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If you're looking for a way to dramatically boost the charm and functionality of your kitchen, consider adding an open plate rack. It mounts to the wall, leaving counters uncluttered, and gets your dishes out in the open—easy to grab and hard not to admire.

The fine example at right features shapely sides and Shaker pegs to hang cups or towels. To build it, you'll need a few pieces of poplar or equally solid lumber for the sides and shelves, a piece of beadboard for the back, and hardwood dowels. It mounts with a French cleat, which you can make from wood or purchase in metal.

Alternatively, if detail work with dowels doesn't sound like your cup of tea, there are any number of options you can buy instead, ranging from mass-produced models to handcrafted marvels. No matter what, you'll feel good giving your dishes a proper place to shine.

Step 1

Overview for Building a Plate Rack

Illustration by Gregory Nemec

Fit the design to your dishes by altering the depth of the sides or the space between shelves.


Side panels

1x12 poplar: two @ 32 inches


1x poplar: one @ 4 by 20 inches

1x poplar: one @ 7 by 20 inches

Back panel

½-inch beadboard: one @ 32 by 20 inches

Dish rack

5/4 poplar top rail: one @ 1½ by 20 inches with a 1-inch-wide 45-degree beveled face ripped along one corner

5/4 poplar front rail: one @ 1 by 20 inches with a ½-inch-wide 45-degree beveled face ripped along one corner

5/4 poplar back rail: one @ 3¼ by 20 inches

Diagonal dowels: nine @ 13 inches

Horizontal dowels: nine @ 7 inches

Step 2

Cut the Pieces.

Illustration by Gregory Nemec

Follow the cut list. To lay out the curved sides, first mark the back edge of a blank at each shelf location: 5, 18, and 29 inches from the bottom. Add ¾ inch to the depth of each shelf, then measure and mark that distance from the back edge at each shelf location. Tack a brad at each mark, and tack one near the top and bottom edges, inset ¾ inch from the back. Next, bow a thin batten between each pair of brads and use it to trace four shallow arcs. Gang the two side blanks and cut along the lines with a jigsaw.

Step 3

Drill the Dowel Holes.

Illustration by Gregory Nemec

For the horizontal dowels, drill ½-inch-deep holes every 2 inches in the front and back rails. For the diagonals, offset the holes in the beveled faces of the top and front rails ¼inch from the first set.

Step 4

Assemble the Rack.

Illustration by Gregory Nemec

Glue the short dowels into the back rail, then glue the front rail onto their free ends. Glue the diagonal dowels into the beveled faces of the front and top rails.

Step 5

Build the Cabinet.

Illustration by Gregory Nemec

Shim the back panel ¼ inch above your benchtop. Mark the shelf and rail locations on the side pieces and stand them up against the back panel. Place the shelves and rails at their marks, and screw into them through the sides and the back. Install the cup pegs and the French cleat. Paint the piece and hang it.