Vertical Display Rack for Table Runners

Introduction: Vertical Display Rack for Table Runners

My wife volunteers at the local art gallery and art center. They needed a way to display an artist’s table runners in their gift shop that would not require lots of floor space but would adequately display the textiles.

Although this rack was made specifically for 12” wide table runners, the construction methodology can be applied to other projects like a quilt rack or a CD rack.

The overall size of this project is 16” wide and 6’ tall. The footprint is 13 ½” deep and 16” wide. It is made from maple.

The construction  joinery is sliding dovetails and round mortises.

This project requires basic woodworking skills and access to woodworking machines. Woodworking machines have sharp cutting edges and are NOT forgiving. You should be properly trained  in the use of these machines. Ensure that you wear safety glasses and  hearing protection, use push sticks, hold-downs , clamps  and a cutting sled to cut the project parts safely.

On a scale of 1-10, 10 being very difficult, this project is a “3”. Cutting the sliding dovetails is the most difficult aspect of this project.

Materials Needed:
  • Approximately 8 linear feet of maple, 2” thick.
  • Approximately 8 linear feet of 1” thick maple, 8” wide.
  • Approximately 10 linear feet of  ¾” maple dowels.
  • 150 and 180 grit sandpaper and 0000 steel wool.
  • Yellow woodworkers glue
  • Lacquer or shellac in spray cans

Tools & Equipment Needed:
  • Table saw
  • Router table (straight and dovetail router bits)
  • 8” jointer
  • Planner or  flat bed drum sander
  • Block plane
  • Bar or pipe clamps

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Step 1: Stock Preparation

Making the stock flat with square edges is critical for any woodworking project.

Rough cut the vertical pieces from 2” thick stock.  Ripping the rough sawn boards to the approximate width is best done on a band saw.

Rough cut the stock for the top and bottom stretchers and the foot braces. You should start with stock that is at least 1 ¼” thick. Cut all the pieces wider and longer than their finished sizes. These pieces will be 1” thick and vary in width from 2 ½” to  6 ½” wide.

After cutting the boards to their rough size, use a jointer to make one face of the boards flat.

Use a planner or a flat bed thickness sander to make the other side parallel.

Use a jointer to make the edges square to the faces. Check  for square with a adjustable or machinists square.

Size the posts to 1 ½” square and the other boards (stretchers and feet) to 1” thick.

Step 2: Sliding Dovetail Definition

A sliding dovetail is composed of two parts:
  • a slot or groove with angled sides
  • a tenon with angled sides.

Both angles are created with an 7 degree dovetail bit.

The angled tenon slides into the angled slot. The mating parts create a locking joint.

In order to create a sliding dovetail the slot is cut first with a 3/8”straight router bit followed by a 7 degree dovetailing bit.

The angled tenon is cut to fit the slot using the same 7 degree router bit.

The slot is cut shorter than the width of the joining piece. After the tenon is cut, a portion of the tenon is cut off, thereby creating a concealed joint.

The top stretcher is 2 ½” wide. The bottom stretcher is 4 1/2” wide. The feet are 11” long and 6” wide.

Step 3: Cutting the Sliding Dovetail Slots

There are 3 sliding dovetails on the bottom of the posts (2 for the feet and 1 for the bottom stretcher). The top of the vertical posts has 1 sliding dovetail for the top stretcher. All the sliding dovetails are centered on their respective boards.

Layout the placement of the sliding dovetails on the vertical posts.

The 2 sliding dovetails that are for the feet are  9” long and are positioned on the front and back of the post.

The sliding dovetails for the bottom stretcher are positioned on the inside face of the post and are 3” long.

The sliding dovetails for the top stretcher are also positioned on the inside face of the post and are 1 ½” long.

Use a 3/8” straight router bit to remove the majority of the center portion of the sliding dovetail.  The width of the straight bit cannot be any wider than the thinnest portion of the dovetail bit.

The depth of cut is determined by the dovetail bit you use, approximately ½”. Removing the majority of stock with a straight bit makes the process easier and produces a cleaner sliding dovetail. Cutting the sliding dovetail with only a dovetail bit is NOT recommended.

A router table is the best tool to use to create a sliding dovetail. Use a piece of white tape and mark the width of the router bit on the table. This will provide you the start and stop positions of the grooves.

It is best to remove stock in small increments, no more than 1/8” at a time.

Make sure that each groove is cut to the same depth.

Step 4: Cutting the Sliding Dovetail Slots

Now that the straight grooves have been cut, you are ready to use the 7 degree dovetail bit.  The router bit must be centered in the slot.

Set the height of the dovetail bit to the depth of the straight groove. The dovetail bit is only going to remove the sides of the groove, thus creating the 7 degree angles.

NOTE: You can only make one pass with the dovetail cutter.  Make sure that the boards lie flat on the router table and  tight against the fence. Feed the stock into the bit and then back the stock out. DO NOT RAISE THE STOCK OFF THE BIT! Slide the stock backwards.

