Fisherman’s Catch-All

Store all your rods, reels, and tackle in one tidy organizer.

Project designed and built by Bob Vincent

When you enjoy something as much as fishing, it’s a shame to simply prop your favorite rods into a corner of the garage or basement. This accommodating stand lets you store up to 10 rods in style, and provides two generous drawers for reels, string spools, and other accessories. In fact, the two main drawers each hold three no. 3700 Plano boxes (a handy size for holding all your lures, hooks and weights), so that when the fish are biting you can grab the tackle you need and stash the stuff you don’t. There’s also a secret third drawer, but we can’t say more than that right now. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be much of a secret.

This medium-sized project provides a nice excuse to hone your joinery skills. It features router-cut half and full sliding dovetail dadoes (shelves and drawer backs) and hand-cut through dovetails for the front joints of the drawers. To ease construction, we developed a half-dovetail dado jig that you can use to assemble large case projects without clamps. For step-by-step help for hand-cut dovetails, see “Demystifying Hand-cut Dovetails”. And to really jazz up the stand, consider adding the power-carved trout.

Start with the Sides

1 MAKE A FULL-SIZED PATTERN FOR THE SIDES (A) from 1/4" hardboard or plywood, referring to Figures 1 and 2. Use the stock’s straight edge to establish the rear edge of the side, and then measure and mark the other straight portions of the perimeter.

2 LAY OUT THE CURVES ON THE SIDES with a shop-made fairing stick. To make one, cut a 1/8"-thick strip of straight-grained hardwood or acrylic about 1" wide and 36" long and cut a 1/2"-long kerf in each end. Thread the string though one kerf to the other. Now pull on the string to flex the stick. Wrap or knot the string to secure it. Bow the stick to mark the large curve as shown in Photo A.

3 BANDSAW THE PATTERN FOR THE SIDES (A), cutting just to the waste side of the line. Use a file and sanding block to work up to your line. Focus on making smooth, sweeping curves while keeping the straight edges straight.

4 EDGE-GLUE BOARDS TO MAKE BLANKS WIDE ENOUGH FOR THE SIDES (A), unless you have 10" or wider stock. Thickness-plane the sides to 3/4" thick. (To save time, consider thicknessing all of the stock now while you’re planer is set up.) 

When planing, work from thick to thin, stopping when each board is planed down to the desired thickness. Here, you’ll finish planing the 7/8"-thick middle shelf (C) first, then the 3/4" thick parts (sides, back, and shelves) and finish with the 1/2"-thick drawer parts. (Use the Cut List, on p. 55 as a part check-off list.)

5 RIP THE SIDES (A) TO WIDTH, AND CROSSCUT THE BOTTOM ENDS. Carefully align the bottom ends and edges as you stick the inner faces of the sides (A) together with double-faced tape.

6 USE THE PATTERN TO TRANSFER THE SIDE OUTLINE ONTO THE STACKED SIDES (A). Bandsaw just to the waste side of the line, then smooth the perimeter with a rasp, spokeshave, and sandpaper. Be careful to keep the edges square. Separate the sides from each other.

Lay out the dadoes

1 LAY THE SIDES (A) BACK TO BACK and flush at the bottom ends as shown in Photo B, and mark the locations of the sliding dovetail dadoes on one side where shown in Figure 2. When using the half-dovetail dado jig, you only need to mark the top face of each shelf.

2 RIP AND CROSSCUT THE SHELVES (B, C, D) to the dimensions in the Cut List. (Note that the middle shelf (C) is 7/8" thick. The bottom shelf (B) and top shelf (D) are 3/4" thick.) When cutting the shelves to length, use a stopblock to ensure that they’re cut to the same exact length.

3 LAY OUT THE HANDLE COUNTERBORES IN THE MIDDLE SHELF (C) and the rod slots in the top shelf (D) by referring to Figure 3. Drill the 13/4" dia. counterbores in the middle shelf and 7/8"-dia. holes in the top shelf with Forstner bits (see the Convenience Plus Buying Guide). Use a backer board when drilling through the top shelf to prevent tear-out.

4 MARK TANGENTS TO THE HOLES IN THE TOP SHELF (D) to the front edge of the piece, with a square and pencil. Cut along these marks to complete the U-shaped slots shown in Figure 3. (Since you’ll line these slots with foam later, it’s not necessary to sand them.)

