DIY: Stencils on a Spinning Rack

Over a decade ago, a company called Simply Renee came out with a variety of spinning storage racks for stickers, stamps, etc. Pretty much anything you could put on there, you were encouraged to “Clip It Up”. At the time, I didn’t have any use for an organizer like this. But now, when over a decade later, I desperately wanted something similar… the company and its products no longer exist.

A version of the original Clip It Up by Simply Renee

Prior to now, I have been storing my stencils in page protectors in D-Ring binders. Any that I took on my travels would come from those binders and go into Iris Project cases from the Container Store.

But I got stuck in a rut, using the same things over and over. I know that visuals are important to me. If I don’t see a tool, I often don’t think to use it in my work. And frankly, the inventory of schtuff in my head is on overload. It’s time for a visual storage solution.

I had seen a variety of DIY projects using lamp parts to create the rings. I took a swipe at that and they are really flimsy for the amount of stencils I have. I wouldn’t recommend it.

Enter the spinning shoe rack. Or should I say, racks.

Before I talk sources – a word of advice. Everything I have used to create my rack is a quality product. They aren’t lightweight or inexpensively made. That said, they aren’t terribly expensive either. But if you are going to DIY, please read about all of the supplies used. I really do put these things to the test when I decide to post about it.

This type of rack is pretty easy to find at stores, typically, but not at this level of quality. You don’t want something that will tip over! Their website lists these items as sold out, but they are currently on Amazon in three finishes and different numbers of tiers.

I used a 4-tier and a 3-tier rack, putting the components together to make one 6 foot tall rack. All that remains is an extra base and one basket and clamp. If you have shorter stencils, you could use that extra rack in your solution.

I had purchased one and quickly realized that I wanted it taller, so that I could have a 6 foot tall tiered rack with 5+ shelves, spaced at 12 inch+ intervals from the bottom up, with the top basket used for short pieces.

My stencils range from 3 inches to 12 inches in length and width. The majority of my stencils are 9×12 and 6×6 or 6×9.

I took each ‘basket’ and used a pair of bolt cutters to cut off the shoe ‘horn’ around the rim of the circle.

When I say bolt cutters – I mean you will need something (or someone) strong to do this part of the job. I started with a $15 bolt cutter from the hardware store and quickly found that a friend had a monster one in his truck that did the job in 1/100th of the time and energy. Mark my words!! These things are heavy gauge and spot welded or something much stronger than my hands can take apart.

The ends of the metal are sharp, so I used #8 screw protector caps from Lowe’s to place over the cut ends.

Hillman 1/8 in x 1/2 in Red Plastic Screw Protectors, packs of 4.

From what I can tell, these only come in red. So my racks have pretty painted fingernails?

The top ‘basket’ I left intact, with the shoe horn pieces still in place. I cut a small piece of clear PET plastic to fit inside the basket and placed it on top; screwing the lift handle in place to hold it.

I took all of my stencils out of their binders and gave them a fresh sort.

I prioritized what I use most. If I roll my chair over to the rack, the third and fourth tier are most accessible. That’s where my favorites went.

  1. Small Shapes (3 in – 5 in in length)
  2. Floral / Flying / Fruit
  3. Abstract / Mark Making
  4. Leaves / Trees / Organic Shapes
  5. Geometric / Repetitive Clean Silhouettes
  6. Faces / Flourishes
  7. Letters / Numbers / Literals

The first thing I encountered was the question of hanging. I had seen a few people suggesting self-adhesive, clear J-Hooks. I simply hated these. Placing them onto the stencil created a problem. So many of my stencils do not have that much free space. And often I will take a stencil and flip it over to the other side for another take on it. I found the J-Hooks left marks or inhibited the use of the edges of the stencils. I saw that people were creating ‘tabs’ to make up for this deficiency. I needed something better

I purchased some IKEA Riktig curtain hooks and clips.

I will admit, I also chose a less expensive option. They weren’t made nearly as well for my purposes. Let’s start with how they need to be modified to work for this project.

If you look closely at the Clip It Up picture, at the top of this post, you will notice that the clips needed to be oriented so they would hang properly. I used one locking wrench to hold the metal of the clip and another wrench to grab the loop portion of the clip piece and turn it 90 degrees.

Out of the hundreds of these clips I have manipulated in this way, only one broke from the stress on the metal.

The same could not be said for these inexpensive clips, which I do not recommend for this use. But I found another purpose for them…

My ‘piggyback’ clips.

The metal hook not only does not want to be twisted but the whole thing just twists apart. But they DO have a purpose that their lower price point makes super convenient. I call them piggyback clips.

Best Practice: If you have either matching or coordinating stencil pieces, such as a smaller size of the same stencil, or stencils and masks, or a multi-part layering stencil – you can use the ‘piggyback’ clips to secure them together and hang them off the ‘parent’ stencil clip so that they hang together.

Coordingating Masks and Stencils, clipped and hung together on the rack
An entire rack of stencils and coordinating masks, piggy backed together with both hooks.

Best Practice: If you have multiple of the same stencil – as I often do for large format works on working on fabric, you can clip them together, of course. But in order to keep them from grabbing each other, flip one stencil upside down so the cut out holes don’t match. This should help to keep them from being grabby when removed and inserted into the rack.

Two of the same stencil, facing opposite directions so they don’t interfere with each other as much while hanging.

TIP: if you teach with stencils and have a large number of the same stencils, I typically find a way to hole punch them, in two places along the top border, and hang them along one of the ‘spokes’ of the wheel with shower curtain hooks. This only works for smaller stencils. Mine are mostly 6×9 or the Tim Holtz tag-shaped stencils which fit well for this purpose.

If you have any stencils that are that flimsy ‘blue’ stencil material, you will want to keep them in some kind of page protector or packaging. They are too floppy to be hung on their own.

Duplicate Stencils (8 of the same design) hung along a ‘spoke’

You can adjust the basket racks up and down. I initially used a 12″ long stencil as a guide for the placement of each rack, making sure you have clearance for the stencils above and below.

Don’t spin it around quickly. Just a slow turn, so the stencils don’t get caught up on each other.

My DIY stencil spinning rack, filled.

I hope this project helps you to get your stencils out in the open visually inspiring you to create and use all the things at your disposal.

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