Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Using slatwall to hold your gear

Waddaya know! My first post on Retro Synth Labs. I've found that there were a few times that I wanted to post something non-retro-synth-ad related. So rather than start plugging up that blog, I decided it would be better to start something new.

And I found the perfect first-blog-post.

Oh, and before I begin:

Legal disclaimer: I am not a professional. Do not do anything you see in this blog post before consulting professionals. Lots of them.

A couple of weeks ago I was lurking in the Vintage Synth Explorer forums and came across a question that has always interested me quite a bit - how other people organize their studio space.

As I mentioned in my reply post, I came to a point where "I realized I wasn't into building a studio any more, but an experimental sound lab of sorts. And with that, I realized I didn't need all my sound sources hooked up or even within reach. Kinda like a scientist that doesn't need to keep all of his different beakers and testing gear within reach at all times".

Did I just quote myself?!?! Gah!

Anyway, the poster - "daguru" - was running into the same problem I was. Most of my gear was on 3-tier stands that took up a lot of space, especially those slanted ones that invade into the room three or four feet at the base. I just don't have that much space to spare. And if you have those stands along two or three walls, that a lot of floor area taken up by keyboard stands - space that could be better used for mixers, synth racks, fuzzy chairs... you get the idea.

Daguru did a bit of research and posted images of two different systems he was looking at, one of which was the solution that I decided to go with in my little space.


I got the idea from my local synth store. The slatwall at the store was holding up some pretty heavy gear, so I figured it could probably handle anything I had to throw on it.

I sourced my slatwall at a nearby hardware store. Dig a little online, and you can find all different colours and textures. You can also get nice framing apparently. But I'm a cheap bastard, so I went with just good 'ol slatwall. If I did it all over again, I would go with something a lot nicer. But, as someone in the forum mentioned, once the gear is in place, you don't see much of it.

The slatwall I found at the hardware store came in 4x4 foot square pieces. Perfect for hold one long synth, two short synths, or even three drum machines. And you can have three or four rows going on one piece of slatwall.

Or, if you have a long wall, you can install two pieces side by side for one big eight-footer. You can display something like your whole extended 80's drum machine collection on that sucker.

In the photo below, you can see how I installed one four foot piece at about waist level. This allowed me to put my mixer sidecar and other gear below the slatwall. Great use of space.

For installation, I used a friend, a level, and rather long screws. Drilling right into the studs. *A lot* of screws. And I don't think I used enough.

Shift-click to view larger images

I sourced the slatwall arms directly from my music store. After convincing them that I wasn't trying to open my own competing synth store, my keyboard guy ordered me one pair to test. Once I knew everything would fit, I ordered a wack more. They weren't cheap, although neither is a good keyboard stand. I can't remember what I paid for them... but yah, not cheap.

I chose arms that could bend at three different angles. This allowed arms near the top of the wall to be slanted downward for better access, while arms near the bottom of the slatwall could be horizontal to the floor.

The arms are nice because they can also be lengthened to accommodate different depths of gear. Anywhere from 13 inches up to 19 inches. But don't forget, if your audio/MIDI connectors plug in to the back of your gear, you need to allow one or two inches of space for that. So really, 17 to 18 inches in depth is probably your limit.

Shift-click to view larger images

As you can see from the photos above, the arms are also good for hanging power bars or holding long racks for multiple pieces of smaller gear. You can also find lots of other types of slatwall dohickeys such as baskets, small tables, and even just simple hangers for stringing your cords over. Keeps everything nice and neat.

Aside: If you look closely at the white rack in the picture, you will notice a lot of twist ties. I use twist ties *a lot* :o)

So, the big question - how much can it hold? I'm not a big fan of showing off my gear on the InterWebz, but I did include a photo below of this piece of slatwall holding my Juno-106. I have another piece a slatwall holding a JX8P (with the controller :o). That's probably the heaviest thing I've put on two arms.

Shift-click to view larger image

For those that are getting a little antsy at trusting slatwall holding such a large amount of heavy gear, I totally understand. I did a little Googlin' and just noticed that you can get heavy duty aluminum slatwall as well. I may have to look into that...

Or, if you already have slatwall, you can also find aluminum inserts. According to this Web site, it more than doubles the the strength of the panels. The same site has a lot of good info on installation, etc, and based on the info I've been reading, it looks like I will probably up the number of screws I've used in my installation. I also saw a good strength chart on there somewhere.

Slatwall was perfect for me because I don't access all my synths all the time. If you need instant access to every synth you own, then putting a synth near the ceiling of your studio on slatwall arms obviously won't work for you. But if you are a CV/gate fanatic, or tend to work with gear individually at a work table, then slatwall may be just the solution to save more than a bit of floor space. You can grab the synth off the wall when needed for sampling/recording, and then put 'er right back, out of the way.

And read the other comments in that forum post. A lot of good ideas there.

Legal stuff: Don't do anything you have read in this blog post. Talk to a professional about what you want to do. Talk to a lot of them. And plan better. I didn't. But wish I did. And I will be talking to some professionals soon.


  1. It has been several years now. How is the slatwall holding up? Any blow outs or other concerns?

    Did you end up getting aluminum inserts or panels? I've found the metal panels hard to source, because the companies are used to shipping to stores, freight only. Local sources (used store supply stores) only have the MDF stuff.

    I found those keyboard holders at inglesproducts dot com. You can get them from Amazon but they run $63 per pair (or individual. It doesn't say). Ouch!

  2. FYI, these arms are half the price and look the same-ish:


  3. FYI, these arms are half the price and look the same-ish:


  4. How did this work out for you in the long run? I have some Slatwall I was planning to use for the same purpose and am investigating arms for synths as well as reinforcement bars. Any tips or suggestions?

  5. Can you update that link? It's no longer working. (http://www.technooutlet.com/rtl46422.html?gclid=CjwKEAiAwZO0BRDvxs_1w-qFnhkSJABo10ggq5u9sNLbdl_6JDg5Y8Nt7hqD6-1JrdWEH7CXjbJEkRoCJSXw_wcB)

  6. Nice Post.
    Idea of using Slotwall to hold your gear is really look great in picture.
    Thanks for sharing your experience with us.

  7. Slatwall is everywhere (for example, https://www.homedepot.com/p/Rubbermaid-48-in-H-x-7-6-in-W-FastTrack-Garage-Slat-Wall-5-Panel-2099469/312714611), but arms are a bit harder to find:

    1. Telescoping Arms - HD33
    -- 5 angles, length 13" - 21".

    2. Ingles Products SA-307
    -- 3 angles, 17" fixed length. claims 200 lb. capability.

    3. Heavy-duty Steel Slatwall Keyboard Arms (Pair) (appears to be what RetroSynth bought)
    3 angles, length 12” to 18”.

    4. MIDisplays Part # NSKAA
    -- 3 angle, adjustable arm length. Exact length not given but uses the identical photo used in #3 – so this is either identical item, or it holds objects of identical dimensions.

    #3 & #4 are likely good candidates for most uses.
    #2 for really heavy gear
    #1 for extra depth (e.g., space needed behind)

    All prices include U.S. Shipping (yes, even non-Prime customers on Amazon – you just have to look for it in the shipping options)

    ratsagogo at yahoo not gmail