Canadian Woodworking

Make a rustic coat rack

Author: Simom Keene
Photos: Jacob Keene
Illustration: Len Churchill
Published: August September 2022

A coat tree is a great way for kids to show off their woodworking skills, and live edge material is all the rage these days.


  • COST
rustic coat rack

Making this coat rack was one of the first cool-look­ing projects I made. It’s rustic, but also elegant at the same time. In fact, this project is how my tiny wood­working business started. After I had made it for our front porch my nana saw it and loved it, so I made one for her, next my aunt, then a friend of ours. Before I knew it, I had made 10 of them. Next it was cutting boards, dog beds and so on. This was how I started woodworking.

Cut to Length
Cut the main trunk to length with a hand saw. The straighter the cut, and the more perpendicular the cut is to the length of the trunk, the better the finished results will be.

Rustic coat rack

Remove the Bark
A chisel will get under the bark and remove it from the wood. The chisel doesn’t have to be very sharp for this step. It’s easiest to remove bark from a tree that was felled in the growing season.

Rustic coat rack

Mark the Base
Use a square piece of material to either mark a line on the end of the trunk or screw to the trunk to give you something to aim for while you add four flats onto the sides of the trunk, near its base.

Rustic coat rack

Four Flats
A wide chisel will help you create four flats on the outer faces of the trunk, near the base. These flats are what the supports will eventually get fastened to.

Rustic coat rack

A Bit of Sanding
Sand the trunk smooth so the look and the feel of the trunk is even. This will go a long way to ensuring the trunk ages well when the project is complete.

Rustic coat rack

Work the Feet
Remove the bark from the two feet and create a flat surface on their upper and lower faces.

Rustic coat rack

Half-Lap Joint
A basic half-lap joint will bring the two feet together nicely. A square will help guide you as you make your cuts.

Rustic coat rack

Remove the Waste
A chisel will help remove the waste from between the two cuts in both feet. You’re done when the two feet mate together evenly.

Rustic coat rack

Secure Them Together
With the two feet fitting together nicely, bore pilot holes and drive in a pair of long screws to fasten the two feet together. Ensure the screws aren’t so long that they protrude through the other side.

Rustic coat rack

Fix the Base to the Trunk
A lag bolt installed through a clearance hole will start to secure the base to the trunk.

Rustic coat rack

Build a Simple Jig
This jig, with 45° cuts on either end, will secure the supports while you cut them to length and at the correct angle with a hand saw.

Rustic coat rack

Cut the Supports
Keene fixed the jig to a simple workbench, then used his hand saw to cut the angles on both ends of the support. The 45° edge of the jig gives him a strong visual to cut to.

Rustic coat rack

Attach the Supports
After predrilling and countersinking, secure the supports to the feet and trunk with screws.

Rustic coat rack

Completed Base
All done, this base will keep the coat tree upright for years, while also looking good.

Rustic coat rack

Finish It Up
A finish, either brushed, sprayed or wiped on, will go a long way to protecting your coat rack during use.

Tools and materials

This project takes a bit of patience, but it definitely pays off. First, gather up some basic tools. You’ll need an orbital sander, a 1″ chisel, a hand saw, an electric drill, wood glue and a hand plane. You may also want a small mechanic’s vice, bandsaw and a draw knife, but they’re optional. You’ll also need some 3″ screws and a 6″ lag bolt.

For materials you’ll need a small tree trunk with a base diameter of about 5″, as well as some shorter lengths for the base and rungs. I used red cedar, but you can use anything. You could find a tree someone cut down in their yard, use a fallen tree in the woods (that you have permission to take and isn’t rotten) or cut down a live tree on your or a friend’s property and let it dry for a few months. You can also use a fence post and dowels but the natural look of the project will change quite a bit.

Start cutting

Start by cutting your log down to size. You’ll need the log to be at least 3-1/2″ in diameter. Cut it to 66″ long. Cut off all the stubs of the branches with a hand saw.

