How a Simple DIY Project Built Bridges in Isolation

There comes a time in a man’s life when he believes he can build anything with his own damn hands. Arm him with a hammer and a saw, and the world is his oyster. 

Well, maybe not every man, but that was certainly how I felt during Covid.

I was laid off for a couple of weeks because restaurants were forced to shut down, and I thought, hey, this would be a perfect time to work on my meat wagon. But gyms were also closed. God damn you, Covid.

What would the next best thing be? Why, a home gym of course!  But inflation was also a thing making power racks upwards of $500 or more. Weights were in the same boat. 

Realizing this, my inner caveman took over. He spoke these wise words, “We build rack of wood. This easy.” Ok, inner cavemen, you realize who you’re talking to, right? You’ve seen my birdhouse skills. Ain’t no way I’m gonna be able to build a power rack out of wood, you psycho. 

Mr. Cavemen responded with, “Shut face. Now build.”

Well, no arguing with that. 

I did some digging and stumbled upon this video made by the Buff Dudes. Entertaining in its own right, the video arms you with everything you need to build a power rack, supply list and all. After watching it damn near 6 times over, I felt as confident as can be. 

It was time to build.

But first, I grabbed my Grandpa’s truck and sped on over to the local Home Depot. Here’s the list I was working with: 

A shopping list of my power rack materials

Looking at the list, shit, I didn’t know what I was reading. I couldn’t tell you what the hell a tri-fluted bit looked like, and I sure as shit didn’t know who the hell Simpson was. Turns out Simpson is a Home Depot brand. Duh.

Not having gone in this store all but 4 or 5 times in my entire life, I wandered around aimlessly trying to decipher the materials that I needed. Here I was, pushing around this giant ass cart like a clown trying to fit the 8 8ft 4x4s, the ¾ inch metal piping, and everything else on the list. I was probably in the store for 3 hours in total just trying to round up this material list. 

One material that gave me the biggest brain fart was the Simpson’s Strong Tie TP 5. When I finally found this little multi-holed metal bastard, Home Depot was apparently out of stock that day. So, being that dramatic is my middle name, I went into a big panic. Should I get the smaller size or the bigger size? Does the size compromise the structure in any way? AM I GOING TO DIE IF I PICK THE WRONG ONE?!

I ended up getting the bigger size because yolo, I guess. And I didn’t want to be seen having a mental breakdown in the back of Home Depot. No one wants to see that. 

Finally, after picking out the last 4×4 and inspecting it thoroughly like I knew what the hell I was doing, I rolled my ass over to the self-checkout and headed on home. 

This is where the real fun began.  

The Construction Effort

Hauling everything down into my basement, the future home of this luxurious power rack, I realized these 8ft 4x4s were a little too tall. I needed to cut 4 of them down to 78 inches, a whole foot and a half had to go. Son of a bitch.

Well, I had a few choices here: I could use a hand saw like a real Neanderthal, a circular saw, or a miter saw (you know, that big ass saw that is mounted on a table). 

Look at me, learning names of saws and shit. 

I chose the miter saw only because my good ol’ buddy, Eric, has a big ass workshop where he builds custom cabinets and all other sorts of wood-related stuff. He was a gracious man and let me use some of his tools. 

Bless your heart, Eric. 

Do him a solid and check out some of the cool shit he’s built

Feeling like an absolute wood ninja, I cut all my 4x4s into the, mostly correct, lengths. I can’t say for certain that every piece was dead nuts, but I gave it my best effort. 

I finished chopping the leftover wood into the 45-degree angles that would act as the braces for the frame. A huge reason for going with the miter saw here was I didn’t have to do a lot of the manual measuring. If you know me, I am god awful with measurements. The almighty power that is certainly didn’t bless me with that skill. 

Now, while I was being my woody ninja self, I may have misaligned the miter saw just a smidge and gouged out a tiny bit of the saw frame. Sorry about that, Eric.

A little gouging aside, the chopping was all done. I brought all the semi-perfectly cut wood back to my cold and unwelcoming basement. 

Splendid work, me. What’s next?

It was time to put on my Drill Bit Taylor hat. I took the ol’ tri-fluted bit and start drilling the holes where the bar mounts and safety bars would go. I measured first where the center of the holes are, of course.

Important to note that these measurements were spot on. A gift from the measuring gods, if you will.  

Ah, but we’ve stumbled into problem number two. 

The electric drill that I thought I could use, something that time-traveled straight out of the 1980s, was not quite up to the task at hand. It literally threw sparks every time I went to drill a hole. This wasn’t an operator error, I assure you. This drill was absolutely flawed, I’m sure of it. 

Um, working with wood here, using this firework-powered drill was probably not the wisest idea. I mean, during the fourth of July, sure. But this wasn’t the fourth of July. And with, you know, wood being highly flammable and all, I wasn’t looking to burn my perfect little house down. 

So, in making another call to, Eric, he let me use his drill press to get these 1 ¼ inch holes bored out properly. Coming in clutch once again, this man. 

I’ve never used a drill press before, but I found myself getting excited like a kid on Christmas. Using all these power tools, holy, my man card was getting another hole punched.

Setting up the drill press with the right drill bit, and situating the wood properly, I drove the bit into the wood. But it only went halfway through. Fuck me. I tried to pull some extra levers and turn some wheels on the press, but nope, this bit wasn’t going any further.

Well, after saying my measuring prayer, I flipped the wood around and measured the center of the holes once again. Please dear baby Jesus, make these holes line up. 

I’m assuming baby Jesus is the person that graces perfect measuring, but I could be totally off base here.  

