Cabinet Woodworking

The Boot Rack

I try to make sure the things I build serve a practical purpose.

On this occasion my wife said, “I need somewhere to store shoes in the bedroom”. This was very true. Shoes do tend to occupy prominent positions around the house. The idea was to make something that could blend into a corner of the bedroom and be able to hold piles of stuff – ostensibly shoes – out of the way. From my point of view, this would give me the chance to learn how to drive my Router…

(Incidentally, my wife writes an excellent blog that is well worth reading if you have the time. She goes by the name of MakeWalkRead.)

Our bedroom contains a number of pine chests of drawers, with decorative stepped and rounded edges to their tops and drawer fronts. It’s a fairly distinctive style, and matching this shape will be the key to getting my unit to blend in. The shape is achieved by using a Rounding-Over Bit, which will cut a curve into the edge of the wood. Cutting slightly deeper than the curved section of the bit will put a step, or Fillet, before the curve, matching the existing units.

For this project I decided to eschew PowerPoint, and revert to the more traditional hand-drawn sketch in a notepad. I ended up with a design having solid sides and with strips joining them together at the top and bottom, a simple panel at the back, and a solid top to finish off.

To build the basic box I needed three wood boards, a piece of hardboard for the back and a selection of wood strips to join it all together. At the time of the design I hadn’t chosen the wood to use. I just had a basic idea that the sides and top would be around 1.5 to 2 cm thick and big enough to make the unit a similar height and depth to others in the room – so about 88cm from the floor to the underside of the top and 38cm from back to front.

The local DIY superstore stocks a product called Furniture Board. This comprises strips of wood glued and joined into boards of various lengths and widths. I found some made of pine, 1.8cm thick and 85 by 40cm in area. More or less the size I was looking for. Okay, they were 3cm shorter than I would’ve liked, but the next length up cost another fiver each, and it didn’t seem worth the extra cost for such a small difference. So, three of these would do to make my top and sides.

Double-checking the design; I wanted the top to extend over the front and sides of the unit. This would mean it would need to be deeper than the sides would be. A quick look at the other units in the bedroom reminded me that they had 38cm depth. So I would be cutting 2cm off the widths of the boards used for the sides. If I left the top piece at 40cm wide and made it fit flush with the back, then it would overlap by 2cm at the front. Perfect. I shall make it 4cm longer too to give it an even overhang all round. Time for the hand-saw…

One final part of the design was to consider how the back panel would be fitted. I could secure it with pins, but I didn’t want it to be visible from the side of the unit. I decided to use the router along the back edges of the side pieces to create a channel into which the panel would sit. This can be seen in the sketches I made.

It turns out Routing is straight forward as long as you keep in mind three things: First, prepare. Measure everything, twice. Second, practice. Have a go on a scrap of wood to ensure that the measurements are ok and the end result will be as hoped. Third, take it slowly. Don’t try and cut out the whole shape in one go, take a few mm off at a time. Any more and it can dig in or split the wood, break the bit, or leave burn marks in the surface. These would take a little bit of sanding to get out.

The body of the unit would be held together using wide strips of wood secured, of course, using biscuit joints. I chose in the end to use 3 strips, two at the back – top and bottom – and one at the front to form a plinth. The plinth was inset a little way so that the shelf above would overhang, while the back strips were lined up with the bottom of the channels I had routed in the sides. The back panel could then be recessed in these channels and pinned to these strips. The figure below shows the back of the unit as the bottom strips are clamped into place

The top would then provide the rest of the strength and rigidity for the unit. As for the boy’s desk, I decided to secure the top to the unit using Cam Locks.

The boot rack was to have four shelves, the bottom one lying on the plinth and the others evenly spaced above. The shelf supports are made from thin strips of wood, glued and pinned to the unit sides. For the shelves themselves, I had in the loft a few sheets of floating laminate flooring, left over from a room that was refitted many years ago. Laminate is thin and very strong, holding its shape without bending, but easy to cut using a jigsaw. The sheets were over a metre long and 30cm wide, so each shelf could be made by cutting a sheet in half and connecting the two halves side by side.

Then it was time to paint and varnish. I decided to paint the body of the unit and varnish the top. I chose a chalk paint that was a close match to the walls of the room, and a satin varnish that would bring out the grain in the pine top without letting it go too ‘antique’ (or ‘orange’ as my wife calls it.)

And so, it came together. A fairly simple project, that fulfilled its duty for a short while at least. My wife has a thing for books; they multiply and spread rapidly around the house. The need for book storage eventually seems to have overtaken the need for shoe storage. Ah well. I’d better make another bookshelf…

By nickcnickcnickc

I spend my working life staring at computer screens, so in my spare time I look for things to do with my hands, preferably involving wood. It's a little ironic then that I've now starting writing a blog about my woodworking, and thus introducing computer screens to my main hobby..!

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