Space Saver Tie Rack




Introduction: Space Saver Tie Rack

My ties hated me, and Barney Stinson would have, too, if he saw how I'd been hanging them. I had tie issues, and I needed a solution that was (1) kind to my ties and let me organize them; (2) unobtrusive, with a small footprint (I share my closet with my wife, space is at a premium!); and (3) as cheap as I am.

Step 1: Figuring Out What I'm Working With.

This was how I had been hanging my ties since...well, always. Terrible!

This was the space I wanted to use. Full disclosure: I'm a renter. That means I really don't have much in the way of options when it comes to modifying my living space. I figured that hanging something between the frame at the end of the after-thought closet would be my best bet, because of the use of otherwise dead space, and because it's totally out of the way yet accessible whenever.

Your mileage may vary: My closet is not your closet, and this tie rack was built to fit. With a little figuring of your own, you'll be able to make this rack fit your space. My closet has an exposed wood frame on the inside, so I can use that to hang the tie rack from. If your space doesn't have something like that, or you're wanting to do this in a drywalled area, you'll need to make a couple of blocks to act as surrogates. It's easy enough, just mount the blocks where you want the rack to hang, and you've created the frame to hang your rack.

Step 2: Gather Your Tools & Materials! ...well, Most of Them.

1.5"x1.5"x11" wood blocks (x2)
1/2" dowel rods, 3' long (x3)
1/2" dowels, 1.5" long (x2)
small wood screw (x1) - I used a #6x1/2" Phillips wood screw
small, thin washer (x1) - I used a #10 washer.
felt pads (x2)
finishing nail

Table saw (optional)
Hand saw
Drill press (optional, but a total plus)
Cordless drill
screwdriver to match screw
Mitre box (optional, totally unnecessary)
Band saw (optional)
5/64" & 5/32"drill bits
1/2" forstner drill bit
reaming bit
1/2" wood chisel
tape measure
wood glue
sandpaper, (grits used: 120, 150, 220)
acrylic polyurethane finish
clamps -2 small, 2 large (24" minimum)

Step 3: Get Your Wood Ready - Cutting and Drilling

For the wooden blocks for the side pieces of the rack I decided to chop up a chunk of leftover cedar 2x6 I had. I trimmed it to 11" long, and then cut out two lengths that were 1.5" wide.
(Your mileage may vary: I used my table saw to make these sides, but you could easily just use a hand saw -just cut carefully!)

For the rods I needed six 18" dowels, so all I had to do was mark the 18" mark on all three dowel rods and effectively cut them in half.
(Your mileage may vary: the length of the dowel rod needed is determined by the space you are putting the rack in, and how far apart you need the sides of the rack to be. Deduct 2" total from the width of the space where you are mounting the rack to figure out how long your rods should be. Example: my space is 20", so I needed 18" rods. I also used a mitre box to cut the rods, but only out of habit. It's totally unnecessary.)


Mark the locations where you will be drilling your rod holes. To do this, first mark the top of each side so you can keep properly oriented. Next, mark a centre line on the inside surface of both blocks. Finally, mark the drill hole centre points: make the first mark .5" from the top of the side, and then each 2" apart from there. You will end up with 6 points, at .5", 2.5", 4.5", 6.5", 8.5", and 10.5" respectively.

Using a drill press, set it so the holes will be at 1/2" depth, and drill out all the points you've marked. Go back to the top hole on both side pieces and drill all the way through the hole you already made. (See photo)
(Your mileage may vary: a drill press, while not crucial, is really nice to use here. If you don't have one, you can use a cordless drill, but be careful and sure to drill the holes straight in, and do your best to ensure a proper drilling depth of 1/2".)

Step 4: Getting Your Wood Ready... Sanding and Finishing!


Sand it all down! I have a finishing blade on my table saw which makes for fairly smooth cuts, and the dowels were nice & smooth, so I was able to start with 120 grit sandpaper, and then 150 grit. That was all the sanding I did for the sides, but I finished with 220 grit on the rods, to make sure my ties were on an extra smooth surface.

When sanding the rods, start by palming the sandpaper and rotating the dowel ends in your palm, like you were trying to start a fire (see pictures), and then wrap your hand around the rod and sand using long strokes while rotating the rod.
(Your mileage may vary: Depending on how rough your wood is to start, you may have to start sanding with an 80 grit or 100 grit first. Use your discretion here.

Pro tip: after sanding the dowel rods with the highest grit you plan to use, wipe off the sawdust with a slightly damp rag. This will not only remove the dust from the sanding, but it will make any loose fibres stand up. Then sand them again with the same highest grit sandpaper, and wipe them well (almost buffing them) with paper towel. This will give you an ultra-smooth surface!


To finish the rack I used a single coat of acrylic polyurethane finish. I did this mainly to ensure the smooth surface stays smooth, and because I didn't want to use an oil based finish on a surface my ties would sleep on for months, if not years, at a time. I don't know if it matters, but I figure better safe than sorry. Once dried (less than an hour), I gave the rods another once-over with 220 grit sandpaper. So smooth. So sweet. My ties will surely stop hating me!
Sorry, no pictures of the finishing. But really, it's not even as exciting as sanding. And we all know how exciting that is. But I did take a picture of my awesome dowel drying rack. ;)

Step 5: Making the Drop-down Arm Prop.

To make it so the rack can be propped up while I'm choosing which tie to wear, I decided to make a drop-down arm that would serve as a rack support arm. I marked out a slice off the outside face of the side pieces that would be on the outside of the rack) and cut it off using a band saw. To allow for a smooth drop, I rounded off the top edge of the arm so it wouldn't catch as it swung down.

