Woodworking Project: From Tree Branch to Coat Rack

Use a found tree branch and some basic tools to craft this simple, rustic coat rack.
By Chris Lubkemann
March 22, 2011
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Get outdoors, find some wood and make something beautiful! Among the 35 stylish, distinctive home décor projects in “Tree Craft” are table lamps, photo frames, curtain rods, planters, vases and a checker set.
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The following is an excerpt from Tree Craft: 35 Rustic Wood Projects That Bring the Outdoors In by Chris Lubkemann (Fox Chapel Publishing, 2010). You can tap the beauty and splendor of the outdoors easily and practically by crafting Lubkemann’s creative, charming woodworking projects. Tree Craft includes step-by-step instructions and photos for 35 earthy-yet-elegant home accents, such as kitchen utensils, photo frames, table lamps, vases and a coffee table. This excerpt is from Chapter 3, “Living.” 

I’ve made a number of standing coat and hat racks over the past several years. Some are on the narrow side and have only a few branches for hanging. Others are much wider and can accommodate a whole bunch of coats and hats. The main goal of the standing coat rack is to have a sturdy and stable piece that really serves the purpose and looks good. For a large coat rack of this type, you’ll need to look for a strong, straight sapling that branches out nicely at the top at a practical coat-hanging level. Admittedly, this particular coat and hat rack is probably way too big for my little house, but I’m sure it will eventually end up in the lobby of some restaurant or in the hallway of a much larger home where it just fits the décor.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS 

Large branch or part of tree
Slab of trunk for base
Wedges
Pocketknife
Stain to match bark
Hand-held power drill
Chisel
Rasp
Wood putty or other gap filler
 

INSTRUCTIONS 

1. The largest standing coat rack I’ve made so far came from a young Bradford pear tree that my neighbor Tim took down because it was starting to blow over. As had happened before, Tim’s loss was my gain. (One of his chopped-down maple trees provided the giant fork for my pumpkin launcher ... football field-length shots with small pumpkins). Find a tree like this for you coat tree.

2. Trim off all little branch tips and knots, leaving only the branches you want to serve as coat and hat pegs. Make sure all the branch tips are smooth and rounded off. You don’t want any ripped coat linings.

3. Stain and finish the whole piece. The reason I decided to stain the entire tree was to darken the spots where I had trimmed off knots and branches, making the spots blend in with the bark. Of course, some folks might prefer the reverse, giraffe skin effect. It depends, I suppose, on one’s decorating scheme.

4. Now for the base. For this particular coat tree, I chose a large, heavy slice of wood that had been lying outside my shop at the farm for a couple of years.

5. Working from both the top and bottom of the slice, drill and chisel out a hole in which to insert the stump of the coat rack. To get the size and shape of the hole correct, make a pattern from the bottom of the stump and trace it onto the center of the base slice. This really is kind of fun … sort of like doing a giant root canal — just try not to think bad thoughts about your dentist as you pound the chisel with your hammer!

6. Insert the stump of the coat rack into the hole in the base. With a rasp or chisel, make whatever fine-tuning adjustments you need to make for a good fit. Naturally, there will probably be some gaps and spaces at various points, which is no problem.

7. Tap a number of long wedges into the gaps. This will tighten everything up. Check the coat rack from all sides to make sure it’s straight. When you’re satisfied with the final positioning of everything, cut off the wedges flush with the top surface of the base slab. Then you can use any one of a variety of fillers to close up the remaining spaces in the hole and cement the standing rack in place.

Variation: Peeled Coat Tree

For a very different look, peel the bark off your coat tree. Also, keep in mind that you can select a smaller branch if your space isn’t large enough for a tree-sized addition.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS

Large branch
Flat lumber pieces for base
Lag screws
Pocketknife
Drawknife
Sandpaper
Hand-held power drill
Drill bit to fit lag screws
 

INSTRUCTIONS 

1. For a very simple standing coat rack, let’s start with the largest branch in this photo — the one on the right.

2. Using a pocketknife, strip off the bark and remove all sharp little branches and knots on the coat branches.

3. Get out your drawknife. It’s been a long time since you used that, I bet! Strip the bark from the rest of the coat tree.

4. Round the coat pegs and sand the whole piece. The final step is to securely fasten the rack into a cross base. To create the cross base, get two flat pieces of lumber the same length and width. Make an X with the pieces. Attach two small blocks to the underside of the ends of the piece on the top of the X so that the ends reach the ground. Drill pilot holes through the base into the rack and insert some good, long, strong lag screws.


Reprinted with permission from Tree Craft: 35 Rustic Wood Projects That Bring the Outdoors In, published by Fox Chapel Publishing, 2010. 


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