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Edit: See my answer below for the solution I eventually used.

I bought a poor-quality clothing rack made out of metal tubing. Due to a design or manufacturing flaw, it sways badly from side to side. I want to fix it by adding a simple diagonal brace between the vertical bars and the horizontal base bars. Here's a simple illustration (the real brace should probably be longer and attach further out):

enter image description here

I'm not much of a DIY'er and I have a basic set of tools but no metalworking tools. My best idea was to try to find some metal tubing, flatten the ends, bend them with a vice/pliers to 45 degree angles, drill holes through the flattened end of the brace and into the clothing rack bars, and fasten the brace into the bar with a screw.

enter image description here

I browsed a hardware store and couldn't find anything like the above, and all the metal tubing / pipe I could find (in plumbing, etc.) is much too thick to be easily shaped/drilled like that.

Any suggestions on what I might look for, or other simple and creative ways to make a brace?

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Why not use steel strap?

steel strap

You can round and smooth the ends, and bend them up to bolt through the upright and horizontal supports.

These straps do not have the compression (push) strength of tubing, but if used on all four bottom corners, their tension (pull) strength should prevent the racking that you are trying to cure.

The illustrated piece is 12" but you should be able to find longer pieces. They could be painted black or silver if the bare metal is too rustic.

Images and links are illustrative only, not an endorsement of goods or sources.

  • It appears from the line on the photo that the tubes will need to have compression reinforcement. – fred_dot_u Feb 17 '17 at 22:42
  • @fred_dot_u Yes and no. The compression forces on one side are balanced by the tension forces on the opposite side. If you maintain a 90 degree angle on the side away from the racking force, you maintain the same angle on the side the racking force is being applied. It would be better if you had both compression AND tension reinforcement, but just one will probably suffice in this case, especially if it is done on all four bottom corners. When they are stressed, two corners (the tension corners) are resisting the racking force. – bib Feb 17 '17 at 22:49
  • Again, based on the photo, there is no opposite tension location. It is likely that the two tubes heading to the bottom of the photo connect/are part of the mirror image of what is shown with the casters. If the lack of strength was in the horizontal plane and the braces were attached to the tubes running parallel to the floor, your assessment is accurate. In order to secure this rack in tension, it would be necessary to add braces to the top of the rack, which would require a rectangular structure to match the bottom. – fred_dot_u Feb 18 '17 at 0:01
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Your original idea has strength, both literally and figuratively. As you've noted, you have trouble finding a local source, which makes your choice a bit more challenging. You can use ordinary EMT - Electrical Metallic Tubing, commonly used for conduit runs enclosing house wiring. Even 3/4" diameter will have sufficient strength for your purpose, and you can go larger for greater confidence.

Expect the edges of the flattened sections to crack when you squeeze them in a vise. The bends will be 135 degrees, not particularly excessive in this application. You can "step-flatten" the tubing by starting the compression some distance back from the end, turn the vise a few cranks, then pull it out and flatten the next segment a bit nearer the end, until you get the last inch to inch and a half to flatten completely.

Alternatively, you can use any tubing/pipe you can find and create gussets at the intersection. A gusset is usually a flat triangle of material, in your case probably sheet steel, placed along the side of the two pieces to be reinforced and riveted in place. If you have one inch tubing, a four to six inch gusset will be quite strong. Space the rivets about an inch apart, no closer.

Due to the offset between the horizontal and vertical components, you'd want to attach one gusset on the inside of the top portion of the additional tube and to the outside of the bottom portion. If you use the flattened ends method, keeping the flat parts to one side of the tube with a similar orientation should provide a bit more stability.

Another thought appeared in my alleged mind regarding material after searching for some representative images. One can use, for example, a 1"x2" piece of hardwood, such as poplar to accomplish your objective. You would not need a gusset in that case, but here's a picture anyway:

Gusset installed

The web site from which the above photo originated provides additional guidelines for creating gussets, most of which would apply only to wood usage: Railway Bob's Building Tips

If a piece of wood alone does not provide the desired strength, you could yet add a set of gussets cut from 1/4" plywood and have a seriously strong brace.

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Thanks for all the suggestions. I ended up with a very simple and seemingly effective solution:

enter image description here

The horizontal and vertical frames are joined by a collar that snaps together with a spring button (just left of the part I circled). I think that button was supposed to prevent the collar from rotating, but as you can see the cutout is much too big for that. So I just drilled new 3/16" holes (circled) through the collars at each corner, and dropped in a pin ($0.23/ea. at the hardware store). The pin takes the shearing force and prevents the swaying nicely. They can also easily be removed to take the rack apart if it needs to be transported.

Thanks again!

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