The Good: Easy to assemble, Looks good, Durable, Generally affordable.
The Bad: Not the most stylish, I suppose
The Basics: The Focus Products 5-Tier shelving system is a strong, durable set of steel shelves that are easy to assemble and offer a great value!
Thinking about graduate gifts lately, I got pumped and having recently gotten in a pretty great set of shelves, I figured this was perfect. After all, new graduates are more likely than most to start getting in "stuff" and as a result, it behooves us to consider where to stick it all. I recently located a pretty perfect product in that regard.
The product is a remarkable simple one, the Focus Products 5-Tiered Shelf Rack (product #21856). This is a five-tiered shelf with wire racks produced by Focus Products Group (the identical item is available at Lowe's Home Improvement Stores under the brand imprint "Real Organized"). The shelving system is almost entirely composed of steel and it weighs over forty pounds, so this is not exactly the ideal gift for shipping to a graduate. As well, when one considers that the box is 48" X 19" X 10" one might well consider this a "deliver to the graduate" type gift. The thing is, virtually everyone can use shelving. How do we separate the quality from the crap when it come to shelving?
The four criteria I am using are simple: ease-of-assembly, stability/durability, style, and price. When one considers shelving, what else do they truly need to consider?
The Focus Products 5-Tiered Shelf Rack is remarkably easy to assemble. On the box it comes in, it brags "five minute assembly" and while that is a nice estimate, mine took ten minutes to get up after I had gotten all of the pieces out of the box. Considering that I was assembling the shelves all on my own, this was not a bad amount of time to spend at all. In fact, this shelving system was so easy to assemble that virtually anyone can assemble it (though I would not recommend those with arthritis try and it does help if one is at least five feet tall in this case). Given that there are essentially four pieces to this shelf, it is very hard to go wrong with it.
To assemble this shelf, one need only screw together the four rods (these are the corner supports that run perpendicular to the ground). These are essentially six foot, two inch steel tubes with plastic caps that form the sides of the shelf. They are shipped in the box split in half (a bottom and top part) and one needs simply twist the top part onto the threads of the bottom rod to get these eight pieces into the four that they need to be. Because the bottom rods have the twisting feet and the top half has the threaded post joiners already installed, this is more or less idiot proof.
After the side rods are assembled, one need simply slip a shelf over all four rods. Each shelf is a wire-framed structure with cylindrical metal holes on each of the four corners. The rods stick through these holes and thus, the rectangular shape of the shelf is created by setting the shelf on the rods. How does the shelf stay where it belongs? Simple; the rod has scoring marks (notches) approximately every two inches. These notches hold plastic spacers. The plastic spacers are two-part rings that snap together onto the rod supports and essentially fill in the gap between the ring on the shelf and the support rod. Friction holds the shelf to the spacer to the rod. The thing is, Focus Products made this shelf so easy to assemble that: 1. Spacers cannot connect unless both halves are facing the correct direction, and 2. Spacers will not hold the shelf unless they are pointed up and each spacer has a convenient arrow pointing up molded into it! After the first shelf is on, one need only count up fifteen rings (the recommended distance from the directions, though there is no inherent law about such things and one may adjust the shelves to personal tastes), put on spacers and slide the shelves over the four rods, down onto the spacers and pull.
My instant concern when purchasing this shelving unit was that there was no way the plastic spacers would hold up and my shelves would come crashing down into one another. So, I did some rigorous testing as I assembled my shelf. I stood (or sat as they got higher!) on each of the five shelves after they were supposedly locked in. They bore my full weight easily (the manufacturer claims each shelf may hold up to 350 pounds of materials and my little test put about half that much weight on each and there was nothing close to slippage witnessed).
So, when considering the stability and durability of the Focus Products five-tiered heavy duty shelf, this gets the highest marks from me. Setting the shelf on a flat floor, I found it was perfectly balanced. Even when I set everything on the front of each of the five shelves, the rack shelf did not lean, wobble or tip. It did not budge even a centimeter or a degree. It was beautiful. For those who have uneven floors, this unit comes with adjustable feet which simply unscrew down to a floor and the shelf may be leveled accordingly. This is easy to do, but again, my own needs did not necessitate using this function.
As for the durability, these shelves are exceptionally durable. Made of welded steel, they do not bend, buckle or break and I have put almost two hundred pounds on each one and for the last few weeks, they have born about as much weight on each one (I store my extra trading card stock on some of the shelves, which is pretty heavy). As well, given that the whole thing is made of steel, one suspects that these will endure for . . . well, pretty much forever.
As for the style, this is very much a factor ruled by personal taste. So, for example, I have no qualms about the look or feel of this because I like black - the unit is powder coated a glossy black color - and I have the space where its size is not at all intimidating. Fully assembled, the unit stands six feet, two inches tall, four feet wide and eighteen inches deep. This is a pretty decent amount of storage space and even for those living in a pretty cramped apartment, this is a great way to use what space one has. And yes, for recent graduates, it's the perfect set of shelves for a first apartment. And black goes with pretty much anything, so as far as the look and feel of these shelves, it is hard to go wrong!
This leaves us with price. Value is determined - in my reckoning - by price in relation to quality. In this case, with an average retail price right around one hundred dollars, one might consider the price tag to be a bit steep. I am not one of them. Given the relative strength and durability - as well as the reasonable assumption that this will last for quite some time (it has lasted weeks already here!) this seems like a pretty incredible value, even at the price.
So, for you graduates who are learning tough lessons about space management and fiscal responsibility, allow me to offer this sage advice: shelves. It's where to keep your stuff. And these are great shelves.
For other useful things around the house or in industrial settings, please check out my reviews of:
Dewalt Interceptor Earmuff style hearing protection
Olympic Premium Ceiling Paint
Magnetic Key Holder
For other home and garden product reviews, please click here to visit my index page!
© 2011, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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