Rack ’em up

Store, stack and organize all the stock in your shop

By Ryan Shervill


Photo by Roger Yip

It wasn’t long after I finished building my new workshop that I realized I had no suitable lumber storage. I needed something to handle both rough lumber and 8′ sheet goods. The design had to allow easy access to all materials and provide ample air circulation. After some thought and a big stack of sketches, I came up with this rack system. It’s made of 13„4″-thick hard maple and store-bought 1″-diameter maple dowels.

The main frame holds a large amount of rough lumber, while the centre section offers ample storage for sheet goods standing on edge. You can also store long, thin stock, such as dowels and trim, in the upper trough.


Lumber Lessons

I had a supply of hard maple on hand that wasn't pretty enough for furniture, but was strong enough for the lumber rack. Look for good deals on wood like this at lumber mills. The quantities listed will build five sections of rack, suitable for 8' sheet goods and lumber up to 12' long. If you need more length, simply make more sections. If you're fortunate enough to find 8⁄4 material (which measures 2" thick in the rough), you're ready to begin milling. In my case, all I had on hand was 1"-thick wood, so I laminated boards to get 2"-thick material, then dressed it down for the 13⁄4"-thick parts required.

Stand Upright

Each rack section is made of two uprights with an upper and lower spacer. Begin by ripping and cross cutting the 10 uprights you'll need. Mark the locations for the dowels on each side of the uprights, mapping out five holes 12" apart, starting 6" below the top of each upright.

Clearly mark the bottom edges of the uprights so you'll know which direction to angle the 50 dowel holes you need to drill for this project.

Clamp a temporary fence to your drillpress table to create holes that are angled 2º from centre, drilled in toward the bottom end of each upright. If your drillpress doesn't tilt, get the correct angle by temporarily fastening a shim to your drillpress using double-sided tape or clamps. Chuck a 1"-diameter Forstner bit into the drillpress, then bore 1"-deep holes for the dowels.

A Leg to Stand On

Next, turn your attention to the base of the lumber rack. To support the rack, you need to cut five base pieces, each measuring 13⁄4" x 31⁄2" x 30". Using a mitre saw, cut 45º bevels on the top ends of each base piece. With a 3⁄4"-diameter Forstner bit, drill two 1⁄2"-deep holes in the bottom of the base pieces, 115⁄8" from the ends. These act as counterbored holes for the lag bolts you'll use during assembly.

Cut 10 spacers to 21⁄4" x 5". Make half of them 1" thick for the upper spacers, and the rest 13⁄4" thick for the lower ones.

Gather all the parts you've made, find a flat surface and begin assembly. Lay out the uprights in five sections on the floor-two on top of each other, with holes facing outward. Insert one lower spacer between each set of two, flush with the bottom. Drill two countersunk pilot holes through the side of each upright, 7⁄8" from the bottom and into the lower spacer.

Insert the upper spacer between the uprights, aligned with the top dowel location. Drill a countersunk pilot hole through the centre of each dowel hole and into the spacer.

Spread a small amount of glue on the ends of the spacers and join all the pieces together using #10 x 3" wood screws. Repeat the process across the five rack sections.

Spread glue on the bottom of one of the upright assemblies, then clamp it centred on a base piece. Predrill 4"-deep x 1⁄4"-diameter holes through the centre of the countersunk pockets you prepared earlier in the base piece and into the centre of the upright assembly. Bring the parts together with 3⁄8"-diameter x 4" lag bolts and washers. Repeat the process on the remaining assemblies.

Brace Yourself

To bring the five assemblies together, prepare stock for the rails and diagonal braces. Cut the rails to the finished length of your rack (8' in my case). Use a mitre saw to cut 45º angles on the ends of the braces, as shown in the plans. You're now ready for the final assembly. Move all parts to where you want the lumber rack to be located.

Extra hands are helpful for this step.

Stand the upright assemblies in a row, spaced 24" on centre. Slide the two rails into place and secure the top rail to the frames with clamps. Put the four diagonal braces in place, flush with the inside faces of the uprights. Predrill holes for securing the braces to the uprights with countersunk #8 x 13⁄4" screws. Don't glue these joints, in case you ever need to dismantle the rack to move it.

Starting at one end, drive one #8 x 11⁄2" screw through the top rail into each of the upper spacers. Check the spacing of the frames at the bottom and make sure the uprights are plumb. Secure the lower rail to the lower spacers with more screws.

With your rack fully assembled, add the dowels. Cut 50 pieces of 1"-diameter maple dowel to 113⁄4" long and insert them into the holes. No need for glue here if the dowels fit well into the holes.

Load up your lumber rack evenly on each side, starting with your heaviest items at the bottom. For added security, you can screw the bases directly into the floor.

Now you can enjoy all the shop space you've freed up.

Tools & Materials

Part Material Size (T x W x L*) Qty.

Uprights maple 1 3/4" x 2 1/4" x 66" 10
Upper spacers maple 1" x 2 1/4" x 5 5
Lower spacers maple 1 3/4" x 2 1/4" x 5" 5
Bases maple 1 3/4" x 3 3/4" x 30" 5
Braces maple 1 3/4" x 2" x 32" 4
Upper/lower rails maple 1" x 5" x 8" 2
Dowels maple 1" -dia. x 11 3/4" 50
**Cut to fit

* Length indicates grain direction

Recommended Tools


Rack ’em up

Illustration by Len Churchill

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