Introduction: Coat Rack and Shelf - Maple Plywood and Steam Bending
When I first moved into my current house 6 years ago I put a couple of simple hooks on the wall near the back door to hang coats and whatnot. It was working quite well until my wife and I had our son. Now all of a sudden there was way more coats, jackets, hats, etc. than our hooks could handle. With a bit of downtime due to the current global situation I decided it was finally time to upgrade that space. In this article I will show you how I made this coat rack and shelf with maple plywood and solid maple edge banding. Due to the curves on the support pieces I also had to do some steam bending. (note: these can be replaced with simple shapes to skip the steam bending part, but I wanted to challenge myself)
I hope you will join me in building this coat rack and shelf. It's a fun project and really helped to get things organized and decluttered for our family. Don't forget to check out the video above and if you have any question, please feel free to ask them in the comments below.
Below are links to tools and materials I used in this article. It is either the exact tool/supply or something very close.
- Maple veneer plywood
- Solid maple
- Band saw
- Finish (I used watco teak oil)
Note: The links above are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.
Step 1: Cutting the Top and Back
The first step of any good project is planning it out. In my case I measured the area and came up with a plan for a 41" long shelf that was 7 1/2" deep and 7 1/2" tall. With those measurements in mind and a basic plan in my head I started cutting.
Luckily for me, I happen to have some maple veneered plywood left over from another project that was almost the perfect width. So I first set my fence to 6 3/4" and ripped the plywood to width. I then measured out 41" and cut it using my miter saw. This will be the top section. I then measured and cut a second board to 40" and this will be the back section.
Quick tip: Always cut the longest boards first, that way if you somehow mis-cut or mis-measure, you can make them the smaller measurement.
I have included a simple CAD model with measurements for my project. That being said, you will want to measure the place you will be placing the shelf and coat rack and determine what works best for you.
Step 2: Preparing the Edge Banding
In order to cover up the edges where you can see the plys of the plywood, I opted to make my own solid maple edge banding. I cut a couple of thin slices (approximately 1/8" thick) and one piece just over 3/4". The 3/4" piece will be attached to the top so that I can add a profile to the edge. I made sure that the length of these was more than 41" so that it would cover the entire section.
Sometimes when cutting maple (or other hardwoods for that matter) I get burn marks on the wood. To easily deal with this, I cut the pieces a bit bigger than I need and then send them through my thickness planer. I find this to be much easier than sanding. However, if you don't have a thickness planer, sanding can be done.
Step 3: Attaching the Edge Banding
I applied glue to the edge of the plywood and the thin strip of wood and then either used a pin nailer or blue masking tape to attach the edge banding. With my design, I only needed to attach the edge banding to one edge of each board. I also had to make sure to add the 3/4" edge banding to the top piece (41" long)
The pin nailer was definitely faster, but the tape is a nice low tech solution. I made sure that the pieces I was attaching were a bit long and they hung over the edge. This makes it much easier then cutting them to length and trying to line everything up perfectly. Once the glue dries, the ends can be cleaned up.
Step 4: Flush Up the Edge Banding
Now that the glue is dry, I used my flush cut saw to cut the extra bits off the ends. I then used my grandfather's old Stanley no.4 hand plane to smooth down the edge banding along the length of the board. You could also use a flush trim bit on a router for this step.
I also used a random orbital sander to ensure it was perfectly flat, but be careful with this tool on veneered plywood as it is very easy to go through the top layer of wood. (don't ask me how I know)
Step 5: Attaching Edge Banding on the Sides
Now I repeated the steps from before to attach edge banding to the sides of these boards. Glued, nailed and then cut flush. This time I tried using my flush cut saw to cut off the excess and it worked out pretty good. But you could either use a hand plane or a router with a flush trim bit for this step.
Step 6: Adding a Round Over
For the top of the shelf I wanted to add a rounded over profile on the edge. This is the reason I added a 3/4" piece of solid maple as edge banding for the top shelf.
I pulled out my router table and installed a 1/2" round over bit. I then sent the board through.
Step 7: Cutting the Side Supports
For the sides I knew I wanted something a bit fun and challenging so I decided to make some curves. I first cut two pieces of maple ply to 6"x6" square. I then free-hand drew a curve pattern on one of the pieces.
I then used some doubled sided carpet tape to stack the boards together. This way I knew I would be getting the same shape on both of them. I headed over to my bandsaw and cut out the pieces. Lastly I cleaned up the edges using a small drum sander attached to my drill press. For those with an oscillating sander this would be a perfect place to use it!
If you want to make a shelf like this and are not interested in steam bending, then you can just cut some simple triangle supports and add edge banding similarly to the previous steps.
Step 8: More Thin Strips, But This Time With Steam
I cut two more thin strips of edge banding from solid maple and put them into my steam bending system. I let them steam for about 30 minutes, which is probably longer than I needed, but I wanted to make sure they would be nice and pliable for the next step.
