Cedar Karate Belt Rack

For my son's birthday, I built him a belt rack for his Karate. As he progresses through the Kyu, each of the retired belts will be strapped to the rack as a record of his achievement. I took inspiration from other commercially available products and Japanese design to come up with my version. 

 As you can see from the 3D model to the left, there are Torri design inspirations and a contrasting wood selection. I have lots of lovely smelling cedar, so the bulk of the project will be taken from that. Apart from smelling amazing, it should finish really well and last a long time. I've taken quite a bit of advice on finishing products from the Wood Whisperer forum on Facebook, who have been amazingly helpful.

I have some ebony that I purchased for another project, so at the moment I'm planning to laminate some thin strips along the top to match the curve of the top board (Kasagi). I don't know how well this will turn out, but it will be fun to find out!


I've cut out the main pieces of the rack and have dadoed the horizontal slats to fit onto the vertical rails. The rest of the pieces are rough cut. I still need to turn the two spindles for each side - the Hashira (if you can't tell from the image, that's what they are). Someone suggested to use more of the ebony as a contrasting wood, so may make the pegs along the bottom from ebony to bring out the contrast. 

The shape of the top piece isn't set in stone, as I may go for curved lines to better match the Japanese feel, but they were quite hard to put into SketchUp, especially as I didn't really know what I wanted them to be.

So more updates as I progress with this one. I've got to get my router plane out and clean up the dadoes next, so that should be fun and laborious! MUST find a Triple Grind/flat top blade for my table saw to make better dadoes ... recommendations anyone (ps. I'm in the UK)?


I finished this in time for my Son's birthday and I think he was pleased with it. I'm hoping he'll appreciate the work that went into it more as he grows up :) The design came out pretty faithful to the 3D model I created, apart from the pegs at the bottom. I was going to make these from ebony to match the Kasagi, but changed my mind during construction and went with an ebony inlay that is on 3 faces of the foot. This matches the thickness of the Kasagi, so helps to balance the colours.

With two of his belts attached, I think it came out really nicely. With a suggestion from my wife, we just used black elastic hair bands, as they were the perfect size and were much easier than stitching black elastic into loops! 

I went with a Teak oil finish, which brought out a nice colour, then simply sealed it with a couple of coats of spray lacquer to protect the belts from the finish. I had intended to cut the letters myself, but relented and got some laser cut MDF letters. I primed them with spray primer, then used a gloss black spray paint. A couple of coats of each, rubbing down with 400 grit sandpaper between each coat, left a finish that matches the ebony really well!


As with any project, unless you make mistakes you don't learn. I was REALLY careful to cut the mortices for the vertical rails so that they fit snugly, and didn't leave gaps. Unfortunately, I managed to do this TOO well, so when it came time to glue the top on, one of them bound up with the glue and I couldn't get it back off again without breaking other glue joints on the horizontal rails. In the end, I just needed to knock the opposite side up slightly, so that the gap was even, but bigger than I had intended. It's out by 2mm, so not massive, but I was annoyed.

Anyway, I will know next time, so lesson learned.