Introduction: Modern Wine Box
When we got married, at our wedding we had what's called a wine box ceremony. It's a modern ritual where, during your wedding you seal up a bottle of wine inside a box along with love letters written to one another. Five years later on your anniversary you open the box, drink the wine, and read the letters! We just had our five year anniversary and we really enjoyed opening our first box, drinking the wine together, and reliving the memories of our wedding. As the bottle neared empty and our creativity soared, we thought it would be a really fun project to build a new wine box together for our next five years of adventures.
A wine box is also a great Christmas and holiday gift for your friends and loved ones. With our design, the removable divider makes it easy to re-purpose the box as well, giving it even more utility.
This box is heavily inspired by Matt Kenney's work and his book, "52 Boxes in 52 Weeks".
Check it out here! ► https://amzn.to/2DHHEAh
- 4" Combination Square
- Tape Measure
- Pencil - Chisel
- Utility Knife
- Fabric Iron
- #4 Smoothing Plane
- Router Plane
- Bench Vice
- Shooting Board (Not Required)
- X-Carve CNC (Not Required) - https://bit.ly/2vyBZGM
- Planer (Not Required)
- Jointer (Not Required)
- Bandsaw (Not Required)
- Tablesaw (Not Required)
- White Oak (Quartersawn)
- Wood Glue
- Blue Tape (Painter's Tape)
- Spray Adhesive
- Two Small Nails
Step 1: The Milling!
For the sides of the box we used a piece of white oak. The first step was to rough cut it to size and mill it. Milling is the process of taking a rough sawn board and making it flat, straight and smooth so that it's ready for working.
After we rough cut it, we used the bandsaw to trim off the edges. This was so we could use the middle which had the straightest grain pattern.
From there we used the jointer to flatten/straighten one face and edge. We then resawed the board in half at the bandsaw which gave us two pieces. Each of these pieces then got put through the planer to bring them to their final thickness.
Step 2: The Grain Wrap!
After ripping each of the two pieces to their final thickness on the tablesaw, the next step was to cross-cut them into two long sides and two short sides.
However, using a technique from the book mentioned above we're going to cut them in a very particular way to get the wood grain to flow all the way around the box continuously.
This is done by flipping the two resawn boards end-to-end, rotating them and then taking a long and short piece from opposite sides of each board.
This is detailed a bit better in the video in step one!
The results of this process are two short pieces and two long pieces like you'd expect, but when assembled back together the wood grain will match all the way around. It's super cool!
Step 3: The Joinery!
This box uses miter joints, which are 45° angled cuts that come together to make a 90° corner. To cut the miter joints we're using a cross cut sled on the tablesaw with an angled blade that is specifically setup to cut miters. This helps with accuracy and ensures that the joints are a clean, crisp 45°.
In our case we trimmed our four sides to their exact length before trimming off the 45° slivers at the end. This helps ensure accuracy in the length so that the box is square when it goes together.
Once the miters are cut the next step was to cut a 1/8" deep rabbet joint on the top and bottom of each piece. This will create a groove around the top and bottom of the box when it goes back together that will house the top and bottom of the box. We made them exactly the same depth and width to simplify the build process but also because we're targeting perfect symmetry for the top and bottom.
Once everything was cut we did a dry assembly of the four sides so that we could start to work on the top and bottom of the box. This is done by aligning the pieces against a straight edge and then using blue painter's tape to hold them together.
Step 4: Fitting the Top and Bottom!
We wanted to use a different species of wood for the top and bottom of the wine box but we didn't want there to be a massive contrast in color or tone. We chose some pieces of Teak we had in the shop, one of which had a large defect on the edge. We thought the defect would be perfect for the top of the box to offset the otherwise perfect symmetry and simplicity of the design.
After milling the two pieces and cutting them down to size using the same methods as before, we cross cut one side of the top to place the defect exactly where we wanted it and then used the shooting board to true up the end to perfect square. Not only does this get us perfectly square but it's the best way to shave off the tiniest amount of material from the end to get a perfect fit.
We started with one end, then held the lid in the place to mark the length for the other end, leaving a tiny bit of extra so that we could trim to a perfect fit again on the shooting board.
Lastly we used the handplane with the board in the vise to trim the width until it was a perfect fit. This was repeated for the top and the bottom of the box.
Step 5: X-Carving the Top!
The handle for the lid of the box is going to sit flush on top but in order to make it easier to grab we wanted to put a small circular dish below it. (Another great idea from the book in Step 1!) To do this, we used the X-Carve.
You could also use a router with a circular guide but in our case this was the most efficient way to do it.
The top piece gets secured down the table using the "blue tape method" which involves putting some blue tape face down on the table, then a corresponding piece of tape on the bottom of the work piece. A few drops of super glue holds the tape together when you put the work piece down and it's firmly held in place.
The X-Carve then cuts the circular shape in the top piece.
Step 6: The Dado Joints!
On the inside of the box there's a removable divider the helps hold the neck of the wine bottle. This is made from a piece of white oak and it's the same thickness as the sides of the box.
