I do a fair amount of cooking, but it always seems that I have far too much cookware than available space. I hated having to shove three pots out of the way to grab the one I wanted from the kitchen closet, and halfway through cooking, I would constantly need a sauce pan that was located behind yet another mountain of pots.
So I decided to build a pot rack that would be able to hold the pots I frequently use along with an apron. Because it's a very functional item, and most of it would be covered by hanging pots, I didn't want to use a nice, clear piece of wood. Instead I wanted to use several offcuts that I had laying around taking up shop space.
Step 1: Designing and Determining the Size
Before I could start building, I needed to figure out how much material I would need, and if what I had would be sufficient.
I lined up my pots side to side in a straight line with about 3 inches between each pot and measured the length to get an idea of how long the pot rack would need to be. In my case it was around 48 inches long and I decided on a width of around 6 inches. I also carefully measured the center of each pot so that I could install the hooks without the pots banging into each other. I dug through my scrap pile and came out with a suitable piece of cherry that was big enough for the pot rack dimensions.
With the size of the pot rack determined, I sketched out a design detailing its overall profile, along with several shaped knobs. If I left the pot rack plain, it would simply look like a board screwed to the wall. Functional, but not pretty, and not something that a person would stop to admire. I decided to inlay banding around the borders of the pot rack to give it a little bit more detail and to dress it up.
I sketched out several banding patterns that I liked, but because I was trying to use scraps and leftovers, I went with some of the leftover banding that I had made for my dining table build.
Step 2: Selecting and Prepping the Stock
For this build, you'll need:
1 board of cherry 48"l x 6"w x 1" thick (nominal)
1 board of eastern white pine 48"l x 6"w x 3/4" thick for the French cleat
12" combination square
screwdriver with drill bits and Phillips head
3/4" or 1" bench chisel
A plunge router with fence and 1/4" straight bit
Inlay banding (approx. 9 feet)
6 oil rubbed bronze robe hooks
220 grit sandpaper or card scrapers or smoothing handplane (Stanley #3 or #4)
I prepared the stock by cutting the board to a 48" length, and flattened both sides with a Stanley #7 jointer plane. I then jointed one edge of the board and marked the opposite edge with a pencil to my width of 6 inches, and then planed down until I had the correct width. I then carefully squared up the ends of the board using a Stanley #4 smoothing plane.
If you purchase your wood from a big box store (and carefully pick through the stacks of wood to get straight pieces), you probably won't need to go through all the trouble of flattening and squaring it. Like I mentioned earlier, this particular cherry was a leftover from a sofa table project I made earlier that used roughsawn instead of surfaced lumber.
With the board completely flat and square on all sides, I measured the outside border for the banding and marked it 1/4" up from the edges of the board. I then used a piece of scrap to get the depth for the banding inlay's groove, routing at various depths and testing after each pass with the router until the inlay was sitting slightly proud. Once the depth was set, I then routed the grooves for the banding, stopping about an 1/8" from each corner and squaring the ends with a chisel.
Step 3: Install the Banding Inlay
I installed the banding at one edge of the board and worked my way all around the border using miters to join the pieces together. To find out where I should cut the miters on the board ends, I laid a strip of banding in the groove and marked with a fine, sharp pencil where it butted up against the inside groove of the adjacent edge. Using my chisel, I then placed its corner (with the bevel towards the waste) on the pencil mark, and slowly rotated the chisel out until I saw a sharp 90 degree turn in the chisel's back. I then cut the miter using a rocking motion, taking my time to slice through it completely.
The banding I used was leftover from my Federal dining room table project. This banding is pretty simple to make and consists of alternating strips of black walnut and sycamore that I sawed off and glued between two narrow pieces of sycamore. If you want to save time on the project, or are unsure of how to make banding, you can easily purchase some from either Woodcraft (http://www.woodcraft.com/) or Lee Valley (http://www.leevalley.com/).
After all pieces of banding were mitered and fitted, I used hot hide glue in the grooves to glue the banding down. I prefer hot hide glue for inlay work like this because it sets quickly, it's reversible, and you can apply most finishes over hide glue without any problems. If you don't have hot hide glue, you can easily use white PVA glue instead. Just make sure to press the banding firmly down into the groove with the glue and clean up any squeeze out that occurs.
Once the glue had set and fully cured overnight, I used a smoothing plane to take the banding inlay down flush with the board, and followed up with a card scraper.
Step 4: Install the Hardware
To install the hardware, I marked down an inch and a half from the bottom edge of the banding and transcribed my measurements for the pots so that I knew exactly where the hooks would go. I should point out that the spacing for the hooks is different because I have different sized pots.
With the markings made, I then placed the hardware on the center and marked the center for the screws. I drilled pilot holes for all the screws, and made sure to wax the threads with paraffin.
Step 5: Installing the French Cleat
For the installation, I chose a French cleat since it's very strong and it's hidden from view. I made the cleat by cutting a 30 degree bevel in a scrap piece of eastern white pine. The top part of the cleat is on the left hand side in the photograph and was screwed into the back of the pot rack. To ensure that the cleat was level, I marked about 2 inches down from the top of the pot rack and carefully lined up the cleat with that mark. This way the cleat is completely level and parallel to the pot rack.
The lower part of the cleat is on the right hand side and was screwed into the kitchen wall with drywall anchors. I first drilled pilot holes for the screws, and used a spirit level to ensure the bottom cleat was level. Once the bottom cleat was level, I marked through the pilot holes with an awl so that I could drill out for the drywall anchors and ensure that the screws would line up and easily go in.
Step 6: Finishing
I prefer shellac for finishing, but because I expected the pot rack to see a lot of use, I opted instead for a polyurethane varnish. I took 3 ounces of high gloss varnish and thinned it 50% with paint thinner to get a consistency similar to wiping varnish. My shop unfortunately is far from dust free, and the times that I have used varnish, I constantly found dust nibs and specks of saw dust embedded into the finish because of the long drying time. By thinning the varnish drastically, I'm eliminating the likelihood of encountering sags or runs in the finish, and it should dry quickly enough to prevent dust from settling into the finish.
Once I had 3 coats on the pot rack, I gently rubbed it with a fine grade (0000) steel wool and applied a paste wax.
Step 7: In Its Natural Habitat
Hanging the pot rack is extremely easy with the French cleat. Gravity is what holds it in place, and if the pot rack ever gets dirty, say from cooking oil, I can easily lift it up off of the cleat and clean it without having to remove any hardware or back out screws.
I think this pot rack turned out very well considering that it was made from scrap wood and left over banding. The design was pretty straightforward, making this an easy build, but it can easily be modified to your own level of woodworking expertise.