Introduction: Arts & Crafts Coat Rack

First, a definition:

"Friends help you move.  Good Friends help you move bodies." ~ Anonymous

I figure this is a one ... maybe two-body coat rack. - lol.

I built this for a Good Friend.  The dimensions are a little peculiar because it was designed for a specific spot in a specific house.  If I was going to build it for a less specific location, I might have added another 2-3" in depth to it - but as it is it works very well. 

Cost was around $600, but that's a rough estimate because of ever-changing lumber prices and what material you might choose to use.  My materials of choice here were quarter-sawn White Oak ( which is a little spendy but traditional) - Hard Maple, Baltic Birch Plywood, Tempered Hardboard, cast iron hardware, and  a custom plate-glass beveled mirror. 

Overall dimensions:  78" H x 32" W x 16" D


A Few Notes:

1) A number of dimensions are going to vary based on YOUR particular build - specifically the thickness of your panels which will drive the width of the dadoes you cut as well as the thickness of some parts ("K"). I glued-up and flattened all my panels by hand (no fancy panel sanders in MY shop, buddy), so my final thickness was not *exactly* 3/4" (maybe 1/32" less) - and I adjusted my dado width and the thickness of part "K" accordingly - so keep in mind you'll have to pay attention to how that might affect your assembly and part dimensions.

2) This design is based on solid-wood construction which comes with a few details that have to be considered - specifically compensating for expansion/contraction across the grain. Building the case with plywood or veneered MDF would eliminate the need for these details.

3) I'm going to be a *little* lax in regards to illustrating all of the dimensions - mainly because I'm including a SketchUp model from which dimensions can be taken directly. I'll try to hit most of the high points - but I hope you'll forgive me if I miss something - remember you can always get it from the SketchUp model. (If you don't have SketchUp, you can download it here: http://sketchup.google.com/ )

4) Unfortunately, there is a lack of "in process" pictures. I'm not sure what happened to the ones I took, but I wasn't able to find them all (dagnabit!). I'm trying to make up for that with lots of illustrations.

5) The hardware I used was sourced from a company that has since gone out of business. Do a search for "Arts and Crafts Hardware" or "Craftsman Hardware" or "Mission Hardware" and you're likely to find something very similar. I used moderately priced, good-quality hardware - just be aware that there's a huge range in price without a huge range in functionality - so shop around. As always, I recommend having hardware in-hand before making any kinds of construction/design decisions.



Step 1: Pieces and Parts

A word on wood "growth" or "expansion":  Solid lumber expands and contracts based on it's moisture content (plywood and other sheet stock don't suffer from this nearly as much).  If you live in a climate where your furniture is exposed to a wide range of humidity conditions, failing to allow for expansion and contraction in your design and construction of a solid wood piece of furniture can be disastrous.  I've seen tables that were built in the winter literally crack themselves apart in the summer due to higher humidity (and a failure to take wood growth into account).  Wood expands mostly *across* it's grain (growth along the length is negligible) with some species growing/shrinking (in theory) as much as 1%.  That doesn't sound like much until you realize that 1% can mean 1/16" of expansion for every 6-1/4" of width.  Thankfully most hardwoods don't grow/shrink *that* much,  but you still need to design for it to ensure that your project provides years of beauty and function and doesn't spontaneously disassemble itself.  This design takes wood expansion into account in a number of places.

On Sanding:  It's a good idea to sand all your parts to finish level BEFORE you go assembling things.  Yes, you'll have to probably sand a few areas again, but it's SO much less tedious to do it when you can set a part on a bench and sand it there, as opposed to trying to sand into some small corner while practicing your contortionist act and praying you don't put a bunch of cross-grain scratches into neighboring pieces.  Just be careful not to round over ends or edges.

The images above contain a parts list and bill of materials.  I've also included a SketchUp model from which you can take measurements.  Once again, if you don't have SketchUp, you can download it here: http://sketchup.google.com

NOTE: Just FYI  - To see the full-sized images of the Bill of Materials, click on the small "i" in the box at the upper left corner of the image - it will send you to a new page displaying just that image.  Under the image on the new page, there will be a link next to the words "original file"  to open or download the full-sized version.

Step 2: Lumbering Along....

1) The first order of business was to glue-up the case sides and top panels.  Most of the 3/4" thick stock came from a few 8' long x ~ 8" wide boards, and I would imagine that you'll have to do the same thing if you go with solid-wood construction since finding a 16" wide board that's flat, straight, and clear is going to be almost impossible.

 Take your time and lay out  all your pieces you'll want to get from your stock - I usually trace them out roughly on the boards with chalk.  The boards I chose had an interesting streak in them, and through careful layout I was able to "wrap" that around the case and use it as a design element in the drawer fronts.  

