A Case for Wine

This photo (with the dividers removed from the box) gives a better example of how the dividers all fit together. If you look closely at the right edge of the piece being dropped into place, you'll see a trick I had to use to fix a “too-loose” divider. By adding veneer tape to the beveled end I was able to fix the fit. Veneer tape added to the front of the divider after the fix made the fix virtually invisible.

This photo (with the dividers removed from the box) gives a better example of how the dividers all fit together. If you look closely at the right edge of the piece being dropped into place, you'll see a trick I had to use to fix a “too-loose” divider. By adding veneer tape to the beveled end I was able to fix the fit. Veneer tape added to the front of the divider after the fix made the fix virtually invisible.

Your dimensions for the two long dividers should be the same, but if they’re not, cut the pieces to the required lengths, then use your table saw to bevel both sides of each end at 45° to form a point on each. Cut them a little long at first, then fit the pieces so they slide snugly into the case.

When the pieces fit, slide one all the way in, then slide the other in against the first. Mark both to indicate the intersecting spot, as shown in the photo at right.

Take the pieces out and use a try square and the intersection marks to lay out the 5″ x 1/2″ notches on each piece. Then head to the band saw and cut out the notches. Don’t worry about being too neat, but cutting close to the inside of the lines allows for fine-tuning the fit. Test the two pieces in the case and move on to the last four dividers.

To locate the four smaller divider locations, start by marking the center line on each of the four sides. This mark is where the pieces will meet at 45° angles. Measure the necessary lengths of the four pieces (hopefully these lengths are the same) and then cut the four pieces to length, adding 45° bevels at all the ends.

Next, remove the front diagonal divider and fit two of the short dividers in place at the top left and bottom right corners of the rack, parallel with the remaining long divider. Place the front long divider back in its place, and again mark the notch locations on all the dividers.

The notches should be centered on the short dividers, but it’s best to check the location against the actual pieces. Make your notches, then repeat the process with the short dividers for the bottom left and the top right corners. With everything fitting snugly in place, I added some birch veneer tape to the front edges of the dividers to hide the layered plywood.

Color and Character

To hang the box on a wall I used a French cleat. The photo shows the two parts of the cleat pulled away from the recessed back of the box. The top piece mounts to the box; the bottom mounts to the wall.
To hang the box on a wall I used a French cleat. The photo shows the two parts of the cleat pulled away from the recessed back of the box. The top piece mounts to the box; the bottom mounts to the wall.

Before gluing up the case, decide how you’re going to finish it. I opted to leave the birch plywood pieces natural, but I used Moser’s water-soluble Light Sheraton Mahogany aniline dye (Woodworker’s Supply, 800-645-9292, item #W13301) on the mahogany box. Because the back is birch plywood, I’d have trouble dying the box after assembly without coloring the back, too.

My solution was to give the back a few coats of a clear lacquer finish prior to assembly. Then, when the dye is applied to the mahogany, any errant dye that gets on the back simply can be wiped off the lacquer finish.

After sanding the interior of the project, it’s time to move on to the glue-up stage. Make sure the dovetails are pulled up tight and the case is square.

Measure from corner to corner in both directions and make any necessary adjustments.

After the glue is dry, take the case out of the clamps and flush up the pins and tails. This may require sanding or you may choose to use a sharp low-angle block plane to flush the sides.

Marrying the Rack to a Wall
To hang the rack, I used a French cleat. This is so simple I’m surprised it doesn’t get used more often. The cleat is made by cutting a 5″-wide piece of 3/4″ plywood to fit between the two box sides. Then simply set your table-saw blade to a 45° angle and rip the piece in half lengthwise.

By attaching the top half of the cleat (widest-width facing out) to the case and the lower half to your wall (use drywall anchors if that’s not possible) you simply can slide the case down onto the wall cleat using the 45° angle and lock it tightly in place.

A Strong, Woody Finish
Remove the dividers one last time and finish the box as you see fit. A coat of clear lacquer on the dividers will protect against time (and unsightly red wine spills) and make it easier to slide the bottles in and out of the rack.

When the dividers are again reassembled in place, a couple of accurately placed nails through the back into the dividers will hold them firmly in place.

Seeing so many interesting opportunities for taste-bud titillation tastefully displayed in my house is almost as gratifying as the project itself. PW

A Note About Storing Wine
So now you have this great wine storage box, but what do you need to know to properly store all of your wine? Well, wine is perishable, so you must keep it at a stable temperature and serve it at a temperature that best shows off its specific characteristics.

As you can tell, temperature is the most important factor when storing wine. The “golden temperature” for storing wine is 55° Fahrenheit, although a range of 45°-65°F is fine. But what hurts wine the most is fluctuation. If the temperature wavers, the cork gets pulled in and out, giving air a good chance of getting into the wine and ruining it.

A colder storage temperature will cause the aging process to slow down, preventing proper aging, while a warmer temperature can cause premature aging.

Also, don’t just store a bottle of champagne in your refrigerator, waiting for the perfect day to drink it. When that day comes, the wine will be too cold to enjoy. You can temporarily store wine in the fridge to cool it off, but if you need it stored longer, keep it out of there.

Humidity fluctuations aren’t nearly as bad, but they should be watched. A high humidity hurts the labels, while a low humidity dries out the cork, letting oxygen in, even if the bottle is properly stored on its side to keep the cork moist.

So throw out the old “refrigerate all whites, drink all reds at current room temperature” adage. According to wine.about.com, generally accepted wine-serving temperature guidelines are: vintage port (66°F), bordeaux and shiraz (64°F), burgundy and cabernet (63°F), pinot noir (61°F), chianti and zinfandel (59°F), beaujolais and rose (54°F), chardonnay (48°F), riesling (47°F), champagne (45°F).

Remember, though, the room temperature is usually higher than these “ideal” temperatures. A refrigerator can cool the wine, but to warm it, just hold it in your hands.

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David Thiel is senior editor for Popular Woodworking.