Friday, June 24, 2011

Dip Stands

Today I'll show you how to construct a space saving dip station. You can use scrap wood to keep the cost down. This is another project that can end up being free or very cheap, while at the same time recycling old material. These are an addition to the saw horse safety stands. This was an old project but I have since refined and significantly improved it.

Cost: around $20 (depending on what scrap materials you have)
Project Time: a few hours plus time for glue to dry
Difficulty: This one requires the ability to cut wood with the saw of your choice, as well as the competence to use a drill, which is to say hold a button while pressing the drill toward the material. You also have to drive screws.

Tools Needed:
  • Drill
  • 1 3/4 inch (44 mm) hole saw bit
  • Screwdriver
  • Saw to cut plywood (circular saw, hand saw, etc.)
  • Saw to cut studs (miter saw, hand saw, circular saw, etc.)
  • Hack Saw - to cut pipe (optional, you can buy it pre cut or have the store do it)

Materials Needed:
  • 2x4 Studs (38 x 88mm) - one long board or just use scraps, we need eight pieces about 5" long (13 cm)
  • Wood screws - I prefer ones like THESE; you need 12 screws for this project.
  • Scrap lengths of "plywood" - the size of your saw horse tops; oriented strand board is what I use.
  • Paint (optional)
  • 2 adjustable height saw horses (you should already have these)
  • 2 Bolts - You want the length to be right about 2 1/2 inches (63 mm). Diameter can vary but around size #10 is good (that's 5M for metric users).
  • 1 1/4 inch diameter metal pipe - you need two pieces roughly 1 foot long each (30 cm). * Though it's labeled 1 1/4 inch, pipe like this actually has an outer diameter of 1.6 inches (42 mm).

    This project is an add on for our saw horse safety stands. The saw horses, as I discussed in a previous entry are used as safety stands for the squat and bench press, to accompany the homemade squat stands, which I've also already covered in a previous post. If you are making a similar setup you should already have the saw horses to be used for safety stands, like I do. If you do not have such a setup, and perhaps you have a power rack instead, then you may want to look past this project or you can locate one of many different designs for stand alone dip bars on the internet. That would probably be cheaper than spending $40 on saw horses just to do dips. But then again, you know this will be as strong as you need it to be since each sawhorse is rated for over 1000 lbs.

    If you do go another route I'll offer some advice. There are several designs out there on the net. I would recommend you go with a wooden option, particularly if you intend to dip heavy. If you're just messing around with bodyweight dips (why are you not adding weight?) then the PVC options are probably okay. But if you're talking about doing dips seriously, then you need something strong enough to take your bodyweight, which could be 200+ lbs. and another hundred or several hundred lbs. on top of that. You want something solid that you know will hold up.

    Also keep in mind the prices. Go to the store and get a feel for what each design would cost. 2x4 wood is usually cheaper than  a bunch of plumbing parts. I may very well make such a stand alone dip station in the future because merely typing this paragraph already has the ideas flying around in my head. I'm quite certain I could make one that is both strong, adjustable, and will "fold" up for easier storage. Anyway, getting on with THIS project.

    I decided to make these because I had a problem. I wanted to add dips to my repertoire but I didn't want something that had to mount to the wall. I wanted it to have a low footprint that could be moved and stored. I also thought that the "between two chairs" idea was lame. It works, sure, at least for body weight dips. It also hurts the fuck out of your hands. And everyone knows you can lift a hell of a lot more when there's an ample supply of fuck in the tissues of the hand.The reason this is so, is because the backs of folding chairs are quite small in terms of surface area, and that means lots of psi (pressure) on your hands.

    The first piece we're going to make is the plywood base. See the Material Dictionary for suitable plywood replacements. I personally always use Oriented Strand Board, though I usually just call it "plywood" even though it's not. Measure the length and width of the top of your saw horse. Alternatively, you could simply take the sawhorse out to the garage, put it on the plywood and trace around it. If you do that, mark your plywood through the hole on each end of the saw horse. Now simply cut the piece of plywood. You should now have a piece of plywood roughly the size of the top of your saw horse. Remember to then mark and drill holes through the plywood that line up with the holes in each end of your sawhorse

    * My instructions are for a single stand/handle. Since you need to make two, remember to repeat the whole procedure to make another one.

