Is That For Sale? Screw it. I’ll Just Make One.

I’ve recently made a discovery that’s sure to get written up in journals and what not.  I’ve figured out what the most elusive and rare thing in the world is.  You think the answer is flattering overalls – but it’s not. The rarest thing in the world is a pretty plate rack.

2 large plate racks on marble island top with white brick wall covered in hanging rolling pins in background.

Skip right to the tutorial.

For the past 3 years I’ve spotted a multitude of plate and platter racks at antique shows but they either aren’t for sale or they’ve already been sold.  Either way the vendor goes home with a black eye and I go home without a plate rack.

Please understand I don’t curl up my fist and punch the vendors, I mean we’re all civilized here.  I’m at an antique show, not a cage match.  I hit them with a rolling pin.

I found a couple of new plate racks at Homesense (Canada’s equivalent to Homegoods) but on a scale of ugly overalls to 10, they scored an ugly overall.  With cartoon pigs on them.  They were unstained wood, very utilitarian looking but in a bad way, not in a “Hey – that looks sooooo ultilitarian.  Very prison cafeteria chic.” way.

Finally I decided to just make a plate rack.  It’s a couple of pieces of wood and some dowels. How hard can it be?  Turns out, not very hard at all.  And now that I’ve figured out the measurements and everything, it’ll be even easier for you.

Put your overalls on, it’s plate rack making time.


DIY Plate Rack

 

Overhead shot of rustic barn board cut into 1x1 strips with dowels to the side.

Materials

  • Wood dowels ( cut to 6″ lengths, each approximately 3/8″ in diameter )
  • 2 strips of apx. 1″ x 1″ wood ( cut to the length you’d like your plate rack to be )
  • 2 stips of 1″ x 1″ wood (cut to 3″ lengths)
  • Wood glue
  • 1/4″ dowel pins (1/4″ refers to the diameter)
  • Saw
  • Drill
  • Drill bits

Steps

  1. Cut your dowels to length. To speed this process up, I tied several together with an elastic band on both ends and cut through them.  I got my dowels at the Dollar store in the craft section.

Cutting a handful of dowels with a circular saw.

2. Cut your 1″x1″ to length. Whatever length you want your plate rack to be. I actually made 2 plate racks which is why I have 4 lengths of wood.

3. Starting 1″ in from the end, mark the wood rails every 2″ with a Sharpie.  This is where you dowel holes will be drilled.

1X1 strips of barn board, each marked along the centre with dots of Sharpie every 2 inches.

4. Drill straight through the wood rails using a drill bit the same size as your dowels.  In my case it was a 3/8ths of an inch drill bit for my 3/8ths of an inch dowels.

TIP

If you’re using a drill press don’t forget to clamp some sort of fence to the plate. You’ll use it as a guide to make sure all your holes are aligned perfectly.

Lowering the handle on a drill press.

How a Drill Press Works and Why It Isn’t Scary

This is where I tell you that you should get a drill press if you have room for one.  Just a little one.  You don’t *need* one for this but it makes your work faster and more accurate.

  • a drill press guarantees all your holes will go straight down and not at a weird angle.
  • a drill press is incredibly easy to use.
  • you’ll use a drill press more than you think you will.

See? That’s all there is to it.

5. Change to a 1/4″ drill bit for your dowel pins and drill through the ends of your shorter wood pieces.  Don’t drill all the way through. Just go in 1″ or so.

3" barn board blocks with holes and dowel pins in ends.

6. Drill corresponding 1/4″ holes in your long strips of wood and check to see everything lines up and fits.

 

Assembling ends and rails of plate rack.

TIP

You can also just screw the ends in with 1 1/2″ screws from the outside of your rails into the end piece but you’ll have a screw head showing from the outside of your plate rack.

To minimize the look of the screw head, countersink the screw which will create a small pocket.  Mix some sawdust together with wood glue and fill the pocket. Once dried it’ll resemble wood and camouflage the screw head.

