This vintage Diebold Burglar Alarm helped guard the Kansas State Capitol for many years. During a building upgrade sometime in the 1970s, this heavy gauge metal box was headed for the landfill, but fortunately was rescued by a close friend's father. It sat half-forgotten in a basement for many years waiting to be turned into something. This summer, my friend decided that his father needed a special surprise gift, and he remembered the box. We spent a week kicking around ideas and he came up with a plan to turn this basic relic into a customized wine rack.
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Step 1: Getting Started
After clandestinely removing the 23" x 14" x 34" (very heavy) box from his parent's basement, we sketched out a plan which included an industrial-style steel base, illuminated glass etching in the door and some sort of wood interior for the actual wine rack. We also assessed the real condition of the box, which was functional but pretty rough. After a couple hours of work, most of the 50 years of wasp nests, spiders, dirt and caulking were cleaned off. Another 30 minutes of pounding with a rubber mallet got the door removed from the hinges. We took detailed measurements and moved on to the glass, metal and powder coat work.
Step 2: Etched Glass
After cleaning up an old line drawing of the Kansas Capitol in photoshop, we found a glass etching company who further refined the line art and suggested some thicker 7mm glass for the etching. The glass is 16" x 17", which is slightly smaller than the opening in the front of the door we had planned for. It turned out incredible. My only regret is that I wasn't able to take a picture that shows just how good the etching actually came out.
Step 3: Metal Work
After drawing up a design for the steel base that we thought matched the look of an old bridge, we took the box to a great local metal shop, R.C. Perine & Sons. The current owner is the fifth generation owner of the shop and did an outstanding job taking our sketches and turning them into something better than we had imagined. The steel stand measures 23" x 14" and is 30" tall.
Step 4: Media Blasting & Powder Coating
After deciding that the raw steel base looked good as is, we took the box to a local media blasting shop (C & R Media Blasting) which blasted the entire box and door clean. My friend picked a non-textured black color that he thought would match the rest of the elements of the project. The box took a full five pounds of powder coat, but the results came out great. Note the beautiful door hinges under all that paint.
Step 5: Woodwork
After visiting a great local source of hardwood (Frieden's Hardwood Lumber), my friend selected quarter sawn oak for the doorframe (to hold the glass) and the interior wine rack. Quarter sawn oak was used throughout the inside of the Kansas Capitol and has a unique tiger striping when finished. It is a beautiful wood and he thought it would be a nice touch given the history of the box. Another friend of ours spent a huge amount of time in a very cold garage crafting the frame so that the glass would be secure, but would free float in the frame. It was clearly the hardest part of the project, requiring a high level of skill on his part. After dry fitting the glass and the wine rack frame, I sanded the oak, stained it with MinWax Early American (#230), and then coated it with four coats of MinWaxWipe On Poly. Then the glass was secured in the door, along with the original porcelain sign.
Step 6: Assembling the Wine Rack & Installing the LED Lights
After selecting a horizontal wine rack that looked nice with the box, the two oak pieces that made up the wine rack were secured to a basic L-shaped metal frame designed to take most of the weight of the displayed wine. The wine rack was secured to the oak with six bolts and then everything was tested for stability and strength.
For the lighting inside the box, we selected a strand of simple multicolor LED lights that come with a remote. I cut the LED strip to length, hot glued neodymium magnets to the back of the strip, and then positioned the lights just behind the lip of the inside of the box, where they are largely hidden. I fished the wires under the wine rack and out a hole in the back. Although the glass etching of the Capitol is very difficult to see in the photos, it looks nice with the LEDs on.
Step 7: Delivering & Assembling the Completed Burglar Alarm Wine Rack
While my friend's parents were out for the evening, we snuck the completed rack back into their basement. We assembled the "new" wine rack next to their downstairs bar, tested it to make sure everything worked, loaded some wine inside, and then covered the surprise with the worst wrapping job ever.