    Now we'll make our 2x4 posts. At first glance you may ask, "why not simply use 4x4s instead?" The answer is in the pipe. We're using "1 1/4 inch pipe" which actually has an outer diameter of 1.6 inches (42 mm). This is key because it's more comfortable to use than smaller pipe; the outside diameter of this pipe closely resembles gymnastic parallel bars in size. In order to duplicate our design using 4x4 posts we would need to be able to bore out a hole halfway through the post. To do this we would need something called a Forstner bit, and they are not cheap, especially in the store. Online they are not too bad but still not as cheap as hole saws. Normal wood boring bits aren't big enough to make the hole we need to fit our 1.6 (42mm) OD pipe. I wouldn't possibly ask you to spend $30 on a tool you'll use for one project. So instead, we'll use 2x4s (38 x 88mm) and a 1 3/4 inch (44 mm) hole saw.

    Take a length of 2x4 board and measure roughly 1 5/8 inches (41 mm) down from one end. Put a dot here, centered in the width of your board. This is the mark that the center bit of your hole saw will go on. Line it up and drill all the way through the thickness of your board. Now measure about 5 inches (13 cm) from the edge (same edge as before), mark a line and cut the board. You've produced your first board with a hole near the top. You'll need to repeat this procedure again, so now you have two. That's the hard part. Now cut two more pieces of 2x4, each 5 inches (13 cm) in length. But don't drill the holes in these last two.

    With nearly no square footage, if a bird had to live here, he'd be pissed.

    We're going to compile our first "birdhouse" piece. I call it that because is somewhat resembles a birdhouse when done. Take one of the boards you drilled the big hole in and stack it on top of one of the matching boards with no hole in it. Now drill a hole through the top board and into the bottom board, more or less centered in the space below the big hole you cut out. If you bit isn't long enough to get good depth in the bottom board, remove the top board and drill out the bottom board further. Read on for clarity before you do all this.

    This is going to be a pre drilled hole for your screws so the drill bit you use should be smaller than the diameter of your screws. For all my projects, I like to use 2 1/2 inch (63 mm) T-25 star bit screws designed for external uses such as decks or sheds. You certainly don't need something that beefy for this particular application but those are the screws I always have so those are the ones I use. In any case, pre drill holes or don't complain to me if you split your wood.

    Pre drilling your holes is important in this project. You must drill these holes. If you just drive the screws into bare wood the odds are you're going to split the board. After all the work you did with the hole saw you will not be happy if this happens. Pre drill these holes and drive in your screws by hand or slowly with a drill and you'll be safe from that unwanted fate. But before you put the screw in, slather some wood glue in between the boards. We're only putting one screw in (no room for more without splitting the wood) so the wood glue will provide the extra strength.

    If you have clamps then clamp this piece down on itself while it dries. If not, just put it on the floor and put something heavy on it. I used a patio brick since that was the closest heavy thing. Once dry, the wood glue alone will make this piece so strong you couldn't get it apart if you wanted to. Repeat this step for the other remaining blocks. When it's dry you'll have two birdhouses.

    Now on to the pipe. You need roughly a 12 inch (30 cm) length of this pipe. You can buy it already cut into these lengths (more expensive) or you can buy a long 10 foot pipe and have the store cut it up for you (more hassle), or you could cut it at home yourself (more work). In the interest of maximum time savings I personally just bought a pair of already cut pipes.

    The pipe is probably quite grimy so clean it up first using either steel wool or the rough side of a sponge and some soap. If you have an electric sander and want your pipe to look super cool, put your sander to it. Sand the entire pipe (with the sander powered on of course), moving the sander in small circles, like the Karate Kid. "Wax on." This won't create a knurling or anything like that. It will simply put fine scratches in it and polish it up and give the pipe a "brushed" shiny look. It will still feel perfectly smooth to the touch but it looks fancier.

    The next step is to attach this all to the plywood base. The best way to do this is to turn your bird houses upside down (hole closer to the bottom) and holes facing toward each other. Fit the pipe into the bird houses and push them together as far as they go so the pipe if fully in at both ends. Simply put your plywood strip you cut earlier on top. Line it up and center it.

    Now drill holes for your screws through the plywood and deep into the birdhouses below (don't skip this lest you risk splitting your birdhouses). Looking at the picture you can see how I staggered the screws. I put two screws in each birdhouse, one in each 2x4, staggered (one on each side).

    That could be the end of it, if you wish. But, you'll notice that your bars are able to spin right now. I don't know if there would be a valid reason for wanting that but I opted to secure mine so they don't spin. To do this, first take the bit you've been using to pre drill holes for your screws. This should be slightly smaller than the #10 (5M) bolts you're about to use. Your mark is the center of the top of the 2x4 that you drilled the big hole in earlier, directly above where the pipe sits. Drill down through the wood, do your best to make this as perfectly straight as possible. When you hit the pipe, stop for a second. Securely hold the pipe with one hand so it doesn't move around, then continue to drill at least for a little while to ensure that this spot is marked on your pipe.

