Coat Rack and Storage Shelf

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Last winter I made a simple coat rack out if a 2″x4″x3′ piece of maple. It served us well but there remains a raft of unused space and no end to coats, hats, scarves, gloves, and rain gear looking for a place to belong.

A shelf incorporating 4 cubbies and coat hooks seemed to be just the answer. Or at least the first half of the answer. Something along these lines: Example Coat Rack

My drawing skills are second only to my writing skills. I did manage to do enough to decide the final dimensions and materials.

  • 3/4 Birch plywood for the top and bottom of the carcase.
  • 1/2″ birch plywood for the cubby dividers
  • 1/4″ birch plywood for the backing in the shelf
  • 1″ Maple boards for the sides and backing board beneath for the coat hooks
  • Plane down some 1″ thick maple for the face framing


  • 28.5″ wide
  • 11″ deep
  • 7″ inside height on the carcass (8.5″ edge to edge)
  • Each cubby will be about 6.25″ wide
  • The cubbies will be about 9″ deep allowing for the backing and french cleat for mounting
  • 14.5″ tall sides (8.5 for the shelf, additional 6″ for the coat hooks)

The top and bottom of the carcass will be joined to the side pieces with dadoes and glue. The dividers will also be seated in 1/4″ deep dadoes. The hook mount will also be seated in rabbits and glued into the sides. A french cleat will be employed for wall mounting.

I thought by using the plywood for the shelves I could easy concerns with wood movement…well that was just ignorant.  In reality that created more issues/concerns with wood movement as the side panels of solid maple will “grow” as the humidity increases and the plywood bits will not….  Hopefully with the small size of this piece I will not get surprised in the summer but only time can tell.

That’s about the extent of my planning. The rest will be sorted out during the building.

On day 1 I realized I failed to get a new ZCI for my new dado stack.  As a result I went ahead and cut the dadoes for the shelf dividers with the router and a straight-edge. I decided to use an undersize bit and make the cut in two passes since I wasn’t about to buy plywood width bits.  This didn’t go as well as planned, as you can see below. Hopefully this sloppy fit will be hidden/obscured in the mounting and face frame.  I decided to order a ZCI and wait for it before attempting to the dadoes and rabbets on the side pieces. 

I used a scrap 1/2″ oak board left over from the spice rack project as an auxiliary fence  for the dado stack.  Probably not the best plan but it worked out well enough, I was very careful to ensure that I didn’t bury the dado stack to deep and, thereby, clipping the fence. I made many, many, many test cuts to get the depth and width where for a nice snug fit for the plywood shelves.  On my first dry fit I also noticed that I put the rabbet for the shelf backing panel on the wrong side of one side panel.   This was the result of trying to make the cut without resetting my fence to the other side of the dado blade.  Stupid.

To set the inset depth for the back panel rabbet, used the wood chosen of the cleat and set it between the fence and the blade.  This ensured that the back panel would be flush against the cleat and the cleat flush with the back of the shelf.  It worked out nicely. As you can see below.   The one good thing about the aforementioned screw-up is that, while annoying, I can live with it in the final piece.  And as a result a learned my lesson and executed the rabbet for the bottom panel correctly.  Had I screwed that one up it would have cost me time and money.  

It’s at this point that my all but open air shop hurts this project.  The weather went quickly from cold to less cold and rainy over a couple of weeks and put some twist into my boards. Rather than dealing with this, it wasn’t much (so I thought), I kept going and figured that the clamping and glue would resolve the issues.  As you will see, while not a catastrophe (yet anyway) it was probably not the best choice.

I used an off cut of the 1/4 baltic ply to make a template for the curve.  I used an old paint can and wooden yard stick with a pencil hole drilled in the end to draw the desired shape of the curve.  It wasn’t very efficient but I ended up with a pleasing shape.  With the template cut it was just a matter of marking it on the side panels, double checking the orientation, triple checking the orientation and rough cutting the curve with a jigsaw. From there I attached the template to the panel with double sided tape and using straight bit with a top bearing mounted in the router table cleaned up the side panels.  Not sure what happened but one of the side panels ended up having a very thin wall between the curve and the rabbet (I blame the twist I didn’t deal with earlier) so after cleaning up the curve with ROS I cut about 2″ off the bottom of both panels.  

