Industrial Towel Rack


After completing the shiplap walls in our master bathroom, we needed a place to hang our towels again. You see, we didn't much like the standard towel bars that we had before. The large garden tub that we have makes it extremely difficult to reach the standard towel bars and actually hang up a towel. Plus, with there being two of us, you could only put one on each wall, therefore taking up two walls. We wanted some art to be on one wall, so we had to find a solution that worked better for hanging towels and could be contained on one wall. 


Watch my video of how I made this industrial towel rack out of scrap maple that I had lying around the shop and keep reading below for even more details about the build:


Below is a list of tools and supplies I used in this project: (affiliate links)

Table saw
Miter saw
Impact driver
Flush trim saw
Random orbital sander


I set out to use some scrap wood for this project for two reasons: I had some on hand, and I wanted the scrap to help determine what the design of the towel rack would be. Often, if you put some restraints on yourself, you will find you get more creative to work within those limitations and are more pleased with the result. 

I had some walnut and maple off cuts I picked up from a friend, David Dill, from D+P Design Build. I think they were from some huge conference tables he had built. He builds some massive and impressive stuff. Quickly, my wife and I realized that we liked the look of the lighter maple against the light gray of our new shiplap wall

At first, we thought it should just be a rectangular shape, but the more I looked at the scrap of maple that I had, I saw an angled shape that would be much more visually interesting. 


1. layout your design

The design is totally up to you. Do as I did and let the piece of wood speak to you or set out to design something before you even get in the shop. Either way, you can't go wrong. 

2. cut to fit

My large crosscut sled has come in handy for this type of thing more times than I can count. Since it has a zero clearance cutout, I can just line up my piece with that cutout on the sled and it comes out just like I want it. 

3. Mill boards

I needed to glue a few parts to get the thickness I needed, so I first jointed one face and edge of my scraps, in order to get a good glue bond. 

4. glue 

You'll notice some smaller-than-usual hands helping me in this video. That is Alan, my oldest child. He has really started liking to be in the shop with me recently, so I try to include him whenever possible. He was not always interested, and I didn't push him, so I guess he is just coming around now out of his own desire. It's fun. 

Sometimes, you have to glue some pieces together to make the components that you need. For some of my parts, I didn't have any scrap thick enough, so I glued two pieces together. 

5. thickness

I used my planer to get the boards I previously glued together down to final thickness. 

6. Rabbet

I made a series of cuts (rabbet) on one of my boards so it will cover the end of the main piece. This allows for a lot of surface area for glue to really hold. 

7. Inlay

There was a little bad spot in my work piece, so I decided to add an inlay accent. Rather than some other traditional shape like a bow tie, I wanted to just make one up. I spent some time, drawing out a shape that I thought looked pleasing, and then I transferred that to a slightly contrasting scrap I had. It was actually honey locust wood.

Once I cut out the inlay piece, I put it on my work piece and traced around it. 

I got rid of the bulk of the material using my router, staying clear of my lines. 

I cleaned up the rest of the shape with my chisels. 

I taped off the side of the piece so the epoxy would stop from running off of the edge. Then, I mixed up some of this West System epoxy. 

I added in some fine, walnut dust that I keep on hand to thicken the epoxy a bit and give it a nice, dark color. I learned this trick from Jon Peters, and he noted that he likes to use a color of wood darker than the piece you are working on. I have found that I like that as well. 

I cleaned up a the bulk of the dried epoxy with my hand plane, and then sanded the rest of it away. 

8. counterbore

I counter bored some partially-through holes in the end piece, so I could have the heads of the screws I'll later be using sit far below the surface. 

9. cut plugs and counter sink

I countersunk the holes just a bit so the screws would sit down nicely, and not obstruct the plugs I was going to use. 

I used my plug cutting bits in the drill press to make some plugs out of the same honey locust wood that I used for the inlay piece. I hammered them into place and then let the glue dry. 

10. trim flush

Then, I used a flush cut saw to get rid of the bulk of the plug material, sanding afterward. 

The piece I had glued together earlier was then split in half so it could eventually allow each part of the towel rack to swing independently. 

11. hinges

Next, I marked the location of all of the hinges, so I could mortise out the pieces to accept them. 

12. pipe

I cleaned up the stickers on the galvanized pipe with a razor. The stubborn parts that remained sticky got treated with some acetone, and that took it right off. I also used some files to quickly knock off any burr that was on the pipes. I didn't want anything to snag our towels. I also washed the pipes with just dish soap and water. I have found that this removes the greasy residue that is often found on these pipes. Be sure to dry them thoroughly or you will see some rust. 

I cut some holes in each piece to receive a pipe cap. I used some 5 minute epoxy to secure these in place. 

13. Finish

I like to use lacquer when possible. This project will probably not see much use and abuse on the actual wooden parts, so lacquer was a perfect finish. I love how I can apply multiple coats within a reasonable amount of time with lacquer. In Mississippi where I live, it is pretty much always humid. The humidity level seems to constantly present problems when applying finish to a project. I have had glue or paint that is still not just tacky, but actually still wet 12 hours after application. That is just bonkers! Lacquer seems to work well here. 

I put on more than 5 very light coats of lacquer, sanding between some coats with 320 grit sandpaper. I usually spray on 2 coats before I ever sand. I know some people say that you should not sand between coats of lacquer, but I have not found that to be the case. I get a really smooth finish sanding between coats, so I'm just sticking with that. 

14. assembly

All that is left is to assemble everything together, now that the finish has dried. For most of it, I used a screwdriver. These little screws for the hinges would strip very easily using a drill or driver, I'm afraid. 

The finished product turned out fantastic! We have been using it for a few weeks now, and love the ability to have each towel swing out at us so we can grab it more easily. It has simplified our lives and helped to improve the style of our master bathroom. 

Let me know your thoughts below in the comments. And let me know if you build something like this. I'd love to see it! Tag me on Instagram @Brudaddy

Bruce A. UlrichComment