Freestanding Lumber Rack

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This article is from Issue 75 of Woodcraft Magazine.

Freestanding lumber rack
A modular solution for storing boards and panels anywhere

These free-standing racks hold both lumber and sheet goods without tying into your shop structure. Being modular, they’ll hold whatever lengths of lumber you commonly use, with the center section accommodating full-sized sheet goods. Each 6'-high × 2'-wide module includes a 71/2"-wide space in the center for 4 × 8' (or longer) panels. Two modules placed 2' apart positions an arm every two feet with only a foot of overhang at each end, which is plenty support to keep boards from sagging. (A strip of plywood placed across a set of arms creates a shelf for short offcuts.) You can store lumber on both sides of the rack; even if one side is placed against a wall, you can still slide long boards in and out from the end. Two modules fully loaded with 8'-long boards will hold more than 1,500 board feet of lumber. Lag screws in the feet allow for perfect leveling. The hardwood plywood arms extend 121/4", although you could make them longer. They’re terrifically strong when glued and screwed to their posts, which I made from 6/4 poplar. If you decide to use construction 2 × 4s for the posts, make sure they’re straight and dry, or your racks may tweak out of shape, as an early set of mine did.

This module is made from hardwood plywood, with the exception of the solid wood posts and foot blocks. The end panels, arms, and feet are glued and screwed to the posts, while the side panels are simply screwed on. Lag screws in the foot blocks serve as levelers. If building with full sheets of plywood instead of scrap, the sizes shown maximize yield. For example, adding a 1/8"-wide saw kerf allowance to the width of a 37/8" arm makes 4"—an even increment across the width of a 48"-wide sheet.

Construction Tips

  • Plane, joint, or sand the outer faces of the posts to ensure a good glue bond with the arms.
  • Stack-cut the underside of the arms with a bandsaw for efficiency. (The cut-away allows more stacking capacity.) 
  • Lay the posts side by side, and mark out the arm spacing using a framing square. 
  • Build the end assemblies, gluing and screwing the arms, end panel, and foot to each pair of posts. 
  • Screw the side panels to the end assemblies. (I don’t glue these because I’ve occasionally had to detach the end assemblies for moving or temporary storage.) 
  • To make the foot blocks, place each block in position, then trace onto it the slope of the plywood foot. Cut the sloped edge with the bandsaw or jigsaw, then glue the blocks to the feet. 
  • Drill pilot holes for the 1 ⁄2 × 31 ⁄2" lag screws, and install them. 
  • Place the racks, level them, and load ’em up.


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