You can see an example of that in my DIY egg rack post. 

7. Assemble your plate rack by gluing and clamping the ends together and inserting the dowels into the holes.  There’s no need to glue the plate dowels into place.  That way, if you happen to have a really large platter you want to hold, you can just pull out two dowels to make a larger space.

Almost assembled plate racks on table outside being glued and clamped.

8. Stain your dowels to match your wood if you like.  Since I was using strips of old barnboard and brand new dowels, I stained my dowels with my DIY barnboard stain made out of steel wool soaked in vinegar. It doesn’t stain the wood, but instead creates a chemical reaction which instantly darkens it.

You can read about how to make steel wool stain and how it works here. 

You’re done.  You now have a plate rack.

DIY plate rack made of barn board on antique marble kitchen island.

The only thing that’s left is filling it up.

I made my plate rack REALLY big.  Because I’m hoping to be able to use it on the lower shelf of my new antique hardware store cabinet. I also made 2 of them because I wanted the plates to go from one end of the cabinet shelf to the other, but one long plate rack wouldn’t have fit into the space.

 

DIY plate rack filled with flow blue china, set on antique marble kitchen island in front of white painted brick wall.

A Measurement Reminder

Length of entire piece – Anything you want.

Width of entire piece – 5″

Space between dowels – 2″ from centre

Length of plate holding dowels – 6″ but you can make them as short as 4″ if you like.

 

DIY plate rack on counter filled with flow blue plates.

Other Uses

  • platters
  • cookie racks
  • spools of ribbon (make your dowels further apart for big spools)
  • pot lids
  • books

DIY plate rack filled with vintage ironstone plates and bowls.

If you happen to come over …

DIY plate rack in front of white brick wall.

and you like my plate rack …

Slightly overhead shot of flow blue and transferware china in rustic wood plate rack.

it’s not for sale.  But I have a pair of overalls that are.

→Follow me on Instagram where I often make a fool of myself←

 

49 Comments

  1. TucsonPatty says:

    I want a drill press. I do actually have a baby drill press for a Dremel! Sometimes I want a bigger one, though. Now I also want a plate rack. Easy peasy, right?

  2. Linda in Illinois says:

    You are a genius. Great job

  3. Linda in Illinois says:

    You are a genius. Great job as usual. Love it.

  4. Lynn says:

    Nice job on the plate rack Karen. I love your vintage plates they are beautiful.
    A few years a go husband wanted to buy exactly what you were talking about…. I talked him out of it thankfully. An you are right they are easy to make an when you do you get them exactly to measure bonus in my books any day of the week.

  5. Katie Schneider says:

    Two things:
    1) overalls were, in fact, one of the best things I purchased this year. Plus, they’re cute. Plus they’re THE BEST to garden in.
    2) first thing I thought about when you said where you were putting your racks (heheheheh) was “not with toddlers”…because i have them. I’m envious. Maybe in 10 years.

  6. Christine in BC says:

    It’s like you are in my head!! It’s gotten to the point that I think, “I better see if Karen has written about this!” I totally want a drill press!

    As for the overalls, have you seen GardenGirlUSA? They are so comfy and you can bend and move without showing a plumber butt! I love mine.

  7. Brooke says:

    What is that tiger striped delicious looking edible? Tomato? Is it as delicious as it looks? If so, may I know the variety so I can grow my own delicious stripy _____?
    Thanks!

    • Karen says:

      That is a Speckled Roman tomato. It’s technically a paste tomato but I just use it for anything. When it’s truly ripe it’s dark, dark red inside. ~ karen!

  8. Marlene Eastman says:

    I had the same dilemma finding racks for my cookware. Hubby had the same idea. My expensive cookie sheets won’t get scratched! Happy wife happy life!

  9. Paula says:

    Pretty plates! I don’t think I have ever seen a photo from that angle in your kitchen before. The dining room orientation is opposite to what I had imagined.