2) Once the main panels were glued and trued, I was ready to move on to jointing and dimensioning the other parts.  FYI, I use a hand-held belt sander and some simple techniques for flattening panels.  You really don't *have* to have a panel sander.

3)  Note: It's critical that the legs be square and straight.  Cut the front and back legs to length.  Use the top edge of the front legs to establish the bottom edge of the 1/8" deep dadoes that wrap around the back legs.  This will ensure that your table top sits flush front to back.
 
4) Cut the dadoes in the backs of the Front Legs and the front of the Rear Legs - width should be based on the thickness of your panels.  Be sure to set up stops so that you don't overshoot when cutting the dadoes that run along the length of the Rear Legs  - and **mark your sides**  - it's very easy at this stage to cut the wrong side, or use the wrong offsets.  Just take your time - "measure twice, cut once" is sage advice.

5)  Cut the "wrap around" dadoes that will capture the "tabs" on the outside edges of the table top.  These dadoes *could* only be cut on the outside only -  they're there to capture that little "tab" of wood and support it  - but that would require a perfect cutout in the table top - and I'm not that precise ;)

6) Cut the tapers on the legs on the *insides* only.  I cut 1/2" tapers over 4" of height.  These can be cut a number of ways (chop saw is probably easiest) but however you do it, clean up the faces at this point since it will be much easier at this stage to work on them.

Step 3: Gettin' Framed

7) Set up your chop saw or table saw and cut all of the cross-width parts at the same time - i.e. parts B, C, D, E, F, and G to ensure that they are exactly the same length.

8) Using any technique you choose (I use the bent-board technique) go ahead trace out and cut the ~3/4" arches on parts E, G, and the side panels, S.

9) Go ahead and cut your Top Cap ("T") to width and length.

10)  The Mirror Frame Side Rails could be cut to ROUGH length at this point - you'll cut them to exact length later (add 1/2" to be sure).

11)  The Case Braces ("A") could also be cut at this point.  For the most efficient use of wood, make your cuts in your stock alternate as you go - like this: /  \  /  \  not this: /|\  /|\  /|\  /|\ (I hope that makes sense ;) - you'll have a lot less waste.

Baby Got Back:

12) Assemble and glue up the back frame parts: O, G, D, and B using biscuits joints. NOTE: You will NOT install the Case Back Middle Rail Upper ("C") at this point. Make sure that the top of D is flush with the bottom of the wrap-around dados cut in the back legs, and make sure that the Coat Hook Rail ("G") is flush with the tops of the Rear Legs ("O").

Baby Got Front:

13) Assemble and glue up the front frame pieces F, E, and N using bisciut joints. Use the position of the bottom edge of the side panels to determine the position of the Case Front Rail Lower ("F") - i.e. they should be the same distance from the bottoms of the legs.





Step 4: Starting to Take Shape

Put 'Em Together:

13) To install the Side Panels ("S"), you can either use a chisel to clean out the length-wise dados, or, notch the upper back corner of the side panel - whatever works for you. I glued the panels to the front frame assembly first, let that dry, and then attached that whole assembly to the back frame. I did it in two steps because I didn't want to wrestle with 4 joints that had to be kept flush and aligned all at the same time - two is enough of a challenge.

14) Once the main carcass is assembled, it's time to install the corner braces. I realize that this isn't the "traditional" way to assemble this kind of carcass - but it's plenty strong in this application. I've stood on this piece and did my best Elvis impression to test it's strength, and it passed ;). There are 8 corner braces - and you should note that the top 4 have an additional hole drilled in their middle. This hole should be made larger in diameter than the screws you will use to fasten the top down with. Why? Because you will want to allow the top to "move" with changes in humidity, and the oversized holes will allow this movement without loosening the screw or the top (use a button head screw and oversized washer).

Step 5: Fit the Top

15) Once the top is cut to size, you're going to install it by making some "cutouts" that allow the top to slide into the dados in the Rear Legs and have it set flush to the back.  Position the top against the rear legs and transfer the positions of the cutouts with a very sharp pencil or a knife.  I made the side cuts with a Japanese dozuki saw and removed the waste with a chisel.  Take your time and sneak up on the final depth - you want a sliding fit, but not a loose fit - and you can't put wood back on - and you want the dado to hide the cut ;)  Once I had the top fitted, I glued it to the Case Back Middle Rail Lower ("D") and installed button-head screws with oversized washers through the Case Braces.  This limits the direction of wood growth to back-to-front, but still allows for it which is the important thing.

16) When the glue had cured, I went ahead and installed the Case Back Middle Rail Upper ("C") with three biscuits installed between the case top and C.  There is no glue or mechanical attachment between C and the Rear Legs ("N") - it's not really necessary - the joint between the rail and the table top is very strong.

