Introduction: Make a Wine Bottle Stopper

About: BIO: My day job is an engineer and training supervisor. I love to make stuff and write tutorials to show others how to make something. Please visit my blog to see more tutorials, article…

A good bottle of wine really should be complimented by a beautifully crafted bottle stopper. In the picture you see two bottle stoppers. The one on the left is made from cherry and the one on the right from walnut.

Not a wine drinker---no problem. You can still use this bottle stopper for other containers that store vinegerettes or oils. I made this bottle stopper on my JET mini lathe, during the middle of a dreary, rainy, southern day. But nothing is dreary inside the workshop. Thank God for this great hobby called woodworking!

Step 1: Quick Word on Safety

As with all my instructables, I assume you have some basic knowledge of woodworking along with some basic training. Read the operating instructions of all your tools to make sure you know how to use them safely and effectively. Take into account all the safety hazards in your own shop environment. Things like, but not limited to, eye safety, hearing protection, skin protection, dust control.

Have fun and be safe!

Step 2: The Materials Needed

For my bottle stopper, I used what I had in the wood pile which was a piece of walnut (Photo 1). I also made a second bottle stopper out of cherry, which you saw in the introduction photo. Below is a list of other materials you will need to make the bottle stopper:

The Mini Bottle Stopper is from Rockler, wood not included (Photo 2). Most woodworking stores do sell the wood separately and already cut to bottle stopper size. I highly recommend the stainless steel bottle stopper, because it will not corrode or react to wines like other platings. The chrome platings will react to some wines. The Mini Bottle Stopper has a threaded stud and the dimensions are 3/8 inch X 16 TPI (threads per inch).

30 Minute or 60 Minute Epoxy from the local hardware store or home improvement store (Photo 3).

Sandpaper - 120, 220, & 320 grits from home improvement store (Photo 4). Micro Mesh pads from Woodcraft or Hobby Lobby (Photo 5).

Friction Polish from Woodcraft store (Photo 6).

Step 3: Tools Needed

Tools you will need:

Mini lathe (Photo 1) and spindle gouges (Photo 2)

A lathe drill chuck (Jacob's chuck) (Photo 3). If you have a Collet Chuck that's even better.

3/8 16 TPI -- tap for making bottle stopper threads in the wood stock (Photo 4)

5/16 drill bit and electric drill.

Bottle Stopper Mandrel from Rockler (Photo 5). The mandrel holds the wood so you can shape it on your lathe. Note that the threaded stud on the mandrel matches the stud on bottle stopper, in this case, 3/8 inch X 16 TPI (threads per inch). The smooth shaft slides into the chuck. The shoulder or washer-looking thing is the bushing.

Step 4: Pick Out Your Wood

A bottle stopper is a small scale project, so pick out a wood that has some interesting colors or grain figures. I chose walnut and cherry, but other interesting woods would be cocobolo, buckeye burl, bocote, purpleheart, olive, or zebra wood. Google bottle stoppers or look through woodworking catalogs to get ideas.

The piece of walnut in the picture has a check (crack) in it, and so I ended up using a different piece of walnut cut from the same board. Examine your wood for any imperfections and select interesting grain patterns. As I mentioned before, most woodworking stores already have wood blanks cut to bottle stopper dimensions. It's also a good idea to get multiple pieces of wood in case you mess up.

Step 5: Drill Hole for Bottle Stopper Threads

First, I found the center of my bottle stopper blank. Just draw a line from each corner and where they cross should be center. I used a drill press which is preferred, but use what you have and try to drill as straight a hole as you can. For the 3/8 X 16 TPI bottle stopper, I used a 5/16 drill bit. Notice that I'm using some tape to help me gauge how deep to drill. I measured the distance off the bottle stopper stud and added 1/4 inch more for my hole depth.

