Turn a CD Rack

Monday 9 July 2018

Living in a small modern home, I am always looking for ways to use all the available space to full potential. I also wanted to create some storage solutions for my daughters, in an attempt to keep a small part of their bedrooms tidy!

This project uses minimal tools to produce a contemporary useful item, although you could make it in a classical style with finials turned at each end. It is turned entirely between centres and incorporates split turning, whereby the wood is glued either side of a piece of soft wood, and between each section is a layer of newspaper, or similar.

As this is a practical item as well as being aesthetic, it is important to clear up a few measurements, which are important for the design. This design incorporates a number of grooves/slots turned into the external diameter of the project. The number of grooves required can be up to you, but the number has to be practical in order to hold enough CD cases, as well as utilising as much of the material as possible without losing the aesthetics of the piece – after all you want it to look good as well as being practical.

For the project I have chosen to use a piece of oak, measuring: 80mm (3 1/8in) square by 600mm (23 5/8in) long. You can use as long a piece as you can fit between centres if you need storage for a high quantity of CDs.

You can play around with ideas and see what works for you. One point I want to clarify is that despite modern technology, I have found to my detriment, that not all CD cases are the same size – they may vary by half a millimetre or so. When checking the width of the slots use the thickest CD case you have to use as a measuring device, then you can guarantee all the others fitting – you will need Vernier callipers to do this. Alternatively, if you do not have this piece of equipment, on turning out the first slot, check your CDs in this first to find the thickest, and then use this as your project datum.

The project can also be modified to be made much wider to act as a storage system for DVDs.

Step 1

Mark the centre position of both ends and mount between centres. Make sure that marking is accurate otherwise there will be discrepancies in the depth of the sides with the final project, as you will not be turning the profile to the round, but leaving the sides flat with some of the original machined wood showing

Step 2

Using the 32mm (1 1/4in) spindle roughing gouge, rough down parallel until there is around 10mm (3/8in) material left on the sides, which are glued/adjacent to the soft wood. Remember that with split turning there is always a chance that the glue line can fail – in this instance things become dangerous. At this stage, ensure to keep the lathe speed at around 400rpm, taking light cuts with the roughing gouge. Stop regularly to check the glue line is not failing. It is much better to take small measured cuts than to dig away at the wood; this will lessen the chance of the glue line failing, but anticipate that it may

Step 3

Use a 6mm (1/4in) parting tool to clean up both faces of the project. You will probably find that the edges of the oak will fray as you do this due to the angle of approach with the tool. In this instance, this is of no concern, as next the profile will be shaped and the feathered edges removed

Step 4

Mark a centre line on the project. Using a 32mm (1 1/4in) spindle rouging gouge, rough down the final shape starting from around 100mm (4in) in from the right face. Create a curve towards the live centre end of the project; the curve will become too tight to finish off fully. Rough as far along as you are able using a spindle gouge, and to finish off, blend into the first curve from the centre line down to the start of the first curve. In this instance, the centre distance was around 300mm (12in) from the centre end

Step 5

Blend both sections together and finish off the front face so there is a tight continuous curve with no flat areas showing. Take a few finishing cuts with the spindle gouge to give as good an 'off the gouge' finish as possible. Repeat the same process from the centre line to the headstock end in exactly the same way, making sure to keep the profile the same as the tailstock end. Both ends of the project should be mirrored in both shape and procedure. Once complete, stand back and check that the left side is of the same profile as the right. Make any small adjustments as necessary

Step 6

With the profile finished and using a set of dividers set at 10mm (3/8in), scribe the first slot straddling the centre line, this will be the first slot turned using a 6mm (1/4in) parting tool to take the CD cases. Once you have marked the first slot continue along the length of the project leaving an 8mm (5/16in) gap between each slot. The 8mm (5/16in) space will not be turned away. Once the first is measured it is fairly easy to repeat by eye using the first as a standard. You could also do this by marking all with a pencil and rule, or if you posses a second set of dividers, use these. If you do use dividers make sure you use them in a trailing mode to prevent a dig in

Step 7

Use a 6mm (1/4in) parting tool to create the CD slots. This is the most critical part of the project as if you oversize the grooves the CD cases may fall out. To minimise potential fraying at the edges of the cut present the parting tool as you would a scraper, horizontally, and slightly trailing, cutting forward gently into the surface. Continue for the first millimetre or two, drop the handle a bit and continue the cut as normal with the bevel rubbing. Turn down to around 5-6mm – too much further and the tool may bind. Withdraw and move to the right a millimetre or so, turning down slightly deeper than the last cut. Withdraw and cut back into the first area. Continue until the cut is 11mm (7/16in) deep, then check the width of the slot using a CD case. You should find at this stage that it will not fit, but continue to widen the slot until it fits with a little clearance of around one millimetre. Continue along with the same procedure until all of the slots have been turned down

Step 8

Keep checking the slots with a CD case – pick the thickest single case you have. They are all roughly the same size but can vary by half a millimetre or so

Step 9

With all of the slots cut, sand over the surface using hook-and-loop abrasive on an arbor. Again, set the lathe at 400rpm. Go through the grits from 120 to 400 then dampen the surface with a kitchen towel and water. Allow to dry and de-nib with 600 grit. Keep a light pressure when sanding to ensure you don't round over the side edges. Make sure you have good extraction when sanding and wear a suitable mask

Step 10

Some of the inside edges of the slots may need cleaning. If this is the case, use a folded piece of 120 grit. I only went down to 240 grit on the inside of the slots as the finish was suitable for the purpose

Step 11

Once satisfied with the finish use a wood chisel to gently prize apart the turning. A light tap with a mallet should be all that is needed to start the wood separating down the paper line. Work down gently with the chisel until it comes apart. Run the back of the project lightly over a belt sander or finish by hand

Step 12

Use a 6mm (1/4in) drill bit to drill two mounting holes: one in the centre of the first slots at each end. Counter sink these holes slightly to fit the head of the M6 screw for attaching to the wall. If your project is longer, I would suggest a third or fourth hole depending on the length. To finish the project, lightly buff with a finishing wax for a minimal finish