Finally ready for the glue up.  During the dry fit I realized that, along with more clamps, I also needed an extra pair of hands to hold the cauls up while I positioned the clamps.  In lieu of extra hands I used a little gorilla tape to pre-attach the cauls.   Identifying and resolving these types of issues are so much easier in the dry fit than during the glue up.  It’s a cliche but oh so true…you can never have to many clamps.   I had to “link” some of my clamps to get pressure everywhere I needed/wanted it.  Amazingly everything was pretty square.  Although in the top I can see some “bow” in one of the side panels as a result of the aforementioned movement from the humidity changes.   In an effort to defeat this “bow” with clamping pressure I broke a clamp.  Thankfully I didn’t break/mar the shelf nor did I get all the bow out of the panel.  

To cover up the plywood edges I fired up the 12″ planer, after finding the most interesting sections of the maple, and milled a piece of maple down for a snug fit in the dadoes, I ripped the strips to be a little “proud” so I could sand it down flush with the sides.  I taped the shelf faces in place then measured and cut cross pieces to face the dividers, again going for a nice snug fit.  Once all the pieces were cut to size marked the orientation glued and clamped, using the gorilla tape as a clamp, them in place.   The following morning I sanded everything nice and flush with the ROS and some 80 grit.  

The final piece is the solid maple board to go across the bottom on which the coat hooks will mount.  Rather than buying a 12″ wide board from the big box store I opted to use 2 off cuts of some 8″ boards. This was a mistake. My jointer (nor my skill with it) is not up to snuff and, while I thought I had set it up correctly, I was unable to successfully use my router as a jointer. In the end I was able to get a satisfactory edge on both pieces but they weren’t completely parallel to one another and I am a little concerned that the joint will fail sooner rather than later.   While attaching the backing the twist/cup of the side panels reared it’s ugly face once again.  The end result was that I was unable to get a nice snug fit for the back.  So once again I attempted to use the clamps to “squeeze” the side panel into the backing board.  This was successful on the surface but the glue “popped” at the first sign of pressure.  I used a syringe and got more glue in there and got it to “stick” but not for long as you can see later.

I don’t think I have mentioned it yet, but I hate sanding.  I sanded the entire piece from 80, 120, 180,220, 320 using 600 on the end grain of the side panels.  The finish was a 3 coats of Watco danish oil wiped on.

After mounting the unit on the wall, nice and easy with the french cleat, I loaded up the family coats/jackets/snowpants and as feared, the right side of the back panel “popped” loose and dropped down about 1/8 inch.  I took it back to the workshop and sunk 4 pocket screws into the panel.  2 going up into the bottom shelf and 2 going horizontally into the side panel.  I am not sure it will be enough to hold it through the years but hopefully it will hold until I have more skills and time to make a bigger and better version.  




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Kids Sandbox

Or how I spent my Father’s day in 2011.  The family had already flown south for Vacation and I was to drive down a few days later with the dog and all the gear.  Before I left I built a sandbox to surprise my daughter on her 5th birthday.

There isn’t much here but perhaps it will serve as inspiration for someone at some point.   To give credit where credit is due, I pretty much aped this from an article posted by “This Old House: How To Build A Simple Sandbox”.

First up a chose a spot that is mostly shaded but does get some late afternoon sun to help dry things out.   I decided to make the sand-pit a healthy 5×6 which based on my searches and resulting calculation would required about 1,500 lbs of sand. Any larger and the price of sand was going to make my head explode.

I chose to use pine 4x4s instead of cedar to save some money.  The pine, especially the first course which is partially buried, will breakdown faster but based on the internet (I know…) my kids (5 and 0.5 at the time of construction) should be past playing in the sandbox by the time that happens.   (Of course 1 year removed I wish I had spent the extra coin on the Cedar at least for the first course).

First courseThe only hard part here was digging out the 30 sqft plot, I dug down about 2-3 inches.  Instead of the costly sand I used a bit of the freshly dug topsoil to lay a 1/2″ layer down around the edges as a bed for the first course of 4x4s.  This helped with the leveling process.  I didn’t join these boards in anyway.

I placed the second course down so that the 2nd course joints were not aligned with those of the first course. Hopefully you can see what I mean in the bottom right hand corner of the picture.  The dog was quite upset once I put in the cloth and covered her nice cool soft soil with that scratchy sand…This past spring we put in an invisible fence so she now has full command of the yard, those rare times when she will suffer the indignity of leaving the house anyway.   Prior  to the invisible fence she would stay in the yard for about 10 minutes before darting across and down the street hence the 50′ leash she had to suffer in order to “help” on this project. Second Course

I placed a 6″ deck screw (with the flattest/widest head I could find) every 14-18″ and in each corner.  Here is the best tip I have for you in this post.  After putting the screws in I scribed a line on the outside of the lumber, which you can see in the photo, to mark where each screw went.  This way, when attaching the 3rd course I wouldn’t get any nasty surprises!

