Start with 1/4" Steel bar stock
I just picked up this steel from a local home center.
The Art of Bending
Years ago, I welded together some round stock just for this purpose. I think it was actually a stake used in concrete work for suspending rebar mesh above the ground, but it works. Just inch-worm the steel bar through the uprights clamped in the vice. Little-by-little, you’ll have a “U” shape. Getting them all consistent was tricky, so I kept checking them against a cardboard template.
Getting ready to Weld
Once I had all five “U” pieces bent, I rough-cut the stems. The stems need to be longer than the widest part or the hat brims so the hats can fit all the way in.
Protecting the Hats
I wanted to get a tight curve on the ends of the “U” pieces, so heat was the way to go. This is so the hats won’t have anything to scratch or spike onto. I’m envisioning someone in a hurry impaling their hat on the rack. No bueno.
Getting the Bends
I used an open-end wrench, slipped it onto the hot steel and twisted the wrench over with pliers. Using the open-end wrench was so I could avoid leaving plier marks on the pliable steel.
Welding the Stems
Once all the bends were made, I welded on the stems. I checked everything for flatness on the table, marked the center of each “U” and tacked on the stems.
I then cut up some 1” by 1/8” flat stock so I could eventually have a “plate” to attach the individual racks to the board. These are about 2” long.
Grinding the Welds
Once all the racks were welded, I took down the welds with the grinder to make things look as smooth as possible. I am by no means a good welder so it took a little bit more grinding than most.
Cleaning and Prepping
Next, I cleaned the steel. I actually used Goo-Gone and then dish soap to degrease them. I know. It’s weird. I’m a woodworker, not a metal worker. Gimme a break! Also, be sure to buff the steel with 0000 steel wool before Blueing.
I don’t know if this is how normal “gun-metal” finishes are made, but I found this stuff on Amazon and figured I’d try it.
A Smelly Process
I applied the Perma-Blue with a chip brush (not the manufacturer recommended way). I just kept the metal wet with the stuff, constantly brushing over it. It’s a neat effect! I wore a mask and goggles. It is a mild acid. I would recommend gloves too. I didn’t have any at the time. I didn’t have any problem other than after cleaning the steep following the Bluing, it left a weird smell on my hands.
Cleaned and Dried Blued Steel
Once dry, the blued steel looks amazing! Buffing it with 0000 steel wool also helps homogenize the finish.
Drilling Mounting Holes
You could do this before welding and bluing or after. I don’t think it makes a difference. I had no trouble drilling and counter-boring after.
Mortising the Back
Finally, some woodworking! I used a Forstner bit in a drill press to remove some material and set the depth with a depth stop. Then I just pared out the rest with a chisel. I wanted the rack to only slightly set in the board to keep them from twisting and I thought it would look nicer than being fully inlaid or surface mounted.
This is what the mount looks like partially inlaid. I think it looks neat that way. Personal preference really.
Tweaking the Bends
Once all the racks could be mounted, I sighted down the middle and noticed a few slightly out-of-tolerance racks. Just a little bit of hand pressure put them all in order.
I drilled two 1/8” holes and counter-sunk them, one hole behind the top mount and another behind the bottom mount. This way, the client could mount the board on the wall and the mounted racks would cover the wall-mounting screws. I love hidden hardware!
Then I applied spray lacquer to the board. I love how Sapele looks with lacquer. Then, I numbered each mortise and it’s corresponding rack just in case there were any slight variations between all the parts. This would ensure that when the client assembled the whole thing, it will all be aligned perfectly.
Making the Grain "Pop"
Lacquer has a way of producing an effect called “Lensing” in which the grain appears to have crystal-like depth. Some call it, making the grain “Pop”. Check out the gentle swirl.