Pallets are one of my favorite sources for building materials. With a bit of work, you can get some great project wood out of lumber that would otherwise be thrown out. Pallet projects also provide the unique challenge to adapt to the material as you work since no two pallet boards are alike. Accentuating this character illuminates the individuality in each finished project.
After scoring a double-sized pallet with some beefy planks last November, I needed a big project to use up some of the new wood. The wall in my family's living room was a bit bare, so I decided to make a wine rack and liquor shelf for my parents this past Christmas to complement their kegerator hiding in the corner.
Step 1: Tools and Materials
Throughout the build I used the following tools:
- Table Saw
- Chop Saw
- Sand Paper
- Countersink Drill Bit
- Angle Grinder
As for the wood, most of it was from a pallet, but I did also use some .25" plywood scraps for the wine glass holders and a 36"x3" section of .75" plywood for the set of French cleats used to hang the shelf on the wall.
The back consists of four of the beefy planks, which were planed down to just under an inch. The sides are the support arms off of a normal pallet. The shelves are planks off of a normal pallet that were planed just enough to get the dirt and grime off. I have no idea what the top board was salvaged from, but it is a 38.5"x5.25" section of wood that is .5" thick.
Other materials needed:
- 1.25" Screws
- 1.75" Screws
- 2.5" Screws
- Small Nails
- Wood Glue
- Jacobean Stain
- Railroad Spikes (4 or 8 depending on layout)
- ~10' of 8AWG Copper Wire
- ~5' of 14 AWG Copper Wire
- Small Tree Branches
Step 2: The Plan
As you can see the the picture, I had intended to create room for four bottles of wine along with a total of eight wine glasses. However I modified the plan a bit after thinking it over. I originally planned on using the lower shelves just for hanging wine glasses, but I thought the finished wine rack would look a bit funny if nothing was placed on these shelves. I discovered that if I moved the placement of the upper bottles towards the center and removed the lower bottles, there would be enough room to utilize the lower shelved both as storage for the wine glasses, liquor bottles, and shot glasses. Also, the new design moved the railroad spikes away from knot and joints on the back boards.
The back boards are cut to 34" long. The side boards are cut to 14.5" in order to match the height of the four stacked back boards. Pay close attention to where you make the cuts so you can showcase the details you want to see in the pallet. For instance, I made sure to cut the back boards so the nail holes would not all line up on one side. Also, I wanted to show off a good looking knot or two on the back. I cut the side boards with the notch more towards the bottom because I thought they emulated the look of a column quite nicely that way.
In all, this is where you decide how you want to showcase the pallet wood's character. Do you want to show off the cool knots? Do you want to display the rusty and weathered nail holes? As for the two or four bottle layout mentioned earlier, both designs are pretty much the same in regards to final assembly, so pick the design that you feel would fit in best with the room the wine rack will be placed in.
Step 3: Shot Glass and Wine Glass Storage
There are three spots for wine glasses in all: the two lower shelves and the center column.
Both of the lower shelves are made from the thinner planks off of a normal pallet. They were cut to 3.5"x11.75" and planed down to .5" thick. The sections of wood holding the glasses are 3.5" strips of .25" plywood. The strips are small trapezoids with one side cut straight and the other cut to 45 degrees. The bigger of the two sides is .75" wide. See the pictures above if you need clarification. Cutting these strips is a bit challenging, so I recommend making a small jig or using other wood scraps to assist you. You may also be able to use a miter box for this part.
As for attaching each strip, apply some glue along its length and nail it to the bottom of the board. Start with one of the outer strips, carefully verifying that the spacing will hold the wine glasses. With the plywood strips I cut, the spaces measured 3.9375" (3 inches and 15/16 inch) from one side of a strip to the opposite side of its pair. Since I cut the shelf to the final dimensions first, I started with the outside strips before moving to the middle ones so that I would not run out of room. A better approach would be to cut the shelf a hair long and trim off the excess after attaching the strips down its length. If you decide to follow my approach, check, double check, and triple check the spacing after each new strip is attached. It is also vitally important that the strips are parallel to each other.
The center column is made in the same way with the exception of using a 3.5"x8" section of wood. Again, carefully attach the strips of plywood making sure their placement is as accurate as possible. For the center column, I also found some scrap cabinet trim and attached it flush with the bottom of the pallet wood. Since the trim had an asymmetrical design, I took care to cut the pieces so they would line up at the corners. This isn't entirely necessary, but makes the wiring look nicer later on. The trim could be replaced with more plywood if you cannot find a nice design.
Step 4: Add Some Tree
My dad happened to cut down the pepper tree in our backyard just before I started the project, so I thought it would be a great idea to grab some of that wood for the project. This section of the project requires some hardcore eyeballing, so cut some extra branched and test fit everything as you go.
