Ten Green Wee Shelving: Small Shelving Unit Using Beer Bottles




About: I am a freelance design engineer and drummer. My business site is at http://www.zero-waste.co.uk and is often concerned with appropriate technologies, open source design and design for sustainability.

A shelving unit constructed from found timber and used beer bottles. This shelf unit is designed to sit upon a kitchen counter or desk, or built up from the floor. It is a compact system that is easily assembled, adapted and disassembled - ideal for those who move residence often. All you need once you move in is a raucous housewarming to provide the empties!

The prototype was built with the Coach House Trust in Glasgow, using bottles from their recycling centre, and wood from the maintenance of their own sites. You can use any found timber, and adapt the dimensions to suit the wood you are working with.

Some examples are for sale at our shop here.

Design is released under a share alike/attribution CC license by Zero-waste Design.

Step 1: What You Need.

Some timber or other shelving type material (see next step).

Hook and eye strainers / turnbuckles as they are sometimes called (1 per shelf). I used the smallest I could find, which are 14mm OD a the buckle, with M5 (ie. 5mm diameter) threads. Such as these from Screwfix, or there is a greater variety at absoluteindustrial as suggested by Kroner78. These should have a minimum reach of 160mm ideally, but this can be extended with ess hooks or some chain perhaps.

Screw hooks (2 sturdy hooks per shelf - 4mm diameter ones are best, such as these from Techni-cable). Depending on the height of your bottles, you may need some ess hooks too to help the strainer reach between the upper and lower hooks (such as these at Warehouse Direct, although they're cheaper in a regular hardware shop).

2 x 32mm Glass plates such as these from Best are handy for securing the top shelf to the wall if you are going 4 shelves or higher.

Beer bottles (2 per shelf). All the same brand/height/shape preferable. Wash them thoroughly in hot soapy water - the longer they soak the easier it will be to get the glue off. Allow to dry.

You will also need a 32mm flat drill bit or, better still, a Forstner drill bit and a power drill.

Step 2: Prepare Your Timber/shelving Material

Find some timber, approx. 600-800mm long and, say, 120mm wide and 20mm thick. This might be shelving material, flooring, or cut up bits of furniture. You can have almost as many shelves as you want, I suggest 3 to 6, something like that.

Prepare the planks by planing if necessary, cutting to the desired size and sanding.

On the underside of each shelf, drill a row of holes down the length of the shelf. These should be marked out in pencil first, positioned centrally, 30mm apart and of 3mm diameter. Then use every other hole as a pilot for a larger 32mm hole, drilled to half the depth of the plank with a flat or Forstner bit. This step basically involves drilling two types of holes, alternately down the centreline along the length of each shelf.

If you are using laminated chipboard, consider routing any cut edges to disguise any chipping.

Step 3: Finish the Timber

Sand off the sharp edges produced by drilling.

Finishing with oil, varnish or wax is optional, but is recommended if the shelves are to get heavy use (eg. in the kitchen). I like to give plain pine 2 or 3 coats of neutral coloured wax.

At this point you might want to attach glass plates at either end of the rear side of the top shelf.

If you are making up kits, I like to tape the fixings for each shelf to the respective shelf with masking tape as shown in the main picture. It also gives you a handy place to put your stamp!

Step 4: Assemble

Select a bottom shelf , ensuring it is facing up. Screw in a cup hook into one of the 3mm pilot holes (the small holes) towards the centre of the shelf. Place two bottles on the shelf, anywhere either side of the hook.

Take your next shelf and place it on top of the bottles. Arrange the bottles to line up under any of the 32mm holes in the upper shelf. Note the position of the lower cup hook and screw in another hook in the corresponding position on the underside of the next shelf.

