How we (okay, Dad) make coat racks with railroad nails.
This ain’t no rinky-dink Etsy craft.
This is a coat rack made with old wood and railroad nails, and one of my favorite things that we sell. It’s so unique, and so much work goes into it, particularly regarding the nails. First of all, we have to get the nails. Dad is an ace at picking them up. He goes to the railroad tracks (usually in La Ward), and just picks the loose nails up off the tracks. That right there is what makes these racks so darn special.
Trains will always be a part of m, as annoying as they are. Several times a day for years, I’d hear that whistle blow. I never thought anything of it until I moved away. Now, whenever and wherever I hear a train whistle, I feel a little pang of homesickness. I’m sure the same could be said of many other people.
First, we have to get the nails ready. They’re almost always rusty, and for once, the rust won’t fly. There are a couple of ways to get rid of rust. The easiest way is by soaking them in vinegar. The harder way is by grinding it off, which is what I did when my dad and I made these. I picked up the nail with some pliers and held it against the grinder till the most of the rust was off.
This is where things get hard. I don’t do this part!
We have to bend the nails. The only way to do this, obviously, is by heating them up. Lucky for us, my dad has a forge (he makes badass knives) and so many other toys that he has no problem heating up the nail and bending it. Then he plunges it in water to hasten the cooling process.
Once the nails are shaped to our liking and cool enough to work with, we paint them. The first time we made these, we used black and red spray paint.
While the paint dries, we make the boards.
We cut the boards to be 28 inches long. It sounds specific, but there’s a reason. In pretty much any house, the boards in the walls (the frame of the house) are 16 inches apart. That’s where you have to put on the back teeth or hooks that hang the rack on the wall, since you can’t just put it in the sheetrock, especially something this heavy. That said, you want to center the front of the rack relative to those measurements, so you figure one nail in the center, then on either side of that one, you place a nail about 8 inches from that center one. That leaves 6 inches on either side of those two nails to the edges.
It’s important to keep this in mind when making anything heavy like this. Like I said, if you want to hang it on the wall, make sure you put the hangers on the back of it 16 inches apart, like this:
Also, if the wood is untreated, make sure you treat it by brushing it with oil on all sides, including edges. It protects the wood and covering it on all sides prevents cracking. If it’s treated wood, like this barn wood we went and got from a torn down barn out at my uncle’s, you don’t need to treat it, but spraying it down with clear spray paint or decoupage will help set any chipping paint.
Moving on from our carpentry lesson.
The boards are prepared, and the paint is dry. Now it’s time to assemble. Once again, I don’t really do this part!
If you know how to drill, you’ll know what to do, but I’ll go over it anyway. First, drill a hole into the nail first with the power drill. Then, once everything is measured out, screw it in.
Teachable moment: when nailing or screwing anything in, be sure to cut the ends off in the back. It’s dangerous to leave them poking out.
That’s it! From big ass rusty nails to a beautiful rustic coat racks with materials you can’t find anywhere else.
As always, thank y’all for reading and learning, and may God bless y’all!