November 13, 2006 2:10 PM   Subscribe

How do I build a rack to store spools of thread?

I would like to build a thread rack like this, but one that hangs on the wall instead of standing up on its own.

It looks like a pretty innocent venture, but I am a complete novice at woodwork (though I do own the appropriate power tools: circular saw, drill, sander).

Could someone either point me to a plan (I've googled every combo of DIY, How To, Build, Thread, Spool, Rack, Shelf, Holder, Storage that I can think of with no luck) or give me some pointers as to the best way to accomplish this?

Honestly, I don't even know what kind of wood to buy. And then I assume dowel rods are the way to go for the pegs? Do I drill a hole all the way through and use wood glue? Part way through? I know thread isn't that heavy, but I don't want the pegs to fall out, is wood glue enough or should I use brads to secure the rods? Any advice for drilling at an angle so this thing doesn't look like a piece of crap?

This is for a Christmas gift, so I still have plenty of weekends to accomplish this. And in case it isn't obvious, I realize purchasing one of these would probably alleviate a lot of the pain/frustration I'm going to experience on those weekends, but I want the gift to be handmade.

Your advice and experience is much appreciated.
posted by 10ch to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
IANAW, but I think the only tricky part will be getting those vertical dowels that hold the thread to stand perfectly perpendicular to the bases. It would almost be easer to use a drill press to make those holes than to try and get them perfect by hand.
posted by mecran01 at 2:31 PM on November 13, 2006

Well, there are a few ways you could go about this. If you want to replicate what's in the picture, just made wall-hanging, I think you could do it just using some nice 1x2 strips and doweling.

Basically what you'd want to do, decide how big to make the rack, and how many horizontal pieces you want to have. Cut those from 1x2s. Using a drill press (right way) or hand drill, drill your holes for dowels at regular intervals, into the 1x2s, but drill them perpendicular, not at an angle.

Rather than drilling the holes at an angle, you can just drill them straight, and then set the horizontal members at an angle, with respect to the vertical ones. You could do this by cutting notches into the vertical members (best way) or cut little triangle wedges so that the horizontal ones (that will have the dowels sticking out) are angled up at whatever angle you prefer.

I would drill the holes completely through, and then set the dowels with wood glue. They should fit tightly (be difficult to insert by hand without the glue there to lubricate), and to keep them all at the same depth, just put the board down on a work surface and tap the dowels until they're flush with the bottom. To attach the horizontal members to the vertical ones, I'd either dowel-and-glue, or glue-and-screw. (I prefer the latter but some people dislike screws.)

Anyway, hope this makes sense.
posted by Kadin2048 at 3:24 PM on November 13, 2006

First, design a jig to help you get holes of the same depth in the same places in all those rails. Your jig should hold the rail in place while you drill it, have guide holes that line up with the places you want the holes to go in the rail, and be thick enough so that when your drill bit goes through the hole in the jig and then into the rail, it penetrates the rail to just the right depth (about 3/4 of the way through should be fine) when you can't push the drill any further into the hole in the jig.

Then design another jig to help you cut all your pegs to the same length. This one just needs an end stop and a slit to guide the saw blade; kind of like a non-mitred mitre box with an end on it.

Assuming that the holes you drill are the right size for the dowel pegs you're using, simply dipping the end of the peg in wood glue before pushing it into the hole in the rail should be plenty strong enough. Don't bother with brads for the pegs.

Make cutouts in the uprights to accommodate the rails, and use glue and brads to hold the rails to the uprights. Put the brads in from the back of the uprights so they don't show from the front.

As for woods to use for rails and uprights: I'd cruise my local hardware store and see what they had in timber mouldings.
posted by flabdablet at 3:25 PM on November 13, 2006

I have that exact rack hanging on my wall. I just drilled two holes in the top to hang it from and removed the stand in the back. You could stain/paint/decoupage the wood, add some pretty ribbon to hang it by, or otherwise decorate it in order to give it a handmade look. I toyed with the idea of making my own, but in the end it seemed like way more hassle than it was worth.
posted by logic vs love at 3:28 PM on November 13, 2006

Those are dowels, I'll bet. You can take a spool to your local hardware store, and make sure you are buying the right size.

Gorilla glue or a good wood glue should be enough, unless you are really loading up long pieces of dowel. A brad is likely to split the dowel. How deep you drill would depend on how long the dowel is. Might as well just drill through.

I can't point you to a plan, but I'd start by taking a piece of 2x4 about 2' long, drilling my holes for the dowel at a 45 degree angle, then gluing in 6" or so pieces of dowel. Partially that is because I have 2x4s in my garage. Getting the holes all at the same angle could be interesting...you might be able to use a wedge as a jig.

To be fancy, I'd buy a quart of combination stain and polyurethane, and put a couple coats on after it was all together. You might want to do some sanding beforehand, especially if glue globs appeared.

How you attach this to the wall depends on how heavy it is and the kind of wall your giftees have (plaster, drywall, etc.). You can ask your local hardware store for help (I have better lucky with my locally owned small chain hardware store than with the big boxes).
posted by QIbHom at 3:30 PM on November 13, 2006

Here's a plan that's close to what you want. This is a free plan but probably more complicated than you want or need. I found both of these by googling "sewing thread rack plans" -- lots more where those came from.

