Simple Cookbook or Tablet Stand

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Like a lot of creative people, I keep a stash of project ideas – things I would like to try to make or those that give me ideas for other imaginative pursuits. A talented carver that I know calls his a “someday file.” Pinterest is super helpful for organizing and sharing our inspirational images, but ripping pages out of magazines is kinda fun too.

Awhile back I saw a really cool reclaimed wood cookbook stand advertised in a catalog. It looked like a great solution to keep from getting food splatters on recipes and cookbooks, and it would also prevent touchscreens from getting spills on them. The price tag: $110! Yikes, no. Riiiippp—into my file it went.

And so, today I bring you the simplified version that my dad and I created, which was birthed from that catalog image. All of the materials used were on hand, so there was no cost involved other than an afternoon of our time.

The $110 inspiration piece

Our modified version

How To Make Your Own

1.  Select and cut wood. 

For our project, we chose a nice piece of 1" maple that my dad had in his shop. You could probably go as small as 3/8" as long as the wood is sturdy. 

We looked at the whole board, then selected the area with the nicest grain pattern for the main part of the cookbook stand. After cutting the pieces as listed below with a circular saw, he then squared the two larger boards on the bandsaw. The edges were also slightly rounded on the bandsaw and then smoothed in Step 2.

  • 11" x 11" for the main board
  • 4" x 11" for the shelf (cut with the grain, not against, for structural strength)
  • 3/4" x 6" for the stop
  • 6" x 4" angled at 30° for the support

An Incra Miter Gauge V120 on the bandsaw was a big help in setting a cutline for the angle.

Material – Customize It!  A few other options for your material: reclaimed wood, an old cutting board, a pre-made plank sign, a small live-edge slab, two contrasting woods or even a small cabinet door. (When working with reclaimed wood, make sure it is free from nails or screws that might get caught on your saw blade.)

The Shelf – Customize It!  Here is an interesting idea I saw online for the shelf: Attach a few spoons in a line across the bottom of the large piece of wood and bend them upwards to form a shelf. If you know a metal fabricator, you could get a metal shelf made. Another thought is to use a wide drawer pull or some round metal rod to fashion a stop on the wooden shelf for the book to rest upon. A contrasting colored wood or snazzy acrylic pen blank would work great too.

The Stand – Customize It!  Other suggestions for the stand: hinge a thinner piece of wood on the back and make it foldable like a picture frame, or upcycle an old knife block as the stand. You could also make two smaller supports instead of one larger one.

2. Sand as needed. 

Next, we lightly sanded all of the wood pieces on the belt sander. We kept it pretty rustic but softened the edges a little.

3.  Assemble pieces. 

First, we attached the shelf board with four countersunk 1-1/4" flathead screws from the back of the larger board. The front bumper was attached to the shelf with four nails from the bottom. For the support, we measured the center of the board and attached with two 1-1/4" flathead screws angled into the wood.

4. Add decorative trim.

I really liked the metal-look trim on the inspiration project so I wanted to mimic it somehow. My dad found a couple of boxes of old 3/4" linoleum edge binding that fit the bill perfectly!

Side note: My parents have lived in their house for nearly 40 years. This was left in the workshop by the previous owner, who had died five years before his widow sold the home to us, so it’s very old and a pretty cool find!            

A vintage find in the workshop!
Pre-spaced holes and little nails included

The edge binding had pre-spaced holes on it, and the box included little nails (“pins”) that made attaching the metal to the wood pretty simple. The trim was very bendable and we were able to add extra nails where needed with no issues. We added a strip across the top and one across the baseboard, wrapping the ends around the back about 1/2" and securing them with the nails.

Customize It!  A few other ways you could decorate your stand: Use leather for the trim (like an old belt or purse strap), create a wrap with copper piping, paint a strip in faux galvanized or patined metal effect, attach a thin strip of contrasting wood, or add larger, more decorative rivets.

5.  Apply finish. 

For our project, we brushed on two coats of clear polyurethane finish to bring out the maple’s grain a little and to enhance durability. Depending on the wood you use or the look you want, you could also use Waterlox Sealer Finish, General Finishes Arm-R-Seal Topcoat, WoodRiver Pure Tung Oil or Watco Danish Oil. One of my favorite water-based options is General Finishes High Performance Topcoat.

Customize It!  You can achieve a variety of looks with brush-on or wipe-on stains, including General Finishes Water Based Wood Stain in Whitewashed, Weathered Gray and Espresso. Rust-Oleum’s Weathered Wood Accelerator can give new wood a reclaimed look. An interesting twist would be to paint the back with Rust-Oleum Chalk Board Paint and create a writeable, erasable surface. You could also paint your project in a color to match your décor using Black Dog Salvage Furniture Paint or General Finishes Milk Paint. A meaningful touch would be to woodburn the recipient’s name/initials, a quote or design, or even better—one of Grandma’s recipes in her own handwriting.

Make your own! 

As you can see, there are many, many ways you could personalize a cookbook/tablet stand with a specific person in mind or tailor-make one to your own taste. Take the basic idea presented here and truly make it your own.

Whether the chef or baker in your life uses a hardback cookbook, a spiral-bound cookbook, a foodie magazine, a tablet—or all of the above—for their mealtime inspiration, a gift made from the heart would surely make mealtime prep more enjoyable. You can even prop a Bible up on it.

Special thanks to the best dad ever for always being willing to jump in with a willing hand and well-equipped workshop.

Cookbook stand works for magazine, tablets and books
...even Bibles and song books!

Here are a couple more stands that my dad made later. These are crafted out of wood from a barn owned by my great-great-grandfather. I love the natural edges and nail holes, not to mention coming from the old home place of my ancestors. 

Have some ideas that you might like to try? Stop by your local Woodcraft store for helpful advice on your next project, including the best tools and supplies.

We hope you’ll be inspired!  

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