How to Build a Tool Rack

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Build storage cabinets for your tools, outfeed tables for shop machines and more in “How to Make Workbenches & Shop Storage Solutions” from the Experts of “American Woodworker.” Clear-cut instructions and accompanying photographs will have you building like an aircraft engineer, super-flat and strong with a torsion box workbench, assembly table and alignment beams.

If loose screws always scatter when you open a drawer or you can never find the right hammer, then How to Make Workbenches & Shop Storage Solutions: 28 Projects to Make Your Workshop More Efficient (Fox Chapel Publishing, 2011) is your guide to getting organized. Everything you wanted to know about building a workbench, making work tables and constructing storage cabinets for tools, materials and supplies can be found in this comprehensive book. Learn how to build a tool rack in this excerpt taken from the Chapter “Tool Storage.” 

Whether you have an exquisite collection of antique tools or the latest in high-tech gear, this versatile wall rack stores them all within easy reach. It’s easy to build and adapts to fit virtually any wall space. The 48-by-48-inch rack is made from poplar, but any hardwood or combination of hardwoods will work. Each tool hanger has a bottom groove that allows it to slip snugly onto any of the slats. This nifty feature makes the hangers easy to move, so you can rearrange your rack to accommodate newly acquired tools.

The biggest — and most fun — challenge this rack presents is figuring out how to modify the hangers to display your unique collection of tools.

See the dimensions chart in the Image Gallery for measurements of parts.

Build the Tool Rack

1. Cut and plane stiles and rails for the rack’s frame to 1-inch thick and 1 1/4-inches wide. Their lengths depend on the size of the tool rack you plan to build. Internal stiles can be spaced up to 24 inches on center. Dry-assemble the frame and drill pilot holes through the rails and into the end-grain of the stiles. Then screw the frame together. (For step-by-step images, click through the illustrations on page 1 of this article.)

2. Plane and cut the horizontal slats to 1/2-inch thick and 2? 7/16-inches wide. Leave one slat about 1/2 inch oversize in width — plan to attach this slat last. Cut the slats to length to fit your frame.

3. Make a jig to assure that the slats are consistently spaced, so the 3/4-inch thick hangers will easily slip between them: Simply glue 13/16-inch thick spacer blocks flush with the edge of a straight 2-inch wide board.

4. With the frame squared and clamped to your bench, align the first slat with the bottom and sides. Pre-dill pilot holes and then fasten this slat with No. 6 by 1? 1/4-inch screws. Use your L-shaped spacer jig to position the rest of the slats. Regularly check the frame with a square.

5. Mark the width of the last slat and cut it to fit.

6. Apply an oil finish and set the rack aside to dry. Finish seals the wood so the rack is less likely to get dirty or stained.

7. Mount your tool rack on the wall. The method you use depends on your situation. My shop has wood framing, so I could drill holes through the rack’s frame and screw it directly to the studs. If you have concrete block or brick, you’ll need to use wall anchors.

Create Custom Tool Hangers

The tool hangers are nothing more than pieces of 3/4-inch thick hardwood with a bottom groove cut to fit snugly over the 1/2-inch thick slats. Use spacers with your dado set, if necessary, to achieve the desired friction fit. Cut the grooves about 7/16-inch deep. Most of the tool hangers you’ll make will be less than 2 ?3/4 inches wide, so you can harvest a pair of long slotted blanks from a 6-inch wide board. I made all the hangers for this tool rack from an 8-inch length of 1-by-6 poplar.

To create custom-fit hangers, lay all your tools onto a large table, then group them according to the types of notches you think they’ll require. Sawing slots, installing dowels, drilling holes, chopping mortises or adding lipped edging will accommodate most tools. Rounding the corners makes the hangers more user-friendly. Calculate the spacing for multiple tools such as chisels or wrenches before you start drilling or sawing. You’ll find yourself using Forstner bits, files and all kinds of saws to create suitable notches. Don’t be afraid to experiment: I even ripped blanks in half, cut notches and then glued the halves back together. Once you’ve created a couple hangers, you’ll get all sorts of ideas.

This excerpt has been reprinted with permission from How to Make Workbenches and Shop Storage Solutions: 28 Projects to Make Your Workshop More Efficient, published by Fox Chapel Publishing, 2011.