Whatever plans you use, this drilling guide will save you a lot of frustration and anxiety.

As for your other questions: Clear pine (no knots) is fine; drill all the way through; use wood glue. But, really, you need a more comprehensive resource.

This page from the DIYNetwork looks like it might have some good tutorial-type resources online. Your local library will have books you can check out, so you don't have to invest a ton of money there.

Always, always, always -- measure twice, cut once.
posted by vetiver at 3:30 PM on November 13, 2006

You could make the whole thing out of Tinker Toys®. Put it together to make sure it's the way you want it, then undo each joint and reassemble it with wood glue. No tools or expertise required.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:43 PM on November 13, 2006

Let's look at this from a different point of view. Let's think about this as a craft project, not a woodworking project.

So, what you'll do is go to Michael's or some other similar purveyor of crafty stuff and you'll head to the picture framing department. What you want is some very plain simple frame stock. You're looking for unfinished or lightly finished wood that has a flat-ish back and a slight angle on the top. If you set it down on at looked at it on edge, it would look like a trapezoid. this is pretty close.

You want the raw stock becayse you can ask your friendly framer to cut it for you. How long? Up to you. You might give yourself something like 18"-24" per row. If you figure that you can get 9 spools or so in a row that size, that will help you figure out how many rows you need.

Now, you're going to need to drill holes in this and they need to be evenly space and the right diameter and depth. We're going to try to solve all of those at once. Measure the peg on your sewing machine for diameter. Remember that - you'll need a drill bit that size later.

At a decent hardware store/home center, get yourself a strip of pegboard that is at least as long as your row and as wide or slightly wider than your picture frame top surface, with the holes in the center. If you go to Home Depot and let them cut it for you - even better. You just want a nice straight strip of holes not unlike the holes in a belt. Here's why:
You will tape the peg board down to the top of your molding with masking tape. Put the drill bit in your drill and up from the point measure about 1/2 inch and paint a line on the drill bit with white out and let it dry.
Drill through each hole in the pegboard until the white-out reaches the very top of the peg board. If the drill bit is significantly smaller in diameter (and I suspect it will be), just align the bit to, say, all the right sides consistently and lightly. Remove tape, repeat on the next one.

For every hole, you will want a length of dowel the same diameter of your drill bit. Measure your tallest spool and add 1/2-5/8 of an inch. That's the length of each dowel. If the dowel diameter is 1/4" or less, the easiest way to cut it is to use a matte knife or and X-Acto knife. Mark the length, lay on a table and with the blade firmly in contact with the dowel, roll the dowel back and forth with your other hand until you get a nice, deep score all the way around. Remove the knife and snap it by hand. I've taught 9th graders to do this - it works like a charm.
If you want to be fancy and have a friend handy while you're cutting, have your friend put each dowel into your drill, tighten lightly and spin it in the drill and sand one end only to round it and deburr it.

Now how do you put this all together? You'll need two wooden uprights. You can get use the cheapo pine that home depot type places have in stacks which will warp and leak sap, or you can go to the baseboard/molding section and get flat, 2 to 2 1/2" basic molding/baseboard/chair rail and cut it on the spot to the size you need (or have them do it). Set them up square to each other (you can cheat and put a large coffee table book between them - wrap the coffeetable book in plastic wrap if you care about it). You could nail the strips down, but if you really want to cheat, heck, use five minute epoxy or liquid nails or some other goopy glue that dries hard, quickly. We're talking two small drops at each end tops. Let sit to dry.

Finally, glue in each dowel into each hole. 2-3 drops of Elmer's glue will be fine or use the rest of the epoxy instead of putting it in a drawer under the false hope that you'll use it before it glues itself to the bottom of the drawer and that key that you're still not sure what it opens.

To hand it, put a small screw it in the top of each upright and hang on two nails.

I think this is a two evening project for a novice with probably more time spent on the road going to a craft store and waiting for the goon at home depot to cut the peg board for you. I think it should cost you about $20.

If you need a picture, let me know and I'll sketch one up.
posted by plinth at 6:27 PM on November 13, 2006

White PVA wood glue is devilishly strong once it has dried, you won't need to worry about anything stronger. Just use a little, if it comes out of the hole when you tap the pegs in, you've used too much.

Wipe up any spill ASAP or else it will prevent any wood stain from getting in properly. If the dowels fit snugly chances are you won't need any glue at all, it's not like spools of thread will be a high load.
posted by tomble at 7:08 PM on November 13, 2006

When I was a kid, my mom used the top rack of an old dishwasher. I think it had prongs (usually to hold glasses) all over instead of just on the sides like in my current dishwasher. I have no idea how or where she got it, but it worked.
posted by youngergirl44 at 10:10 PM on November 13, 2006

OP here...

All, these suggestions, instructions and alternate ideas are wonderful and just what I was looking for. I feel like something that was a scary endeavor has now become an exciting opportunity. I'll let you know what I go with and how it turns out when it's done.

posted by 10ch at 6:15 AM on November 14, 2006

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