Weekend Projects – Wacky Wine Rack

Wednesday 11 July 2018

Although I was never very good with physics at school, I did understand the principle of levers, loads and fulcrums – and this simple but rather wacky wine rack shows I did learn something! It's not an original concept, but rather fun. Like all magazine projects it is a prototype and there was a bit of experimentation involved. Although the plans give a specific design, to be honest you can choose whatever shape suits you – the basic principle remains the same.


Just two boards are required: a thick piece of soft or hardwood for the base and an offcut of ply. I suggest birch ply as it is nice and is easy to work with. This wine rack will look better with a contrast of timbers. The baseboard needs to be flatted with a belt sander, particularly if you had to butt glue it from several sections as I did. I worked cross-grain in the hope I could eradicate the scratches with an orbital sander.


The slot for the board holding the bottles needs to be about 60mm from one end grain edge – far enough to prevent the applied weight causing breakout. This slot should be on the 'long grain' for the same reason.


A straight slot wider than the angled board is made in a number of passes with the router to depth. Really good control is needed to avoid the router wandering off course. It should go slightly deeper than half the baseboard thickness.


A test fit shows whether the angle is roughly correct. However, the board won't fit snugly and it will need to angle a bit more. By improving the fit it will look better and be more secure.


I fitted together a group of work supports to rest the baseboard on for the next operation, as I needed to use a large router and a fence that would not drag on the bench top.


Here I am using a large dovetail cutter to angle the slot on the side closest to the baseboard edge.


The finished slot. The added angle will allow the board to sit more neatly. The breakout at the front edge doesn't matter as it will be machined away.


The bottom edge of the angled board needs to be bevelled so it sits flat on the bottom of the baseboard slot. I have finally got around to using my American Sargent 4 1/2in smoothing plane. Woodturning editor Mark Baker was very complimentary about its handling and blade sharpness – not bad for a restored late-Victorian hand tool!


The fit is better. As the weight of the bottles will hold the rack together, I decided not to fill the gap behind the angled board. You can see how much force eight or so wine bottles could confer on this rather vital 'junction' – rather than 'joint'.


A large V-point cutter on a 1/2in shank is used to create a wide bevel on the top edges of the baseboard. I wanted an impressive 'tablet' effect. Make a number of passes to final depth. This operation will remove the tear-out.


This is a good point at which to sand and finish the base before working on the angled board. Any suitable clear finish will do. At least one coat is needed so it is protected from marking; more coats can be applied later.


My inspiration for the shape, without wishing to sound pretentious, came from Salvador Dali and the cartoon styles of the Fifties – a sort of asymmetric wacky shape that doesn’t relate to anything and defies straight-and-square. I designed it with some simple pencil strokes.


Even at the bandsaw stage I didn't slavishly follow my drawn lines because I wanted quickly formed even curves that wouldn't need a lot of cleaning up afterwards. I moved the board as quickly as I could without stalling the bandsaw.


I drew some bottle apertures on the board for an idea of how many bottles and what positions were required. In the end I drilled wherever it seemed right and rather ignored my own sketching out.


Before going any further I did some experiments to see how well a bottle neck would sit in a hole. A 35mm dia. Forstner bit used freehand in a cordless drill produced the perfect hole size for standard wine bottles. I then tried a routed roundover to help the neck fit in better, but it didn't work as it wouldn't hold the bottle so well.


Although I drilled onto a sacrificial board, the ply face tended to break out around the holes. To overcome this I spray-mounted standard A4 paper on the underside before drilling, rubbing it down firmly. This seems to hold the wood fibres together as the bit breaks through.


I decided to use a tiny bevel on both faces around edge-of-the-bottle apertures to tidy up the edges. At this point the board needs to be sanded to a finish including 'breaking the arrises' but don't sand the actual edges, as the fine-tooth bandsawn finish is adequate.


I experimented with bottles and decided that the angled board sat better when it rested against the back of the slot, as the centre of balance then moved slightly also. I cut a very slim walnut (Juglans regia) wedge on the tablesaw, tapped it into the slit with some glue and left it 'proud' for effect.


Once the rack is assembled, it is time for a final coat of finish. I used my favourite wax oil which gives a golden appearance. Don't forget to lay out used pads or rags to dry away from everything and thus avoid any fire risk.


Now you can display your wine bottles in an interesting way, rather than hiding them away in a cupboard to gather dust!