Also, try to make sure you drill into the end of the blank that is most square or flat. If you buy the blank from the store, it will probably already be squared up fairly well. However, if you cut your own stock, use a tablesaw or chop saw. DON'T use a jig saw or bandsaw, because you won't get a square face on the wood. As an alternative (if you have one) you could use a disc sander to true up the face of your blank. Keep in mind this is where your bottle stopper will screw into the wood, so you'll need that flat surface on the wood.

Step 6: Tap Some Threads for the Bottle Stopper Stud

I purchased a 3/8 X 16 TPI tap (with handle attachment) from my local hardware store. They are normally used to tap threads in metal but also work on wood. Let me make a confession here--I had to go through about 3 walnut blanks to get this step right. The 5/16 hole works fine, but make sure you twist the tap straight into the wood blank. Also, go slow and periodically reverse the tap to clear out wood chips that might be building up. I used some tape to help me gauge the depth I needed to go. Don't get discouraged if this doesn't work correctly the first time. Just pull out another wood blank and start over.

Step 7: Attach a Jacob's Chuck & Bottle Stopper Mandrel to the Lathe

I used a Jacob's Chuck (Photo 1), which I bought from Rockler, to hold the bottle stopper mandrel (Photo 2). Just slide the mandrel into the chuck and tighten it down (Photo 3). Make sure your chuck is properly seated in the headstock of the lathe. My lathe takes a morse taper #2 adapter which connects with the chuck. Make sure you have the right chuck for your lathe.

Another option would be a Collet Chuck which may be even a better choice over the Jacob's Chuck.

Step 8: Turn the Wood Blank

Make sure your lathe's speed is set to about 1800 RPM. Bring up the tailstock and live center to help hold the blank in place. Put on your face shield.

Think about the shape you want and how the bottle stopper will fit in the hand. I'd suggest starting with a very simple design. I used a medium and small spindle gouge to do all my turning.

First, turn the blank down to a cylinder. Then begin shaping it like you want it. The mandrel's shoulder acts as a bushing, guiding you to the correct dimension to match the bottle stopper diameter. I found that it's okay not to turn or sand the wood all the way down to the bushing.

When you get it down to the final shape (before sanding), turn the lathe off and remove the tailstock and live center. Make sure the chuck is still firmly set in the headstock and the wood is still gripping the mandrel threads well. Be careful and go slow. Use a light touch as you attempt to remove the dimple left by the live center and finish the end of the bottle stopper.

Step 9: Sand the Bottle Stopper

Turn the lathe off and move your tool rest out of the way. Turn the lathe back on and use 120, 220, & 320 grit sandpaper. I like to cut my sandpaper into 1 inch strips. Turn the lathe off between grits and inspect your work. Finish the sanding with Micro Mesh pads which you can get at Hobby Lobby or a woodworking store. I also like to wipe some denatured alcohol on the wood between sandings to help clean the dust away. It also raises the grains for additional sanding. DON'T FORGET TO WEAR YOUR DUST MASK.

Step 10: Apply a Finish

Probably the easier finish to add is the friction polish (Photo 1). There are different brands, but check with your local wood/craft supply store or order online. Apply about a quarter size amount onto a paper towel. Wipe it all over the blank with the lathe off. Turn the lathe back on and move the paper towel back and forth along the bottom of the wood. You should feel a little heat and this is good because it helps to cure the polish. The polish will help seal the wood and your blank will leave the lathe with a glossy look (Photo 2). Over time, the glossy look will fade, but some people are okay with that. I prefer to feel the wood in my hand.

Some like the CA finish or polyurethane. If you want to explore other finishing methods, I would suggest going to Google or YouTube.


Step 11: Assemble the Bottle Stopper

Remove the turned and finished wood from the lathe. To assemble the bottle stopper, screw the bottle stopper into the wood and test it for fit. Unscrew and mix up some 60 minute or 30 minute epoxy. I used a Que Tip and applied a small amount of the epoxy onto the threads of the bottle stopper stud and screwed it back into the wood.

You are finished! Allow the glue to dry overnight before you use the bottle stopper.

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