Step 6: Let There Be Drawers

17)  Due to the shallow depth of this piece, I decided to go with wooden drawer glides.  Contrary to what some  people might think, wooden drawer glides work *very* well and probably have fewer long-term problems than mechanical glides.  The only caveat - and it's a small one - is that you do have to wax them with paraffin every other year or so - a 20 minute job that ensures silky-smooth action in day-to-day use.  Not only do wooden glides work well, they're very inexpensive - I probably saved $70 by going with wood.  The drawer boxes are made of 1/2" Baltic Birch plywood and assembled with finger joints.  You could use any joint you like, but I'd recommend against butt joints as they are the absolute weakest joint and they WILL fall apart with any appreciable use.  The drawer bottoms are 1/4" tempered hardboard (Masonite) slid (not glued) into 1/4" deep dadoes.  The box is then attached to a separate front via screws through the front wall of the drawer box and into the back of the drawer front.  This type of construction allows for some "wiggle room" in assembly so the drawer-face spacing can be tuned.  I was able to maintain a 1/16" gap all the way around.  Cut the drawer runner dadoes in the drawers before going to the next step as you will need the dimension from dado-to-dado to determine the final thickness of your drawer runners ("L").  NOTE: You will fit the drawer boxes in the case FIRST - and will install the drawer faces later.  If you install the faces before fitting the runners and boxes, you will more than likely have to remove and reinstall the faces to get even edge-spacing.

18)  After building the drawers, I installed the Drawer Runner Rails ("K").  These parts were thicknessed so that they were flush with the inside face of the front legs - they really just serve as spacers.  I chamfered the edges of the K parts a small amount - just to ensure that there were as few places to snag or drag on when opening and closing drawers.  These were screwed and glued (lightly) in place.

19)  I installed the Mirror Frame Side Rails at this point.  Set them in place and transfer your cut lines to the pieces.  Remember that the top cut outs will not be square due to the arc in the Coat Hook Rail ("G").  I installed them with glue and screws - the screws being more expedient than necessary - but any additional mechanical attachment is always welcome.  You could cut the rabbet in the rails at this point to accept the mirror.  I used a rabbet bit in a router and cut a rabbet all the way around the mirror frame opening (in parts C, G and P).  Make your first passes light and build up to the depth you want - again, take your time.  Once this opening is cut, make a cardboard template of the mirror,  take it to a glass shop, and have them cut a plate glass mirror for you.  I had a 1" bevel ground as well to give it a more classic look.  You may as well take the template in before you're done because I've never seen a glass shop do something like this quickly.  Cost for the mirror was about $85.

20)  I installed the Top Cap ("T") with three biscuits and glue - keeping the back flush with the back of the Coat Hook Rail ("G").

21)  The thickness of the Drawer Runners ("L") is obtained by taking the dimension of the drawer opening, minus the dimension from the drawer dado bottom to dado bottom, divided by two, and subtract an additional 1/32."  Yes, that's an ideal and you'll probably have to do some fitting, but that formula should get you close and will give you a 1/16" of total "slop" and will provide smooth running drawers that can't hit the sides of the legs.  You will want to drill a close-fitting hole for the front mounting screw and make a slot for the back screw so that the case can grow and shrink without changing the position of the front edge of the runners which in turn control the depth that the drawer faces sit at.

22)  With the drawer runners mounted and the drawers fitted, it was time to install the drawer fronts.  After drilling the holes for the hardware, I installed screws through the back of the front faces of the drawer boxes (pointy-side out) with about 1/16" of tip showing.  The bottom drawer front ("H") was spaced with 1/16" shims from the bottom and sides, and while holding the face, I pulled the drawer box up against it to transfer the position of the screws.  Pilot holes were drilled where the screws left "dimples" and then the drawer face was set back in place and the screws driven home to secure it to the drawer box.  Once this was done, I moved on to the next drawer face and installed it the same way.  The top drawer face is a little harder since you can't reach through to grab the drawer to slide it forward to do the marking, but a friend can help with that ;)

Step 7: Finish It Off

23)  After a little sanding and cleanup here and there to get rid of clamp marks, blemishes, etc. I temporarily fastened some wooden "boots" to the bottoms of the legs to allow me to slide the piece around without worrying about damaging the legs, and to get it up off the ground for finishing.  I brushed on three coats of polyurethane as a finish.  I put finish on ALL surfaces that I could reach.  The drawers were disassembled and the faces were finished separate from the boxes.  I finished ALL sides of the drawer boxes as well.  A little trick I've developed for getting a better finish with a brush is to dilute the first coat of polyurethane by about 10% with thinner.  This gives a very thin-bodied finish.  I brush this on as thin as I can (without dry-brushing) - you are trying to fill pores and close up the wood.  After this is fully cured, I use a 3M abrasive pad to knock off any "nibs" or rough spots, then proceed to finish with full strength polyurethane.  This takes a little longer, but you get MUCH nicer results than with a full-strength first coat.  My personal brand recommendation for polyurethane is MinWax ( I avoid Varathane brand like the plague - I've had terrible problems with it.)