Your setup must be accurate and consistent with all the sliding dovetails. Any inconsistency will impact the fit of the mating parts.

Step 5: Cutting the Sliding Dovetail Tenons

Cutting the angled tenon on the feet and the stretchers is done in incremental steps to ensure an accurate fit. You will be removing stock from both sides of the boards a little bit at a time.

The mating pieces need to be cut so they slide together easily but are not sloppy.

Set the depth of cut first. The depth is the same as that of the groove.

The  dovetail bit is set into the router table fence so only a small portion of the bit is exposed. You will move the fence at very small increments to expose more of the bit until the proper fit is established.

NOTE: Remember that you will be removing stock from both sides of the tenon boards (stretchers and feet).

Make the first passes on both sides of each of the boards and then check the fit. Continue making adjustments until the pieces slide together easily but are not sloppy. Do not have to force the fit.

HINT: The sharp edges on both the groove and the tenon should be sanded slightly to reduce friction. This should be done on the dovetail tenon after each pass on the router before you test the fit.

A couple of swipes with 180 grit sandpaper is all that is needed. The objective is to slightly round-over the sharp edge.

Step 6: Cutting the Sliding Dovetail Tenons

I cut the sliding tenons for the feet on both edges of one board  and then I cut the board in half to isolate pairs of feet. This provided me a smaller piece of wood to handle when cutting the shape on the bandsaw. These photos show the dovetail tenons that were cut on both edges of the board.

You can cut the feet first and then cut the dovetail tenons. It doesn’t make any difference what is done first.

If you decide to shape the feet first you will need to  inset the template ½” from the long edge to allow for the sliding dovetail tenon.

The dovetail tenon for the feet is cut along the grain. The dovetail tenons for the stretchers are cut across the grain. The procedure is the same.

Step 7: Shaping the Feet

Use a piece of ¼” MDF (medium density fiberboard) and draw the shape of the bracket foot to make a template.

Use a band or scroll saw to cut the shape. Use files and sandpaper to smooth the edges. Remove any bumps or divots from the template. Any inconsistencies will translate to the finished feet.

Mark on the boards a line ½” from the edge (this allows for the dovetail tenon). Use this line as your reference line to place the template.

Use the template to layout the most efficient use of the stock.

Rough cut the individual feet from the board. Leave 1/16” to 1/8” of waste material.

Use double sided carpet tape to tape the template to the boards.

Setup a flush cutting router bit with a top mounted guide bearing in the router table. Position the height of the router bit so the bearing rides on the edge of the MDF template.

WARNING: Keep your fingers away from the edge that is being routed. Hold the stock along the long edge of the boards.

Step 8: Adjusting the Length of the Sliding Dovetail Tenon

The dovetail tenon is trimmed on one end.  For the top stretcher, remove the lower end: for the bottom stretcher remove the upper end.

Cutting the tenon conceals the joint.

Use a fine tooth handsaw and cut the tenon. Use a sharp chisel to remove the remnants of the tenon.

The length of the tenon should be a little shorter than the length of the dovetail slot.

Step 9: Drilling the Holes for the Dowel Rungs

The rack was designed to display 6 table runners.

I used ¾” maple dowels for the rungs. The rungs are 14 3/8” long.

Use a ¾” spade drill bit or a Forstner bit to drill the holes. The holes should be ¾” deep.

The first rung is placed 10” from the top and the subsequent rungs are spaced 6” apart.

Since the table runners hang down about 2’, there are no low rungs on the rack.

Step 10: Finishing

Before you apply finish all the component parts should be sanded to 220 grit. The sharp edges should be eased with either a block plane or a sanding block.

You can either apply a finish prior to assembly or after the project is assembled.

I decided to apply a spray shellac to the component parts prior to assembly.

I taped all the  joints to ensure that they would be free of finish.

I also drilled a small hole and inserted a nail in the ends of the dowels and posts in order to suspend the individual parts between saw horses to facilitate spraying.

I used spray shellac because it dries fast and is easy to apply.  Any finish could be used for this project.

Step 11: Gluing the Rack

I glued this project together in two stages. The first stage is to glue the rungs and the two stretchers. The second stage is to glue the feet to the posts.

Use yellow woodworkers glue and apply a liberal amount in the holes for the rungs on one of the posts. Use a small brush and spread glue evenly around the inside of each hole.

Set the rungs in place.

Apply glue to the other post in the same manner. Assemble the two sides.

Apply glue to the sliding dovetail groove on the top stretcher on both posts.

Apply glue to the dovetail tenon on the both ends of the top stretcher and slide the stretcher into the sliding dovetail. Make sure that the top of the stretcher is flush with the ends of the posts.

Repeat this process and secure the bottom stretcher.  Place clamps at the end and a couple in the middle of the rack.

Apply glue to the dovetail grooves on the bottom of the posts. Seat the feet into the dovetail grooves. Ensure that the feet are flush to the end of the posts. No clamps should be necessary.

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