  10. Evolet says:

    Dear lord it’s brilliant, I say. brilliant! Don’t mind me… I’m going to be measuring all of my shelving for pots, pans and glass bakewear for this business. It’s going to be pretty darn spectacular.

  11. Nancy W says:

    Karen you are a genius. That is a lovely plate rack! I’ll be making one soon, or five…moving to a new house and the plate rack will be an excellent little thing!

  12. judy says:

    I am crowning you The Lady (because I saw a glimpse of “The Lady” in your dining room)….who can-who will and who does. No thinkin about it,pondering,buying tools she can’t find because the sons think the old lady doesn’t need tools so I’ll just take these to my house!@#$%. Nope you just think it and presto change-o it is done. I am astonished by your skills and acumen but durn you make me feel just a little bit inadequate. I cheered myself up by reassuring myself that gals like you gotta be one in a million? Although your fans seem pretty durn handy themselves. Back to feeling-I’ll just buy the !@#stuff and support capitalism!!!!!!

  13. Mike says:

    What a cool project. Thanks for the details, now I can make one for my dessert plate collection.

  14. Thera says:

    I am envious, I have no drill press nor even a saw nor room or place for either. So I will once again live vicariously through you Karen.

  15. danni says:

    My kids would recognize that phrase…

    oooohhhh look at THAT!
    AAAack, cost HOW much?!
    Screw it, I’ll just make one myself.

    Then I get the humble brag rights to it.

  16. Jack Ledger says:

    Dish dowels…….I like the sound of that but not sure why?

  17. Alena says:

    I have been looking for a drill press for 2 years but (on and off); I’ll need to step it up.
    Fortunately, I have an amazing next door neighbour who has almost every single tool there is and he encourages me to borrow anything I want (but I still want mine).
    Since I have 4 plates (and another 4 somewhere in the basement, just in case) I am not in a need of a plate rack but I very interested in the table/stand in the picture with a bottle of glue and the two racks (one done, one clamped). Karen, where did you get the metal base for it? I assume you cut the plants for the top yourself.

    • Karen says:

      That is an old Ikea clothing hamper that I took the hamper off, painted the base and put it on its side to make a table from. It’s the footrest for my Constellation Chair I also stand it upright with smaller bits of wood to make a high table.

      • Alena says:

        Hah! That was a brilliant idea. I recently found something at the curb, it looks like metal (not sure) with some strange plastic coating and it’s not in the best shape, I will need to clean it up a bit.

  18. Maureen Locke says:

    I love that idea.. though my kitchen doesn’t have room for plate racks and my cupboards are too narrow for cookie sheet racks. “Sigh”. I would LOVE to have my own little workshop with all my own tools. My BIL has multiples that he has purchased at yard sales and pawn shops so I’m sure he would help me build my inventory. Now I just need the place. If my hubby would sell his ’69 Barracuda that he hasn’t had going in over 20 years and is taking up the whole garage, then I could use that space. “Sigh”… maybe someday.

  19. Jim Shelburne says:

    Karen,

    I love your blog and the way you write! I love that you are not afraid to try anything. Keep on! All of it!

    Being a contractor, I wanted to caution you about your saw technique 🙂 you are “cutting off the limb you are standing on” in the picture you posted. You have set yourself up for a pinched cut and possible kickback which can rather quickly reduce the number of fingers on your left hand. Or worse. Being a blogger and extremely capable person would be much much harder with only five fingers.

    Don’t cut pieces that are too small, and cut with both hands on the saw as much as possible. In your picture, you are cutting backwards from how you should be, and things can get dicey pretty quick 🙂 A girl with your talents should buy a chop-saw. You will love it as much is your drill press and it will give you something else to write about–as well as allowing you to keep all ten fingers!

    • Karen says:

      All of my sliding compound miter saws were stolen from my shed last year. I’m waiting for the perfect one to replace them. (a wall hugger) ~ karen!

