Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Back to School

Last winter, after the kids had dumped their backpacks and coats on the floor for the n-th time instead of carefully hanging them in the closet, my wife let me know that we needed a coat rack solution "stat." It's not often I get project requests from her (probably since she knows it'll be far from instant gratification) so I knew not to dismiss this casually. Also I knew from her tone that if I didn't do something quick, she might act rash. That meant I needed to design, build, finish, and install "something" before the kids got home from school again.

First off analyze the design scope: a board with pegs in it.
  • How many? 
    • Four of us, so one each for coats, 
    • Two kid's school bags
    • Wife's purse
    • My camera bag
  • Bags might weigh a ton and are cumbersome
    • Pegs need to be sturdy 
    • Spaced to not tangle or interfere 
    • Must attach securely to the wall
  • Now!
    • Lumber on hand
    • Finish on hand
    • No analysis paralysis or researching how people over the last 4 centuries have managed coats and bags...

This leads to something functional, but pretty plain. "Perhaps I can borrow some richness from Greene & Greene or Art Nouveau." I thought to myself. I sheepishly admit that I then blew a considerable amount of time looking at Art Nouveau Typefaces, since I still thought I'd have time to carve initials for each space. I finally scrapped that idea on Sunday in an effort to meet deadline. Still, looking at fonts helped me understand more clearly what look I was after or avoiding. This is not the first time my design clarity has been aided by typography.

My materials on hand were limited to a 6”ish wide length of cherry and some really short bits of walnut clanging around in the bottom of the bin. Beyond that, and I'd have to go red oak, which would kill any chance at a G&G vibe. 6” was way too narrow to lay out the tsuba I'd envisioned, so I started playing more with arcs and reversals to find something that didn't force me too narrow on my stock and hopefully felt like it fit the design epoch.

What to do for the hooks? At this point, I was worried about the rack pegs being too simple, making the rack minimalist. I sketched some rounded shapes, but kept thinking they looked a little anthropomorphic. In the end, I emulated cloud lifts on the uppers and some blocky hooks below. I considered a few layout options with dividers and moving pegs around. Eight ugly (wall side) wedged mortise & tenons and square plugs hiding screws would cover the joinery. (Cutting tenons on curved objects with round overs made me glad I use hand tools.) I rounded over corners with a couple sizes of bits and then blended transitions by hand.  Finally, I finished with a coat of thinned sanded-in spar varnish (on-hand), and then one full strength (quick version of FWW #154)

It might not be the solution I'd have come to with more time and materials; and not everyone will like the design; but it gets the job done & didn't take forever. Certainly I'm glad that now I have a place to hang the coats and backpacks when picking them up off the floor...


  1. I think it is gorgeous. You have a real eye for pieces that are not-square.

  2. I've had such a hard time getting things square that are supposed to be, that I thought maybe I'm need to change what I'm shooting for.

    Thanks for the compliment!

  3. I agree with Brian. It looks really good.
    The contrasting wood is spot on.

  4. Brilliant. Hope my wife doesn't see this or she'll know iv'e been sandbagging on same issue !!

  5. Jeremy,

    I see now that you understand my last post on hand-cut joinery, perhaps better than most. I really like the shape of the upper hooks as well as the ends of the back panel. However, I think the centre section could use a cloud lift or to so it doesn't look so stark.


  6. Thanks for the comment Chris! I agree about adding something in the middle but the stock limited me to adding a lift by removing thickness which made it too spindly. I tried cutting Down in that area but also couldn't find something that worked