Introduction: Simple Wooden Guitar Rack

Picture of Simple Wooden Guitar Rack

(Apologies in advance for the shortage of in-progress pictures - this was an experiment for me and I didn't really expect it to turn out well enough to share!)

Guitar aficionados know that their collection of guitars are more than just sticks with strings. Ohana means family, and, reading into it a bit more, also means you should have a nice place to put your guitars so they can look pretty and you can give them the quality music-making time they deserve.

With that in mind, I designed and put together a convenient and attractive looking guitar stand that can be built for under $20 and without much prior woodworking experience.

Step 1: Materials & Tools

Picture of Materials & Tools

I followed the mantra of KISS (Keep it simple, stupid) when designing this. Materials needed include:

  • 1" dowel rod - two times the length that you want the completed rack to be. I used a 4' dowel laying around and it was perfect for a 4 guitar stand.
  • 3/4" plywood - the plank I used was something around 5' by 3' and had enough extra wood to make a matching pedalboard. If you use a more conservative (less voluptuous?) design for the legs, it's possible to make this from a relatively small amount of wood. The stand will be roughly 28" tall, so a board of 3' by 3' minimum (3' by 2' bare minimum) is good.
  • 4 moderately-sized wood screws
  • Wood glue
  • Foam padding (optional)
  • Poly or oil finish (optional)
  • Steel wool (optional)
  • Sandpaper (technically optional)

Tools needed:

  • Drill/screwdriver, several size drill bits
  • Jigsaw (bandsaw probably works equally well)
  • Chop saw (optional, but makes some cuts easier)

Step 2: Design and Measurement

Picture of Design and Measurement

This step is concurrent with step one, assuming you're buying the materials and not working with whatever you have laying around. I'll give the guidelines for my stand, and you're free to tweak or improve it any way you see fit!

  • The height of the stand should be about 28". This is what I found to be perfect to hold the guitars at the fifth fret, which is secure and works well, but a few inches more or less won't make a big deal here (to the relief of men everywhere!)
  • The width of the stand depends on how many guitars you want it to hold - 2 feet is perfect (or slightly oversized) for four guitars. I gave almost 5 inches between the centers of each notch for the guitar, and anywhere from 4-5 inches should be good. For reference, a Les Paul has a body thickness of about two inches, and the fretboard and strings add a little more.
  • The header board (for lack of a better term) will be the same length as the dowel rods and the same width as the top of the legs.
  • The exact shape of the legs is totally up to you and makes more of an aesthetic than structural difference. I considered going for a more ornate furniture-inspired shape, then realized that minimalism was probably smarter given my shoddy performance with a jigsaw. All that matters is that it's at least 3 inches wide at the top and 1 foot wide at the bottom.
  • The dowel rods should not be placed parallel to each other - for more stability and a bit of an angle, I raised the front (that is, closer to you) dowel exactly 1 inch higher than the back dowel rod. Experiment around with this if you'd prefer a different angle, but this worked well for me.

Taking all this into account, measure and draw the header board and one of the legs onto the piece of wood (you'll trace the cut-out leg as a template for the second).

Step 3: Assembly

Picture of Assembly

This should all be somewhat self-explanatory from the picture, shouldn't it? A few parts aren't so obvious though, and a little over-explaining won't hurt anyone.

  1. Cut out the various pieces. Chop the dowel rods and cut out the legs and header board to size. Keeping cuts clean here saves time sanding and makes the final product look nicer, so take your time with the saw!
  2. Drill holes for the dowel rods. These being 1" dowels, a 15/16" spade drill bit worked very well. Wiggle the drill bit around in the hole to make it a little bit wider if the dowel rods won't quite fit.
  3. Attach legs with dowel rods. If the fit is very tight, wood glue isn't necessary here, but the added long-term stability is probably nice for very little effort.
  4. Attach the header board. Make sure it's lined up nicely and there's no warping or twisting of the structure, then put a bit of wood glue on the tops of each leg, and attach each leg with two wood screws. You already ought to know about pilot holes and countersinking, and if not, well, I'm writing this at 1:30 in the morning and not explaining it here :P
  5. Let the glue dry. A few hours is enough, overnight if you're in no rush.
  6. Measure and cut neck notches. This was a fun little bit to figure out. What I found made for the easiest and nicest-looking notches was to first drill a hole in the center, then jigsaw two cuts from the outside tangent to the circle to create a V-shaped notch with a rounded bottom (like a U). I realize that's just about the most confusing way I could have explained it, but it's pretty simple. It's essentially just cutting out a V shape, but drilling a hole (I think I used 11/16" or thereabouts) first to have a nice-looking rounded finish to it.

At this point you can load up a few guitars and test it out! I was very happy with it at this point and could've called it quits, but was glad I continued...

Step 4: Finishing

Picture of Finishing

You've got a practical and pretty cool guitar stand, but it's not quite "finished", nah'msayin? All sorts of oil or poly finishes exist, and honestly most of them should work just fine. I went with a combo poly/stain, it was in a rusty old can from the depths of the garage and had halfway solidified into a lumpy brick, but some mineral spirits and stirring and even that managed to make a pretty nice finish, so it's not terribly difficult to do right.

  1. Sand down the unfinished wood. Up to 220 grit is a must, 400 and higher is nicer but not necessary.
  2. Clean it well. Any dust or string will soon be dust or string in it forever if you don't brush it down before finishing.
  3. Apply first coat. Spray, paint, or wipe, just follow the instructions on the can.
  4. Smooth with steel wool. This doesn't apply to every finish, but many of them should be scuffed and smoothed with steel wool between coats, again, just follow the instructions on the can.
  5. Apply second coat. Usually, two coats is all that's needed. Three if you're going for a luxury piece, or a few more if you're using one of those punishing throwback oil finishes that luthiers of bygone days toiled away on. Normally I'm all about breaking rules and finding your own way to do things better, but in the case of finishing products, well, follow the instructions on the can.

Let it cure, and that's all there is to it! If you like to keep your guitars pristine, consider getting some foam insulation (or a pool noodle, if you don't mind ruining the perfect aesthetics of the masterpiece you just crafted) to put around the dowel rods to protect the undersides of the guitars.

Another option at this point is to accessorize any way you want - I crafted a small wooden box and mounted it to the inside of a leg, and is a great little spot for holding a slide, capo, string winder, etc.

Hope this gave a few useful tips and interesting ideas to all you rock stars out there, share pictures of any finished projects and enjoy! You might also like to check out my blog at mattwins.blogspot.com for some more good stuff and a whole bunch of rubbish :)

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