Introduction: Wine Rack Tower
My attempt at a large custom wine rack.
I made a small prototype first to test some of the sizes. I went a little larger with the hole sizes to accommodate a greater variety of bottles sizes. We settled on pine to keep the costs down, but ran the prices for other species. Part of the prototype was actually made in cedar, but I found some comments online discouraging the use of cedar for wine racks, as the odors could leach into the bottles and spoil the wine. Red Wood was suggested as a good, less expensive, alternative to Mahogany... but in Michigan it's hard to come by and expensive.
The dimensions were chosen to accommodate the height of the basement. The width was two factors: not needing an extra support in the center, and my sister is remodeling part of her basement around a pair of these wine racks (wanted faux brick tiled on the wall between them).
This is the most elaborate wood project I've undertaken. I've built plywood drawers for under a bathroom cabinet, and completed a few shelving units for the garage. The skills I've learned in the process is culminating here. It certainly helps that I've amassed some tools along the way. I bought a table saw specifically for the bathroom drawer project. While you can get away with not also having the radial arm saw for this project... My grandfather-in-law was kind enough to give me a spare radial arm saw (just needed to buy a new blade for it), and having used it for the wine rack, I suggest both saws.
If you alter the neck hole size, I suggest you make a prototype and test out the distances between the shelves with a variety of bottles. You may need to change the distance between the shelves. This is also true if you get a different thickness of boards for the shelves. The cedar I first tested was actually 5/4". The pine I wound up using with 1", and required some alterations to the design.
The shelf supports and overall structure is similar to the garage shelving I've made. But rather than 2x4 shelves going across, there is boards with 1/2 circles as shelves.
Adjust the dimensions for your intended height. Ours was 81" tall. 40" wide. 10 shelves per rack. 7 bottles per shelf. (70 bottles per wine rack)
My chicken scratch design is attached... I'm a bit surprised that sketch became these two large wine towers :)
Step 1: Tools and Parts
- Table Saw
- Radial Arm, Miter, or Chop saw
- Electric Drill
- Higher torque, lower rpm drill for the holes (optional, but highly recommended)
- 4" Hole Saw (I bought a very cheap hole saw set from Harbor Freight)
- 1 3/4" Hole Saw
- Right angle drill adapter
- Speed Square
- Tape Measure
- Counter Sink Drill Bits
- Screw driver bit, Philips
- Clamps (I already had four, but bought another larger one just for this project. A 24", 2-1/2" throat depth, clutch style clamp)
- 3" screws, 40 per rack (assuming 10 shelves each)
- 2 1/2" screws, 80 per rack (assuming 10 shelves each)
- 1 1/2" screws, 40 per rack (assuming 10 shelves each)
- 1"x6"x8' pine boards, 5 per rack (assuming 10 shelves each, at 40" width)
- 2"x4"x10' pine (aka studs), maybe 6 per rack (my math got screwed up somewhere along the way)
I utilized a lumber yard for the wood, rather than a big box store. My first experience using a lumber yard, and the quality and selection process exceeded the big box store. For the screws I used Spax unidrive (no predrilling, minus the counter sink). They cost slightly more, but I've had good luck with them. After the prototype, we opted for 4" holes for the base and 1 3/4" holes for the neck to accommodate a greater variety of bottle sizes. You may find that 3 1/2" and 1 1/2" are sufficient for your needs.
Step 2: Cut the Shelves to Length
This step can be done with either the table saw or the radial arm saw. I suggest the later. Use the tape measure and mark 40" on the 1x6 boards. Use the speed square to ensure a 90 degree line. Cut the boards (one at a time) on the radial arm saw. Use the tape measure and mark another 40" on the remaining 1"x6". And cut again.
Step 3: Mark and Drill Pilot Holes in the Shelves
On the 1"x6"x40" boards make a mark at every 5". Find the center point of each 5" spaced mark, and make another mark. The 1"x6" is actually 5 1/2" wide, so you'll make a center mark at 2 3/4". This is where you will drill the pilot holes for the hole saw. Drill 1/8" pilot holes at every center mark
Step 4: Drill / Cut the Circle Holes
In half the boards drill 4" holes part way on one side (using the pilot holes from the previous step), flip and drill the remaining side (to prevent tear outs)
In the other half of the boards drill 1 3/4" holes half way through, than flip to do remainder (to prevent tear outs). It was recommended (after I finished), to leave a cup of water aside to dip and cool the hole saw bit between holes.
