Mission-style coat rack

Takes: One weekend


Tools you’ll need: Marking tools, straightedge, bench and block planes, spokeshave or sanding drum, drill and bits, jigsaw or bandsaw, router and bits, biscuit jointer, hand saw or circular saw



Fig.1 Mission coat rack

Although I’m more familiar with traditional Shaker furniture, I’ve always found a certain appeal to Mission furniture. It has an understated elegance to it, predominantly featuring straight lines, with very few curves. Originating in the Spanish missions of California and America’s southwestern states some 100 years ago, the Mission style was pretty much the equivalent of what was being produced during the Arts & Crafts period in Britain. It was usually made from oak using quartersawn boards and frequently stained – or fumed – a darker brown to highlight the timber’s medullary rays, which would really stand out.


1 Prepare your timber to width and thickness, planing the face side and edge on each board first


2 Saw rear and top boards to length, leaving them a tad oversize for cleaning up with a plane


3 Plane the board ends square, working from each end towards the middle to prevent any splitting


4 Draw the lower curve on the back by flexing a steel rule or narrow batten between two cramped offcuts


5 Next, carefully cut the curve on the waste side of the line, either on a bandsaw or with a jigsaw

Timber choice & construction
I still have an assortment of European and American oak boards in the workshop bought over recent years when the opportunity seemed too good to pass up. It’s obviously best to build any project from exactly the same batch, as a mix of different timbers might not match up. I used a mix of offcuts from a couple of boards, and the visual difference is actually hard to see.

If you’re faced with an obvious colour variation, one solution is to bleach the timber once you’ve completed the project. After rinsing off the bleach and allowing the oak to dry, lightly sand and then use a suitable stain to gain an even colour. Always experiment on offcuts first, though.


6 Clean up the curve with a spokeshave. Alternatively, use a sanding drum fitted in a drill stand if you prefer


7 Cut slots for biscuits in the ends of the rear panel. These are for attaching the end pieces later


8 Saw the shelf to length and plane the end-grain. Mark out biscuit positions on the shelf and back panel


9 Plane the two end pieces to size, then cut slots. Next, rout a chamfer around their lower edges


10 Sand the back panel and underside of the shelf before gluing the rack together

Construction of the coat rack is pretty easy, making use of biscuits for jointing. The most awkward part is probably forming a consistent curve to the lower edge of the main panel. It’s harder to produce a shallow curve than one with a tighter radius. After cutting with a jigsaw, I used a spokeshave to clean up the curve, though this is much easier to do in softwood. The most reliable method is to first cut an accurate template from 6mm ply or MDF, taking time to get this precise. With a suitable bearing-guided cutter you can then rout the oak to the exact symmetrical curve, with no cleaning up to do after cutting.


11 Cramp end pieces to the panel using PVA glue. I find masking tape makes cleaning up that much easier


12 If necessary, you can tidy up your routed chamfers with a few strokes from a sanding block


13 Use No.20 biscuits for fixing the upper shelf to the rear panel. This size is also used for the end pieces


14 Glue the rear panel and shelf together, checking for square as you tighten the clamps


15 Trim the upper shelf edge flush at the rear of the coat rack with a smoothing plane

Hardware & finishing
It’s a good idea to buy the actual hooks before you start cutting any timber, as you may need to increase the height of the back panel to accommodate them. I got mine from The Door Knocker Company – www.thedoorknockercompany.co.uk – based in Shropshire, which sells a fascinating range of period hardware, so you should be able to find something suitable. To give the project some authenticity, I chose cast-iron hardware in its natural grey finish.


16 The shelf is supported by shaped brackets. A card template will help you to achieve an even curve


17 Draw around the template on both brackets, then cut these carefully with a bandsaw or jigsaw


18 Tidy up the curves of each bracket with a sanding drum or spokeshave, making sure you keep edges square

Unless you obtain hardware with a lacquered finish you should spray grey iron items before fitting, as they’ll rust with the slightest hint of moisture in the air. It’s not advisable to fit untreated iron to oak, either, as the tannin will react with the metal to create black stains. Use clear or black satin lacquer, depending on the effect you want. You can, of course, make the coat rack any length you like, increasing or reducing the number of hooks as necessary.


19 Glue a bracket to each end piece and cramp them together. Check for centrality


20 A single screw fixes the shelf to the top of each bracket. Counterbore and plug the holes


21 Drill a 13mm hole into the rear face of each end piece; this creates clearance

Finally, the rack can be sanded and oiled but remove the hooks first. I brushed on two coats of my current favourite finish, Chestnut finishing oil, wiping off the excess after a few minutes.