Thursday, August 23, 2012

Guest blogger: My husband (again)!

For a number of years now I have been wanting new earring racks.  The first one I bought was a tall three-sided plastic one that liked to tip over in the wind, if it was brushed against, or if it was sneezed at.  I bought a few cube earring racks last year at the Loose Bead Society rummage sale but didn't like them, either.  They were also plastic but with metal rods on the ends.  They weren't want I really wanted, but they were cheap.  After using them for a season, I decided I wanted to upgrade before the art fair I wrote about on Sunday.  One night my insomnia kicked in, and I ended up looking online for possible solutions.  I wanted wood or metal, and it had to be large enough to hold earrings on my new earring cards:

They're business cards printed vertically with earring card adapters stuck on the backs.

I was finally able to find something close to what I wanted on Etsy, but each rack was around $90 (plus shipping), and was only 8"x8".  Way out of my price range, and it wouldn't hold any where near what I needed.

So I got my thinking cap on and went to Home Depot with Steve.  While I knew he could make what I wanted out of raw wood, I wanted it as easy and as quick as possible.  We didn't find anything that day, but I kept thinking about it.  What could be done with as little work and cost as possible?  One night on my way home from a meeting I stopped at a Michael's that has a Home Depot next door.  I picked up some supplies - mainly those I had thought about but with a few changes - and thrust them at Steve.  "I trust you!" I said.  Here is what he came up with:

Oh - there aren't as many pictures as I would like because the first rack he was testing, and he got all ambitious to make the second one while I wasn't home.  I got what I could, but an astute woodworker should be able to figure it out based on the descriptions and a few pictures.
Though we looked at different sizes of lumber for the basic structure of the jewelry racks, good lumber looked to be too expensive. Traci found a solution in a milled rectangular wooden plaque (6"x9" by ArtMinds) sold by Michael's. The plaques weren't square, but Traci decided she could live with an earring rack that was narrower in one direction than the other. So while I was still trying to think of feasible designs, Traci showed up with a bag of plaques, a couple of lazy-Susan bearings, several lengths of 1/2" square molding, and a fistful of 3/16" dowels. This pretty much solidified my thoughts.
I cut the 3-foot-long molding in half, making eight 18" lengths. Four would form the corner posts of each rack. I measured the length of the business cards Traci was using for earring cards, and decided the rails they would hang from should be spaced 3.5" apart. Since 5 x 3.5 = 17.5, just under the length of my posts, this would work fine. I would stagger the dowels slightly on adjacent sides so they wouldn't intersect each other within the posts.
I marked one rail with 3.5" increments starting 1/2" from the top on one side, and starting 3/4" from the top on the next side (not the opposite side, but 90 degrees from the first). I then clamped four square rails together in a 2 x 2 square, to ensure that the holes would line up from one side to the other, and drilled 3/16" holes through all four rails. (The first time I did this, the bit splintered the wood slightly as it broke through the other side; I sanded them as smooth as I could, and faced those surfaces in. For the next one, though, I put the rails on a piece of scrap wood and drilled into it to keep the holes clean.) Each post was drilled through five times in one direction, 3.5" apart, and five more times, slightly below and 90 degrees rotated from those holes.
I wanted the racks to have no visible hardware holding them together, so screws were out. I decided to glue them together using bits of my 3/16" dowels to strengthen the joints. I placed two plaques on top of each other, back to back, and measured the thickness. I then used a piece of tape to mark my 3/16" drill bit so I could drill through one and part-way into the other without breaking through. I marked where a corner post would fall on the top (beveled) side of the plaque that would become the bottom of the rack and drilled into the center of that square, through that plaque and partly into the bottom of the top plaque, situated upside-down under it. This alignment guaranteed the posts would be aligned vertically. I then drilled matching holes in the top and bottom of my posts for alignment dowels. I cut short pieces of dowel, glued them into the ends of the posts, then put glue in the holes in the plaques and pushed them together, making sure the holes in the posts matched their mates on the other side (high on the narrow side, low on the wide side). I weighted the racks under a carefully balanced stack of magazines while I let the glue thoroughly dry.
The next step was the dowel rails. I found the dowels fit the holes snugly enough that they didn't need glue. I pushed them in place, marked the length with a nick from my razor saw, then backed them out slightly, sawed them off, and pushed them back in place. As opposed to measuring the dowels, this technique guaranteed that even if the distance between the posts varied, the dowel ends would lie flush. I sanded them lightly to make them smooth.

(This is when I got home)

Next, I added the bearing that would let them spin freely.
For those of you who will be looking for this...
Traci had originally bought only four plaques, thinking the rack would stand on the bottom plate of the bearing. Instead, after measuring carefully to ensure it would be centered, I used short, flat-headed wood screws to attach another plaque to the bottom, so the rack stands on a sandwich of two plaques with the bearing between. This made the rack more stable and less likely to scratch any table it would be placed on. This meant Traci had to go buy two more plaques before I could build the second rack. (Yay!  Back to Michael's!)

Once both were complete, I finished them with a combined stain/polyurethane product. Since we don't have paint thinner, I used a cheap foam paintbrush. This was clumsy and difficult, compared to a good paintbrush, but since I don't want to have to deal with properly disposing of the thinner (it's toxic), with a foam brush I could just let it air dry and throw it away.
One of the bearings doesn't rotate as easily as the other, but that aside, the new racks worked and looked great. Don't tell Traci, but I'm already trying to think of other things I could build to showcase bracelets, necklaces, and rings. Oops, cat's out of the bag. (Who would put a cat in a bag?  That's just crazy talk!)

Here are the racks at last weekend's show:

The narrow sides can hold two cards across, and the wide ends can hold three.  Since I didn't bring my cheaper jewelry I had space to put bracelets.

I should mention that I spent around $20 for each earring rack.  If I had been patient, I would have stopped at Michael's every time I passed one and used a 40% off coupon each time.  The plaques aren't that expensive, though, and I was anxious to get going.

I'm very curious about what else Steve has in mind!  My main bracelet holder is a three-tiered thing that in general I like but is SO bulky to store and bring to shows.  Besides, it's black and doesn't match my new wonderful racks.  Thanks, honey!


  1. This is great intell - and your spinning racks did look good. Now that you have transported them back and forth once, what is your opinion of them with respect to transportation and storage?

    1. Thanks for asking, Kathy! I have a tall bin that I put them in. They fit side by side in about half the bin, leaving the other half for other things. However, the bin isn't tall enough, so I can't put the lid on. It's not a perfect solution, but I don't know if there will be any bins tall enough. I might cover the bin with a garbage bag or something to keep the dust out. I'm glad that they don't take up a whole bin. They might be able to lie down, but I didn't want to put anything on top of them in case the dowels snapped.

  2. Nice job, Traci and Steve! Bruce would love to "build" something like this! Excellent solution to your "problem." I may steal it at sometime! Thanks for the info. kat

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