Monday, November 24, 2014

Easy DIY Coat Rack

This will be the only post this week (I hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving!) so I'm making it a doozy.  I mentioned in this post about creating the Entryway that I wanted to build a coat rack.  I first pinned my inspiration picture three months ago!  Since then I've been letting the idea stew and been meaning to do it and meaning to do it.  I started buying supplies about a month ago.  Then I realized that it'd be really nice to have the coat rack up when my family came over for Corey's birthday dinner.  Suddenly I had a deadline and things started ramping up.  I work best with deadlines and I quickly had all the supplies at the ready.
Six days before my family was coming over Corey & I started work (on a Sunday).  I was planning on making this really simple, but the wonder of my husband is his ability to take my ideas to the next level.  So now instead of having the shelf edges line up on the top and wall pieces (like my inspiration picture), the wall piece was going to be inset & smaller and I was going to route the edges of both pieces on the router table.

Supplies You'll Need:

  • one 1" x 8" x 8' board (or 6' board)
  • two pre-made wooden shelf supports
  • 6 screws
  • 6 hooks
  • stain or paint
  • bolts to mount it to the wall (toggle bolts if you have plaster walls, standard bolts if you have drywall)

First off we did a mock up with an extra board before any cuts were made:

I played around with hook arrangement and decided I liked the straight across version best:

The hooks look like little octopi to me:

Then the real first step was cutting the 8' long board into a 3' long board and a 32" long board once we measured it out.  Man I love using this saw:

Oooo it's going to look so good!

Now it was time to use the router table.  Turns out this is SHOCKINGLY EASY for how much it elevates a simple piece of wood.  Seriously, having the shelf edges routed makes the coat rack such a classy impressive piece.  And it added maybe 10 minutes to the project time.  Granted, if you don't have a router table and can't borrow one than it's not worth it for you.

We picked a fancy bit for the top piece, Corey put it on the router and I practiced on a scrap.  I realized the smoothest look comes from feeding the piece of wood through the router at an even pace.  Then I fed the real 3' piece through on three sides being sure to hold the piece steady against the little wall.  EASY PEASY.

Here is a picture of the test piece, but the machine is off and the wood is not in the right place.  The wood is fed past the little bit and you hold it against that little back wall piece.  I should have had Corey take a picture of me using the router table. Oops.

All routed!

We couldn't use the same bit on the wall piece because of how close the bottom of the shelf support was to the bottom of the wall piece.  But we didn't want it to look really plain in comparison to the top piece, so we just picked a simple router bit that wouldn't take much wood off.  Then I fed the 32" piece through on three sides (after a practice round with the new bit). So easy!

See how close the shelf support is to the bottom of the wall piece?

So I just did simple routing along the edge to give it a little bit of oomph:

The routed edge JUST meets the shelf support and looks perfect

Then I brought the pieces inside to sand (it was FREEZING in the garage).  I wanted to sand before staining and I knew they'd be easier to sand when they were apart.

Here goes nothing!  Time to attach the shelf supports to the back piece.  On the back of the piece I measured out where the supports were going on the front so we knew we were pre-dilling in the right place from the back.  I made some Xs to mark the holes and drilled:

An awkward clamp situation kept the shelf supports in place:

Use a countersink bit to make a hollow for the top of the screw to rest in so the screw is flush against the wall:

Screw in the screws!:

Do it again on the other side and voila:

Clamp the top piece in place, pre-drill two holes in the top of each shelf support, countersink them, and screw in the screws!

Since these screws are dark and I knew I was going to be staining this piece dark and hanging it high enough that 99% of people wouldn't see the top of the shelf I did not worry about the fact that the screws would show.

Drill two holes on the top to hold the two shelf pieces together, countersink, and then put in the screws:

YOU BUILT SOMETHING!  Feel proud of yourself!

Now you are ready to stain or paint.  At this point Corey & I stopped for the night.  But cutting the pieces, routing them, and screwing them together took maybe....two hours?  And we were being careful and slow and stopping to take pictures and checking in on the puppy (alone in the house and not kenneled = surprise inspections).

