It’s been a good spring so far, I took on a project for my local parish church to replace all the old beat-up missal racks behind the pews that have been falling apart after 85 years of use. Over the years, the bottoms were falling out and many of the nice decorative oval head screws had been replaced with an odd assortment of flat head and round head screws of various finishes. I believe most of the damage occurred after the parish went to the larger missals with larger easy to read print for us older folks (yea, I’m one of them). The parish finance committee asked if I would consider replacing the old racks with new ones and I submitted a SketchUp drawing of the proposed racks with an estimate of less than $500 (materials only). Offer accepted.
I started out with 100 bf of 13/16” random width red oak and proceeded to rip and resaw ~200 1 3/4” and 1 1/2” by 5/16” slats approximately 25” long for the front and bottom slats. Most of the rest went to cutting out the side supports and small center supports. The supports were roughly cut out on the band saw and the final shapes were template routed. The dadoes were added for the bottom and face slats on the table saw with a stacked dado blade. The support profiles were sanded on the oscillating spindle sander (the one Santa dropped off last December) and the squared edges lightly knocked off with 150 grit paper. All totaled, 396 pieces of oak for 66 racks for 33 pews, its good not to belong to one of those mega churches.
Next phase was the assembly. By my design, I needed (8) #4 by 5/8” oval headed screws (preferably dark finished) for the front slats of each rack. That’s uhh, 528 screws with each slat drilled and counter sunk. Didn’t have a #4 all-in-one counter sink so that equaled out to 1,056 operations on the drill press – thank God for the ShopSmith. Went to my helpful hardware man with a sample screw in hand. He found it in the wall of pull out drawers (three screws total) and asked how many I needed? I replied 530. His response was “serious?” My reply was “dead”. Two weeks later I had my screws. Thinking ahead, I also put in a request for 330 #8 by 1 3/4” oval headed wood screws, guess what style of screw is no longer popular? After a week of querying the Ace hardware supplier my local guy was about to give up when it occurred to me that I belonged to a community of 107,000 plus experts – certainly someone would know where I could procure the elusive #8’s. Within 6 hours I had several leads which I passed on to my helpful hardware man. I can’t begin to thank all who responded to my plea for help, you saved my bacon.
Well, moving on, awaiting the arrival of my #4’s, I pre-finished the oak pieces with a Watco dark walnut finish working between sneaky evening thunder storms in the back yard. I thought of trying to stain to the same color of the originals, but came to the conclusion that it would be tough to match 85 years of dirty fingers and furniture polish so this will be a bit of a contrast and I’m sure the ladies will begin the aging process shortly.
I assembled all 66 racks with the help of an assembly jig and delivered them to temporary storage on site. I’m merely waiting for the arrival of the #8’s and I can get on with the installation and plugging all the old screw holes in the back of the pews.
That’s all for now, but I will be back shortly (I hope).
-- Greg, No. Cal. - "Gaudete in Domino Semper"