24)  Once the finish is all thoroughly dry (give it a few days), reassemble the drawers.  To make the drawers function smoothly (up until this point, they'll act pretty "sticky" because they're so short) you'll want to wax the drawer runners and dadoes.  I use a plain paraffin block that I bought at the grocery store - but you could use a candle as well, I suppose.  I found the best method was to soften the wax with a blow-dryer or heat gun (be careful with a heat gun!!), rub the bearing surfaces with the wax, and then kind of melt the wax onto the surface with the blow-dryer/heat gun.  You'll be amazed at how smoothly the drawers function.  On that note, if you  have children, you may want to install some kind of drawer stop - chains, tabs, whatever - to keep the drawers from being pulled all the way out - it's pretty easy to do with a drawer that's so short.

25)  At this point, go ahead and make the Mirror Backing Panel ("Q") and Rear Bottom Panel ("R") and install "R" with screws.  Install your hardware per the manufacturer's instructions in a visually appealing arrangement on the Coat Hook Rail.  Carefully remove the wooden "shoes" on the bottoms of the feet, and install metal feet (or the feet of your choice) in their place.  Set the mirror in place and install the Mirror Backing Panel with screws.

Enjoy your new Arts&Crafts Coat Rack :)

Comments

author
KentM (author)2016-07-19

Another beautiful project. Well done!

author
lagrts (author)2012-12-06

This is beautiful!! I am actually going to try and do it!! Your instructions are so details that I am going to take the leap! Thanks a bunch!

author
blkhawk (author)2011-09-14

Beautiful work of art! Thank you for taking the time to post it.

author
dimtick (author)2011-09-12

wow.
really nice. bueatiful detailing.
since your using wood glides you may want to add some drawer stops
did you install the back of the drawer base? it's in the sketchup model but I don't see it in the pictures.
nice job!

author
jwilliamsen (author)dimtick2011-09-12

Thanks! I probably would have added drawer stops if this was going into a house with kids, but my friend has never mentioned any problems with pulling them all the way out. A simple tab setup would probably work - you're right.

I did install the back panel - everything in the sketchup model is in the final version. Unfortunately, I seem to have lost a number of the "in process" photos - and it the coat rack doesn't live with me any more so you'll have to take my word ;) Actually back panels like that add a lot of structural rigidity - so I don't think I'd ever skip having it there.....

author
dimtick (author)jwilliamsen2011-09-12

thanks for the reply.
how did you attach the mirror? I've only done mirrors a couple times but i used a edge rabbit. this isn't because I like the detail but because no matter how accurate my measurements, the glass place can never cut it perfectly so having a rabbit gives a little wiggle room.
the top, sides and drawer fronts are glue up panels? the only thing I may have done differently is to make the front face with the top & bottom rails and drawer fronts all one panel so that you would get a perfect grain match.
I've never heard of softening the wax with a heat gun. that's a great tip.
it looks like in the photo's that you recessed the drawer hardware into the face. if so, how did you get it to fit?
really nice job.

author
jwilliamsen (author)dimtick2011-09-12

The mirror is set into a rabbet and held in place with a back panel that's screwed to the frame - and you're right - the glass shops usually have a hard time hitting a dimension within +/- 1/16" - so you have to design around that.

The top and sides are glue-up, but the drawer fronts are just consecutive pieces out of the same board. I'm not so enamored with the idea of a perfect grain match - as long as I can keep some sense of continuity. I guess if I want *perfect* grain match, I'd probably use veneer. I like trying to work with the "irregularities" in the wood - it's what gives it it's character IMO.

Yes - if you have wooden runners, or even "old school" box-on-frame drawers that use plastic "nibs" to smooth out the drawer movement, softening the wax and kind of "melting" it into the surface does wonders and makes the process go much more smoothly - and there's a lot less clean-up as well (I use a heat gun). I have a lot of wooden runners in my house, and I *actually* don't dread the prospect of waxing them every other year or so - and that's saying a lot :)

The hardware on the drawers isn't recessed - it's just surface mounted. Just an optical illusion, I guess ;) - if I did want to recess it, I'd make a pattern and use a pattern bit and a router followed by a little cleanup with a chisel - very do-able.

Thanks again :)

author
kelseymh (author)2011-09-12

Beautiful coatrack, and wonderfully written up! Thank you :-)

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