    A bolt through the top makes the spinning stop.

    Take the screws out of the bottom of your plywood for one of your birdhouses. This will allow you to take the pipe out. Switch to a bit that is just a bit bigger than your chosen bolt's diameter. You need this bolt to be able to fit through the pipe but you also don't want the hole so big that there is slack for the pipe to greatly move around either. Drill through the pipe on the spot you marked. Since the pipe is hollow, take care to make sure you keep your bit straight once you get through the top edge of your pipe and are working on the bottom. Once you're completely through the pipe, fit your bolt in to ensure that everything fits.

    Reassemble the handle and screw it back into the plywood base. Then take that same smaller drill bit that you use to pre drill for screws. Hold it up against the side of your birdhouse next to the pipe to make sure it's long enough to get from the top though the pipe. Bits of this size typically should be. If you have to take a shallow grip on it with your drill, that's okay. Feed it in through both holes in the pipe and drill through the bottom wood as far as you can or as much as you need for your bolt.

    Now you can screw in your bolt. Of course, it's a bolt, not a wood screw so it's not designed to bore into wood, but it does have metal threads and they will do that to an extent. This is why we pre drilled holes that were slightly smaller than the diameter of our bolt. It will dig into the wood and secure itself a little more by doing so. If the hole is too small and the bolt doesn't easily screw in then drill the hole bigger. If you wish, you could use a wood or metal screw but in my testing a bolt ends up providing more stability (no wiggle) for our pipe. You can choose to slightly counter sink the head of your bolt if you wish. That simply means you need to drill out a bigger shallow hole at the top so that the head has room to go below the surface of the wood.

    There's nothing wrong with square corners, unless you're a square hating enthusiast like me.

    You can also choose to round the outside edges of your birdhouses. I did it and it's purely for aesthetic reasons. If you want to copy me, simply use a hand saw to lop of the corner, then sand them down to a curve. A coping saw works well for this because it's so small you can be very accurate with it. But a normal hand saw works too as long as you're careful. A router would be the power tool way to speed things up but if you have a router you don't need me to tell you to use it for this task.

    So that's one handle done. Repeat the whole procedure for the other handle, though I'm assuming you already did most of it while your birdhouses were drying. You can paint them if you want. I did because I had to make them match the rest of my equipment (squat stands and bench). They do not, however, match my purse. I have a purple sequence purse, everybody knows that it's the hottest thing right now.

    Of course, as it stands they aren't very secure on top of your sawhorses because they are not attached to the saw horses in any way. That's why we drilled the holes in the plywood corresponding to the holes in each end of the saw horses. If you are using different sawhorses than I, and yours do not have holes, then drill them yourself if possible.

    You can secure your attachments to your saw horses with a bolt and nut (use a wing nut on top for easy no tool tightening/loosening ability). You can also simply use an allen wrench like a pin. Just like I mention in the original saw horse safety catches post, I simply put a sufficiently sized allen wrench through the hole. The L shape, and length, of the wrench holds the addition in place. I haven't noticed any instability or wobbling yet but if that is the case then just bolt them down to your saw horses.

    The saw horses are adjustable so if you need to you can raise them to accommodate your body. This can be a bit of a hassle but it's the price you pay for the benefit of having equipment to has multiple functions. It saves space and I deem it worth the bit of time it takes to adjust the sawhorses to convert them from dip station to safety stands.

    I have read that, in general, the right distance between the two bars should be the distance from your elbow to fingertips. I don't know if that's universally true, but it seems to work well enough for me. In any case you can position these as far apart as you choose.

    If you're also interested in a DIY dipping belt, click here.



    1. Good post...I use a walker for dips with a bungee assist, the kind that old people use to get around. Got the idea from this youtube video Home made exercise machine to perform Dips You can find them at most Goodwill Stores or thrift stores for a couple of bucks. The other cool thing is that they fold up easy!

    2. That turned out great. We just finished making some made out of 2x4's.
      DIY Dip Station @ HomeBoxingGym.

    3. I just completed my dip bars yesterday. I followed your plans. Thanks so much for posting and for all of the great DIY fitness equipment.

    4. Great idea! Finished putting this together and immediately tested it out. Worked perfectly, just as advertised. Thanks for taking the time to provide this detailed description for the DIY crowd.

    5. Or you could just go get 2 standard sized cinder blocks. That's what I use. Also, 2 Miller XM 350 CC/CV welders and a 7' piece of #10 rebar makes for a decent deadlift.