Introduction: Pottery Barn Entry Hall Tree
I've been wanting to build a hall tree for the house since coats, shoes and cold weather gear tends to pile up by the garage entrance. It took a while, but I finally found inspiration in a model produced by Pottery Barn called the Declan, which was a stylish blend of modern and rustic which matched the rest of the decor. There were a few problems.
1. The original came in two sizes: 38" and 64", neither of which fit the 50" of wall space which I had available.
2. It's made of poplar. Sorry, back where I'm from we use poplar for workbenches and framing for sheds.
3. It's expensive, considering I can get poplar for next to nothing at my local lumber yard.
Given those issues, along with the fact that I had a few days off from work and enough spare walnut on hand to put it together, I decided to construct my own to exceed the original's quality while still coming in well under budget.
To construct your own, you'll need a table saw, router (table), bandsaw or jigsaw, and a drill for counterboring screws.
Let's get started!
Step 1: Upright Supports
You'll notice there are only a few major components to the tree. Lucky us. The website for the original also gives us the measurements for most of the components which comes in handy:
Shelf Supports: 4.5x1.5x14"
Hook Boards: 4x1.5x(*)
For most of the construction, I used 5/4 stock, coming in at around 1 1/8" planed which seemed to be plenty strong for what was needed.
Begin by cutting the four upright posts (5/4") as well as the two bases (8/4"). This will give you a rough idea as for the scale of the project.
Using the source pictures alongside your parts, sketch a pattern for the S-curve support on the bottom. I built mine from 1/4" plywood and trimmed it until I had something that looked correct, making sure to account for the tab between the supports.
Trace the pattern onto your material and cut it to shape. I found it easiest to start with a jigsaw, refine the shape with a bandsaw, then stack and finalize the pair with a spindle sander. If you're missing any of that, a sander or a half-round file can do the job as well, just a little slower.
In a similar way, draw some patterns and cut your brackets for the shelves. Again I went off the pictures of the original and ended up with something close, using a 24" radius for the sweep on top. Likewise, a sander comes in handy to clean up the edges and keep everything uniform.
Before gluing, also cut a 1" block to finish off the bottom.
Sit everything out and finalize the spacing/etc. I kept the top shelf flush with the end of the post and placed the second shelf 16" down, although in retrospect 14" would have likely been better.
Once all the parts are cut to size, carefully glue everything up and clamp the whole stack in place. This will take a few steps but needs to be done in one shot so as to not introduce undue stress in the assembly and also keep both sides uniform. After both are glued and clamped, make any adjustments as needed before the glue sets.
Step 2: Bases and Some Drilling/routing/jointing
After the supports are dry, reinforce the joints with countersunk screws from the sides and finish them off with caps. With these sanded flush, use a 45 degree chamfer bit in a handheld router to hit the long sides of the uprights as well as the three front edges of the bases.
Next we will attach the bases to the completed uprights.
Start by checking that the bases are square and that they exactly match the S-curves with a framing square. If they are too tall/short, trim or sand the affected surfaces back.
To attach the bases, I used a Domino jointer for the posts and a 4" screw driven through the base into the curves, all reinforced by glue. If you don't have a Domino or something similar, pre-drill a few holes in the base and drive some heavy-duty screws up to keep things together. I'd stay away from biscuits since I don't think they'd be strong enough to take this much stress.
After assembly, get out the sander and take care of any glue that happened to get squeezed out.
Step 3: Hook Boards
There are 2 horizontal boards which will contain the hooks as well as keep the two supports held up. This will inevitably put a large amount of stress on the four points where these boards intersect, as any pressure or twisting of the uprights will end up here.
Cut a pair of boards to length and use the same chamfered router bit to hit the front edges.
At this point I also placed and marked the locations for the hooks. I had a box of rustic coat hooks laying around so I set up a row of 8 on top, which gave me a spacing of a little over 6" between each one.
Rather than be fancy and make something intricate to hide the joints, I went with more screws and plugs. As before, pre-drill four holes at each intersection, set the uprights in place, and screw the boards down. The spacing on mine was ~51" and 32" from the floor. In order to keep things even, use a large framing square before finalizing the placement.
The screws will allow for more flexing in the final product while still being fairly strong (16x 2.5" self-tapping screws should hold for a while, right?). Again, finish this up by capping the holes, trimming down the plugs and sanding them flush.
Step 4: Shelves
There are two shelves which still need to be added, each one consisting of 7 individual staves. This is a little tedious, but the end effect is worth it.
Each stave is 0.5x1.5", with 0.5" of spacing between each one. My maths tell me this will be close to the 14" we'll need to cover the whole thing.
I cut 7 staves from the same 5/4 material as before, then resawed each one down to the 0.5" thickness required. I had some significant warping due to internal stresses on several pieces so if you have dedicated thinner material, I'd recommend the latter.
You'll also notice the tops of the original shelf staves are gently rounded. To do this, I used a large roundover bit set in the router table and only cut with the last half of the bit. This gave me a smooth radius across the top but still gave me 1/4" of thickness on the sides. Sand all the pieces and pre-drill them for the screws to hold them in place.
Beginning at the front of the brackets, set your first stave in place and screw it down so it is flush. With the aid of a 1/2" stop, work your way back, adding one stave at a time and screwing it down with small fasteners. If you've measured correctly, you should end less than 1/2" shy of the uprights.
Step 5: Finishing!
Stand the tree up and admire your progress. Good? Bad? Ugly? A solid Meh? In any case we're almost done!
I thought about going with my normal stain and poly scheme, but the original was really meant to resemble a rustic antique. Something like linseed oil would probably be more authentic...
To darken the wood, extenuate the grain and not get overly glossy, I used dark walnut danish oil. This gets brushed on and in one step gives a good color and decent protection from damage. Start at the very top and work your way down, cleaning up any drips as you progress. Once you get to the end, use a clean rag to wipe away any excess that you may have missed.
Let the assembly completely dry, add your hardware and some felt under the bases, and you'll be ready to contain a winter's worth of outdoor accessories!
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