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Mar 05 2012

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Cherry Coat Rack

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Rather than put their coats away, my kids usually throw their coats on the floor. I suppose it’s not all their fault after all, since they really can’t reach the hangers in the closet. Getting sick of the mess, I decided to build a coat rack where we could all hang our coats and stash our hats and gloves.

My only real design requirements was that the rack had to fit on a three foot section of wall and there had to be four cubbies, one for each member of our family so there would be no fighting. The cherry I used introduced another limitation — I didn’t want to join any boards together to make wider pieces, so this limited the depth of the piece. Following some discussions with other woodworkers about design, I also decided to try and introduce the golden ration into my rack — I gave the cubby holes a ratio of 8:5 width to height.

I wanted to use stopped dadoes and rabbets rather than butt joints to built the project. While it complicated the construction, I wanted to build something that would look more like furniture than a mass produced product. And hopefully like most well-built furniture, the proof of the construction isn’t in the front where most people look, it’s behind (or inside) the piece.

I did run into a few problems during production. For instance I cut the rabbet all the way through the bottom of the sides rather than stop it, so I had to cut plugs to fill the exposed rabbets. I also ended up making my own jig for cutting the stopped dadoes with my router, after lining up straight edges got old.

Rather than sanding the coat rack I decided to try something new. I prepared all of the surfaces with a cabinet scraper before I glued it together. On some of the curved parts, I had to use some sand paper to remove burn marks, but I tried to keep it to a minimum. Then after I assembled it with hide glue, I cleaned up the glue residue with a chisel and the cabinet scraper.

I decided to finish the coat rack with natural Danish Oil. So far I’ve been pretty disappointed with the results, the finish is a little blotchy and it stinks. Partially it’s my own fault, I didn’t read up on finishing cherry, which can be challenging. Also my understanding was that with Danish Oil you could use the piece soon after it was finished. This hasn’t turned out to be the case. The coat rack still smells strongly after almost a week and this smell has been infused into all of our outdoor clothes. Hopefully all is not lost: if I understand what I’ve read, as the cherry ages, it’ll deepen in color and the pores will shrink, maybe the color will even out in this process. I’ll wait at least 6 months before I consider trying to fix the finish. And the smell has to go away eventually, right?

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