Fridays at Home: Tree Branch Coat Rack

3rd January 2014

So my brother and his fiance both came in for Christmas, and I wanted to give them a different sort of present. Even though they are both dapper dressers, there are only so many scarves a guy can wear. I remembered that a couple of years ago, my brother posted this image on his Pinterest page:

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At the time, the rack was available on Etsy, but the price was well over $200, and I just couldn’t swing it. This year, when I went to have a look, the product was no longer available, and a quick search of Cantilever and Press didn’t leave me much hope for finding this product in my price range. There were a couple of mimics on Etsy, but unfortunately, they were just nowhere near the original. Now I’m not advocating ripping off someone’s ideas, and I certainly wouldn’t do this to profit from it, but I was dead set on making this as Matt and Christopher’s Christmas present. When my neighbor put out a really clean pallet the week after Thanksgiving, I decided I was all in. The boyfriend helped pry off the boards I would need, but the rest of the project was all me.

First, I knocked out the stubborn wood nails and sanded down the pieces I planned to use. Then I eyeballed the original image and the space next to my front door to get an idea for size – 2 feet by 6 inches, if you’re curious. I measured (Measure twice! Cut once!), made my marks and began sawing. Yes, with a hand saw. Not that tough once you get into it.

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When I finished, I made sure my edges weren’t too warped to work with and sanded some more before putting a very light coat of Minwax Special Walnut on, then sanding again. I didn’t want a super dark stain, but I did want the frame to look aged.

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Putting the frame together was the toughest part. If I ever do this again, I’d likely use wood glue first, but after a lot of stop and starts and a few obscenities thrown in, I went to the expert, aka my neighbor across the street. He has every tool known to man, so I brought my project over and asked for help. He handed over a Riyobi impact drill, one I definitely want. That sucker has some power. I drilled starter holes, two at each joint, then drilled my screws in. Some people build frames with nails, but since this is intended to bear weight, I used screws.

You can see below that I already cut my branches. Big mistake. Even though I measured twice, once the box was actually together, there was a slight deviation in the measurement. More on that in a minute.

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I had collected branches for a few weeks, attempting to dry them out and make sure they were bug free. Then I just used my large clippers to make a clean cut along my measurements, though this sounds easier than it is, as they are not straight. Therefore, you have to measure carefully to get the angles right. Sometimes it worked beautifully, sometimes not. The trick for the “rack” part of this is finding branches that have additional branches sturdy enough to bear weight as well. Plus, placing the branches inside the box is tricky. You want the “hook” to stick out enough to be useful, but you also want to make sure it’s inside the box enough to, again, be sturdy. Here, I’m just playing with placement:

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I drilled starter holes and screwed these branches in for durability and strength. It’s tricky, but you can eyeball pretty easily. For the additional “filler” branches, I just used nails.

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Unfortunately, as you can see below, some of the nails were visible once I’d started. Cue Angry Jenn. If I’m going to make something, I want it to look professional, especially if it’s a gift. And those nails were glaring at me. So I went back to Home Depot to look at trim. But the beauty of this project is its raw nature. Box it up too much, and it’s just not the same. So I called my aunt who is a true artist when it comes to woodworking, and we brainstormed. But when I got home, I remembered…I had moss. Lots of it. So I pulled out some moss and my glue gun and went to town covering the places where the nails showed.

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And bingo. No nails show. It still looks natural, and to be honest, the moss is barely noticeable. Win, win.

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Once I finished, I sprayed four coats of Minwax Fast-Drying Polyurathane to seal the wood. I really doused the branches themselves as I had sanded the “hooks” and wanted to make sure they were as sturdy as possible.

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Last, I added two hangers on the back and wiped everything down before hunting for a box big enough to house my gift.

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In the end, I was really pleased with the way it turned out, and it was so worth it to see the shock on my brother’s face when he realized I had made this myself. I absolutely love giving gifts, but giving someone a gift you’ve made that they’ve wanted is just a fantastic feeling. I hope they enjoy it for years to come.

Did you make any gifts for Christmas this year? This was so fun, I’m already trying to figure out what other gifts I can make.

