Shoe Rack #1: Building the carcass

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Blog entry by David Craig posted 01-15-2010 05:33 PM 5031 reads 0 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Shoe Rack series Part 2: Working on edging »

The following is an example of a project that I usually will find myself working on. It also highlights one of the reasons why I don’t post projects, as these are usually rough constructions that I attempt to make a little better than the material I am working with. Right now, my house is in a state of semi-chaos. My brother has moved in a few months ago (he has been recently diagnosed with MS and is trying to get his life together) and so I have been trying to adjust to the addition of his things on top of my things and so my furniture plans will be postponed for awhile.

Much of my woodworking time is spent on making things for other people. I have a lot of junk wood and I have a number of friends who will consider buying some “throw away” item at a big store and will usually talk to me first. If they can get me to throw something together, then they save a few bucks and some of my junk wood is put to use. I used to beg off on some of these projects and I didn’t want to put in the time, effort, tool use on throw away crap. I got into this hobby because I wanted to build quality up, not turn into another landfill provider. But then I realized that, not only was I turning my back on a friend, I was also turning down experience points that could hone my skills. And since nobody cares what the end product looks like, the pressure of perfection is off and I am not learning my chops on expensive wood. Besides, not like the Queen of England is going to come by anytime soon and require my services, so nothing to lose :)

Most times these requests are for something quick. They want it right now and don’t want me to mess with any process that is “fancy.” I will accommodate the speed but will make the demand that I employ my skills or I won’t do it. I can skip the finish and the profile routing, I can cancel the finish sanding, but I will not just nail two boards together because I have no interest in practicing how to be a lousy carpenter :) If you practice bad craftsmanship, you will become a poor craftsman. What follows is such a request.

I have a friend whose collection of shoes is becoming a pile in the back of her closet. She asked me for a cardboard box to put them in and I told her I could probably throw together a shoe rack for the back of her closet if that would help. I seen a beautiful one by another one of the jocks here. Though this one would not match the beauty, it provides the inspiration for the practicality. I had some pieces of old plywood given to me (by the same friend) that were sitting in a church shed for a number of years and were going to be thrown away. Some of the pieces were painted a very dark blue. Some had rot on the edges and had areas on the face that were chipped. I drew out the measurements, used my own shoes as a reference point, and trimmed, cut, dadoed and rabbeted. Producing the carcass you see below -

Dry fitted carcass

No beauty queen right? Practical but nothing to write home about and it pretty much looks like something a monkey can make (albeit maybe a smart one with pretty hair..) But lets take a closer look, shall we, and look past the aesthetics and move on to the joinery itself.

Carcass Joined

What skills were employed here and what was learned from the project so far?

1. Dado cutting – Dados had to be properly measured to accomodate spacial requirements. measurements of the side pieces were 6 inches to each side of Dado. Fences set for required placement and both side pieces cut at the same time for uniformity. Use of calipers to determine proper thickness of piece to fit in slots. Measurements transferred to stack dado set to make a more educated assumption of spacers and cutters needed. Test cuts to verify proper fit.

2. Rabbeting – Space between ends measured to determine beginning points of Rabbets on both ends to allow a tight fit between boards. Playing card thickness added to the distance between fence and blade so that the edges of the Rabbet would slightly protrude from the piece. This allows one to use a trim router to mat the edges perfectly where a Rabbet cut too short would leave noticeable gaps at the edges. Create the error you can fix so that you can avoid the error that you can’t, or would require more effort to repair.

3. Assembly – Manufacture right angle clamp jigs to insure shelf is at a proper 90 degree angle in correlation to the sides. Use thin bead of glue inside dado and along the edge of the shelf board and distribute evenly with a brush. Align shelf edge so that edge is matted evenly, apply angle jigs and clamp, followed by clamping the carcass so that all boards are square and joinery is snug. Tap in 4 brads into the top of the carcass to keep rabbets tight and to reduce amount of clamps required.

So there you have it. Good practice on a number of different woodworking skills. It helps a friend out, saves wood from the landfill, and also postpones the purchase of nother landfill item from a big name store. My friend is happy with the concept, so now she wants me to take it a bit further and pretty it up. Instead of the back of the closet, she wants in her entryway. So the next set will involve fixing some of the cracked plywood, making a face frame to cover the edges, and sanding and priming it for whatever color she wants it to be. No pressure, as it can only look better than how it looks now and there will be a nice batch of skillsets to practice on. Then, when the Queen of England does employ my services, I will be ready ;)

Thanks for reading,


-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

5 comments so far

View Dennis Fletcher's profile

Dennis Fletcher

467 posts in 3023 days

#1 posted 01-15-2010 05:53 PM

Nice way to explain it. Some of my projects are nothing more than my learning how to use a tool or how to do a particular function. I am always happy when those tests turn out nice, but I am also a realist.

--, Making design and application one. †

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4170 posts in 3133 days

#2 posted 01-15-2010 07:00 PM

I do a lot of stuff like that also. Looking at my blog and my last little tote for example Measurement Instrument Tote, I made precise dados with tolerances such that the piece would stand up with press fit alone. Of course I glued them, and used small brads in the construction, because it was a shop piece. I find I use it constantly, and even put another set of mounting holes for it on the back of my RAS table just before I left on vacation. I also put Sketchup to use, and applied some ‘form follows function techniques’. This is one of my more carefully designed pieces, as opposed to precision construction.

The next little project was the oven thermometer case. I have subsequently use the thermometer more than expected, and the case makes finding it and storing it easy. Again, it required very precise measurement and dado work, in this case with the table saw. Then I used plastic for the top, experimenting with the material, and relearning plastic gluing (I didn’t do very well on this one) so that I can use some of the same techniques in a tool rack I am designing, for chisels and other sets of miscellaneous tools. Simple quick projects, but built with precision and learning and relearning techniques and material properties.

If you notice, I do not have any projects listed either…........

......and remember the quick and dirty Danish oil finish….................

Ain’t doing this type of stuff fun?................(-:

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3077 days

#3 posted 01-15-2010 09:10 PM

Thanks for the comments gentlemen. I appreciate the read and feedback.

Jim, I took a look at your items. Nice work and quite useful for the shop. The oven thermometer case looks pretty slick. I wouldn’t take that to the airport though when heading out on one of your Maui excursions :) I would really hate to see a picture of you in the paper with you quoted as screaming “I am not Al Qaeda you idiots, I am a Lumberjock!”

Yes, the projects are fun, it gets me in the shop, and keeps me working my tools. Until I can change my circumstance, good idea to just change my perspective.


-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4170 posts in 3133 days

#4 posted 01-16-2010 06:48 PM

That thermometer case is overkill, but like I said, my perfectly good 20 year old oven thermometer bit the dust just because it was stuffed in a drawer, and got broken from closing the drawer on it. On the other side, it only took me a couple of hours including the design and finishing. My only use for these gadgets is turkey, ham(just used it on one, we like the ones that aren’t precooked), and prime rib. A large chicken could use it as well. But when you need one, you need it. You can’t do guess work on any of those items and end up with good results. And I will remember your advice to not take it through the airport (-:

Thanks for the comments on my Maui pictures, glad people appreciate them. I put a little work into culling, cropping, and editing the pictures. Nothing more boring than a bunch of unselected vacation pictures. I don’t have the best camera equipment, so I have to shoot a few views to get a usable one.


-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View a1Jim's profile


117063 posts in 3546 days

#5 posted 01-16-2010 06:51 PM

I need one of those puppies

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

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