Introduction: Porcelain Faucet Handle Towel Hook Rack

About: I build drums, make costumes, work on house projects/repairs, dabble in Genealogy, eat tacos, and sometimes work in IT.

I recently wrapped up a excruciatingly drawn out bathroom renovation. I won't bore you with granular details, but it was a lot of unnecessary drama with the insurance company, the financial institution, town hall and the permit process, electricians, plumbers, and inspectors.

The Quick Synopsis:
A "Nor'easter" peeled off sections of my roofing, which then led to substantial water damage in a bathroom and closet, which required several walls had to be torn out/off. Since insurance was involved, the town became involved and since walls were being opened, the electrical and plumbing had to come up to current building codes.

Unfortunately, not much was salvageable, The glass tiles which managed to be removed intact, were covered in adhesive and no one was interested in taking them off my hands. The floor tile, as well as the the cast iron tub, came out in pieces. The tub couldn't be reused because the filler is inside the tub (below the water line), which is a siphon risk and therefore not legal in the state. All of the old copper went into a pile in the basement for a future trip to the scrapyard.

It wasn't until I was at the tail end of the project that we started considering items like the mirror, shower curtain, and towel hooks. The Warden isn't a fan of towel bars ... she prefers hooks. It was while looking at the hook selection at Lowe's when I remembered the old tub/shower mixing valve and it's porcelain faucet knobs. I fully expected the suggestion to be dismissed, but to my surprise .... fabrication was approved!


3/4" Plywood
Antique porcelain faucet parts
Wood glue
Super glue gel
Siliconized caulk
Spray paint
1" Stainless screws

Step 1: Salvaging Parts

The valve assembly is made from brass. The supply lines were copper and that's where you can see the build up of corrosion. The top two knobs were mismatched and most likely not original.

The bottom three knobs appear to be original to the assembly. This pluming was not part of the original 1928 construction, but historical records lead me to believe it was part of a bathroom renovation, which took place in the 1960s.

The decorative buttons/caps were removed to reveal a brass, pan head, slotted bolt. That bolt secures each handle to the stem. Below each handle is a sort of bushing, which secures the escutcheon in place. After removing the bushings and escutcheons, I used a reciprocating saw to cut the stems as low as possible.

All of the keeper parts were cleaned up with bar keepers friend and the brass assembly returned to the scrap pile.

Step 2: Plywood Field and Stem Modifcation

Blue tape and a cutting mat were used to visualize various dimensions before deciding on 6" x 30" for the plywood field.

The board was ripped to 6" using the table saw and then cut to a length of 30" using the crosscut sled.

The brass stems measured .42", which is somewhere around 7/8". That's a pretty non standard drill bit size, so I just used a 1/2" bit and padded out the diameter of the stem using painters tape.

The center hole is as you guessed, smack in the middle - 3" up/down and 15" in from each side. Hole spacing is 10" on center, so the side locations are 3" up/down and 5" in from each side.

All three holes were drilled with a 1/2" Forstner bit, to a depth of 1/2".

Step 3: Poplar Edging

I chose to use Poplar for the edging because I always seem to have some in the shop and it accepts paint rather well.

A 3/4" thick board was ripped in half at the table saw and then the drum sander was used to remove tool marks and reduce it to a finished thickness of 5/16". This board was then ripped into 1" wide strips.

I decided on butt joints for speed and ease. The plywood was clamped to the assembly table to ensure it was flat and then the edging applied with wood glue and pin nails. Instead of fussing with measuring, I just let the boards run long and trimmed them in stages.

The bottom and two sides were attached, glue left to set up for about ten minutes, then the excess trimmed off of the short sides using the table saw and rip fence [Fig. 6]. The top was then attached and after another ten minutes, the excess removed using the crosscut sled [Fig. 7&8].

All of the pin holes were filled with wood putty and then 150 grit sandpaper was used to smooth it all out and break the sharp edges.

Step 4: Finishing

One coat of clear shellac sanding sealer was applied and my name stenciled on the back with black spray paint. The plywood field was masked off and spray painted red, which took two coats, and was left to dry overnight.

The initial intention was to paint the plywood a shade of gray to tie in with the wall color and floor tile, but I liked the natural look better.

Step 5: Additional Internal Support

After a test assembly, I was concerned about the weight of each handle being supported by just the stem recessed into a 1/2: deep hole. My solution was to use 1 1/4" dowel stock as internal support and three sections were cut using the small parts crosscut sled.

In order to drill perfectly centered holes, I made a very quick alignment jig for the drill press, which is just a section of 2x4 clamped to the drill press table. A 1 1/4" Forstner bit was then used to make a shallow hole in the board, which will hold the dowel sections in the perfect location.

The first hole was 3/4", which was the size of the brass bushings. Depth was determined by testing fitting the dowel, bushing and escutcheon. The second hole was 1/2", which is for the stem and was drilled all the way through the dowel section.

I wanted the dowel sections recessed into the plywood for a solid connection, so the 1/2" holes needed to be enlarged. The easy and accurate way to do this was to use the 1/2" bit to perfectly position the board and then clamp it to the drill press table. The bit was then swapped to 1 1/4" and a hole drilled to a depth of 1/4".

The last step was to cut the dowel sections to final length, which was again done with the small parts crosscut sled. I just trimmed material off of the bottom of one peg and did test fits until the escutcheon fully rested against the plywood.

Step 6: Assembly

Assembly started with the 1 1/4 dowel pegs. I used wood glue and tapped them into place with a rubber mallet. The brass stems were next and I used super glue gel and more taps with the rubber mallet. The trickiest part was using a handle and working fast to rotate the stem into proper alignment before the glue took hold.

Next was the escutcheon, and brass bushing. I didn't want to lock them in place forever with superglue or epoxy, so I opted for siliconized caulk. Plenty of holding power ... with the ability to disassemble should it ever be necessary.

The faucet handles were then attached with the brass bolts and then the decorative buttons/caps were threaded on to finish them off.

Step 7: Finished & Install

It's a pretty quick and easy project - I made it over the course of two evenings, Had I fleshed out the design issues prior to painting, it would've been one evening.

The aspect I like most is the lineage. These knobs have been part of the house for around 50 years and now instead of being discarded, they live on with a new purpose.

The hook rack gets attached to the wall with two 2" stainless steel, countersunk screws. They are centered top to bottom with the knobs and the side offset was determined by eye on one side before being measured and repeated on the other side.

I didn't hit a stud with either hole, so I used plastic drywall anchors. Since the lip of the anchors sit proud of the wall and would inhibit the rack from sitting flush against the wall, and therefore rock, I drilled shallow recesses on the back using a 3/8" Forstner bit [Fig. 3].

Install tip: The top cap on the bead is level, so I determined by height and then cut a spacer block from scrap OSB. that way I just set the OSB on the cap, the rack on top of that, and held it against the wall while marking the hole locations with an awl.

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