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How To Build This Simple Magazine Rack

POP Projects is a collection of new and classic projects from more than a century of Popular Mechanics. Master skills, get tool recommendations, and, most importantly, build something of your very own.


Two or three evenings puttering around the workshop is all it takes to build this magazine rack, and it’s a great way to relax. It also produces a means of keeping magazines off your living room coffee table or the night stand in your bedroom. It consists of a pair of identical 3-piece frames that are joined together with a self-locking half lap.

Practically any wood can be used for this piece, but we chose yellow poplar. It works easily and when finished with a clear topcoat, it takes on a cream color tinged with green. Poplar is widely available, and it is more reasonably priced than other cabinet-grade woods.

magazine rack

J.R. Rost

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Plans and Materials

magazine rack plans

Popular Mechanics

Begin by ripping and crosscutting the 1⁄2-in. stock for the pair of uprights and the crossmember for each 3-piece frame. Then mark the ends for the half laps [1].

Each half lap is made with two cuts on the table saw. Use a tenoning jig to hold the workpiece vertically. If you don’t have a commercial tenoning jig, make one as shown [2/3]. A homemade tenoning jig consists of a saddle-like device that rides on the fence. The saddle’s center equals the fence’s thickness.

After you complete the end cuts, lower the blade and use the miter gauge to make the shoulder cuts that drop out the waste. Use a guide block clamped to the miter gauge fence when cutting the shoulders to ensure consistency from cut to cut [4].

Cut the angled-edge half laps next. Raise the saw blade so it projects a hair over half the width of the stock. Set the miter fence for an 18-degree miter, then make several passes to form the notch. Clamp a stop block to the miter gauge fence, and butt the workpiece to it [5]. It’s easy to get confused when cutting an angled half lap joint. Refer to the drawing, and carefully mark out each notch before sawing it.

Before assembling the frames, check the fit of the edge notches [6]. Avoid a snug fit to allow for a slight buildup of finish. Apply glue to the half laps, and drive two 1⁄2-in.-long brads to hold the pieces in alignment, then clamp the pieces together.

While the glue is drying, rip and crosscut the cross-braces. Cut them to size and shape, then use a doweling jig to bore a pair of holes for 4-in. dowel pins in the top ends only [7]. Insert a pair of dowel centers in the holes to transfer the hole centers to the frame crossmember. To do this, press the lower edge of the crossbrace against the frame edge, then slide the slat against the horizontal frame member to make the marks [8]. Draw cross lines through the indents, and use the doweling jig to bore the holes.

Push dowels into the end of the crossmembers using a little glue. Also apply a little glue at the bottom of the crossmember. Then push the dowels into the holes in the frame. Fasten it with 1 1⁄4-in.-long finish nails at the bottom [9].

Ease all the corners by sanding with a padded block, then smooth the surfaces with 120-, followed by 220-grit sandpaper. Wipe off sanding dust with a tack cloth, and apply three coats of finish by following the label’s instructions.

When finishing is completed, push the two sides of the frame together [10].

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