To hold the divider in the box, we use a dado joint, which is a groove cut across the grain of the wood. The divider will then slide into the groove from the top and can be taken out to give the box a little more utility.
To cut the dado, we put a flat-toothed rip blade in our tablesaw and then adjusted the height of the tablesaw to 1/8". We then pass the piece over the blade to cut the dado 1/8" into the inside of our long sides.
This is a fast technique but can leave a slightly uneven surface so we use a router plane to clean up the joint.
With the dado finished we then fit the divider on the shooting board. We made a few mistakes here that we had to rectify...you can see our goofs in the video. :)
Step 7: The Glue Up!
The next step was to glue the four sides of the box together. To do this we use wood glue and apply it to the miter joints with a small craft brush, ensuring we get glue on every bit of surface area. We don't need clamps for this because we use blue tape to hold the joints together tightly.
When the joints come together, there will be some squeeze out on the interior. A great trick we learned from Fine Woodworking magazine is to use a plastic straw and push it through the corner to capture any glue that is squeezing out. This is a great technique!
Before the final tape goes on we check for square and then tape it tightly together. The top and bottom are loosely put in place to keep it squared up while it dries.
A Note on Splines
In our Dice Tower project we also used miters but in that case we used splines across the joints for added strength. In this case we're leaving out the splines to keep the design simpler and give the look we want. We're trading some of the added strength for aesthetics for this project.
Step 8: The Fabric!
On the inside of the box, the bottom is covered in a piece of fabric. We love this technique because it adds another layer of creativity and contrast to the project! There are millions of types of fabric and part of the fun is choosing which one to use. We even posted some options on our Instagram and worked with the community to choose what would look best.
Ultimately we chose a grey fabric with an arrow pattern that fit the look of our box. We rough cut a piece and then used an iron to get it nice and flat and remove the wrinkles.
We then used a spray adhesive to attach the fabric to the inside of the bottom of the box. After about 15 minutes it's dry and we flipped it over and used a utility knife to trim off the excess.
With that finished we then applied glue to the inside of the rabbets on the bottom using a toothpick. We were worried the glue would squeeze out and ruin the fabric so this took a long time to carefully apply. It worked well though. The bottom got glued in and it looked awesome!
Step 9: The Divider!
With the bottom glued in we could then do the final fitting of the inside divider piece. After fitting it side-to-side on the shooting board in the previous step we then trimmed the top to match the height of the rabbet using a handplane.
Once the fit was right, we took it out and used a wine bottle to measure where the hole should go. With that we went back to the X-Carve and cut out a perfect hold to fit the neck of the wine bottle. You could easily make this hole with a drill but we enjoy using the X-Carve so it made sense here.
Step 10: The Shellac Finish!
To prepare the surfaces for finish we sanded them to 320 grit by hand. Where we could, we used a handplane to "break" the edges of each piece by giving them a small chamfer. This makes it so the corners aren't sharp and also helps the light bounce off it a little better, giving it a great look.
After sanding everything we carefully cleaned all the sawdust off of the surfaces and then used a pile of handplane shavings to burnish the surface by rubbing them across the wood. This gives the wood a really nice luster.
To finish the box we used shellac. We love this finish because it's easy to apply and we can get many coats on in a matter of hours. We applied it with a foam brush and put on 3 coats.
For the inside, we taped off the fabric with blue painter's tape to protect it and then finished it the same way.
When the finish is completely dry it's very glossy. We don't like the high gloss look so we used some 0000 steel wool to take down the sheen by rubbing it on the surface until it looks the way we want it to.
In the end we'll do a final polish by applying Paste Wax, letting it dry for 5-10 minutes and then polishing it off with a clean rag. But, we don't do this until after we attach the handle in the next step.
Step 11: The Handle!
The handle of the box is a small piece of oak that's the same width as the other pieces. After putting a tiny chamfer on the top edges, we used the "Hidden Nail" technique to attach the handle. It gives you the added strength of having nails but there's no exposed hardware.
We start by taking two tiny nails and nailing them into the bottom of the handle about 1/2" from the ends. Next we snip off the ends of the nails and use them to mark the corresponding positions on the box lid.
Using those marks, we took two other nails and carefully hammered them as far as they'd go without poking through the bottom. We then carefully remove them, leaving a perfectly sized nail hole.
We then put the handle in and lightly traced the position of the handle. We then removed it and used something sharp like a chisel or a plane iron the scrape off the shellac finish. (Wood glue doesn't stick to shellac very well.)
Lastly, we put a small amount of glue on it and attach the handle. A couple of clamps on it for a few hours combined with the strength the nails ensures this is more than strong enough to open and close the box.
Step 12: The Results!
The wine box we bought five years ago has a lot of sentimental value to us but we really wanted to build something special for our next five years. Looking at the result, we think we nailed it!
When we open this up in 2023 and enjoy this delicious bottle of wine and tell stories about the days when we first started writing Instructables, we'll remember how great it was to build this box together.
Thanks for reading! Feel free to ask us any questions you like below and check out the video as well.
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