5 PUT A 3/4" DADO SET INTO YOUR TABLE SAW, and cut the rabbet along the top rear edge of the top shelf (D) where shown in Figure 3. Refer to the same drawing to mark the location of the dadoes on the bottom face of the middle shelf (C). The top face of the bottom shelf (B) has matching dadoes, so you can cut both sets at the same time.

6 SET UP YOUR TABLE-MOUNTED ROUTER WITH A 3/4" STRAIGHT BIT (see the Buying Guide), and cut the stopped rabbet at the top of each side (A).

Cut the sliding half dovetails

1 Chuck a 1/2"-dia. straight bit into your hand-held router. Set the depth stops to make a 3/8"-deep dado in two passes. Clamp the jig to a practice board and rout through the outside edge of the fixed fence, your board, and into the counterbore on the adjustable end. (Use the counterbores as parking spots at the beginning and end of each cut.) Attach the depth stop so that its top edge is flush with the bottom of your full-depth dado.

2 AFTER ROUTING THE DADO, SWITCH TO THE DOVETAIL BIT. Don’t remove the jig, just shift the aluminum spacer from one rail to the other. Use the depth stop to set the dovetail bit for a 3/8"-deep cut. Now rout from counterbore to counterbore, as shown in Photo C. By moving the spacer, you’ve shifted the guides so that the bit should rout a dovetailed notch on just one side.

3 REPEAT THE DADO/DOVETAIL ROUTING SEQUENCE ON THE SIDES. Position the jig so that the fixed end rests against back edge of the side (A). Position the aluminum spacer on the rail closest to the bottom edge. As before, rout a 1/2"-wide by 3/8"-deep dado, shift the aluminum spacer to the opposite rail, then rout the half-dovetail notch.

4 INSTALL THE DOVETAIL BIT YOU USED TO ROUT THE SIDES (A) INTO YOUR TABLE-MOUNTED ROUTER. Set the bit so that it’s 3/8" above the table. To fine-tune the fence, rout a half-dovetail on a piece of scrap. Test it out on a side and adjust the fence until the piece slides easily into a half-dovetailed groove. Once the fence is set, rout the bottom face of all three shelves as shown in Photo D.

5 SLIDE THE SHELVES (B, C, D) INTO THE SIDES (A) FROM THE FRONT. (If you need to use a mallet, protect the shelf’s edge with a scrap block of wood.) Note that the middle shelf (C) and top shelf (D) are flush to the front and back edge of the sides. The bottom shelf (B) stops 3/4" in from the back edge.

Add the dividers, arched top, back, and skirts

1 RIP AND CROSSCUT THE DIVIDERS (E) that fit between the bottom shelf (B) and middle shelf (C). Note that the dividers are wider than they are long so that edge grain, not end grain, is visible at the front.

2 MAKE THE KEYHOLE FOR THE SECRET DRAWER. Referring to the detail in Figure 1, drill a 13/4" counterbore on the outside faces of both dividers. Drill a 1/8" hole through each divider at the centerpoint of the counterbore. After making the keyhole, glue the dividers into the shelf dadoes. Check that the front edges of the dividers are flush with the middle and bottom shelves.

3 LAY OUT THE CURVE OF THE ARCHED TOP (F) with a fairing stick, referring to the dimensions in Figure 1. Bandsaw along the waste side of the line, then sand to the line. Glue and clamp the top arch in place.

4 LAY THE CARCASE ASSEMBLY ON ITS FRONT SIDE. Chuck a 3/8" rabbetting bit in a hand-held router and rout along the back edges and inside faces of sides (A) and middle shelf (C). Adjust the bit depth incrementally to achieve the 3/8" rabbet 3/4" deep. Square the corners with a chisel.


6 MAKE THE BASE SKIRT PIECES (H, I) from one long board. Referring to Figure 1 and the Cut List, rip the stock to width. Make miter cuts to create a blank for the front base trim that’s about 1/4" longer than its finished length. Fit this piece to the front of the rod assembly. Then carefully mark and miter it to finished length. 

7 MARK THE CUTOUT AT THE BOTTOM OF THE FRONT SKIRT (H), shown in Figure 1. Bandsaw just to the waste side of the line, and sand to the line.

