How to Build a Putter Rack

By: Matt Saternus, owner, Saternus Woodworking

Company Bio/Services offered:

Saternus Woodworking was founded in 2009 in my garage.  After buying a home, and being shocked by the price of furniture, I decided to build my own.  Upon seeing my furniture, my godfather asked me to build a headcover rack for him.  I posted pictures of that rack online, and things just grew from there.  Saternus Woodworking offers its customers the opportunity to get completely customized, handmade woodwork.  To me, custom means that my clients can specify the style and overall utility of the rack, the shaping of all the elements, the species of wood used, the stain and finish, as well as adding any other element that they can imagine, such as engraved plates.

I specialize in building putter racks and headcover racks, but I have the capacity to build anything that a customer can imagine: display cases, wall mounted displays, and I’ve even built racks for fishing rods.  If you are interested in placing  an order, getting a quote, or just learning more about Saternus Woodworking, please email SaternusWoodworking@gmail.com.

Tools Needed, including price range and recommendations or advice:

  • Table saw - You can buy a table saw at Lowe's or Home Depot for a few hundred dollars, but it is not something that I would recommend to anyone, because you will spend more time trying to set up the saw to make square cuts than you will actually using the saw.  I went through this process myself, and it is not fun.  If you want to own a table saw, plan to invest at least $800 in a quality brand like Delta.  With a top quality saw, you will set the saw up once and it will remain square and true through a great deal of use.  Also, higher quality saws are easier to adjust.
    ** You could also do this project with a circular saw, which can be much less expensive, but the set up to make all the cuts accurately would be very time consuming.
  • Handheld Power Drill - This is one tool where you can save a substantial amount of money by buying a corded drill.  No, it’s not the cool thing to do, but you won’t ever have to worry about charging the battery or having the drill lose torque at the end of the charge.  However, if you want to spend a bunch of money on a fancy cordless drill, be my guest.
  • Jigsaw, Scroll Saw, or Bandsaw - To shape the sides and header, you will need one of these tools.  Each has their benefits: a jigsaw is very flexible, a scroll saw is very precise, and a bandsaw will cut through more material more quickly and leave a smoother, more finished edge.  You will be able to pick up a jigsaw for the least amount of money, though you can find inexpensive scroll and band saws also.  I would probably opt for a better quality jigsaw versus a low quality scroll or band saw at the same price point.
  • Sand Paper – I would strongly recommend some kind of power sander just to make things move more quickly, but you could sand by hand if you really want to.  If you are going to sand by hand, use a sanding block to make sure you apply pressure evenly.
  • Clamps - You can never have enough clamps.  Big clamps, small clamps, hand clamps, bar clamps, quick grip clamps…For this project you’ll want to have at least 2 12” clamps.  The more you have, the less often you have to move them around.
  • Other items - Ruler/tape measure, Square, Pencil, Brushes, Rags, Drill bits, 1” Forestener Bit

Other Recommended (Optional)  Tools:

  • Drill Press - The drill press offers a significant advantage when drilling with a Forestener bit in terms of being able to apply even, steady pressure.  It also allows you to drill the holes in the sides of the rack at a perfect 90* angle which will ensure that your floor & grip separator are level.
  • Biscuit Joiner - This tool only gets used once, but it makes a difference to me in the final appearance of the project.  It keeps the joinery between the floor and the toe stop invisible, which I really like.  You could attach the two pieces with screws, but then you would need more screw caps and the finished look isn’t as nice.
  • Oscillating Spindle Sander - For sanding curves, you can’t beat this.  I use it to make sure that my two sides are perfectly identical and for sanding the curves on the header.
  • Router & Router Table - If you want to put a particular design on the edges of your pieces, a router is the tool for the job.  If you just want to take the sharp edge off the wood, you could just use sandpaper, but the router provides a uniform edge all the way around the project.  Using a router table is essential on a project like this with many smaller pieces.  You could try to use the router freehand, but on pieces that are only a couple inches wide, it might be a little dicey.
  • Palm Sander - As I mentioned earlier, a palm sander makes the sanding go much more quickly and won’t wear out your arm or your patience.

Materials:

  • Wood
  • Screws
  • Screw caps
  • Wood stain & polyurethane
  • Hardboard (for making templates)
  • Biscuits & wood glue recommended

The Process:

Design

What do you want your rack to look like and what do you want it to do?  The rack shown here is a floor rack that holds 10 putters.  I like to allot 2” of horizontal space for each putter (10 putters = 20” wide).  I will increase that if the client wants to store lots of mallets.  Once you decide on the dimensions and style, you need to make a very thorough cut list.  A cut list is a list of all the pieces you need to build the project.  For this rack, the pieces are:

  • 2 sides – 8” X 30”
  • Header – 6” x” 20”
  • Floor – 6” X 20”
  • Grip separator and Toe step – 6” X 20” (these two thin pieces will both come from the length of 1”X6”)

Lumber Shopping

Before you go to the lumberyard, decide what you will want the rack to look like.  Decide on a stain & species, then head out.  Keep in mind, that different woods will stain differently.  You might see on a website or in a sample that Stain Color A looks like this on oak, but on cherry it might look quite different.  If you haven’t done much staining before, you’ll probably want to make a test board, which I’ll describe later.  For now, let’s focus on the wood.  When you go the lumberyard, ask for help if you haven’t been there before.

