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How to Make a Spice Rack From Oak Tongue and Groove Floorboards

My aim with DIY projects around the home is to look for innovative space-saving ideas and save costs on materials by recycling.

Bespoke spice rack made from solid oak

Bespoke spice rack made from solid oak

Tongue and Groove Spice Shelving

As part of a recent kitchen makeover, rather than put the old spice rack back, my wife wanted me to make a new one to fill the whole of the available wall space.

The two reasons for her request were:

  • Aesthetics: It would look better for the spice rack to fill the space rather than just being stuck in the corner.
  • Efficiency: She wanted to make maximum use of the space in a small kitchen.

Maximising on Space

Since I like to maximise our use of space and incorporate aesthetics into the design and build of any DIY projects I do around the home, I was keen to work with my wife’s request.

Original spice rack; clock and light switch to be moved to maximise on use of space

Original spice rack; clock and light switch to be moved to maximise on use of space

Design Concept

We’ve had our original spice rack since we were first married, and it has served us well; so, in designing the new spice rack, I wanted it to emulate the old one.

The original spice rack, when we had it new, came with loads of spices (long since used) that filled the top shelf. The other two shelves were designed for tinfoil and clingfilm (as marked) and as such have a lip to keep the boxes in place when using them. I’ve since made a separate rack for the tinfoil and clingfilm, so now we use these shelves for other small containers (food colouring and cocktail sticks, etc.).

The paper towel holder is also handy, as are the hooks at the bottom and the two side hooks which I’ve since added for keys and oven gloves.

Alterations to the Original Design

Therefore, in designing the new spice rack it would be based on the design of the original—apart from being larger and with just a few minor alterations, as listed below:

  • The paper towel holder would be switched to the other side so that it would be nearer and therefore easier to use.
  • The lip on the shelves would be less deep as we use the shelves for storing small items, rather than their original purpose for tinfoil and clingfilm. This will make access easier.
  • The bottom shelf would be lowered, and the hooks would be fitted to the underside shelf rather than to the back of the spice rack, once again maximising the use of space. I fitted cup hooks to the underside of the kitchen wall units when we renovated the kitchen, and that has proved very effective. So this modification is something which I know from experience already works.

Shelf Depth and Number

In the redesign, as well as making the new spice rack taller and wider, I was also able to make the shelves an inch deeper to bring them out to just short of the small kitchen window.

However, I would have liked to have squeezed in a fourth shelf, but to do so would have made the shelves a little too restrictive in that only small containers would have fitted. By keeping to just the three shelves of the original spice rack, they are significantly taller and deeper and therefore far more versatile in what we can use them for.

How I Dealt With Problem Areas in Our Kitchen

To make the best use of the wall space during the makeover, I made sure no other wall fittings would be in the way so they wouldn't cramp the space or detract from the aesthetics.

The two wall fittings that were of concern in this respect were the wall clock and the light switch for the outside light (which you can see clearly in the photo below):

  • The switch was a fused switch that was always in the 'on' position for the security light with a motion sensor that only activated at night. However, in conjunction with the kitchen makeover, we had already decided I would replace the security light with an ordinary (ornate) wall light; therefore we had also decided I would move the light switch to a more convenient location for frequent use. The natural option would be to move the light switch just a foot lower, but by doing so it would restrict the width of the new bespoke spice rack that I was planning to make. Therefore, I decided to instead fit the light switch on the wood panel by the backdoor.
  • The clock in its current position would restrict the height of the new planned spice rack. The clock needed to be higher up on the wall, but it was prevented from being so by the lintel above the door jutting out. However, as part of the kitchen makeover, I’d already decided I would level the wall with the lintel, and by doing so it would then provide the flat surface needed to raise the height of the clock.
Design of the old spice rack

Design of the old spice rack

Recycling Wood

I love recycling wood. It’s not so much the cost, although that is a factor; it’s more of the case of the enjoyment of repurposing. In this respect, I’ve always got a supply of salvaged and reclaimed wood at the back of my workshop to choose from when doing a DIY project.

For this project, I had a stack of solid oak floorboards leftover from when I built the conservatory; which I thought would be ideal for making a spice rack. I love oak, not only is it a beauty to work with, but it’s such a quality wood that enhances the finished product; adding to the aesthetics far more than pine or plywood could ever do.

The only thing I didn’t have was a piece of suitable plywood for the back, but a friend of mine had a piece of offcut that he didn’t need so he offered it to me.

Therefore, apart from the small cost of a pack of cup hooks, the spice rack didn’t cost me anything to make.

How I Built the Spice Rack

Below is a look at how I created and assembled the spice rack step by step.

  • Back panel
  • Side panels and shelves
  • Paper towel holder
  • Assembly
  • Tips
  • Wall mounting

Back Panel

For the back panel I wanted a thin sheet of plywood; the thinner the plywood the greater the shelf depth I could have. The limiting factor to the depth of the spice rack is the distance from the wall to the window; taking into account that to be more aesthetically pleasing I didn’t want the spice rack to be flush with the window but set back just a little.

The back panel wouldn’t be structural; its only purpose was purely to give a clean, uniform and aesthetically pleasing backdrop to the shelves themselves. Therefore it didn’t need any strength, so I only needed a thin sheet of ply between 3mm and 6mm (an eighth of an inch to a quarter inch). The spare sheet of plywood my friend gave me was 6mm, so that was ideal.

