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Whether displaying everyday china or an heirloom collection, this handsome rack does the job with Arts and Crafts style. Like original pieces of that era, this rack features mortise-and-tenon joinery along with spline joints, dowel joints and butt joints with screws. The design is easy to alter to fit the space in which it will hang or your skill level: Replace the splined back slats with a piece of plywood that has V-grooves cut to simulate individual boards, for example, or use biscuits, dowels or even plugged screws instead of the mortises and tenons.

The Stickley name usually evokes images of deeply fumed quartersawn white oak, but this homage to those pieces is crafted from mahogany, another wood favored by Stickley and his contemporaries. The mahogany’s rich tone and attractive figure make this plate rack worthy of display all on its own.

Make the end posts

Photo 1. Cut mortises in the end posts for the rails. Drill overlapping holes and then square the cheeks and shoulders by hand.

Mill and cut the end posts to final dimension (A, Fig. A and Cutting List). Then carefully locate, mark and cut the three mortises on each post (Fig. B). If you don’t have a mortiser or a mortising attachment for your drill press, install a Forstner bit and rough out each mortise by cutting overlapping, stopped holes along its centerline. Then clean up the shoulders and square the ends with chisels (Photo 1). African mahogany is a very soft, almost spongy wood, so using a sharp chisel is a must.

Photo 2. Rout a stopped rabbet in each end post to house the back slats.

Next, cut a 9/16″ d x 3/8″ w rabbet on the back inside edge of each post, using a router with a rabbeting bit (Photo 2).

Tip: If you mark start and end points on the post that align with the base of the router, you won’t have to peer underneath while routing to see where the bit is cutting.

Mark the curved top end on each post and locate the hole for hanging. Drill the hole and use a bandsaw or jigsaw to shape the end. Then smooth the curve, using a disc sander or a belt sander clamped to a workbench.

Assemble the frame

Photo 3. Create tenons by rabbeting both faces on the ends of each rail. Then use a handsaw to cut the tenons’ shoulders.

Mill the top and bottom rails (B, C) to final dimensions. African mahogany boards over 12″ wide are fairly common, but you can also glue up narrower boards to make the top rail. Cut tenons on the ends of both rails (Photo 3). Then set aside the bottom rail while you lay out and cut the arc on the top rail.

Mark the top rail’s centerpoint and the beginning of the arc at the tenon shoulder on each end (3″ down from the top). Then use a shop-made bow to draw the arc (Photo 4).

Photo 4. TIP: Lay out the arch on the top rail using an adjustable bow made by stretching a string with knots between slots cut in the ends of a thin piece of hardwood.

To make the bow, rip a 1/8″ thick x 48″ long strip from a piece of 3/4″-thick straight-grained hardwood. Then cut 1/2″ long by 1/16″ wide notches in both ends of this piece. Next, cut a length of kite string or nylon mason’s line somewhat longer than the bow. Tie a knot at one end and a series of evenly spaced knots at the other end. Then install the string, using the knots to bend the bow.

Find (or tie) a knot that creates a bow that matches the three marks you’ve laid out on the rail. Then position the bow on the rail and draw the arc. Tip: This bow probably won’t create a geometrically perfect arc, so the best procedure is to position it, draw the arc from one end to the center and then flip the bow end-for-end to finish drawing the arc.

Cut the arc using a bandsaw or jigsaw and then use a disc sander or a sanding block to fair the curve.

Photo 5. Make sure the frame is square as soon as it’s glued and clamped by checking the opening’s diagonal measurements.

Complete the tenons on the top and bottom rails by cutting their shoulders, using a pull saw. Use a coping saw and a chisel to remove the waste between the two tenons on each end of the top rail. To keep this wide rail from splitting due to seasonal movement, cut the top tenons narrower, so they’re free to move up and down inside their mortises as the wood expands and contracts. (Yellow wood glue has enough elasticity to allow such movement.) Assemble the rails and end posts without glue to test-fit the joints. Then glue the frame together (Photo 5).

Fig A. Exploded View/End View

Fig. B. Post and Rail Joinery

Fig. C. Shelf Details (Top Shelf)

Fig. C. Shelf Details (Bottom Shelf)

Fig. C. Shelf Details (Top Shelf Left, Bottom Shelf Right)

Fig. D. Upper Bracket

Cutting List

Plate Rack

Overall Dimensions: 28″ H x 47″ L x 4-9/16″ D

Part

Name

Qty.