I continued to drill all the remaining 56 holes – yes, you read that right. All 56 of them – and it turned out that baby Jesus, or the Inch God, or whoever heard my prayers. All the holes lined up, and I was finally on to the next step.

Assembly is Definitely Required

The cutting: check. The hole-making: check. Now, it was time to put all of this beautiful lumber together.  

A side note here, does anyone else think that lumber smells great? Especially when you first start cutting into it. That smell, now that’s a perfect manly bathroom candle if I’ve ever heard of one. Genius.

Anyway, I picked out the perfect home for my future wooden power rack and began the final step:  assembling. 

Up until this point, I had only attempted to put together a birdhouse, which turned out to be better suited for firewood than a house for actual birds. Oh, and many many hours building log cabins out of Lincoln Logs. Playing Cowboys and Indians with my Lincoln Log homes was a staple activity when I was a kid. 

So you could say my resume of experience was little to none at this point. But, being an absolute amateur wasn’t going to stop me. I had the inflated confidence of ignorance, and a whole lot of beginner’s luck on my side. 

I began by assembling the two side frames, and thought to myself, “Well shoot, Tyler, how are you going to make sure the frame is all squared up?” Um, well, by eyeballing it? My hand should’ve slapped me square in the face for thinking this. 

My gut instinct took care of the situation, thank you Gut, and I gave my Grandpa a call filling him in on the power rack project and my squaring dilemma. Fortunately for me, he had one of those fancy metal square-ers (I have no idea what they’re called) to make my squaring needs a breeze.

I took a little field trip to my grandparent’s house, opened up my Grandpa’s shop door, and was greeted by a plethora of tools that, I’m assuming, could tackle any kind of job. I mean, you name it, I’m sure that tool exists somewhere in that shop hanging on the walls or tucked away in a dusty drawer. 

Feeling like I had entered the Willy Wonka factory for tools, I walked slowly past the wall of 100’s of mounted hammers, chisels, boxes of nails, and extension cords trying to locate the metal squaring device. Probably walking past it 3 different times, I finally spotted it, brushed off the dust, and headed back to my underground construction zone.

Assembling the rack was actually easier than I had anticipated, and was quite a rewarding experience. Taking these 4x4s and actually making something with them, something that didn’t amount to pure firewood, was awesome quite frankly. 

I mean, sure, assembling it alone was a little tricky. I had to basically use my feet as an extra pair of hands to hold both frames up while I was drilling in the connecting screws. Thank you, self, for the many years of soccer to acquire the feet dexterity displayed during this building project. Finally, all those years of being a “field fairy” have paid off. 

Na Na Na boo boo, stick your head in doo doo, Kyle.

The Finished Product

The finished wooden power rack

Wow, well there she was. Standing tall and proud, basking in the fluorescent basement light, without anything but herself holding her up. This wooden power rack displayed so much beauty that I almost shed a tear. 

I grabbed myself a margarita and patted myself on the back a little bit, I’m not gonna lie. I truly couldn’t believe that I had actually built the 8th Wonder of the World by myself. I’m still a little shocked if I’m being honest.  

There were a handful of my friends who thought I was absolutely off my rocker for going through with my Covid project. I’ll give them some credit, I am definitely not one with the force when it comes to anything DIY. I am generally rather clueless, in fact.

But you can bet your ass I sent them the picture from above. I’m sure they still thought I was crazy and was going to kill myself when using this rack, which, according to this current time in writing, I’m still alive. So. I win.

There’s More to This Wooden Rack

Outside of a little humble bragging, which I was definitely entitled to do, I wanted to understand what the true intention of building this power rack was. At the time of my wooden project, Covid was consuming the world, I was living alone, and I was laid off from work for a short period of time. 

I could’ve picked any hobby under the sun to fill my time, but why did I decide to dive into woodworking, truly?

Before I started hammering out nonsense in this article, the core reason hit me. Building the power rack was more than just trying to get my meat wagon in shape. It was really so I could have a hobby in common with the people in my life. Specifically, it was to have a hobby in common with my role model, my Grandpa. 

During Covid, the social isolation was crippling. Deciding to dive into this woodworking adventure was my way of building some sort of rebellious Covid social bridge between my Grandpa and me.

My Grandpa, now he’s the kind of guy who loves building things with his hands. Arm this man with a hammer and a saw, not only is the world his oyster, but he’ll simply build the damn oyster. He’d even craft the pearl inside, too. 

I’ve always wanted to be like him. I mean, this man built houses after he retired just for something to do. Mind you, he had no experience in the building department. He learned how to draw blueprints up himself and then, through some of the good ol’ fashioned on-the-job experience, brought those blueprints to life. He literally put roofs over people’s heads just because he could. 

Talk about being an absolute inspiration.

When I was a kid, I was in awe of this. I can remember clear as day having a show and tell of sorts, this was probably in first grade. We were tasked with dressing up for the job that we wanted to have when we were older. The class was then supposed to guess what your future job was. Some kids dressed up as doctors, others as farmers. 

You know what I dressed up as? A carpenter.    

I brought in my little red toolbox, I wore the jeans that have the loop on the leg where I holstered my hammer, a tucked in white shirt, a belt, and I roleplayed away pretending I was hard at work.

Just like my Grandpa. 

Building this power rack was a way for me to connect with him, and really give us something to have in common. Don’t get me wrong, we can bullshit until the cows come home, an art I absolutely learned from him, so it’s not like we don’t talk. But working on the power rack, and asking his advice along the way brought us closer because we shared that hobby, that common interest. That experience of us geeking out together about something as simple as wood is something I’ll never forget.

My word of advice: try something new that you’re afraid of doing. It could create a memory that will last with you forever.

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