I wanted more space on the counter, so I made an over-the-sink dishrack.
I wanted to use a branch for the front support to make it look more interesting.
Step 1: Attaching the Branch to a Plank Makes It Easier to Drill - Part 1
The front of the new dishrack was made from a branch. I needed to drill a row of holes to hold the rods so that they would be parallel and form a straight, flat surface. First, I supported it with scraps of wood so that the side I wanted the rods in pointed straight up.
Step 2: Attaching the Branch to a Plank Makes It Easier to Drill - Part 2
To keep the branch from rocking or twisting when drilling, I attached it to a plank of wood. First I put a screw through the left end. I didn't mind the hole because the last few inches of the branch would later be cut off to make it fit between the cabinets. On the right end I used screws to pull a chain very tight over the top of the branch. Clamps were not an option since the plank would need to slide freely on the drill press table.
Step 3: Getting Ready to Drill - Part 1
I clamped a board to the drill press table to serve as a guide. This made sure the holes I drilled were all in a line.
Step 4: Getting Ready to Drill - Part 2
I wanted the holes to be spaced at ~3/4" intervals so I used a tape measure and a mark on the drill press table to know where to drill. To keep my hands free for more important things, I clamped the body of a tape measure to the drill press table and stapled the end of the tape to the board supporting the branch. As shown in the quick video, the tape would move with the branch, which let me count off 3/4" intervals.
Step 5: Drilling Holes for the Front of the Dishrack
The rods I planned to use were 3/16" in diameter so the holes needed to be slightly larger. Because the drill press can hold everything steady, I went up by a small amount (1/64") and used a 13/64" drill bit. If I were drilling by hand I would use a slightly larger bit so that even if I didn't drill perfectly parallel holes, the rods could move around to be parallel.
I drilled ~1/2" deep holes by eyeballing the depth gauge built into the drill press. Wrapping a piece of tape around the drill to leave the bottom 1/2" exposed would have been a smarter way to measure. I couldn't set a stop since the branch was not flat.
Step 6: Testing the Fit of the First Two Rods
I cut steel rods for each end so that there was ~1/4" of space between them and the wall. I planned to drill holes in the back board almost all the way through, leaving only 1/8" of wood. This would give the rods about 1/8" of space to slide back and forth. Put another way, I would need to cut the rods to within 1/8" of their ideal length to make them fit. This proved tricky, so I'd recommend giving yourself more wiggle room. The thicker the pieces of wood you use, the larger your tolerances can be.
Step 7: Drill the Back Board
Again, I drilled 13/64" holes at 3/4" intervals to hold the rods from the back. I set the depth gauge to stop at about 1/8" from drilling all the way through. Drilling a flat surface is much easier, so skip the branch and do both the front and back like this if you value your time.
Step 8: Test the Back Plate
I assembled the front and back wooden supports with the outer rods to make sure things fit. Eventually, they did. Good time to confirm that the rods can't slip out if you wiggle them.
Step 9: Paint the Steel
Wood dowels may have been a better idea. Stainless steel rods are definitely better, though harder to cut. Aluminum rods would also have been better, but at $1/foot, I wasn't excited about dropping $40 on them. And I had a pile of steel rods, and have had good luck with Rustoleum clear coat for steel exposed to the elements. Time will tell.
Update: steel is beginning to rust! So use stainless, aluminum, wood, or just paint it better.
Step 10: Make Sure You Cut the Rods to the Right Length
I tied a guide line between the two outer rods, which I knew were the correct length. Use something light so you can put a little tension on it without it bowing the metal rods much. You don't want this to sag much for accurate measurements.
After the string is up, place a rod in an empty hole, mark where it crosses the string, and cut the rod at that place. Repeat.
Step 11: A Note on Cutting Rods One Handed
These 24" bolt cutters made quick work of the rods, but it's hard to get the cut in just the right place if you're using both hands to squeeze the handles together. If you can attach them to a surface life will be much easier.
Here I'm using the same piece of wood I had the branch on, and the same chain and screws. Two more wood scraps on either side make a quick channel to keep it upright. The whole thing can now be clamped to a table.
Alternately, I suppose you could leave the rods sticking in the branch and just cut them where they cross the string. That's what I'd do next time.
Step 12: Assemble the Rack to Make Sure Everything Fits
This was a little maddening but gets easier after you have a few rods spanning both pieces to hold everything in place. I slid the rods partly out of the front one by one to get them into the back. If you look closely you can tell the front and back needed to be squeezed together a little more.
Step 13: Install the Dishrack
By sheer luck, the rack was just large enough that it would stay in place when pushed between the cabinets. This made it possible to mount the rack without a second person holding it.
For the back, I put one screw into a stud and two into drywall anchors.
For the front I put a screw through the wall of the cabinet into each end of the branch. Drilling a pilot hole can help the screw go in and prevent splitting.
Step 14: Done
I rubbed the wood with a ~1:10 mixture of beeswax:mineral oil (heated and stirred to form a paste). Mineral oil by itself works great too - same stuff lots of folks use for their cutting boards.