to shows.

Once all the holes are drilled, make sure the screws slide through them, then sand the outer sides of the board where any extra flass is hanging from the holes. If you prefer to recess the screws, now is the time to get your counter sink and drill the recesses for the screw heads on the outsides of the boards.

Sand all the boards smooth when you are finished drilling
Side shelf supports drilled and ready to attach
Assembling the sides - now that all the holes are drilled in the side posts and shelf supports, you are ready to assemble the sides of the rack. Put the screws in from the outside and attach the three shelf support pieces to each side, then nut the screw and tighten enough to hold in everything in place. Now using a wood square, make sure the boards are all square and then tighten the nuts a little more.

your legs should be two different lengths, I built the top seperately on this rack and attached it later

Diagram of the rack sides on the inside

Now that you have both sides assembled and square, prop them upright with something so they can stand next to each other approximately 32" apart. Now you will be ready to attach the horizontal shelf pieces. Make sure you are on level ground when you do this.
This is the easy part, you just need to find the center for the center board and mark it for later. Using the 32" shelf bottom boards, line the front and back ones up. I prefer to start with the middle shelf, this way it is easier to hold everything together and you have a better chance of having everything lined up. This is also where a finish nailer really comes in handy, hand nailing will be a bit more difficult and you may need to clamp the sides to hold them in place better.
I use a small dab of wood glue at each end where the board is going to sit on top of the side support. Then I place the board in place and nail it with one nail at each end. Do this with the front and back boards, then wipe up any glue that has squeezed out from between the wood. Make sure everything is square and make any adjustments if necessary.
Now do the same thing at the top shelf, gluing and nailing the front and back pieces with one nail, then again at the bottom shelf. Check to see if everything is square and straight, then nail all the boards down with two to four nails to permanently secure in place. You can fill and sand the nail holes to make it look really nice if you plan on finishing it.
So now you should have a half way done empty skeleton of a rack, yay! This is when I measure the space between the side posts and cut the braces to square up the sides. The top one will make a base for the top lights front leg and the other goes part way up from the bottom. This will keep the sides straight and stiff so they cannot swing on the screws, and give the top light bracket a base for the front leg to sit on.

Carefully measure the space between the front and back legs, it should be approximately 12.5", but it could be a 1/16th off either way and you want these pieces to fit tightly. If you don't have a finish nailer, you may want to buy some small 90º or flat metal brackets to help secure them in place. The top one should line up horizontally with the top of the front legs and the bottom one can be anywhere 6" to 8" up from the bottom.
Now you should have the sides assembled, the front and back shelf bottoms only for the bottom middle and top shelf. We still have to make all the light brackets and attach them.
Light Fixture Brackets
Using three of the 32" boards, measure your clearance using a bin to see how low the flourescent light fixture can be mounted. I like them to be almost touching the bin so they are low as possible. We can also attach reflectors to increase the uvb provided from the lights.
Cut 6 pieces of 1x2 at 1.5" long and mount them to the bottom of the slats where the screws will be inserted to mount the fluorescent light fixtues. Glue and nail them in from the top side of the board. Insert the screws to make sure the light fixture will mount properly before installing. You can do this ahead of time so that the glue is dry and stong.
If you want to mount reflectors, you can cut these with angles on each end like the picture and then mount to the underside of the middle slats.
Before you attach the middle slat, cut the 1x4 "H" for the basking light plate at 5.5" You want it to fit super tight between the middle and back slats, so its best to do it all at the same time.
Put a dab of glue on each end of the middle slat where it is going to be nailed to the side supports, then put one nail in each end checking to see that the 1x4 base for the plate is going to fit tightly. If it squeezes it and stays there, go ahead and nail the slat down for good. Then put glue on each end of the 1x4 piece and push it between the boards. If you have a nail gun,you can angle in a couple nails to hold it in place. Before installing the 1x4, you can drill pilot holes where the plate will be mounted if so that your lights can be installed easily.
Do this with the middle and top shelf, the bottom shelf will not have a light under it so you can nail the middle board down whenever you like.
Top light bar support
Now gather the 2 8.5" side supports "D" and the 12" top front leg "G". Insert a screw into the tall back leg "B" through the back hole of the 8.5" board "D" and one through the 12" board "G" into the front hole of "D", do this on both sides and nut the insides of the screws so they stand up freely.
Where the 12" front leg comes down and meets the side brace, put some glue there and tack nail it in place or use a metal bracket to hold them together.
Using the last 32" board "E", line it up between the tall back legs and put glue on each end where it will rest on top of the top 8.5" horizontal support and nail in place.
Now you should have one 5.5" 1x4 light plate base pieces and one flourescent light mounting board left. Remember to make sure the 1x4 piece fits tightly between the back and light bar slat before glueing nailing it in place. Then cover each end of the 1x4 in glue and squeeze it between the two slats.

Now you are basically done other than finishing and installing the lights and wiring.

See wiring tutorial here

Fill all the nail holes with wood filler and sand all the surfaces until they are smooth. Wipe with mineral spirits or a tack cloth and finish with water based polyurethan or the finish of your choice. When it is dry, nail in some small plastic slider feet and mount your light fixtures.

If you want to make a small mount for your powerstriip, cut a piece of 1x2 about " or 2.5" long. Drill a hole through the side support of the middle shelf and screw it on from the inside. Make sure you put your screws in for the power strip first so you know it will fit.


Mount your lights, route your wires, and plug them in.

Secure wires using plastic wire or coax clips available in the electrical section
There are lots of variations that can be done with this design, like you don't have to screw the sides to the shelves if you don't plan on taking it apart or the front legs can be 38". If you are limited on tools, there are other ways to cut pieces and assemble the rack that will make it easier. Now that you have the basic idea, you can customize as needed, just don't cut all the pieces ahead of time and let your creative imagination take you where you need to go.


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