I've always wanted a mud room in my house-you
know, a place where you can throw your coats, gloves and
boots before entering the living room or kitchen. I don’t
have enough space for one, so I started thinking: what could
I build that would hold all those things?
A hall tree. A big one–one with three large hooks, a flip-up
seat and storage space underneath. Plus a shelf for hats.
The design uses frame and panel construction, but there
are no mortises to make. The plywood panels and solid rails
just fit into grooves, the same way these pieces were built
years ago. Gluing the plywood makes the hall tree very sturdy-
strong enough for my kids to stand on. And they will!
Make the legs
1. Start by milling the front and
back legs (A1 & B1). The back legs are
quite long, so joint and plane them in
stages, over the course of a few days,
to ensure that they stay straight. Trim
the back legs to their final length.
Make the front legs about 6" extra
long for test cuts.
2. The joinery in the hall tree is
pretty straightforward (Fig. A). All of
the legs have long, stopped grooves
that receive the plywood panels and
the rails’ tenons. These grooves should
exactly fit your plywood, which is probably
thinner than its nominal thickness
of 1/2". The best way to make the
grooves is to use a plunge router, a 3/8"
bit and an edge guide. To set up your
router, make some test grooves in the
extra-long portion of the front legs.
Rout from both sides of the legs to center
the grooves (Photo 1). Once you’ve correctly adjusted your edge guide,
trim the front legs to final length. Then
lay out the grooves on both of the leg’s
inside faces and rout them (Fig. B).
3. Rout similar grooves on the
inside faces of the back legs (Fig. C).
Square the ends all of the grooves
with a chisel.
Make the seat,
rails and panels
4. The seat is composed of two
pieces: a lid (D1) and a rail (D2) that is
fixed to the case. In order to make the
grain of the seat continuous across
these two parts, and to ensure that
they’re the same thickness, glue up
the seat as one large blank, then rip it
into two pieces.
5. Mill all of the rails (A2-A5, B2-B3,
C1-C2). Cut them to width and length.
6. Cut grooves in the rails for the
plywood panels (Figs. D, E and F).
While you could use your router again,
it’s easier to cut the grooves on the
table saw (Photo 2). Set up a 3/8"
dado set and cut from both faces, as
you did with the router.
7. Cut tenons on all the rails
(Photo 3 and Fig. D). Add a chipper
to the dado set, making it 1/2" wide.
Clamp a sacrificial board to the saw’s
fence in order to house a portion of
the dado set. Cutting from both faces
of each rail, raise the dado set until the
tenons fit the grooves.
8. Cut shoulders on the tenons by
lowering the dado set and standing
the rails on edge.
9. In the back rail-seat (A4), cut a
rabbet (Fig. D) that is half the thickness
of the seat’s back section (D2). On
the back rail-upper (A2), cut two rabbets
to form a tenon for the shelf (E1).
10. On the lower rails (A5, B3 & C2),
cut grooves to receive the bottom
panel (D4) (Photo 4).
11. Draw and cut the arch in the
lower front rail (B3) (Photo 5 and
12. Assemble each side of the hall
tree, without glue, and double-check
the measurements for the panels (A6, A7, A8, B4, C3 & D4). Cut the panels
about 1/16" undersize and ease their
edges with sandpaper to make assembly
I only put glue
on one side
at a time.
Assemble the front and back
13. Test fit the pieces for the front.
Finish sand them and glue.
14. Test fit all of the pieces for the
back, then glue it together (Photo 6).
Make 7-1/2" long spacers to fit in the
upper and lower panel areas–they’ll
help align the rails. To reduce anxiety,
I glued one side of the back at a time.
For the first glue-up, I only put glue
on one end of all the rails and panels.
I clamped the other leg onto the
assembly, without glue, to keep the
assembly square and flat. Once the
glue was dry, I glued the other side.
15. Cut notches in the seat rail (D2)
to fit the legs and rails (Photo 7 and
Fig. G). Glue this piece to the back
Assemble the carcase
16. On the bottom (D4), cut
notches for clearance around the legs
(Photo 8). You may want to cut ventilation
slots in this piece to allow damp
gloves and boots to dry.
17. Check the fit of the side pieces
and the bottom. Make sure you are
able to keep the legs square (Photo
9). Finish sand all of the side pieces
18. Now the project is really starting
to take shape. Make the side slats
(C4). Sand and glue them in place.
Add the shelf and seat
19. Make the shelf (E1). Rout a
cove and fillet all the way around the
piece using a cove bit and a straight
bit (Photo 10 and Fig. J). Using your
plunge router and edge guide, rout a
groove on the bottom of the shelf to
fit the long tenon on the upper back
rail (Fig. H). Glue the shelf in place.
20. Make the shelf brackets (E2)
(Fig. K). Glue the shelf supports to the
back legs and to the shelf.
21. Cut the seat battens (D3). Rout a
45° chamfer on their edges. Drill holes
for mounting the battens to the seat
(Photo 11). Elongate the outside holes
to allow the seat to shrink and swell.
Attach the battens to the seat’s lid.
Wrap it up
22. Install hinges to join the seat
lid to the seat’s back rail. To prevent
the lid from slamming down on little
fingers, mount a lid support between the seat and an upper side rail (Photo
12 and Sources, next page). Mount
the coat hooks and leveling feet, if you
need them. Remove all the hardware;
paint the hooks flat black and add a
clear coat of lacquer.
23. Apply a stain and two top coats
of poly to the whole case.
24. Re-attach the hardware and
install felt dots on the underside of
the seat where it contacts the front
legs and upper rail. You're ready for a
Fig. A: Exploded View
Fig. B: Front Legs
Fig. C: Back Legs
Fig. D: Back Rails
Fig. E: Front Rails
Fig. F: Side Rails
Fig. G: Seat
Fig. H: Shelf Groove
Fig. J: Shelf Molding
Fig. K: Shelf Bracket
Click any image to view a larger version.
1. Begin by
front and back
grooves in the
legs to exactly
fit the plywood
2. Cut grooves
in all the rails
to fit the plywood,
Use a featherboard
the rail tight
3. Cut tenons
on the rails
4. Cut grooves
in all the
lower rails to
of the storage
5. Draw an arch
on the lower
front rail. Use
to hold a bent
you draw the
6. Glue the
are a lot of
pieces to manage,
so I glue
one side at a
help align the
7. Cut notches
of the seat,
so that this
8. Cut notches
in the storage
board to your
9. Glue the
front, then dry
fit the whole
Does it come
If so, you’re
ready for the
10. Rout a cove
all the way
shelf that sits
on top of the
11. Drill screw
holes in two
battens that go
the outer holes
so the seat is
free to shrink
12. Attach a
the seat. This
as it closes, to
fingers. My kids
love hiding stuff
inside their new