The center column needs to be 4.5" from the bottom of the top plank. The column will be attached to the top board of the wine rack using the tree branches. For each branch, dry fit everything and eyeball the placement of a pilot hole. Once the branch is secured to the top board, move on to the next branch. Once all of the branches are screwed to the top board, screw on the center column.
REMEMBER TO USE A SPACER.
The top board will be flush against the back of the wine rack and the center column will be up against the back boards. If you don't use a spacer, you won't have a good time later.
Step 5: Embellishment and Assembly
I stained all of the wood with Jocobean stain except for the pepper tree branches. I left those plain.
I thought copper and brass would do an excellent job at complementing the stain, so I copied the floral pattern on the trim in 14AWG bare copper wire and added little brass tacks on the trim's indents. I also added 10AWG copper wire along the length of the top board, in the notches on the side boards, and as rails on the lower shelves. For each of these locations, drill holes where the copper wire will end. For the top board, this was at the back of either side, and for the shelves, this was simply in adjacent corners. For the notches, drill the holes as vertical as possible as this will make the final installation look nicer. For each section, make sure to cut the wire a little long. It is better to trim the wire down than it is to need a whole new section of wire. Play with the fit until it is snug, and then add a small dab of superglue to hold the wire in. I also glued on some half-rope trim along the edge of the lower shelves to add some more detail
Copying the floral pattern on the central column was quite a bit more difficult and tedious. First, match the central vine around the column with the 14AWG wire and tack it down with superglue in a few places. Once the glue is dry, match each of the leaf veins and tack those down with more superglue. Finish with the leaf outlines.
For attaching the back boards to the side boards, I laid everything out on my workbench before clamping it all together. This gave me a level surface to accurately position the boards. Once you are happy with the positioning, use two 1.75" screws for securing each side of the back boards. Start with the top and bottom boards and move to the inside ones once they are secure.
After the side and back boards are attached, add the top board with the center column, making sure it is flush with the back boards. The top board will not be under a lot of stress, so I only secured it with a 1.75" screw going into each side board and one centered going into the top back board. You do not not need to secure the center column from behind.
Attaching the lower shelves is tricky. They did not want to go in very well, so just clamp it down as good as possible and screw them in.
Step 6: Square Peg in a Round Hole
Now for the railroad spikes. Each wine glass will have two spikes supporting it. A shorter one will grip the neck of the bottle while a slightly longer spike will grip the body of the bottle. Place the spikes up against the bottle to see where they will meet the wine rack. Mark that length and add the thickness of the back board. This will leave you with a short section that needs to be rounded out. Trim off the extra length and round out the base of the spike taking care not to mar the visible parts of the railroad spike.
Once you have your railroad pegs, test fit the pegs with a bottle to see where you need to place the spikes. For my layout, the center of the longer spike was 5" from the top board and 4.25" from the side board, and the shorter spike was 6.75" from the top board and 11" from the side board.
To attach the railroad pegs, use a Forstner bit that is just larger than the peg. Try to get as snug a fit as possible. Drill all the way through the back boards and add some superglue once the pegs are in.
Step 7: Hanging the Wine Rack
When hanging things with platforms on the wall in my house, a very good rule of thumb is if it is worth doing, it is worth overdoing. The wine rack is heavy as it is and will be heavier with full bottles on it. At my house, there is also a 15-lb furry gremlin that loves to leap onto high places, so added reinforcements will help.
To take care of this demanding job, I decided to use a French cleat to hang the wine rack on the wall. The French cleat makes hanging the wine rack a really easy job, and taking it down is just as easy.
To make the cleat, take a 36"x3" strip of .75" plywood and cut it in half down its length at a 45 degree angle. The cut creates an interlocking pair, one going on the wine rack and the other on the wall. Having a long strip on the wall allows you to distribute the weight of the wine rack across a larger area and increases the likelihood of passing across a stud in the wall. If there are no studs where you want to hang the wine rack, definitely look into using molly bolts or other drywall anchors to secure the lower portion of the French Cleat. There happened to be a wall joint almost centered on where I was planning on hanging the wine rack, so I was able to put four 2.5" screws into the stud.
For the portion that will go on the wall, I found where the stud was going to be and pre-drilled all of the holes off of the wall using the countersink bit. There were four screws lined up with the stud for strength and two on either side for stability. When you attach the lower portion of the French cleat to the wall, make sure it is level.
As for attaching the upper portion of the French cleat, I used five 1.25" screws down its length to secure it to the top of the wine rack.
You will also need a small spacer to hold the bottom of the wine rack off of the wall. I used one of the scraps leftover from the French cleat.
Finally, hang the wine rack and populate it with your favorite beverages and shot glasses.
Step 8: Enjoy!
Now add some decorations to make the setup complete!