Canadian Woodworking
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Make a space-saving live edge coat & hat rack

Author: Steven Der-Garabedian
Photos: Steven Der-Garabedian
Published: February 2024
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Creating storage near a front door is tricky. You want enough hooks and shelves to store frequently worn items like coats and hats, but you don’t want to overwhelm an entryway with too much clutter. This coat and hat rack is the perfect solution for an already tight area.

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  • DIFFICULTY
    2/5
  • LENGTH/TIME
    3/5
  • COST
    2/5

While the newel post at the bottom of the stairs is a conve­nient spot to hang my jacket and hat, it’s not quite what a woodworker should be using. It also becomes incon­venient when guests come over and their stacked jackets slide to the floor and hats get squished. Time for an upgrade.

Cauls Are Critical
Cauls will spread clamping pressure over the width of the joint, but even more importantly, these cauls will help protect the live edge from being damaged by the clamps.

Cauls Are Critical

Remove Material
Once the lines are drawn on the blank, use a bandsaw to remove the same amount of waste as the laminations are thick.

Remove Material

Clamp It Up
With glue on the mating faces, put the lamination in the form and clamp the two halves together. Leave it to dry overnight.

Clamp It Up

An Easy Rip
Ripping thin material like this on a bandsaw is a breeze. The freshly cut edge can be cleaned up with a hand plane.

An Easy Rip

Add Mortises
Before the hat pads can be rounded, it’s best to machine the mortises in their undersides. A router table, complete with stops, makes quick work of this process.

Add Mortises

Small Circle Jig
Der-Garabedian often cuts circles on his bandsaw with the help of a simple jig. The nail acts as a centre point for the workpiece to rotate on. The jig has a wood strip attached to its underside that runs in the mitre gauge groove on his bandsaw and allows Der-Garabedian to start the cut in the workpiece.

Small Circle Jig

Cut the Hat Pads
Once the workpiece is fit on the jig, Der-Garabedian moves the jig forward to cut into the workpiece, then once the wooden strip on the base of the jig comes into contact with the clamped stop, he rotates the workpiece until a round workpiece is produced.

Cut the Hat Pads

Great Contrast
India ink provides nice contrast for this project. Der-Garabedian colours the three curved and two straight hooks that get installed onto the wooden brackets.

Great Contrast

Mind the Gap
A crack was showing up in the back board, so Der-Garabedian machined and installed a straight strip of wood to help keep the crack from spreading. He also added two contrasting exotic plugs for strength and aesthetics.

Mind the Gap

Hidden Hardware
If you’re going to use floating shelf hardware, ensure you read the instructions and machine for it properly.

Hidden Hardware

Through Holes
Der-Garabedian bores a clearance hole through the back so he can install the floating shelf hardware. The shallow, large diameter holes are to accept the plate on the hardware at the rear face of the back panel.

Through Holes

Cut Small Brackets
Small pieces are always hard to cut on a table saw. Der-Garabedian lays out the cuts on the blank, then cuts them out. He’s laid the parts out so he can then take the small, freshly cut blank to the bandsaw and cut the blank into two parts.

Cut Small Brackets

Slight Curve
While two of the brackets need a flat edge to accept the straight, shorter hooks, three brackets need a slightly curved front edge to accept the laminated hat pad support arms.

Slight Curve

Plumb Holes
In order to ensure the holes are bored straight into two of the hooks, Der-Garabedian used a guide block, fence and clamps to fix the workpieces in place while boring.

Plumb Holes

Angled Hooks
The two angled hooks need to be bevelled on one of their ends. A mitre gauge is one option, and that’s what Der-Garabedian used. If this is too close for comfort, bandsawing, handsawing or using a simple customized shooting board are other options.

Angled Hooks

Screw Layout
A bit of blue masking tape will allow you to add marks to the parts without risking not being able to remove the marks.

Screw Layout

Match the Angle
Once the angled hook has been cut, Der-Garabedian uses it as a guide when he’s drilling the dowel holes to fix it to the back.

Match the Angle

Coming Together
Screws secure many of the hooks. Der-Garabedian coloured the screws black once he was done.

Coming Together

Attach Hardware
Finally, the floating shelf hardware gets attached to the back so the shelf can be installed.

Attach Hardware

Coat rack material list

A strong back

I found a piece of black walnut sitting in my collection that had amazing colours, a pleasant shape and some live edge, and just seemed like it was looking to be mounted on the wall. I’m not one for pouring epoxy, nor am I a huge fan of live edge material, but this piece seemed right to be the backdrop for coat and hat storage. On its own, the piece was wide enough for the spot near the door, however, it wasn’t high enough for the design I wanted to create. I found a couple more planks that would fit the bill.