I chose to stain my coat rack because I wanted to attempt having it look original to the house.  Plus I knew the stain wouldn't show the wear and tear from use as much a coat of white paint would over the years.

Here is where I began to feel like a mad scientist.  My house has the original stained wood trim from 1921.  And the coat rack was going to be hung inches away from some of that trim so I wanted to get as close a stain color match as possible.  So I did my best and bought the stain that seemed the closest match to me based on the little picture on the can.

So I got all fancy and got my test piece ready to see how many minutes of leaving the stain would give the closest match.  I also decided to do my own test of the effectiveness of pre-stain wood conditioner while I was at it.

The 2x4 scrap barely even took the stain, but it was still clear that the stain was way too red.  I already had a can of very dark stain that I used on the front door and that my mom used on the bathroom window trim, so I decided to try to mix the two together and see how close I could come.  I started with a 50-50 mix in a mason jar (man those are handy) and that was the best match!

I did another test piece, this time with a higher quality scrap that I sanded:

It darkened up the red without totally covering it up.  And the left half has no wood conditioner and the right half does.  So dear god, yes it does make a difference!

So now I knew my ratio and got started:

I let it sit for 20 minutes and then I wiped it:

I was happy with one coat and thought a second would darken it too much.

Give your piece a couple of days to dry before you mount the hooks. I stained during the day on a Monday and we mounted it on a Wednesday night (I put the hooks on Wednesday afternoon).

I still think I am missing a bit of an orange hue and the sheen, so I may end up trying something else (maybe this finishing wax) on top of the stain.  But since we have plaster walls we used four toggle bolts to mount it to the wall and it's not coming off anytime soon.  So anything else I try has to be done while it's up on the wall.

I ended up figuring out the hook spacing by eye because every time I tried measuring or going off of a straightedge it became clear that each hook was subtly different and I got it to look better just by eyeing it.

Once you're happy with your spacing use a pencil and trace your screw holes.  Take one hook off at a time and pre-drill the holes.  

These screws were pretty deep so I had to be careful not to accidentally pre-drill all the way through the piece!  

Now you can start screwing on the hooks one by one. Don't take them all off or it's harder to get everything fully lined up like how it was.  I did it by hand because I didn't want to take a chance with the power drill and end marring the finish or anything.

Okay now it is mounting time!  I am no expert at this, but I know for our 1921 lathe and plaster walls we needed to use toggle bolts (also called molly bolts).  Stud finders aren't as useful with lathe and plaster (the wood lathe confuses most of them) so we just winged it and had regular bolts for if we ended up hitting a stud where we screwed.  We used four bolts because we wanted to make sure the coat rack was secure as 12 coats can be quite heavy and we figured we wouldn't hit a stud.

Because of the style of hooks I chose we could hide the mounting bolts behind the hook face plate!  Tricksy.

So after I spent way too long getting these hooks installed, Corey promptly unscrewed all of them.  But that's the way it had to be.  First he traced the outline of the hooks to help with the bolt placement and then he pre-drilled the holes for the four bolts, two on each end and countersunk the holes so the hook face plates would still lay flat::

Then we held up the coat rack on the wall, put a level on top of it, and used a pencil to mark where the holes needed to go on the wall.  

Then Corey pre-drilled the four holes in the wall:

Then it was showtime:

Why hello there, stain leakage

Those little wings are what makes it a toggle bolt and what keeps the piece secure in just plaster & lathe and not a stud.

Once it was up Corey put the four hooks back on and it was time for the decorate-y details.  Man this was fun for me!

I played around with things and ended up here:

We got this up and mounted on Wednesday and everyone came on Saturday.  It was fully loaded with coats and all was well, but I sadly forgot to get a picture of it.

Now we are going to use the scrap from this to create a simpler (no top shelf) version for the bathroom!


  1. A true carpenter! Using such fancy tools. That looks nice and useful. Seems like a good project for working together, too.

    1. Thanks! It has been so nice to have a place for coats by the door. And Corey does have a knack for making my ideas 100% better!