Measuring and Cutting

  • I measured the dimensions of the kitchen wall where the spice rack would go; allowing a few millimetres give, as British house walls are never perfectly straight, square or level. I also needed to allow for the notch for the back panel to fit around the support for the shelf above the window.
  • Once I’d marked the measurements to the plywood I then cut it to size, test-fitted it against the wall, and then, being satisfied with the fit, cleaned up the edges with a quick sanding.
Thin sheet of plywood cut to size for the back panel

Thin sheet of plywood cut to size for the back panel

Side Panels and Shelves

The first job was to take all the required measurements; including the thickness of the oak flooring, and then draw up a detailed sketch plan. Then using my sketch plan I selected all the pieces of oak I needed to make the spice rack.

The solid oak tongue and groove flooring I had was 18mm (three-quarter of an inch) thick, and about 5 inches wide. The shelf depth for the two shelves with lips would be about three and a half inches. So by trimming off the tongue and cutting the planks to width, the offcuts were just about the right height for the lips; without there being any wastage.

Paper Towel Holder

To replicate the paper towel holder, I used the old spice rack as a template, e.g. cutting the slot on the one side for lifting the dowel rod in and out when replacing the paper towel roll, and hole on the other side to hold the dowel rod in place.

Having marked out the centre positions on the end panel and middle divide I drilled the holes part way through both panels, and then used a router to make the 45-degree channel from the edge of the panel to the hole.

When assembling the unit, I positioned these two side panels to the same distance as the original spice rack; double-checking for fit during assembly by fitting the dowel rod to ensure it slides into place properly.

Groove and hole cut in the side panels for the paper towel holder dowel rod support

Groove and hole cut in the side panels for the paper towel holder dowel rod support


With all the pieces of oak ready, I just needed to cut them to size, sand them down, and assemble the spice rack; no more difficult than making a square box, or simple bookcase:

  • All the oak was cut to size; to width using a bench saw, and length with a mitre saw.
  • All the edges and corners were lightly sanded and what would be the visible edges were rounded off with the sander.
  • Using a tape measure, pencil and square, I carefully marked the shelf positions on the side panels.
  • I drilled two pilot and countersink holes in each side panel for each of the two long shelves. Plus corresponding holes to fit the bottom short shelf to the short middle support section, which in turn fits to the underside of the middle shelf.

Working from the bottom up, so none of the wood would obstruct the use of the electric screwdriver:-

  • I first glued and screwed the left hand side of the bottom (short) shelf to the short middle vertical support.
  • Glued and screwed the right hand side of the bottom shelf to the right hand side panel
  • Glued and screwed the top of the small vertical support to the underside of the middle shelf.

Then to assemble the rest of the spice rack:-

  • I lined up the middle shelf with the marked lines on the side panels and glued and screwed it into position.
  • Then while checking for Squareness, I glued and screwed the last shelf in position.

I then turned the whole unit upside down; applied glue to all the back edges, positioned the back panel over the top, and tacked it down.


  • Teak Oil: As a finishing touch, once the spice rack was assembled, I rubbed teak oil into the wood grain of the cut oak and into the plywood back panel. I discovered years ago that rubbing teak oil into freshly cut oak turns it from that white fresh cut look back into natural oak colour and blends it into the rest of the oak.
  • Joints vs. Screws: When making a bookcase type of construction I’d normally use dowel joints; which is much stronger than screws, and has the added advantage of not being visible. However, as the spice rack (measuring 18 inches high by 30 inches wide) would be wall mounted, it doesn’t need the strength of a bookcase.
  • Zinc-Plated Screws: Also, I use zinc-plated screws these days (which have an almost brass appearance) which I think looks far more attractive than the standard stainless steel screws. Plus, as only four of the screws would be visible on the side panel I felt that they wouldn’t detract from the aesthetics. The reason I use zinc-plated screws as standard in my DIY projects these days is that, unlike the traditional stainless screws, they’re rust-resistant.

Wall Mounting

Before the glue dried I gave the spice rack a test fit by positioning it in place on the wall to see how it looked; which gave me the opportunity to make any minor adjustments before it was too late.

Once the glue was set I cut support battens to size for the top, and a smaller one to go behind the paper towel holder at the bottom; which I then placed in position and pre-drilled with pilot holes.

Then for the final fit:

  • I then temporarily placed the spice rack in position on the wall to mark the screw holes.
  • Moved the spice rack out of the way and drilled 7mm holes in the brick wall.
  • Placed brown wall plugs in each hole, gently tapping it home with a hammer.
  • Re-positioned the spice rack and screwed it into place on the wall.

Your Comments

Arthur Russ (author) from England on May 08, 2017:

Hi Jo, an interesting point, another example of how languages evolves. Out of curiosity I looked up the origin of ‘bespoke’ on Wikipedia and apparently it’s derived from the word ‘bespeak’ which is first recorded in writing in 1583 and meant at that time to ‘speak for something’. These days ‘bespoke’ means commissioned or tailored to a particular specification or taste.

And yes, according to Wikipedia and other dictionary sources the American English for ‘bespoke’ is ‘custom made’.

Jo Miller from Tennessee on May 08, 2017:

We'd call your bespoke spice rack custom made here. Great project. Thanks for sharing.

Arthur Russ (author) from England on April 30, 2017:

Thanks Robert, my pleasure.

Fiddleman on April 30, 2017:

Cool hub with some great wood working ideas. Thanks for sharing!