If you pick a common wood like oak, cherry, or maple, you will probably have the choice of buying S4 lumber (wood that is already surfaced and squared up pretty well) or buying rough cut lumber (which is…rough).  If you don’t have a jointer or a planer, you’ll probably want to pay a little more and get the S4.  S4 lumber usually comes in 1”X4”, 1”X6” and so on.  Keep in mind, 1”X6” is actually closer to ¾”X5 ¼”.  It is unlikely that they will have any boards that are exactly the size you want, but just take your time and sort through the boards to find one that is close – you don’t want to pay for wood you don’t need.

The Build

STEP 1
Once you have the wood, the first step is to cut all the pieces to size on your table saw.  Use your tape measure and pencil to mark all the cuts and get to work.  It is really important that all of your horizontal pieces are exactly the same length so that the rack fits together without any gaps.

STEP 2
After all the pieces are cut to size, I like to drill the grip separator.  For this, I use a 1” Forestener bit and drill a semicircle, spaced 2” apart.  To avoid chip out on the bottom side of the separator, put another board underneath your work piece to support it.

STEP 3
Next, I like to cut out the rough shapes of the sides and header with my jigsaw.  I have templates made up for various styles of headers and sides, and I recommend that you make a template before you cut your wood.  Hardboard can be purchased at Lowes for $5 per 4’X8’ sheet – much cheaper than your wood.  Draw the design on the hardboard, cut it out, and fine tune it with sand paper if necessary.  When you’re happy with the template, trace it on your work pieces.  Then, clamp your work piece to your bench/table, and cut around the line.  Leave yourself a little margin for error – you can clean it up with the sander later.

STEP 4
With the pieces cut into rough shape, I move to the spindle sander.  At this point, I clamp the two sides together so that I will end up with perfectly identical sides.  Working through your progression of sandpaper grits, from 80-120-150 (or whatever you prefer/have access to), sand the curves of the sides and header so that they are nice and smooth.

STEP 5
Next, I move back to the drill press and, with the sides still clamped together, I drill the holes where the grip separator and floor will be screwed in.  I like to keep the pieces clamped together here so that the holes are perfectly lined up.  After I drill the holes through both pieces, I switch drill bits and counter bore holes that the screw caps will sit in.  2/8” or 3/8” deep is perfect.  This is another area where the drill press is much handier than the hand held drill.

STEP 6
After that, I drill the holes that will connect the header to the grip separator.  I do this by clamping the header and grip separator together, then clamping both pieces to my table, and using a hand drill.  Do not screw them together yet!

STEP 7
The next step is to drill the holes in the sides of the grip separator and the floor.  Drill your holes in the center of the boards (3/8” for ¾” boards), spaced the same way that the holes on the sides are.  If you have a floor-stand drill press, you can do this operation on there, but I just use a hand held drill and some clamps.

STEP 8
Now I will use my uni-tasker, the biscuit joiner.  I cut slots in the front of the floor and the bottom of the toe stop so that the pieces can be biscuits and glued together without any visible joinery.  After the slots are cut, I put glue in the slots and along the edges, insert the biscuits, fit the pieces together, and clamp them up.

STEP 9
Then, we move to the router table.  It is important to use scrap wood to set up the height of your bit before you move on to the work pieces.  It is much better to take the time to set it up correctly than to ruin a perfectly good work piece.  It is entirely up to you what type of router bit you want to use and which edges you want to route.  For this project, I’m using a 1/8” roundover bit.  For projects with more angles, I prefer a 45* chamfer bit.

STEP 10
Now the fun is over and it’s time to sand.  I work through a progression from 100 (if the wood is very rough) to 150 to 220.  Depending on the finish I’m going to use, I may go to 320 and 400, but on this project the finish works better on a surface that’s sanded to 220.  When every surface is smooth, you need to do some dust control.  Ideally, you would vacuum the shop and then vacuum each piece with a shop vac.  If you can’t do this, you should at least wipe the work pieces off with a tack cloth.

STEP 11
Next is the staining and finishing.  For this particular project, I’m using General’s Finishing Gel Stain which is a great finish and very easy to use.  With a foam brush, apply a liberal amount to the surface and then wipe off the excess.  If you are not comfortable or skilled at this process, just do one side at a time.  You do not want to have fingerprints in your finish.  Don’t forget to stain your screw caps.

* Earlier I mentioned a test board.  A test board is used to determine how many coats of stain you want to apply to your project.  Take a piece of scrap roughly 4”X12” and stain the entire board on one side and let it dry.  Tape off a 4” section, leave that section alone, then apply a second coat to the rest of the board.  When it’s dry, tape off another 4” section and apply a third coat to the last section of the board.  When that’s dry, you will be able to compare what 1, 2, and 3 coats of stain look like and decide what you want.
When you are done staining, you will probably want to use some type of polyurethane to protect the finish.  General’s Gel-Based Polyurethane is an excellent choice and is as easy to use as the stain – wipe on, wipe off.

STEP 12
The final step before assembly is to attach the felt to the floor.  Cut a piece of felt to match the size of your floor piece, leaving a bit of extra width so that the toe stop has some felt on it, too.  I use spray adhesive to attach the felt to the floor – just make sure you lay down some newspaper underneath where you are spraying.

When all your pieces are dry, you can assembly your rack using screws.  Screw the header and grip separator together, then connect the sides with the header/grip separator and floor.  Finally, using a dab of wood glue, place screw caps in each of the counter bore holes to give the project a more finished look.

For more info: SaternusWoodworking@gmail.com