Arts & Crafts Hall Tree
Organize your gear with an oak classic.
By Steve Lehmann
I've always wanted a mud room in my house-you know, a place where you can throw your coats, gloves and boots before entering the living room or kitchen. I don’t have enough space for one, so I started thinking: what could I build that would hold all those things?
A hall tree. A big one–one with three large hooks, a flip-up seat and storage space underneath. Plus a shelf for hats.
The design uses frame and panel construction, but there are no mortises to make. The plywood panels and solid rails just fit into grooves, the same way these pieces were built years ago. Gluing the plywood makes the hall tree very sturdy- strong enough for my kids to stand on. And they will!
Make the legs
1. Start by milling the front and back legs (A1 & B1). The back legs are quite long, so joint and plane them in stages, over the course of a few days, to ensure that they stay straight. Trim the back legs to their final length. Make the front legs about 6" extra long for test cuts.
2. The joinery in the hall tree is pretty straightforward (Fig. A). All of the legs have long, stopped grooves that receive the plywood panels and the rails’ tenons. These grooves should exactly fit your plywood, which is probably thinner than its nominal thickness of 1/2". The best way to make the grooves is to use a plunge router, a 3/8" bit and an edge guide. To set up your router, make some test grooves in the extra-long portion of the front legs. Rout from both sides of the legs to center the grooves (Photo 1). Once you’ve correctly adjusted your edge guide, trim the front legs to final length. Then lay out the grooves on both of the leg’s inside faces and rout them (Fig. B).
3. Rout similar grooves on the inside faces of the back legs (Fig. C). Square the ends all of the grooves with a chisel.
Make the seat, rails and panels
4. The seat is composed of two pieces: a lid (D1) and a rail (D2) that is fixed to the case. In order to make the grain of the seat continuous across these two parts, and to ensure that they’re the same thickness, glue up the seat as one large blank, then rip it into two pieces.
5. Mill all of the rails (A2-A5, B2-B3, C1-C2). Cut them to width and length.
6. Cut grooves in the rails for the plywood panels (Figs. D, E and F). While you could use your router again, it’s easier to cut the grooves on the table saw (Photo 2). Set up a 3/8" dado set and cut from both faces, as you did with the router.
7. Cut tenons on all the rails (Photo 3 and Fig. D). Add a chipper to the dado set, making it 1/2" wide. Clamp a sacrificial board to the saw’s fence in order to house a portion of the dado set. Cutting from both faces of each rail, raise the dado set until the tenons fit the grooves.
8. Cut shoulders on the tenons by lowering the dado set and standing the rails on edge.
9. In the back rail-seat (A4), cut a rabbet (Fig. D) that is half the thickness of the seat’s back section (D2). On the back rail-upper (A2), cut two rabbets to form a tenon for the shelf (E1).
10. On the lower rails (A5, B3 & C2), cut grooves to receive the bottom panel (D4) (Photo 4).
11. Draw and cut the arch in the lower front rail (B3) (Photo 5 and Fig. E).
12. Assemble each side of the hall tree, without glue, and double-check the measurements for the panels (A6, A7, A8, B4, C3 & D4). Cut the panels about 1/16" undersize and ease their edges with sandpaper to make assembly easier. For a complicated assembly, I only put glue on one side at a time.
Assemble the front and back
13. Test fit the pieces for the front. Finish sand them and glue.
14. Test fit all of the pieces for the back, then glue it together (Photo 6). Make 7-1/2" long spacers to fit in the upper and lower panel areas–they’ll help align the rails. To reduce anxiety, I glued one side of the back at a time. For the first glue-up, I only put glue on one end of all the rails and panels. I clamped the other leg onto the assembly, without glue, to keep the assembly square and flat. Once the glue was dry, I glued the other side.
15. Cut notches in the seat rail (D2) to fit the legs and rails (Photo 7 and Fig. G). Glue this piece to the back assembly.
Assemble the carcase
16. On the bottom (D4), cut notches for clearance around the legs (Photo 8). You may want to cut ventilation slots in this piece to allow damp gloves and boots to dry.
17. Check the fit of the side pieces and the bottom. Make sure you are able to keep the legs square (Photo 9). Finish sand all of the side pieces and glue.
18. Now the project is really starting to take shape. Make the side slats (C4). Sand and glue them in place.
Add the shelf and seat
19. Make the shelf (E1). Rout a cove and fillet all the way around the piece using a cove bit and a straight bit (Photo 10 and Fig. J). Using your plunge router and edge guide, rout a groove on the bottom of the shelf to fit the long tenon on the upper back rail (Fig. H). Glue the shelf in place.
20. Make the shelf brackets (E2) (Fig. K). Glue the shelf supports to the back legs and to the shelf.
21. Cut the seat battens (D3). Rout a 45° chamfer on their edges. Drill holes for mounting the battens to the seat (Photo 11). Elongate the outside holes to allow the seat to shrink and swell. Attach the battens to the seat’s lid.
Wrap it up
22. Install hinges to join the seat lid to the seat’s back rail. To prevent the lid from slamming down on little fingers, mount a lid support between the seat and an upper side rail (Photo 12 and Sources, next page). Mount the coat hooks and leveling feet, if you need them. Remove all the hardware; paint the hooks flat black and add a clear coat of lacquer.
23. Apply a stain and two top coats of poly to the whole case.
24. Re-attach the hardware and install felt dots on the underside of the seat where it contacts the front legs and upper rail. You're ready for a snowy day!
Fig. A: Exploded View
Fig. B: Front Legs
Fig. C: Back Legs
Fig. D: Back Rails
Fig. E: Front Rails
Fig. F: Side Rails
Fig. G: Seat
Fig. H: Shelf Groove
Fig. J: Shelf Molding
Fig. K: Shelf Bracket
Click any image to view a larger version.
1. Begin by making the front and back legs. Rout grooves in the legs to exactly fit the plywood panels.
2. Cut grooves in all the rails to fit the plywood, too. Use a featherboard to press the rail tight against the fence.
3. Cut tenons on the rails using a dado set.
4. Cut grooves in all the lower rails to receive the bottom panel of the storage area, under the seat.
5. Draw an arch on the lower front rail. Use spring clamps to hold a bent stick while you draw the curve.
6. Glue the back. There are a lot of pieces to manage, so I glue one side at a time. Spacers help align the inner rails.
7. Cut notches in the rear section of the seat, so that this piece fits around the back legs and rail.
8. Cut notches in the storage area’s bottom panel. Screw an extra-tall board to your miter gauge for support.
9. Glue the front, then dry fit the whole assembly. Does it come out square? If so, you’re ready for the big glue-up.
10. Rout a cove molding all the way around the shelf that sits on top of the hall tree.
11. Drill screw holes in two battens that go underneath the seat. Elongate the outer holes so the seat is free to shrink and swell.
12. Attach a lid support underneath the seat. This spring-loaded hardware cushions the seat as it closes, to protect little fingers. My kids love hiding stuff inside their new hall tree!
Note: Product availability and prices are subject to change.
Rockler, rockler.com, 800-279-4441, Hinge No Mortise w/o Finial 2-1/2", #28696; Lid Support Left Mount, #26195; Screw Washer Head #7 x 1-1/4" fine, #38502; Glue Extended Open, #24623.
Woodworker’s Hardware, wwhardware.com, 800-383- 0130, Leg Leveler 5/16"-18, #HB33 6600S; T-nut, 5/16"-18, #SCT51618.
House of Antique Hardware, houseofantiquehardware.com, 888-223-2545, Coat Hook, #R-010BM- 9907.
This story originally appeared in American Woodworker December/January 2010, issue #145.