Next, I had to figure out a way to create a stop at the end of the swing. To do this, I used a drawing compass and drew a 3/4 circle at the bottom end of the arm, and drew the stop line from the end of the arc to the edge of the arm. Cut out the shape. This produces two pieces: the long arm, and a short end with a half circle cut out of it.

(Your mileage may vary: I used a band saw to cut this out, but if you don't have one you could cut this with a fine-toothed hand saw and a slight change to the shape).

Glue the short piece back onto the end of the board and clamp tight. Let it sit according to your glue's instructions.

Using the centre mark from the compass, drill a 5/64" hole and ream it so the screw that will attach the arm to the side will sit flush with the surface of the wood. Put the arm in place and carefully line up the edges, and use the previously drilled hole as a guide to drill a pilot hole into the side piece where the arm will attach. Enlarge the hole in the arm piece with a 5/32" drill bit. To give a bit of glide to the action of the arm, rub some wax (I used brown crayon) onto the curved edge of the arm where it will travel along the curved butt end of the side piece, and rub it smooth it with a paper towel.

Attach the arm to the side piece, being sure to place the washer (optional) in between the two pieces. Do NOT use a drill to screw the arm down or you will split the wood. That is what the screwdriver is for: tighten by hand to avoid splitting the wood.

As a final touch, put a finishing nail in the top end of the arm. This will act as a stop for the arm and prevent it from swinging up past it's intended resting position.

In the pictures above you can see the arm's fully extended position, and how the stop works. Pretty slick!

Step 6: Fixing the Drop-down Arm Prop.

Note: This step may or may not be required. *sighs*

If, like me, you split the wood despite the fact that you used the screwdriver to prevent exactly that from happening, don't fret, it's a quick fix. Apply a bit of glue to both split edges, wipe off the excess, and press the two pieces firmly together for a moment, and wipe off any glue that's squeezed out. Find a couple of small scraps of wood and use them as clamping surfaces to make sure the two pieces stay aligned vertically with one clamp. Use a second clamp to push the two pieces together, putting force perpendicular to the split. Clamp lightly at first, until you are sure the clamps and wood are exactly where you want them, but are firmly in place. Then increase the clamping pressure a little more, and let sit according to your glue's instructions.

Fun fact: This step right here is how I came up with the idea of enlarging the arm hole to 5/32". The first install only had a 5/64" hole, which was too tight for the arm to move nicely, so I thought "I'll just tighten it up, then back it off. That'll increase the play a bit!" Yeah, it'll also split your wood. *sighs again*

Step 7: Creating the Mounting Holes

Using a side piece as a guide, I held it in place where I thought it should be mounted. See the picture? Turns out I made an oops. Using the side piece as a guide, score the hole with the drill & forstner bit. I don't recommend drilling the hole while holding the side piece, because you might damage it or enlarge the hole in it, and because you will most likely need both hands to steady the drill to ensure you are drilling the mounting hole straight and level. After I drilled my hole (approximately 1/2" deep), I decided I wanted my rack to sit inwards as much as possible, but still rotate without the end of the side piece catching on the stop block above, or the drywall behind. To do this I held the piece at a 45 degree angle to the wall and stop block, and then outwards along that line by about 1/16". This positioning allowed for a full swing of the rack without any corners rubbing on the wall or stop block.

To determine where to drill the "fixed" hole on the opposite side, put a short dowel into the side piece, and hang the piece in the mounting hole. Mark the top and rear of the hanging piece and measure the distance from those marks to the floor, and from the rear wall. Transfer those measurements to the other side and again, using the side piece as a guide, score the hole with the drill & forstner bit. Drill this hole a little deeper than the first, and ream it out a little on the back side so that the dowel will be able to enter in on a slight angle. This will be necessary in order to mount the rack.

Then, going back to the other side again, I drilled another hole directly above the first, er, second hole -but first good hole- and used a chisel to create an entry path for the exterior dowel in order to be able to mount the fully assembled rack. Turns out I made another oops. My path was too close to the stop block, so I had to enlarge the bottom edge in order to get the dowel to fit in. But once it did, it was a simple matter to install the rack by putting the fixed position dowel in place first, and sliding the other one along the track until it dropped into place.

Step 8: Glue It Up!

Now it's time to put it all together!

The first thing to do is fit the short dowels in place in outside edge of the side pieces. To do this, put the dowels in the holes and hold each piece in place where they will hang, and tap the dowel from the inside until it is as far as it will fit into the mounting hole. Mark a line on each dowel. Then take the dowel out, apply glue, and re-insert the dowel up to the line. Rotate slightly until the glue catches. (I wasn't worried about the glue squeezing out, as this would be hidden when the rack is mounted.

Next, put a healthy dab of glue in each hole. I find that wiping the dab from the bottle on the edge of the hole ensures glue will apply to the sides of the hole, rather than just goop up on the bottom (which might also create an air bubble that could prevent the dowel from entering all the way). Put all the dowel rods into place, and use large clamps to squeeze the two side pieces together. It's important to not squeeze one clamp too much before putting the other clamp on, but rather to tighten each clamp gradually and evenly, or the pieces might bind. Let is sit according to your glue's instructions.

Step 9: Mount Your Rack!

Hang that rack! Put the "fixed" side in first, and then slide the other side's dowel along the path you've chiseled out, let it drop, and voila! All done.

Before hanging your ties on the rack, test out the action of the support arm, and take a moment to feel good about yourself. You deserve it!

Be the First to Share


    • Mason Jar Speed Challenge

      Mason Jar Speed Challenge
    • Pumpkin Challenge

      Pumpkin Challenge
    • Bikes Challenge

      Bikes Challenge

    2 Discussions


    3 years ago

    That looks like a much better solution :) Great instructable!


    Reply 3 years ago