Before attaching the third course I put down a layer of landscaping cloth and draped it over the top of the 2nd course.   Unfortunately I couldn’t get a roll that was wide enough (about 1-1.5 feet short) to do with one pass so I used two sheets at full width so as to maximize the overlap of the joint.  The landscaping cloth will allow water to drain while keeping the sand in as well as prevent weeds from growing up into the sand.  It will also prevent the sand from mixing with the soil below to make a muddy, clumpy mess.  In short the landscaping cloth is a good idea!   As the TOH site suggests I pushed the cloth into the corners and down the edges to ensure it was flat and not suspended.  I also placed a good amount of sand down along the edges and in the corners as I went to ensure it stayed in place while I attached the final course.

3rd Course The 3rd course goes in over the 2nd, again offsetting the joints at the corners and using the marks made along the sides to offset my 6″ deck screws.  Before bolting down each of the four pieces of lumber I ensured that my landscaping cloth had enough slack so that it was not suspended above the ground in the corners and along the edge. After screwing the third course down I used a utility knife to trim all the excess landscape cloth from the outside edge.

3 trips to the big box store and 1,500lbs (yes I paid money for dirt) of play sand later and I am almost done.

FinThe final step is to keep the cats, raccoon, skunks and all other types of varmits from using my sand-pit as the neighborhood rest area. For this I used some 1x2PT pine strips to make a frame and attached some PT latticework with some galvanized wood screws. I also tacked some landscaping cloth to the underside to keep pinestraw and other debris from falling into the sand. I made the cover in two pieces so the kids would be able to pull them off and put them back on (HA!!) without adult help. I didn’t feel the need to attach it. And so far through severe windstorms and feet of snow it has held up just fine.

Now all they need, so I am told, is a box into which their sand toys can be stored.

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Built-in spice rack

TLWR; Photo Gallery

BeforeFor as long as I can remember we have had a spice storage problem. Lately the spices have been on a simple pine shelf sitting more or less in the way on the floor in arms reach of the 1 year old who couldn’t be happier about the situation. After many months of talking about solving the issue, it was decided to put some unused wall space, behind a door and across from the pantry, to good use.Plan

The stud-finder proved useless, so a quick rap of the knuckles located a stud in the center of the space, a quick trip to the basement indicated that there were several sets of wires running up the right cavity while the left cavity was free and clear. A quick sketch on the wall was needed to get sign-off from the boss and a small poorly cut out inspection hole confirmed the lack of wires/pipes. Inspection holeTip: make the inspection hole cuts on an angle so that the cut-out falls outward not inward, this also makes repair (so the internet says) easier should you find pipes/wiring inside.

Making the cut Next step, hack away with the drywall saw, couple of tips which could have been utilized more effectively, score the area with a razor to minimize the chances of “runs” in the paint/drywall and start off making the score/cuts well inside of the studs then come back with more precise cuts along the studs. In the end, not employing those tips, half a stud on the left side is exposed, some paint on the right is chipped. With any luck the moulding will be wide enough to cover these blemishes, fingers crossed.Halfway done

I thought I was pretty clever with inserting a screw in the 2×4 cross support to help me manipulate/hold it in place. Cross braceUntil a couple nights later when I tried my first dry fit with the mostly assembled shelves and noticed that while I got the cross support level left to right I completely ignored front/back and the support ended up with a forward lean, I guess that is why they make shims.

With the size of the shelf basically determined next step was off to the big box store for some hardwood. Initially I wanted maple but they didn’t have enough straight pieces so I ended up grabbing some oak boards:

  • 3 1/4″x4″x4′
  • 4 1/4″x4″x2′
  • 1″ fine thread pocket screws
  • 2 6′ strips of 3/4″ oak moulding
  • 1 2’x4′ oak faced plywood panel

I chose the shorter 4′ pieces rather than the 6 and 8′ pieces as there isn’t much of a price difference, and the longer a piece the larger the twists. The sides were cut to 47 3/4″ and the top/bottom to 14 1/8″ using the radial arm saw, a stop was supposed to ensure that each of the parallel pieces were of the same length. Unfortunately, as you can see here, I inexplicably screwed up the use of the stop block as I had the waste positioned between the blade and the stop, effectively ensuring that the waste from each piece was of uniform width. Cutting the frameNot even stopping to take this photo allowed me to see the mistake ahead of time. To be fair the cut-off pieces were pretty small which meant that using the stop properly would have put my fingers dangerously close to the blade. Apparently this was my sub-conscious’ way of helping me out. Once I discovered my error, after cutting both pieces, I stacked the two pieces, lined up the ends on one side and trimmed off about an 1/4″ on the opposite side to even them out. So now my shelf is only 13 7/8″ wide.