Replace the second shelf on top of the bottles. Adjust the bases of the bottles to ensure that they are flush with the lower shelf. Attach a hook and eye strainer, and ess hook if necessary , between the two hooks and tighten it up by turning the central buckle. The design of these turnbuckles varies, so you will have to experiment to see which way to turn the buckle in order to tighten it. Ensure that the screw hooks do not unscrew from the shelves as you tighten. The shelves may bend a little so be sure not to over-tighten the hook-and-eye strainer, but ensure that the upper shelf does not move from side to side. When you are done the unit should be rigid and liftable without deforming as shown.

Repeat steps 3 to 4 for the remaining shelves.

For every fourth shelf, or if the surface the shelves are sitting on is uneven, use glass plates and screw them into the wall for security. 


Step 5: Play.

You can add more shelves and alter the dimensions, of the shelves and the type and positions of the beer bottles as you wish. The beauty of these shelves is that you can make them fit any space, use almost any type of timber you have, and they take about 10minutes to put up!

Step 6: Appendix: Hanging on a Wall

I have devised a method for wall hanging these shelves. This instructable will show you how to do it.



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14 Discussions


4 years ago

This is what I came up with

13, 1:26 PM.jpg

8 years ago on Introduction

I had really long shelves and founrd that if I used eyelets rather than cup hooks they were stronger whereas the cup hooks just start to straighten under any kind of tension. This did mean that I needed hook to hook tensioners. Also it will only work with good wook- too much tension on a sheet of MDF and you'll just rip the eyelet out.

3 replies

Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

It all depends on the quality of your ironmongery really. The tensioners do exert a lot of pull so I would recommend good quality steel hooks made from circular section in the region of 3-4mm diameter, and similarly with the ess hooks. If using chipboards or MDFs, yes, you will have to scale up the ironmongery slightly to ensure a good hold. You ideally want a good 20mm of thread biting into the material. If you are getting biting problems the other option is to go for eyebolts that fit right through the shelf. I have found it hard to source hook-hook tensioners at a reasonable price. Therefore when using two eyelets on the shelves, I also use an ess hook on the eyelet end of a hook-eye tensioner to effectively make a hook-hook tensioner.


Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

I should have said "next time I will" I actually bodged it with the cheapest caribenas ever to exist (5 for £1). I could have sworn that there were some hook to hook fittings on the screwfix site... apparently not or at least not anymore.... I couldn't find sturdy cuphooks for love nor money though (I didn't look on the screwfix website to be fair!) Still I've now found these: http://www.absoluteindustrial.co.uk/products.php?category_id=11 I meant to say that I love the design. They are versatile functional and beautiful! Keep up the good work!


Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

I love them pound shop caribenas! That rigging supplies website looks fantastic, will definitely give them a go in the future. You might have more luck with hooks searching for 'screw hook' rather than 'cup hook'?

the tensioning member is what makes this one the best to me thought it could be beter if it was done with two holes in each board and a coat hanger threaded through and twisted up like a spanish wimbaltin (twist it up in the midle until it is tight. would look less chuncky that the turnbuckel and eye screws.

1 reply
Meggzdr. makemonkey

Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

wow - you lost me at Spanish wimbaitlin?? can you elaborate on your method or upload pic, or even do your own variation on this great idea as another instructable? Ta for the alternative btw, love it royshearer!


9 years ago on Introduction

I wanna see these coming out of the wall from a side.... not al would have to be on the wall either


10 years ago on Introduction

My brother made this version of the shelves for his kitchen:

Picture 012.jpg

11 years ago on Introduction

I like these shelves but I am confused about one thing: why would you be drinking Corona beer in Scotland? Yuck.


11 years ago on Introduction

I like the off-balance look you can get with the strainers, but isn't it too unstable with single bottles? Wouldn't it be steadier if you combined this idea with the pairs of bottles in the first version you posted?

1 reply

Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

It is indeed less sturdy than the modular shelving units, but its easier to get timber for these ones! Plus I just wanted a thin neat set of shelves for the kitchen, so have them on the counter up against the wall, nice and safe. They can also be bracketed to the wall to make a wall mounted set of shelves.