P.S. Minwax in no way asked or paid for me to mention their products, I was just really pleased with the cost and quality of both the stain and poly.

  • CassandraNeace

    That is absolutely stunning! I really think you did a great job. Such a wonderful idea.

    • Thank you! And I agree, it’s a really beautiful idea.

  • That is so cool.

    I tried crocheting a blanket for my soon-to-be-niece (brother’s fiancee’s daughter) but I saved it for the last minute and the yarn was pulling apart and didn’t have the time to get more and start from scratch, so I picked up some last-minute stuffed animals and books. Going to give the blanket another shot for her birthday in April… and NOT wait until three days before this time!

    (Not that crocheting a blanket even comes close to your wood project. But it’s about as crafty as I ever get.)

    • Um, I can’t crochet, so believe me, it sounds much more complicated. I have been wanting to maybe start a quilt this year, though. I read a book this year that talked a lot about quilt patterns and such, and I’ve been wanting to make one ever since. We shall see.

      • Nishita

        @thepickygirl:disqus I am so non-crafty, but I’ve been dreaming about quilting too πŸ™‚

  • Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)

    You are my hero! I can’t believe you made thisÒ€”not only was the concept cool to begin with, but the fact that you put it together with your own two hands rocks beyond belief. You have a very lucky brother, indeed!

    • Haha! Thanks for making me feel like a rock star this morning. πŸ™‚

  • Wow. This is fantastic. I love it.

  • Ti Reed

    Very impressive!! I love the rustic look. My daughter is looking over my shoulder and the first thing she said was “What about bugs?” but I see you addressed that. Looks great!

    • Ha! One of my first thoughts as well. No inviting bugs inside, thank you very much.

  • Jennifer Conner

    OMG! This is wonderful! I bet your brother and his fiance still cannot believe they received such a thoughtful gift. You are a Christmas present rock star. πŸ™‚

    • Thank you! It was really fun. Now I just need pics of it in their entry…

  • Xe Sands

    That is so cool! Oh I MUST make one for my house…thanks for sharing that πŸ™‚

    • If you do, please share. I’d love to see it!

  • lulu_bella

    Amazing!!!! I’m so so impressed πŸ˜€

  • Jenny @ Reading the End

    WOW. I am hugely, hugely impressed. I am in no way capable of doing something like that. You are a crafts genius, I think.

    • I promise I am not! But you have to start somewhere. If I can do it, I think anyone likely could. But thanks for the vote of confidence!

  • I am so impressed with your handiwork!! I should make homemade gifts given my sewing, but I never have. Many next year I can plan ahead a little more. Great job Jenn!!

    • Girlie – you’re a bit busy… My mom for years sewed gifts, and she was always making herself nuts doing it. Now she does embroidery and applique designs and sells stuff, and she was busy right up to Christmas. It’s fun to do it when you have the time. When you don’t, it’s so not worth it.

  • Charlie

    It’s an awesome concept and item but definitely the best part is that you made it yourself. It looks great!

    • Thanks! I thought it was the coolest.

  • Nishita

    Wow, my jaw dropped seeing the final product. It looks awesome, I am sure your bro was super-thrilled with the gift πŸ™‚

    Also, why have I never looked at your Pinterest boards before? I love the stuff you have there, and I am now following you on Pinterest as well πŸ™‚

    • Haha! Thank you! I love Pinterest too too well.

  • This is AWESOME. I want to make it too now.

    • Do it! Do it! After the bebe comes, of course. By the way, can you please, pretty please email me your address??

  • Sheila DeChantal

    This is really amazing! Nice job!

    • Thanks, Sheila!

  • Crafterholic

    You did a fantastic job! I was wondering what kind of trees the branches came from or do you think it matters as long as they’re sturdy?

    • I collected from several different types of trees, but I think as long as they’re sturdy and you give them time to dry out, they’d be fine. Just no super soft trees. And thanks!

  • kiss a cloud

    That is gorgeous! Your brother would probably freak out from excitement! Well done!! Btw, I copied and pasted the pictures onto my computer as I might be crazy enough in the future to do what you just did hee hee.