Now work on the bark. If you don’t peel the bark off immedi­ately it will all fall off onto the floor and make a big mess in a year or two. Trust me, I learned this the hard way. To do this you can just use a chisel, but it takes a long time. I usually use a drawknife to make it easier, so if you have one, use it.

Roughly square up a 10″ high section from the bottom of the post. Use a chisel and a hand plane. To make it easier to get it square, screw a 3″ × 3″ piece of wood to the bottom end of the main log or just trace the square onto the end of the log. If you’re using a larger log, attach or use a larger square. Then use a chisel to remove wood until you reach your marked lines. I cleaned it up with a hand plane to even it out.
The final step to prep the post is sanding. For this project I used an orbital sander to sand the post. Start at 60 grit and work up to 120 grit. You’re now done with the post and it’s time for the feet.

Two feet

The first thing to do for the base is to cut the feet to 18″ long. Do this with a log that’s about 4″ to 4-1/2″ in diameter. Chisel the top and bottom off the logs to square them up a bit and give a flat sur­face to work with. Next, hand plane them to 3″ thick. This might take a long time. If you want to speed up the process, you can do this on your bandsaw with a proper jig or use a thickness planer to bring them to an even thickness. If you use any machines, hand plane the surfaces to get rid of the saw or machine marks.

Now you’re ready to cut the joints that allow the two base pieces to mate together and then fix the main post to the legs. A half-lap joint will accomplish this. With the two feet prepped, trace one foot onto the middle of the other one and make two saw cuts half­way down into the foot. Hog out the material with a chisel. Do this to both logs on opposite sides.

Once the joint is cut, predrill and then use two screws and some glue to fasten them together. Next, predrill a 1/4″ hole for the 6″ lag bolt; don’t forget to add some glue before bolting the base on. Even a bit of construction adhesive would work nicely here.

Base supports

The supports are next, but you’ll need a jig to cut them accu­rately. Get a piece of melamine or other sheet good 8″ wide and about 16″ long. Cut two 45° angles on the ends to form a trapezoid. Now draw a line 3″ away from the short edge of the jig to use as a reference to screw on your supports so you can cut them at the cor­rect angle. The supports should end up around 12″ long, but their exact length isn’t crucial as long as they’re all around the same length and they fit.

Now to cut the four supports. Find a log that’s 2″ to 2-1/2″ in diameter. Cut it into four sections. Screw one section to the jig. While it’s by no means a fine art, try to use the jig to guide your saw as best as possible.

Glue and screw the supports to the base. Don’t forget to predrill and countersink the holes so you can fill them with dowels. You’re now done with the base and ready for the hooks.

Add hooks

The hooks are fairly simple. Branches of between 1″ and 1-1/4″ in diameter work well for the hooks. They should also protrude at least 3″ when installed. Find a branch that fits the diameter of the spade bit you have on hand and drill the holes with that bit. Some sanding, carving or chiselling might be needed for each hook to fit nicely. Mark two lines on the post. The first should be 8″ down from the top and the next should be 16″ down from the top. Make three marks evenly spaced around the post. There’s also nothing wrong with spacing out the hooks a bit more, as that will also cause the hooks not to collide with each other during the installation process.

Use the spade bit to drill all the holes for the hooks. Use a block of wood with a 15° angle cut into its end to visually guide the drill bit angle. You can now put some glue in the hole and hammer in the hooks. If you made the hooks the right size, they won’t need to be clamped.

More sanding

To finish your coat rack, you’ll need to go over the whole thing with a sanding block. Finish sanding when you feel the look and feel is even across the entire coat rack. When sanding is done, check it over for dried drips of glue and then coat it all with var­nish. I used a water-based floor varnish, though almost any type will work. While you can also use a linseed oil or a stain, I like to use a thick finish that will seal in everything.

The coat rack is ready for its first customer, and I think that should probably be you.

Simon Keene - [email protected]

Simon is a 14-year-old woodworker that has been messing with wood ever since he can remember. If he’s not in the workshop he’s likely on a bike ride or fishing.

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