I milled them all up to give me a back panel 7/8″ thick by 28″ wide. The length worked out to 31″ on the long end and tapered to 24″ on the short side. Local wood supply sources should have lots of attractive pieces for you to choose from, as live edge is popu­lar. Alternatively, making a rectangular back with roughly the same dimensions would also work well.

Edge joining doesn’t require any extra internal support, however, it does help align the parts and makes gluing smoother, especially when working by yourself. I chose Festool Dominos but dowels, splines or biscuits would work fine. To accommodate the shape of the top piece for clamping, I glued up two pieces of 5/8″ MDF, traced the live edge shape onto it and cut it out at the bandsaw. I also made up some 1/4″ thick pine cauls to conform to the remain­der of the bend.

Bends and laminations

I thought using bent-laminated wood with a simple curve would be a great way to create supports for the hat pads and also allow spacing them away from the back panel.

The curve is a simple “S” shape. The form is 3″ × 4″ × 12″. Draw the shape onto the bending form and cut it out as smooth as you can on a bandsaw. If your blade is sharp and you take your time, very little sanding will be required. You will also need to accom­modate for the thickness of the laminations, so cut another 1/8″ off the inside of each piece of the form. The final amount of mate­rial removed from the curved form should be equal to the thickness of the plies in one lamination. I cut some cherry into two pairs of 3/16″ thick × 3″ wide and approximately 14″ long laminations. I eventually dyed these black, but more on that later.

Dry clamp the pieces and see if you need to make any adjust­ments. While the form doesn’t have to be perfect, you’ll still need to apply good pressure for a seamless glue-up. Add some packing tape to the inside of the form, apply glue, add clamps and let it sit over­night. Rinse and repeat, as you’ll need two pieces for the hats (each form makes two arms); more if you opted for a wider back board with more hat pads.

When the laminations have cured, edge joint one side and cut them on the bandsaw to just slightly over 1-1/8″ wide. This will leave room to clean up the edges with a few passes of a hand plane. As far as the length, I ended up going with 11″, however, adjust this to suit your own design.

Square to round

It’s much easier to cut the joinery on the hat pads while they’re square. I milled up three pieces of black walnut to 1/2″ thick and 4-1/4″ square. Cut them to 4″ diameter circles after the mortises are taken care of. The router table makes quick work of the mortises with a 1/4″ spiral bit and a pair of stops. Cut the mortises 1-1/8″ wide and 1/4″ deep. This part of the joinery can also be done with chisels, a drill, a small router plane, etc. Choose the method you have the tools for and are most comfortable with.

Square up the ends of the mortises at the workbench using chis­els. You could also round over the support arms, but I thought it would come out cleaner squaring them off. Dry fit the supports. As they are hand cut and fit, each support and pad combination will be unique to each other, so I marked them with a coloured marker inside the mortise and the top of the support.

I like the bandsaw for a safe and easy way of cutting circles. While there are jigs you can buy or spend lots of time making, I ended up taking about 15 minutes to make mine. Start off with a 1/8″ thick piece of hardboard approximately 6″ wide and 8″ long. Mill up a piece of wood that fits in the guide slot of your bandsaw table. It should be a snug fit, yet movable, and sit just below the tabletop. Secure this to the hardboard so it’s perpendicular to the long edge and the blade will cut a portion of the hardboard. I used a few drops of Titebond’s Thick CA adhesive and some accelerator for a strong and speedy glue-up.

Put the jig on the bandsaw and cut about halfway into the jig. At this point clamp another piece of wood on the out-feed side of the slot to act as a stop. Remove the jig and drive a nail from the bot­tom of the jig, in line with the kerf, but 2″ away. You can also use a drop of CA here to hold the nail in place. Turn the jig over and cut the nail, leaving it about 3/16″ proud.

Mill up some scrap wood to fit tightly into the mortises of the hat pads and press them in. Next, find the centre by drawing lines from diagonal corners and using an awl to create a hole that will sit nicely on the freshly cut nail. Now place the jig and a hat pad on the bandsaw. Slowly push forward until you hit the stop and carefully rotate the hat pad until you’ve cut yourself a circle. Repeat this process two more times. Sand the pads’ edges smooth with sandpaper.

Paint it black

I rarely stain wood. If I want something light, I’ll use maple, white ash, pine or similar. And if I want a dark tone, then I’ll use black walnut. Having said that, I’ve been toying with dyeing wood black for a strong contrast. I think I may have found the right solution by using India ink. With only one coat it goes on smoothly, dries fast and takes a finish very well. It also leaves the grain lines so the piece still looks like wood.

I milled up two pieces of black wal­nut that were 3/8″ thick by 1-1/8″ wide and 5″ long for two of the four hooks. I rounded the tops off by first tracing a curve using a roll of blue masking tape, then cut and sanded them smooth. These two pieces, along with the curved support arms, were then dyed black. Make sure to clean up the pieces before dyeing with sandpaper to 180x grit.