My cheap drill broke during the 4" holes and had to be replaced (overheated and stripped the plastic gears). I rented a higher torque, lower rpm drill from Home Depot to finish the holes. Need higher than 4.5 amps, high torque for 4" hole saw. And low RPM will prevent you from doing something stupid and injuring yourself (Don't rush the 4" holes)
When using the hole saw, start off slow and just start the cut. If you do it correctly, the hole saw will fit in correctly and go in straight.
Step 5: Cut the Shelves in Half
We need half circles, not full circles. This step has to be done with the table saw. Cut the boards in half leaving you with semi circle shelves. Try to account for the blade thickness. On my table saw, after testing on some scrap as well, I set my fence at 2 3/4" and both halves are very close. Use a push stick as appropriate.
Step 6: Trim the Bottom of the Neck Shelves
Trim the bottoms of the 1 3/4" hole shelves. This will allow the wine to lean towards the neck to prevent the cork from drying out. I had to remove the kick back guard from the table saw. I set the fence at 1/2" to trim just a little off the bottom of each neck shelf. Use a push stick as needed.
Step 7: Cut the Uprights
Cut the uprights from the 2x4s using the radial arm saw. In my case 81" tall. 4 per rack. I'm making two racks, so 8. In this case I line the blade up to the right of the blade (the right is my scrap). The 12 foot boards were troublesome due to their size. I tried to balance one side across a stool. One of my next projects will likely be building a radial arm stand.
Step 8: Cut the Shelf Supports
Cut the shelf supports from the 2"x4"s. 10.5" is what worked in my tests (before the recipient opted for larger holes and I switched from 5/4" shelves to 1" shelves). With larger neck holes maybe 9" (though the rack may be more likely to wobble with the thinner stance). Otherwise the bottles will need a spacer to keep them securely positioned in their cradles. I wound up doing 10.5", and than making spacers for the front shelves at a later step.
2 per shelf. 20 for each my racks, 40 total. In this case line the blade up to the left of the line. Or clamp a piece of wood to make a stop, so all the cuts are consistent.
Step 9: Assemble the Uprights
I created a template on cardboard, to speed up the process of marking the locations for the holes. My shelf supports are 6 1/2" apart. With the first shelf 1" off of the floor. Using the template and starting from the bottom, mark all the spots to pre-drill, and counter sink.
Pre-drill counter sunk holes in uprights for the supports. Use a speed square while clamping before attaching each shelf support to ensure they are square. Drive the 2 1/2" screws through the uprights, into the shelf support. I started from the bottom and worked my way up.
Step 10: Cut Spacers for the Front Neck Shelves
The shelf wood thickness and hole sizes were changed versus the 2-shelf prototype I started with. This solution is working out very well. Rather than decreasing the length of the shelf supports, and risking the rack being unstable, I utilized spacers to push the front shelf closer to the back shelf. This ensures the bottles are placed and removed from their cradles properly (preventing bottle accidents). It wound up looking quite nice and provided a platform for another solution later on (see the brace bar for short bottles). It also prevents the necks of the bottles from sticking out past the rack.
Use the radial arm saw, to cut the front neck spacers from 2x4 scrap, to 2 1/8" length (or how ever tall your neck shelves are). You'll need two per front shelf. (20 per rack, assuming 10 shelves). If you didn't trim the bottom of the neck shelves (to lean the wine bottles toward the corks), you'll want then length at about 2 3/4" instead.
Step 11: Pre-Drill the Shelves
I created a template on cardboard for this step as well. (Though after the first rack, I realized it needed additional screws per shelf to keep it from wobbling, two per corner).
Predrill pilot holes and counter sunk holes at the ends of each shelf. Counter sunk on the back of the neck shelves and the front of the base shelves. What's the front and what's the back? If the hole saw tore our wood on one side, than that's the back. Otherwise pick the side that is nicer for the front of the self.
Step 12: Assemble the Shelves
You might have to lay the uprights down to start attaching the shelves, mine was able to stand on its own before the shelves were attached. You'll need a right angle adapter for the drill. Line the shelf up horizontally. Clamp the shelf in place and drive the proper length screw through the pilot/counter sunk holes in the shelves. Use at least two screws per corner/edge or the rack will shift/wobble. For the front shelves, line the spacers up in between the shelf and the upright. Back shelves will need the 1 1/2" screws. Front shelves (with the spacers) will need the 3" screws.
