Introduction: Railroad Spike Coat Rack

About: Married father of 5 (4 boys and 1 girl). A Captain in the Fire Department with over 25 years of service. Grew up turning wrenches at my fathers garage. That turned into a love of building things with my hands.

My 16 y/o son didn't find a summer job. So we're going to have him do some volunteering at Goodwill and learn a skill over the summer. A skill that could have the potential of making him some money too. I came across a bunch of railroad spikes and I was planning on making some knifes. I have enough of them to do some other projects as well and this coat rack seemed like a perfect project for my young Padawan.

Skills obtained:

Cutting wood.
Drilling holes.
Using a router.
Using a wood planer.
Cutting metal.
Using a bench-top wire wheel.
Taping thread.
Countersinking holes.
Designing and fabricating a project from beginning to end.

Step 1: The Wood Rack.

I had a nice walnut board someone gave me. It was kind of warped though. I chose this wood because it would look great once we put some oil on it and it would teach him the skill of using a 12" auto-feed planer to square the wood up.

We chose to make the board 24" long and use 4 Railroad spikes for the hooks. When I asked him how many spikes we should use he asked "well how many people are in the typical family?" Smart kid.

Step 2: The Spike Hooks.

We chose 4 railroad spikes that had a good level of rust and character. I then took one to the wire wheel and took off just enough rust to make them look good, but not too good. With a brief demonstration on how a wire wheel can snatch whatever you're holding right out of your hands, I set him in front of it and said "make the other three look like this one"

Once he was done, I let him choose the length he thought would be best. He choose to remove 6cm of the spike. I took one, showed him how to mark the proper length while taking into account the blade width and your pencil line. I then took one to the chop-saw set it into the clamp and cut it. After a brief discussion on how metal cut off blades can disintegrate if you push too hard or overheat them, I set him in front of the saw and said "make the other three look like this one.

Step 3: Tapping the Spikes.

Once we had all four spikes cut, I set one into a small vice and demonstrated how to mark center and use a punch. I then took it to the drill press and explained how to drill into metal, use oil to keep the bit working well and using the proper (#7) drill bit to tap a 1/4 threaded hole. Once the hole was drilled and I tapped the thread, I set him front of the press and said "make the other three look like this"

Step 4: Placement of the Hooks.

Once all the spikes were tapped, I laid them out on the wood and taught him how to mark center and ensure the hooks are equally separated. One trick I taught him was, you can always use measurements and math or you can pick something from the shop that's just about right and use it as a template. It's a simple and easy way not to mess up.

Once we had them laid out, I used a 3/4 in forstner bit to countersink a hole in the back to make the mounting bolt flush to the rear of the rack. I then drilled the center hole with a 1/4 wood bit.

I set him in front of the board and said...."make these other three holes look like this"

For wall mounting the rack, we came up with the idea of using these square walnut plugs I had. We drilled about halfway through each corner with a 1/4 forstner bit and the rest of the way with a small wood bit. When mounted, just push the plugs back in the holes and you'll have a real solid mount that can hold some weight.

I used the router on the edges...I didn't want him to mess that up on such a nice piece of wood. We'll practice that later on some scrap.

Step 5: Final.

We chose to use boiled Linseed oil for the finish and sprayed the spikes with polyurethane to keep any of the rust and whatnot from getting on whatever was hung on the hook.

In the end, it came out awesome. Not a bad project for rookie and other than the bolts, everything was free.