My steam generator is basically an electric kettle with a hose connected to it and on the other end is a PVC pipe. This was my prototype and in the future I hope to make an updated version. If you are interested in seeing that, let me know in the comments below. If you want to bend some wood but are not interested in building your own steam generator, I put a link to one in the supplies section at the top of the page.
Step 9: Putting the Edge Banding in the Form
Using the side support and the off-cut piece I made a basic form. Moving quickly I took the wood out of the PVC pipe and put it in the form. I then clamped them together. You cannot take too long in this step as the wood will quickly cool off and loose its ability to bend. I left the edge banding in the form overnight. The following day when I took it out of the clamps it had taken the shape of the side support.
Note: the wood (and potentially water) that comes out of the PVC pipe is very hot. Wear gloves to protect your hands from being burnt.
Step 10: Gluing the Side Support Edge Banding
I added glue to the side support and then attached the edge banding. I clamped it up and let it dry overnight. I then repeated the same steps for the second side support.
Step 11: Flushing Up the Edge Banding
Again I used my flush cut trim saw and cut off any excess edge banding that was hanging over the side. I then cleaned it up with my random orbit sander.
Step 12: Drilling for Dowels
For Christmas my father got me this great dowel kit from milescraft which I have found to be very useful. It allows you to drill center holes in just about any size material and comes with 3 different brad point drill bit
s (for three different sized dowels) with adjustable stop collars.
I used this jig to drill 4 holes in each side support. You use the posts that are sticking down in the first picture to center the hole on the work piece (different posts depending on which size dowel you are using) and then you drill a hole. I then used dowel centers (the little metal pieces in picture #2) to make a mark where the holes needed to be drilled on the top shelf and back piece. I then lined up the brad point drill bits in the marks left by the dowel centers. The other side of the dowel jig acts as a drill guide to ensure the dowels will be perpendicular to the work piece.
Step 13: The Glue Up
What it looks like is that I put glue almost everywhere and then put every single clamp I own on the piece! But in reality, I made sure to glue in the dowels and along all of the edges that would be connected. I did end up putting on a lot of clamps, but that was just so that I could have some fun unclamping! (check out the last picture, it's an animated gif)
Step 14: Marking an Drilling for Hooks
I laid out the hooks where I thought they looked the best. In order to space them out perfect, I took the length and divided it by the number of hooks +1.
37.5 / 5 = 7.5
This was how far each of the hooks were spaced out.
I then used a pencil and marked each of the mounting locations and drilled pilot holes for the screws using a 7/64" drill bit. You can see in the pictures that I added a piece of blue masking tape to act as a depth guide. I added this to make sure I did not go all the way through the wood.
Step 15: Adding Finish
One of my favourite parts of any project is adding finish. I chose to use watco teak oil, but any good finish will do. I like the teak oil as it is very easy to use. Wipe it on, wait 15 minutes and then wipe off any excess. I included a picture showing a side by side of the before and after for your viewing pleasure.
Step 16: Cutting the Screws and Attaching the Hooks
As with most hooks I have bought online, the screws were too long. I used a hacksaw to cut them shorter and then used my bench grinder to add back the pointy tip. Depending on the hooks and screws you have, you may not have to do this.
I then screwed in the hooks using a screwdriver to make sure that I didn't over-tighten them.
Step 17: Attaching the Shelf to the Wall
I decided that the easiest and most secure way of attaching this project to the wall would be to use 3" wood screws. I measured where the studs were in my wall and then transferred these measurements to my work piece. I used a countersink drill bit to drill two holes per stud.
I then screwed through these holes into the studs on my wall. I used a spirit level to ensure that the shelf was straight and level and a piece of scrap wood to hold it in position at the right height.
Step 18: Adding Plugs
In order to cover up the screw holes, I wanted to add removable plugs. This way if I ever want to move the shelf or if I need to fix it for some reason I can easily get to the screws and take it off the wall.
I used my plug cutter to cut some plugs in a scap bit of solid maple. I then headed over to the bandsaw to cut the plugs out. I shaped them using both my disk sander and a piece of sandpaper attached to a block of wood. I then finished them the same way, with teak oil.
Lastly I put them into the screw holes and now you can no longer see the heads of screws, but you can always get to them if you need to.
Step 19: Load It Up and Enjoy!
The part everyone has been waiting for! Loading up the coat rack and enjoying a bit less clutter around the house. Of course a few weeks later and this rack is also overwhelmed. It seems that no matter how many extra hooks there are they will find a jacket or coat that didn't make it into the closet!
I hope you enjoyed this project as much as I did. If you want to see more from me, feel free to follow me on other social media
If you are inspired by this project to make your own shelf/coat rack please share it here. I love seeing other people's completed projects. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to ask in the comments below!
Second Prize in the
Declutter Speed Challenge