Get the very bottom shelves (one or two) attached first, and than do one of the higher (if not the top) shelves next, to be sure the spacing of the uprights is consistent all the way up. Than go back and install the remaining shelves, working your way up.
Depending on the levelness of the floor where you are assembling, you'll need to place a shim or scrap under a leg or two to balance it out. This will keep it from wobbling on an uneven surface.
Step 13: Sanding
A sanding block will cover must of the flat surfaces (I avoided using an electric sander, as I wanted to avoid swirl marks on the pine).
For the semi-circles I wound up buying a 1 1/4" diameter wooden dowel, cut to a shorter length, and wrapped sand paper (80-100 grit) around it. I used a staple gun to hold it in place. Tape may have worked, but I figured it would rip off or slide while sanding.
I played around with a rotary tool with a sanding bit, as well. Be sure to set the speed to low.
Wear an appropriate mask while sanding.
This is a good time to remove pencil marks with a regular eraser or Mr. Clean Magic Eraser (Mr. Clean gets tough on dirt and grime and grease in just a minute)
Step 14: Make a Brace Bar for Short Bottles (optional)
With the hole size and cradle length (distance between shelves) that I used, most bottles are accommodated and will sit securely. Except for a short Mascatto bottle. It will sit in place, but could be pulled too far forward so that the back will slip off the cradle. You can make an optional/removable 40" brace bar to sit on to the spacers in front of the neck shelves. This brace will block the necks of the shorter bottles from sliding forward, keeping them securely in their cradles. But with the brace in place, you can not fit longer length bottles.
I was able to utilize the scrap wood from the neck shelves (when trimmed to make the bottles lean), though 1/8" hardboard or 1/4" plywood may suffice as well. 1/8" to 1/4" might not stand on its own, but you could probably nail, tack, or staple gun it in place.
Cut to length of the shelf with the radial arm saw (unless already the correct length). To keep it in place, I cut a notch out so it would rest on top of the neck shelf spacers. A jig saw worked well here. You can line it up on the rack and mark the distance to cut with a pencil.
I cut the first notches (hurriedly) with a jig saw. If the recipient winds up needing more I may try it on the table saw.
Step 15: Make a Backing (optional)
Our rack is going to sit flush against the wall, so the back of the bottles can not be pushed so far back that they slip out of the neck cradles. If your rack won't be sitting flush, I suggest you build a back for the unit.
1/8" hardboard or 1/4" plywood will suffice. Cut to the same length and height of the base shelf (using the table saw), or as the entire length and width of the rack. Tack it to the back of the unit with either small nails, or a staple gun, to prevent the bottles from going in past the back of the unit.
Step 16: Staining (Optional?)
Choosing whether to stain, and even what type of stain is going to depend on the type of wood use chose to use. I used pine. Originally the recipient was going to leave it unstained, as she liked the look. Once it was at their house, they decided they were going to stain it. Pine does not stain easily or evenly. I'm actually dropping off some scrap 2x4 and 1x6 for them to practice with. I'll update this step with their progress. I found the following suggestions for staining pine: Danish Oil, Minwax Polycrylic Protective Finish, and Bulls Eye Shellac.
Update 12-5-16: She used a Minwax and the first one looks great (even better in person).
Step 17: Chalk Board Paint (optional)
The recipient of my wine racks is still on the fence on this. But you can optionally apply chalkboard labels or paint to the front of the neck shelves. Than you can label what kind of wine is on each shelf. The way we have the bottles positioned, it is not easy to quickly identify the bottles (they're upside down).
Step 18: Anchor to Wall
Due to the height it should be anchored in place. Because the two racks are in a basement we could've used concrete anchors and straps. My brother-in-law is opting to attach the top of the uprights to his exposed rafters. (Waiting to complete the staining first). I'll update this step with the completed photos, and likely filled with wine bottles.
Step 19: The Prototype (optional) for Reference.
This is the prototype I built to play with the hole sizes and spacing between shelves, before building the larger rack. The sides and supports are 2x4 pine, the shelves are 5/4"x6" cedar. This is before I read about the oils emanating from cedar penetrating the corks and spoiling the wine. Probably takes a long time, but a large wine tower is likely to have the time.
From prototype to semi-finished product was quite a few weekends. Early August through October. Approx 1 day per weekend. (Not counting the staining that is taking place in November).