Greene & Greene Inspired Towel Rack

First month of the calendar, first project completed – not that I expect to keep that pace up for much longer this year! A few months ago, my wife bought some old faucet knobs

Knobs

with the intent of using them as the hooks on a towel rack. When she asked me for help with how to mount those knobs, I had an idea for some Greene & Greene details to frame out those knobs. I had a nice piece of 4/4 walnut picked out for this project

S4SWalnut

A couple of years ago, I took a Greene & Greene details class with Darrell Peart. Along with the experience of several different G&G details, I also brought home an MDF template for a simple cloud lift, which I used to layout both ends of the board.

CloudLiftTemplate

Layout

With the cloud-lift layout complete, I could start working on the indent detail. The indents are a detail from the Blacker House dining room chairs. I’ve decided to widen that idea for each end of this rack. If I were making many of these indents (like multiple legs on a set of chairs), I would build a router jig to remove the waste. Since I’m only making this twice, I decided to handle it with my chisels.

EarlyChiselWork

I started by defining the baseline (as seen above), shallow at first and then deepening the cut. Once I had the depth where I wanted it, I started paring my way back toward the center of the board. After a few hours of chisel work (and some sanding), the detail on both ends was complete.

OneEndFinished

With the indent details complete, my next trip was over to the bandsaw. I cut just outside the lines to remove most of the waste. With the rough shaping complete, I reattached the template to the board with double-sided tape and finished the cut with a flush-trim router bit.

With the decorative shapes all in place, I had to work on the practical parts of the piece: how I will mount the knobs and how I will hang the rack on the wall. Mounting the knobs was the easier of the tasks. I knew I wanted the knobs evenly spaced across the board, so I marked lines one quarter, half, and three quarters the way across the board. At each of these marks I bored a hole with a forstner bit to bury the head of the machine screw that will hold the knobs. In the center of that hole, I used a brad point bit to drill a centered hole through to the other side.

To mount the towel rack, I took the opportunity to acquire another tool – a keyhole router bit from Whiteside tools:

keyhole

The key (no pun intended) to using this bit is to only make it cut the hidden part of the hole. To setup up that cut, I first drilled a couple of holes. The first hole is the same size (or just slightly larger) than the diameter of the keyhole bit. Above it I drill a hole that’s the same size as the router bit’s shaft’s diameter. I cleared out the path between the two holes with some chisel work. With the path clear, I can now route up into the joint, using the carved path as a guide for the shaft of the bit.

KeyholesRouted

Note: that is not a mistake next to the right keyhole; it’s a knothole in the board.

Now that all of the major sawdust was made, we were down to the finishing. I progressively hand sanded through 120, 150, 180, and 220 grit paper. Normally I would use my random orbit sander, but the indent detail required hand sanding, so it wasn’t much more work to sand everything by hand.

For the finish, I decided to follow the recipe prescribed by The Wood Whisperer in his step stool finishing video:

  • A seal coat of shellac
  • Several coats of 1:1 polyurethane:mineral spirits
  • Light sanding between coats
  • “Buffing” out the final coat with mineral spirits

After everything was dried, it was time to attach the knobs. I thought I had purchased properly sized machine screws to hold the knobs, but it turns out they were just a little to small. Rather than searching for the perfect screws at the hardware store, I decided to close the gap with two-part epoxy. A few drops in the knobs and on the threads kept the screws secured. A couple of hanger bolts in the wall and the towel rack is ready for use:

InSituFinalInUseEven though I started this project in December, it still feels good to finish the first project of the year so early in the year. It was an interesting challenge because it was a sculptural piece of sorts – there was no joinery, just removing the parts of the board that didn’t look like a Greene & Greene inspired towel rack.

3 thoughts on “Greene & Greene Inspired Towel Rack”

  1. Totally cool project. I’m a huge fan of black walnut and cut some slabs with a way underpowered chain saw mill. BTW, I followed you through twitter and say you’re just down the road in PVille. I’m in Berryville!

    Anyway, good project… and I love the inspiration.

    Cheers,
    patrick

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