Material

Th x W x L

A

End post

2

African mahogany

7/8″ x 2-7/16″ x 28″

B

Top rail

1

African mahogany

3/4″ x 11-1/4″ x 43-1/8″ (a)

C

Bottom rail

1

African mahogany

3/4″ x 4″ x 43-1/8″ (a)

D

Upper bracket

2

African mahogany

7/8″ x 3″ x 10-1/2″

E

Lower bracket

2

African mahogany

7/8″ X 3″ X 3″

F

Upper shelf

1

African mahogany

5/8″ x 3″ x 44-11/16″ (a)

G

Lower shelf

1

African mahogany

5/8″ x 4″ x 45-3/4″

H

Plate rail

1

African mahogany

5/8″ x 1-1/8″ x 44-11/16″ (a)

J

Slat

11

African mahogany

5/16″ x 4″ x 11-15/16″ (b)

K

Spline

10

African mahogany

3/32″ x 5/8″ x 11-15/16″

L

Horizontal retainer

2

African mahogany

3/16″ x 1/4″ x 42-7/8″

M

Vertical retainer

2

African mahogany

1/4″ x 3/8″ x 11-5/8″

Notes

(a) Length includes 1/2″ long tenons on both ends.

(b) Cut end slats to fit; allow 3/8″ overall for seasonal movement.

Add the shelves and brackets

Mill and shape the upper and lower brackets (D, E; Fig. C). Then cut the mortises in the upper brackets, using the same method as for the end posts.

Next, mill the upper and lower shelves (F, G) and the plate rail (H) to final dimensions. Then cut the tenons on the upper shelf and plate rail to snugly fit the mortises in the upper brackets. (Note: At this point, the shelf will protrude beyond the bracket’s back edge.)

Photo 6. Notch each shelf to fit the opening in the frame, using a miter gauge with a fence and a stop block. The upper shelf has tenons; the lower shelf doesn’t.

Cut a 3/16″ w x 7/16″ d rabbet in the back edge of each shelf (Fig. C). Rabbet the top edge of the upper shelf and the bottom edge of the lower shelf. Next, notch each shelf so it fits flush against the end posts when its rabbet is registered against the rail (Photo 6).

Photo 7. Rout plate grooves in each shelf using a plunge router with a fence and a straight bit.

Plunge-rout 1/4″ deep plate grooves in both shelves using a 1/2″ core box bit (Photo 7). As before, use the router’s base to mark the start and stop points.

Photo 8. Install the brackets and plate rail after gluing on the shelves. Gluing these mortise and tenon joints is optional, because both brackets will be securely fastened to the frame.

Finish-sand the frame, shelves, brackets and plate rail. Then glue and clamp each shelf with its rabbet registered against the edge of the appropriate rail on the assembled frame. Next, install the plate rail as you slide the upper brackets onto the shelf’s tenons (Photo 8). Clamp the brackets to the shelf and to the frame. Make sure the assembly is square and the brackets and end posts are parallel. Then drill countersunk pilot holes through the back of the end posts and fasten the brackets with screws. (Note: Gluing the upper brackets to the shelf and plate rail is optional.)

Simply glue the lower brackets to the end posts and lower rails—make sure to orient the brackets so the grain runs vertically.

Examine the assembled rack and finish-sand as necessary. Then apply your favorite finish. I wiped on three coats of gel urethane.

Install the back slats

Photo 9. Cut narrow kerfs for splines in both edges of the back slats. Use a featherboard to keep the slat pressed against the fence so the slots are consistently located.

Mill long blanks for the back slats (J), preferably by resawing thick stock rather than planing away more than half of a board. Rip the blanks to width and then use a sanding block to lightly chamfer the edges. Next, install a thin kerf blade and cut slots for splines on both edges of each blank (Photo 9). It isn’t necessary to perfectly center the slots; just keep the same face of the board against the fence for both cuts.

Install a zero-clearance insert in your tablesaw, set the fence and use a sacrificial push block to rip the 3/32″ splines (K) from a board that you’ve thickness planed to 9/16″. Cut the slats and splines to length. Finish-sand the slats and apply the finish. When the finish has dried, install one spline in the same edge of each slat. Don’t use glue.

Photo 10. Install the slats from the center to the ends. Allow for seasonal movement when you cut the end slats to fit. Install retainer strips to hold the slats in place.

Lay the rack front-face down on your bench to install the slats (Photo 10). Press the slats together, so the splines don’t show. When you cut the end slats to fit, leave gaps to allow for seasonal movement. Secure the slats with retainers (L, M). Use 23 gauge pin nails to fasten the retainers.

Bio

Garrett Glaser is a furniture maker who lives and works in St. Paul, Minnesota. To see more of Garrett’s work, visit garrettglaser.carbonmade.com.

 

 


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