Floating the shelf

While letting the ink do its work, I removed the back panel from the clamps and started to clean it up. There was a crack forming at the top and I added a modified butterfly to help keep it in check. I then moved on to sanding the surfaces and edges working through grits from 120x to 180x. You could sand to 220x or finer, however, read the recommendations for the finish you plan on using.

I’ve used the blind shelf supports (Item 00S0520, Blind Shelf Supports, pair) from Lee Valley Tools before and it makes adding a shelf without visible brackets easy. To accommodate for the bracket, I started off by drilling a 1-3/4″ diameter hole in the back that was as deep as the thick­ness of the bracket supports. Next, using the centre point the Forstner bit left, I drilled the through-holes using increasing size drill bits until reaching 7/16″. Read the instructions for the shelf supports you use to make sure you account for width and, more importantly, shelf thickness. I milled up a piece that was 11/16″ thick × 5″ deep × 18″ long. Using the drill press, I bored matching holes into the back of the shelf that were 4-1/2″ deep.

Angles, brackets and hooks

I was contemplating adding store-bought hooks, but after a few days of searching through what seemed like an infinite number of options, I chose to create my own. There are two different versions at the bot­tom of the rack and I needed a way to make them stand proud.

Mill up some wood that’s 3/4″ thick and about 2-1/2″ wide and long enough so your hands remain a safe distance from any blade. You’ll need five brackets: two for the rectangular hooks that were dyed black and three for the hat pads. I cut these trapezoid-shaped brackets first on the table saw with a mitre guide angled at 28°. For the cut along the top base, I moved to the bandsaw as it would have been too risky to hand hold a piece this small on the table saw.

Two of the brackets need flat surfaces and a block plane makes quick work of that. The three for the hat pads will need to be slightly curved to match the back of the support arms. You can do this in a number of ways, but I found a curved bottom spokeshave and some sandpaper wrapped around a 1″ dowel worked just fine. Keep checking your progress against the support arms to make sure you have just the right curve.

The last two hooks on the bottom of the rack start off as 1″ square blanks that are 5″ long. Use the drill press to drill a 3/8″ hole into one end of each blank approximately 2-1/2″ deep. Next, cut a 28° angle on the end with the hole to let you hook a coat on to it.

I wanted something that was facetted and tapered as far as the cross-section shape went. I chucked the blank in my shaving pony and went at it with a spokeshave. I also wanted to leave some texture on these, so while I sanded, I left a few flat spots and tool marks.

Rehearsal of sorts

It would be too cumbersome to apply a finish while all the parts were mounted to the back panel. However, I wanted to position all the pieces and drill all the holes that were required before the finish was applied. I glued the hat pads onto their respective sup­port arms. Once cured, I tried different mounting positions until I was happy with their position and stance. Use double-sided tape and blue tape to try different options until you’re satisfied with the results.

To mount the assemblies to the back panel, use double-sided tape to stop the brackets from sliding around as you drill for screws. I used flat head #8 × 2″ wood screws to attach the assemblies to the panel. Account for the thickness of your back panel and use an appropriate screw length. Drill countersunk holes on top for the heads and pilot holes into the back. The arms, hooks and brackets should be drilled with clearance holes. To attach the shaped hooks, use a 3/8″ brad point bit to drill for 3/8″ dowels. Start off perpen­dicular to the back then slowly change the angle to match the hook.

Finishing up

Remove all the hooks and brackets and clean up any scratches that might have shown up during the dry run. I opted for two coats of Osmo Top Oil, as it will provide good protection even if I place a wet hat or rain-soaked jacket on a hook.

After the finish has cured, assemble the blind shelf hardware and screw it in its place using a pair of #8-1/2″ flat head wood screws. As for the whole assembly, a French cleat is a good way of mount­ing it to the wall. Baltic birch makes a good choice for this method. I also like the fact that the back panel will be held proud of the wall. I ended up using a 3/8″ thick piece that was 5″ wide and 18″ long. Angle your table saw blade to 45° and rip the piece in half along its middle. Mount one half to the back using a pair of flat head #8-3/4″ wood screws. To ensure the shelf is supported prop­erly, I attached a block on the back of the rack, the same thickness as the French cleat. These were located near each of the two lower corners, slightly away from the edge so nobody can see them.

Once the location has been picked for your rack, mount the mat­ing piece to the wall using longer screws into studs and drywall anchors if needed. Finish up by adding the hooks and hat rests to the front at their pre-drilled locations. I covered up the shiny screwheads with flat black enamel paint.

After 24 years at this house, I finally have a proper place to hang my hat. Imagine what I’ll accomplish in another quarter century.


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