Testing the fitAfter dry fitting the frame in the wall cavity, to confirm a good fit, the next step is to cut the dado’s for the shelves. Over the past months I have watched a few videos and read some articles but this would be my first attempt at dados. Per my research I lined up the two sides and clamped them in place, apparently the easiest way to ensure that the dados are aligned for level shelves. Lining out ShelvesThen using 3 different spice jars from the house I laid out the top of each shelf, I was able to get, including the bottom shelf, 7 shelves 4 of about 5″, 2 that fit the largest jars and one in the middle. The boards are 1/2″ and as luck would have it I have a 1/2″ straight bit which makes things pretty simple as I only have to take one pass across the boards. Tear out was a concern so I used the 3rd 4′ piece of oak and a cut-off scrap to provide a support on the back edge of the sides, as you can see in this photo. Ready to Dado A speed square made for a nice straight-edge guide. Set the plunge router up to make a 1/4″ deep dado in two 1/8″ passes. Unfortunately for the first pass I used only 1 clamp (as you can also see in photo) to secure the square allowing the square to shift as I routed across the boards. I didn’t notice until I was completely through the first cut. For the second pass an additional clamp was added and it worked perfectly as you can see in this series of photos. I figure I can hide, or at least minimize visibility by orienting the unit properly in the wall.

Ooops againThere was yet another mistake to be made cutting the dados. This photo shows what happens when you get sloppy and try to bring the router out of the cut before shutting off the motor and/or releasing the plunge.
Dado completeAfter all was said and done I am pretty happy with the results, some embarrassing screw-ups but nothing ruined, yet. And look at that the top and bottom shelves ended up being pretty symmetrical.Symmetry

Now that the dadoes are done I can measure and cut the shelves, this time I used the stop block properly, and dry fit them in the within the frame. The fit was pretty tight, as one would hope/expect. SanderTo make a little wiggle room I wrapped a piece of 180 grit sand paper around a small 1/8″ cut-off left on the floor from a previous project. A few passes on each side of all the dadoes allowed the shelves to fit in a little easier, although I still had to hammer a couple of them home placing a piece of scrap across the edge to protect the shelf. Getting closerAnother quick dry fit in the wall cavity shows me that I about a saw-tooth width to wide. Back at the RAS to take off about an 1/8″ from the top,bottom and each shelve

This is where it ceases to be fun, sanding, I hate it. Although I did find something I hate worse during this project…sanding moulding! Ready to sandAnyway another tip from the internet (or perhaps it was Shop Notes, either way…) was to make some pencil marks on the surface to be sanded, once they have been removed it is time to move to the next grit. I started at 180 then 220 and finished with 320, that is more than enough for my needs, thankfully I need only sand one side of the sides, top and bottom. I don’t have a proper work-table so I had to improvise to make some stops atop my router table, this allowed me to lay two of the shelves end to end and sand both at once. I do have a random oribit sander but as I wanted to keep the sharp edges on all my pieces I opted, instead, to use a sanding block.Still sanding

The sanding, as you can imagine, made the shelves a little slimmer and all but one of them now fit nicely into the dadoes. Pocket-screws (on the outside of course) were used to connect one side to the top and bottom pieces. During sanding I put an X on the unsanded side of the top/bottom pieces to ensure that I put the proper side “up”, well as you might have guessed initially I screwed them both in upside down. Easy fix.

Squeeze outI employed some blue tape to, seemingly, eliminate any issues from squeeze out. In the end, because I used a small brush and a thin coat of glue, there wasn’t any squeeze out of note AND the tape was a real pain in the ass to get off. Really I should have just skipped the glue altogether.

Not enough clamps With the shelves in place just add clamps. Once again proving that you can never have enough clamps…I could have used about 8-10 more. Again it wasn’t a big deal for this project as the glue is pretty much superfluous as the case is secured with pocket screws.

