Craft and Culture Fellow Project: John Polly provides step-by-step details for cooling/serving racks

Cooling/Serving Rack Project

By John Polly, 2020 Spring Appalachian Craft and Culture Fellow

I had some walnut left from another project. Most of the pieces were under 1” wide and random lengths. Normally, I would make cutting boards from this type of material. I had several cutting boards already made so I wanted to do something else with these pieces. Looking around the kitchen I saw these cooling racks we have had for years.

I thought they would look better if the ends were closed in and made in a nesting arrangement. The nesting would be an attractive functional display either on the countertop or dining table.

The bottoms of the pots and pans in our kitchen ranged from 10 inches to 6 inches. I chose 9 inches as the largest rack and the smallest is 6-inch by default because of the nesting arrangement.

The project requires precise measuring and layout as detailed in the following photos and descriptions.

The first thing with any project is to ensure the table saw, miter saw and other equipment is set to square. They tend to drift out of square over time. In haste to begin a project I have failed to check before starting a new project.

Once verified I ripped up the pieces to the desired square stock. I prefer to rip cut all the pieces at one time with the same setting on the table saw. The single setting ensures the stock will be the same exact width. It is a good idea to rip extra just in case a mistake is made along the way.

The pieces must be checked for straightness either visually or with a known straight edge. You can sand or use a hand plane to remove saw marks before beginning cutting. Then cut the pieces which will receive the dowel rods first minus two thicknesses of the total desired width. In this case the total desired width is 9 inches using .75’ material. 9-.75-.75= 7.5” pieces.

Next a series of equally spaced holes for the dowel rods are marked and drilled.

The easiest way to do this is with a set of dividers which eliminates math errors. Simply set the dividers to the approximate desired spacing and walk it across the piece. Adjust as necessary till the beginning and end falls exactly on the point of the dividers. Use the divider points to make indentions for the drill point.

The same method will establish the exact center of the width as well.

A setup for a drill press helps with precision.

Set a fence on the drill press so the exact center of the drill bit is exactly centered on the piece being drilled. Take time to check and double check. This step will determine how all the dowel holes are drilled for the entire project.

Drill a hole of scrap stock with this setup and fit it with a small section of dowel rod with the same size drill bit as is in the drill press. This dowel needs to fit snugly in the hole but move freely. A bit of sanding may be required.

Set the depth stop on the drill press to a little over half way through the stock using a piece of scrap. Again, verify and double check.

Carefully align and drill the first piece in the drill press being sure the bit is exactly centered in the mark from the dividers. With the drill bit in place use the scrap piece with the dowel made earlier and carefully center the dowel on the end of the board and clamp to the fence. This sets the hole centers for the remaining drill holes.

Simply move the piece over. Drop the dowel in the previous drilled hole for exact spacing.

Drill the pieces for both sides using same setup.

Cutting the dowels accurately is much easier with a simple setup to hold them.

This is a simple jig that will hold various sizes of dowel rods securely and add a fixed stock for exact length. I used a fine-toothed Japanese pull saw to cut.

I recommend cutting one dowel and checking for fit first. It is easier to make adjustments at that point especially if it’s too short. It helps to taper the end of the dowels for ease of assembly when aligning multiple dowels on the opposite side. I didn’t use glue because the ends are pinned with dowels.

Cut the end pieces and drill holes centered both ways on the drill press. This will provide a guide for the handheld drill when attaching to side. Once completely assembled, check for squareness and flatness.







Enjoy the project.


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