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Aluminum vs. Steel Rack Drawers


saadasound
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I recommend reinforcing the weight at the the back of aluminum drawers if possible. Not so much for standard use and stowage, but for the time bouncing around on the back of the truck.

I've had experience in the past with the aluminum rack ears allowing the drawers to sag and deform over time. I now have just my lower drawer strapped to the rear of my cart in addition to the front rails, and this one drawer supports the drawers above it just fine. I hope that was clear.

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I tested an 18” x 4U PENN-Elcom steel drawer till destruction with it all the way open. Took about 150 lbs. of static load before failure. I didn’t have the rear of it attached yet, but it was the drawer glide that failed on these drawers so did not matter. These glides are strangely designed in a way that unnecessarily reduces their strength right where the three rivets attach them to the sides of the outer shell. Drawer was only rated for 75# And I assume that is a static load rating. if you solve the problem that causes these glides to be the weak link I too suspect that having the rear of these drawers attached would increase their strength.
 

I have some of their 4U aluminum drawers on order. They don't stock them and unless you want to pay for air freight they are special order and take 3 months as they must get a full container of stuff ready first and send across by boat from the UK to LA. 
 

They sell some stand alone heavy duty 18” glides rated at 130#s. I assume that rating is also a static load rating . I don’t know if you can special order their drawers, steel or aluminum, with these heavier duty glides already installed or not but you could always Grind the rivets off of their drawer glides, remove them and Rivet on some of your own or their heavier duty ones if they won’t install them for you when they make it. They make a small bracket for attaching the rear of the drawers to a back set of rack rail but you can make your own thing for that too. I’m sure their bracket is adjustable for varying depths of frame which of course will make it a little heavier and a lot longer which you may not need or want.

 

When I receive them in a month or two I may static test one of the aluminum drawers to failure since I plan on replacing the glides anyway And if there is interest I will post the results here. My static test may involve a little movement of the cart but since I can’t measure G forces there’s no point in doing a real dynamic test.

On 10/21/2020 at 11:36 AM, saadasound said:

I'm looking to build a rack case for my follow cart on an upcoming show and wondering if anyone would have anything bad to say about aluminum drawers? I know they will save me on weight, but do the hold up to heavy use like steel drawers do?

Which brand and size were you planning on using and what load are they rated at may I ask?

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I have a couple penn elcom steel drawers and I’m not impressed with them at all. Glides seem cheap, are poorly aligned and come off track occasionally. Overall build quality just seems low. I contacted them to see what they might offer for help and basically the answer was nothing since I was out of warranty even though they discontinued the model I have probably because of flaws. 
 

I have them in a rack with a Rackman brand drawer that is much nicer and the two brands do not play nicely and rub against each other making them both hard to open. Really too bad that Rackman went under. 
 

In the future I’ll probably try middle Atlantic or maybe Starcase since they’re relatively close and I could go pickup an order. 
 

Anyone used the Starcase aluminum drawers recently that can comment on build quality?

On the other hand I have a sliding shelf from Penn Elcom that I actually do like and seems nicer than the drawers so maybe they just have a range of quality to sort through. 
 

I do like that they offer their drawers with many options of depth and also have a “touring grade” drawer that I think comes with rear rail supports or is compatible with supports. 

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On 10/24/2020 at 10:24 AM, Derek H said:

I have a couple penn elcom steel drawers and I’m not impressed with them at all. Glides seem cheap, are poorly aligned and come off track occasionally. Overall build quality just seems low. I contacted them to see what they might offer for help and basically the answer was nothing since I was out of warranty even though they discontinued the model I have probably because of flaws. 
 

I have them in a rack with a Rackman brand drawer that is much nicer and the two brands do not play nicely and rub against each other making them both hard to open. Really too bad that Rackman went under. 
 

In the future I’ll probably try middle Atlantic or maybe Starcase since they’re relatively close and I could go pickup an order. 
 

Anyone used the Starcase aluminum drawers recently that can comment on build quality?