OverhangDid my best to center the shelves in the dadoes so that there was no overhang front nor back which would interfere with the moulding and backing respectively. Unfortunately, I blame that one obstinate shelf, there were a couple of pieces with pretty significant overhang in the front, which, in hindsight, is better than the back. A chisel and a hammer made short work of the issue, however, and also would provide a nice little stop for the moulding, again it could have been worse. Foul upAnother tip here, don’t pry the chisel up after making the horizontal cut, you just might split off a piece of the shelf. I cracked a piece but luckily it didn’t break off completely a little touch of glue and no one will ever know. Left it to dry overnight.

Set-upI don’t even want to talk about how long it took me to set-up for this cut. It was at least an hour, but that includes setting up the saw horses as well as the straight edge and a trip into the house for a beer. I didn’t use the tablesaw for several reasons, lack of a plywood blade, zero clearance plate, splitter and out-feed table. In the end using the circular saw and a straight-edge worked out pretty well. BackingRather than measure, mainly b/c I left the tape in the house during said beer run, I put the shelf unit on the sheet, centered to get the best grain pattern, clamped it down, and marked the cuts.

A little glue and some screws should hold the backing in place.Need more clamps Proving once again that you never have enough clamps, however, thankfully I was able utilize some wood screws to make up for it. Of course I pre-drilled the holes, and tested in some scrap wood, to ensure that I wouldn’t split the edge pieces. Clamped and left to dry overnight.

According to the wisdom of the internet I was going to have a tough time working these miters on the Radial Arm Saw, well if I do say so myself they came out pretty nicely. They are far from perfect but for a first attempt I am satisfied with the results, although the 2 best fitting corners are in the least visible spots, go figure. I wanted to avoid using finishing nails to secure the moulding as I am confident that I would have managed to dent the moulding in the process. So I used painters tape to act as mini clamps as the glue dries. The clamps wouldn’t really work here and besides, as you may know by now, I don’t have enough. I did a dry assembly first and got all the corners lined up as best as possible, taped them all down lightly (2-3 pieces per) then removed, glued and heavily taped each piece one by one. Worked out pretty well so far, will be interesting to see how long it holds….

A final dry fit confirms that the moulding will indeed cover up my drywall hack job, sweet! Dry fitDue to the aforementioned forward slant of the cross support you can see the shelf leaning out a bit, that will be easy enough to remedy with some mounting screws and perhaps some shims…although with the moulding already in place it will be interesting to see exactly how/if that will work… Oak plugsI intend to secure the shelves to the studs using 1.25″ #8 wood screws 2 on each side of the top and one per side near the bottom. What I don’t want to have are exposed screw heads, so after some thought the last couple of days I settled on using a 3/8″ fostner bit to bore out a 1/4″ hole to seat each screw. I also made a 4th or 5th trip to the hardware store to get a 3/8″ plug cutting bit. img_1314 Using the plug cutter and one of the cut-off pieces, I made 8 oak plugs. 2 of which I used to test my approach on some scrap. It was at this point that I realized I had a bit of a problem.

I really want to apply the finish in the shop prior to mounting. However, if I do that then I will have some issues/concerns when putting in the plugs which will need to be flush cut, and sanded AFTER mounting as I will surely screw up the finish in the process. Another option would be to mount the shelves unfinished, sort out the plugs and then apply the finish, don’t think the family will approve of dealing with the fumes in the kitchen.

According to some nice folks on the internet my chosen finish (Danish Oil) is very easy to touch up so I am going with option #1, it should be interesting. With that decided the only thing left to do is apply the finish. Danish Oil finishI chose Danish Oil because it is fairly durable (according to the internet) but mostly because the application is a no brainer, just wipe it on fairly liberally with a cotton rag, let it sit 30 minutes, wipe on another coat, let it sit 15 minutes and wipe off the excess. You can’t see it in this picture but I noticed another screw up after I stood back to admire the finished piece. The backing board grain is flowing down, by design, but the grain on left framing piece is flowing up wards rather than down, now I had specifically picked that piece to be on the left side for the nice figure and a nice swirl/knot pattern that should have been in the top left corner with the grain flowing downward. But when I put in the shelving I failed to double check the orientation of that piece and missed the mark. In this case it isn’t very much of a difference aesthetically, no one will ever notice, especially when it is full of spices, but it does remind me to take it slow and double check things before getting out the glue.

Finish product.  I picked up one last tip on flush cutting the plugs, place a piece of paper under the saw blade, between it and the wood, to minimize the unintended scratches.  Indeed re-applying the finish to the area around the plugs post sanding worked a treat, and there is no visible difference between these areas and the rest of the piece.  Time for a beer.  


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