8 ATTACH THE FRONT SKIRT (H) TO THE STAND ASSEMBLY WITH GLUE AND 11/4" FINISH NAILS. Miter and crosscut the ends of the side skirts (I) to size, and fasten them in place with glue and nails.

Make the drawers


2 RIP THE DRAWER SIDES AND FRONTS (J, K, N) about 1/16" narrower than the height of the openings. Cut the fronts (K, N) about 1/16" less than the width of the openings. Crosscut the drawer parts to length.

3 ROUT 1/4" GROOVES IN THE DRAWER SIDES (J) AND FRONTS (K, N) as shown in Figure 5. Cut the dovetails as shown in Photo E. (For dovetail-cutting info, check out Rob Cosman’s story. For a simpler alternative, rout a 1/4 x 1/4" rabbet and assemble the drawer with glue and nails.)

4 ATTACH THE DRAWER BACKS (L, O) TO THE DRAWER SIDES (J). For the full-sliding dovetail shown in Figure 5, chuck a 1/4" dovetail bit into your table-mounted router. Set the bit for 1/4"-deep cut and rout a through dado through the inside faces of all six sides (J). Adjust the fence to rout the dovetailed ends of the backs. (This setup is just like shelves, except here you’re routing both faces of the board.)

5 GLUE AND CLAMP THE DRAWERS, ensuring that the top edges are flush and that the assemblies are square.

6 RIP AND CROSSCUT THE DRAWER BOTTOMS (M, P) from 1/4"-thick plywood. Referring to Figure 5, glue the 1/4"-thick bottoms (M, P) into the drawer grooves and then drive screws into the bottom edges of the drawer backs (L, O).

Add the false drawer fronts

1 DRILL SHANK HOLES THROUGH THE DRAWER FRONTS (K, N) for the screws that attach the false fronts.

2 RIP A BOARD TO WIDTH FOR THE DRAWER FALSE FRONTS (Q, R). Crosscut the parts sequentially so that the grain flows from one piece to the next. Mark the back of the boards to ensure that they’re correctly positioned later.

3 CHUCK A 1/4" ROUND-OVER BIT INTO YOUR TABLE-MOUNTED ROUTER, and clamp a fence flush with the bit’s bearing. Beginning with the end grain, rout along the front perimeter of each drawer false front (Q, R).

4 CHUCK A RABBETING OR STRAIGHT BIT INTO YOUR TABLE-MOUNTED ROUTER, and clamp a fence that allows a 1/4" bit projection. Rout a 1/4 x 1/4" rabbet along the rear perimeter of each drawer false front (Q, R). Again, minimize chipout by routing the end grain first.

5 ATTACH THE FALSE FRONTS (Q, R) TO THE DRAWER BOXES by using double-faced tape. Center the false front in the drawer opening, and adjust the fit as necessary. Make the installation permanent by driving screws from inside the box, making sure that the false front doesn’t shift off center.

6 MAKE THE KEYS (S) FOR THE SECRET DRAWER, as shown in Figure 1. Drive a 1"-long nail through the center of each key. To set the lock, insert the nail through the divider (E) and press it against this side of secret drawer. Use the dimple to drill holes in the sides of the drawers.

Finishing/Finishing Touches

1 FINISH-SAND ALL THE PARTS TO 180-GRIT. Lightly “break” any sharp corners or edges, but don’t overdo it or your rack will lose its crisp lines. For this project, we used a 3-part finish. First, we used a waterborne dye, followed by a gel stain, and finished with a clear topcoat. (For product and color suggestions, see the Buying Guide.)

2 SET THE CORK DISCS INTO THE COUNTERBORES ON THE MIDDLE SHELF (C) to cushion your rods. Adhere 3/4" wide x 1/2" thick foam insulating tape to the U-shaped slots in the top shelf (D). (Cork and foam insulating tape are common hardware-store items.)


About our Designer/Builder

A shop teacher for 30 years, Bob Vincent now spends much of his free time building furniture and boats in his modest 16 × 24’ workshop in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin. He likes using locally-harvested hardwoods, particularly cherry and butternut. For this project he chose butternut, walnut’s lighter-colored, less-expensive cousin. Bob recommends this soft hardwood for hand-tool joinery, but suggests keeping tools razor sharp to avoid fuzzy cuts.

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