On the other hand I have a sliding shelf from Penn Elcom that I actually do like and seems nicer than the drawers so maybe they just have a range of quality to sort through. 
 

I do like that they offer their drawers with many options of depth and also have a “touring grade” drawer that I think comes with rear rail supports or is compatible with supports. 

I can’t speak to any previous, discontinued models, but if weight was of no concern to me I too might consider other brands than PENN Elcom. I have installed two of their 18” inch PENN-Elcom 4U drawers in the last two months from different orders a month or so apart and found no flaws in the alignment or construction. Same with three or four of their laptop drawers several months ago and their sliding shelf which seems limited on payload ability but how heavy can the average mixer be, but their shelves seem well made and string relative to their weight.

 

 The glides they probably buy from someone else and they were quite responsive when I told them the glides have a design flaw that prevents them from being as strong as they could easily be, but the 4u drawer easily held the weight it was rated for, 75lbs, while glides were fully extended. I simply tested it till destruction on purpose and that was 150lbs on unlevel ground fully extended so the load was probably way more than half that on the downhill glide that failed.

 

As for their service,  frankly during Covid 19 I have been greatly disappointed by the level of service that most companies I interact with are giving as they are using COVID-19 as an excuse but whenever I call my contact at penn elcom he almost always answers the phone himself immediately and is very attentive and follows through on promises pretty well. He asked me to send him photographs of the failed glide and said he would forward them to the engineering department along with my recommendation as to how they can improve them. And of course in order to compare apples with oranges one has to take into consideration the weight of the drawer as well and I have found that PENN Elcom is good about having products that don’t weigh a lot relative to their strength. I ordered some other brands of steel Rackmount shelves through Amazon that were way way way too heavy so I sent them back. If I do find any other weak points in their steel drawer design after I get some beefier drawer glides I’m fairly certain I can cheaply and easily eliminate that by tastefully reinforcing it if and where necessary. They were even willing, with the relatively inexpensive Uncharge of 30%, modify some of their products for me with a relatively modest order quantity in my opinion But at this point I haven’t decided if I’m going to take them up on that.

 

I am looking forward to the arrival of the six special ordered 4u 18” aluminum drawers that I ordered so I can perhaps test one of them till failure. I was especially happy that they offer their drawers in the 18 inch deep size, Unlike many other manufacturers. Obviously the deeper The Drawer the more stress on the glides when you open it fully, under load.

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Thanks to everyone for their advice! I ended up going with a bunch of penn elcomm drawers. They were extremely helpful on the phone and were able to get all the drawers to me in 2 days with free shipping! I'll be building the cart on Monday, so we shall see how it all turns out. I'll be adding some rear supports for sure. I ended up going with 14" deep drawers since I don't need the 18", so gotta figure out how to support them.

 

Info and photos to come!

 

Steve

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On 10/21/2020 at 4:07 PM, codyman said:

I don't see why not unless maybe you really heavily overloaded them?  I wouldn't lose sleep over it especially if you end up throwing on a rack cover face every night after wrap anyways to protect them while in transit.

May I ask what kind of rack cover face are you referring too?

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  • 5 months later...
On 10/21/2020 at 11:36 AM, saadasound said:

I'm looking to build a rack case for my follow cart on an upcoming show and wondering if anyone would have anything bad to say about aluminum drawers? I know they will save me on weight, but do the hold up to heavy use like steel drawers do?

I finally received my Penn Elcom 4U aluminum drawer that is 18 inches deep from England about three weeks ago. Due to the fact that they have to wait until they Get a full container going to whatever port you want them shipped to it took like five months to get it. I ordered a total of six but to save money I let them ship the other five to the LA port. I still have not received those five due to the back ups at the ports which must be really bad in LA But I understand they should be shipping to me in San Francisco fairly soon.

 

I am very pleased with the aluminum one that I got and I have put a lot of heavy items in it with no problems. It has the same drawer glides as their steel version and is identical in every way except for the fact that it’s made out of aluminum sheet which is a little thicker than the steel sheet. If you want to put extremely heavy objects in it you can always swap out the drawer glides fairly easily I assume

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