    • Karen says:

      (and yes, I should have been on the other side of the table, but with taking pictures, etc. it’s sometimes hard to configure things so everything works for a photo) ~ karen!

      • Sorry to hear you had some stuff stolen. Makes you insanely mad doesn’t it? Especially for you and for contractors like me, it’s not a saw they took it’s a livelihood!
        If you have the space get a flip-over-saw, I love the DW743 so much. A rip saw and a cross cut saw in one machine (bit pricey, although it’ll last forever). It makes this tired old bricklayer a ‘nearly’ carpenter… (pretty big though, you’d need about 30″ by 30″ of floor space…).

        • Karen says:

          Yup. Don’t have that space. I’m waiting for a wall hugger sliding compound miter saw. Craftsman makes one but they aren’t available near me right now as does Bosch but it’d be around $1,000 with tax. :/

  20. Joe Mota says:

    Great plate rack. Here is an idea for you Karen. I am sure this is somewhere on the Internet. Now is the time in the garden to dry onions, garlic etc. How about Karen checking on how to build a drying STACABLE rack for these vegetables. The reason I ask is because your instructions and photos are excellent. Keep up the great work
    Joe

  21. Sarah says:

    Love your rolling pins. That visual brings so many memories.

  22. Mary W says:

    Love your blue plate collection – they will make anything taste better when served on them. Your Speckled Roman tomatoes are gorgeous and I love paste tomatoes since there is more meat inside. I’m beginning to wonder why Lego’s don’t make “blocks” for adults that glue together to create great dividers for lids, plastic or otherwise, and even plates. They are missing a target customer – the ones without a drill press.

  23. Patti says:

    Such a pretty plate rack but can we talk about your fridge I see peeking out in the pic? Did I miss a post about that fridge? Do you love it? Does it always look tidy?

  24. Amy Watson says:

    I’m impressed that you have a drill press…..I’m drillpressed…..if you will.

  25. Flash says:

    I don’t have much counter space. I am going to try angling the dowels and hanging on the wall

  26. Oh Karen! My heart went into my mouth when I saw you using the circular saw. Horrible machines, they snatch with alarming ferocity at the drop of a hat, truly dangerous machines IMHO, especially on short workpieces! They are designed to cut sheet material really.

    Best stick it in the local classifieds and then keep any eye out for a nice little mitre/cross cut saw. A million times safer and many times more accurate. You’ll amaze yourself by how easy stuff is to build when your cuts are 100% square.

    Phew, as the movies say “no one was harmed in the production of said plate rack” thank God 😉

    The only good circular saw is a plunge saw which sits on a rail.

    • Karen says:

      As I said in an earlier comment, both of my sliding compound mitre saws (1 12″, 1 10″) were stolen out of my shed. I have to replace them. ~ karen!

  27. Lame. Not the project, but the comments. There is nothing innovative, brilliant, or genius about this. It’s a design copied from others. Execution is fine.

    • Marian says:

      And your comment is at the top of the lame list. Not everyone has the experience or courage to try something new. When someone is inspired by another who makes them feel they too can accomplish it, don’t diminish their feelings or praise just because you don’t feel that way. It makes you a very small person.

  28. I love the plate rack and it looks like a project I can do. I haven’t thought about getting a drill press’s but now I see I really need one. Beautiful plates and I like the idea of a drying rack. It could be like plate racks stacked on top of each other.

  29. Heather says:

    Yours is the only blog I tell everyone, “Look for it!” I love your lust for life and the way you muck in. What a lot of work you do. It amazing! Not just gardening and raising chickens and making everything from a pizza oven to a plate rack but documenting it. Such a lot of work! Such an admirable blog! And much appreciated. 🙂

  30. Cool! Love it. I have some pretty decorative plates that I want to display (not the type you don’t actually use – I do use these) and now I know how to do it. I also like the idea from one of your readers for the baking trays. I’ve been trying to find a solution for those too

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