Make a Self-Closing Tool Rack
Almost every hammer or mallet rack I’ve come across shares a vertical-and-hollow design that requires significant headroom clearance to work. It often requires you to use both hands to remove a tool from the rack – one to lift up the head and the other to grab the handle. That’s not how woodworkers store their long clamps or remove them from a clamp rack. This observation prompted me to explore and design a different way to store my hammers and mallets.
Self-Closing Tool Rack Demonstration
The Self-Closing Tool Rack
My mallet rack consists of four components: i) the body (rack), ii) the swing gates (hammer holders), iii) the support and iv) the hardware that holds everything together (see Figs. 1– 4 below).
The swing gate allows the tool to be placed or removed horizontally and it stays in the open position until the tool is replaced. When closed, the swing gate, along with the fixed rest, provides support to the head.
Any lumber 1/2” to 3/4” thick is suitable for making the rack. A 25” long rack can hold 6 regular hammers or mallets. It is almost as easy to make several racks as it is to make just one.
- 1/2” – 3/4” thick lumber
- Table saw
- Band saw
- Stop block
- Miter gauge
- Spindle sander or disc sander
Making the Swing Gates
You can make the wooden components in any order. I started with the swing gates, the heart of my design:
- Prepare a sufficient number of 3”×3” square stock (one per hammer or mallet)
To prevent kickback, always use a stop block on the saw fence when making repetitive crosscuts with the miter gauge. (Blade guard removed for clarity.)
- Trace the gate’s outline on one of the 3”×3” blocks, based on Fig. 1
- Mark the center points (1 1/4” dia. and 5/32” dia.) and drill the holes
The author tested out his swing-gate idea with a cardboard prototype before finalizing his design.
- Cut out the swing gate close to the outline
You can cut the swing gates with a machine or by hand.
- Sand the swing gate to final shape
Round all the corners on the swing gates.
- Use the first swing gate to trace the pattern for the rest of the 3”×3” blanks
Use the first milled swing gate as a template to mark all the other blanks.
- Repeat steps 3 and 5 to make all of the swing gates
With some 20 gates to make, the author cut and sanded them in stacks.
Making the Rack Body and Corner Blocks
Gather the boards required for each rack (one 1 1/2” wide and one 4 1/2” wide – both to the desired length of the rack – and two 3”×3” blocks). Then build the rack as follows:
- Lay out the spaced slots and center points ( 5/32” dia. and 1 5/8” dia.) on the wider board as given in Fig. 1
He also marked and cut the racks as a stack.
- Drill all the 1 5/8” dia. holes
The end of each slot can be cut square or round as desired.
- Set the saw-blade height to just above the center point
Stand the rack on its edge on the table saw to help set the blade height.
- Cut the slots on the table saw
Gang cut slots on the racks on the table saw or band saw.
- Bore all of the 5/32” dia. holes and ease all of the edges
Plane or sand all the edges smooth and round all the sharp corners on the rack.
- Shape the corner blocks if desired (Fig. 4) and screw the 1 1/2” fixed rest and the corner blocks to the rack
To complete the tool rack, attach all parts with screws.
- Assemble the swing gates to the rack with the hardware listed in Fig. 3
Do not overtighten the swing gates – finger pressure on the nuts is enough.
- Sign and date your rack before mounting it to the wall
Branding freehand is not much different from using any other hand tools –all require practice!
The self-closing design can be adapted to hold other handled tools or objects such as axes, garden tools and croquet mallets. Fun to open and fun to close – the mesmerizing design invites people to play with your work!
Text and photos by Charles Mak
Charles Mak, now in retirement, is an enthusiastic hobby woodworker, teacher, writer and tipster. He formerly worked part-time at his local Lee Valley Tools store.
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