I go to a lot of wine tastings and it's surprising how often unsuitable glasses, even the dreadful Paris goblet, are provided instead of proper tasting glasses. But a single glass is not easily transported, so I decided to make a carrying case to keep an ISO tasting glass safe on the way to and from events. On a recent trip to Porto I found the perfect wooden box with a sliding front opening to convert to a case. It even had a rope handle already. You may be able to beg a similar one from an oenophile friend or buy a bottle of wine in a box from an upmarket wine merchant - the Cockburn's box in the photo was acquired that way.
The finished carrying case will hold a glass upside down or the right way up - the latter is useful when returning from a tasting with a dirty glass, so it doesn't drip.
Materials and tools
A wooden case with a sliding lid for a standard half bottle (37.5ml) of wine
8 wooden coffee stirrers (as given out in Starbucks and similar places), narrow for preference
2-4mm thick clear polycarbonate sheet, at least 275mm x 80mm (11" x 3½")
Wood glue such as PVA
Panel adhesive (No More Nails or similar)
A small hand saw or oscillating power saw
A pencil and an indelible felt tip pen
Coarse and fine sandpaper
Stiff cardboard (not too thick) and thin card
230mm (9") of thin jute rope, if your case doesn't come with a handle
A drill bit to suit the diameter of the rope, if required
A small piece of closed-cell plastic foam, up to 20mm (3/4") thick (optional)
My wooden case came from Calem's Port lodge in Vila Nova de Gaia and cost under €3. Its external measurements are 85mm x 80 mm x 270 mm (roughly 3¼" x 3" x 10½"). There were also ISO tasting glasses for sale in the shop (as there are in most wineries) and, using a glass as a guide, I tried out one of the boxes on display to be sure it would be suitable. The foot of the glass should only be slightly smaller in diameter than the inside width of the box, or the glass will rattle around and may even fall off the ledge that you are going to make out of coffee stirrers. The ISO standard allows for some variation in the dimensions of tasting glasses, so if you find that your existing glasses won't fit in the case you have tracked down, don't despair, just look out in wine merchants and wineries for a glass made by another manufacturer, or swap one with a wine-loving friend.
Step 1: Making a Transparent Front
You could leave the sliding front of the case as it is, but I thought it would be nice to have a window through which the wine glass can be seen. Remove the front from the box, lay it right side (outside) down onto paper or thin card and draw round it with a sharp pencil to make a template. (If you were to draw round the wooden front onto the polycarbonate sheeting direct, you would need to use an indelible pen, and that would risk staining the wood.) Mark the top of the template on the uppermost side of the paper (because the wooden front is unlikely to be perfectly true), then cut out the template.
Check that the polycarbonate sheeting is thin enough to fit in the slot in the case, ie thinner than the wooden front. Assuming it is, draw round the template onto the sheeting with the indelible pen, marking which will be the outside surface of the top edge – use a piece of masking tape unless you are sure the indelible pen ink can be removed. Now cut the sheeting to size using a fine-toothed tenon saw, hobby saw or a even a fret saw. If you have a powered vibrating/oscillating saw, that will do the job very effectively. Keep the speed low as this plastic sheeting can overheat and discolour or warp.
When it is cut out, remove the ink marks if you can, but be careful what solvents you use. If you must use meths, white spirit, acetone or whatever, try it out on an offcut of the sheeting first and rinse the new sliding front in clean water afterwards. Dry it and then use fine sandpaper or emery paper to smooth the edges and reduce the size of the piece a little, if necessary, for it to slide smoothly in the slots of the wooden box. Take care not to scratch the inside or outside surfaces of the sheeting.
Step 2: Adding Wooden Pieces to the Front
Now we need to cut a couple of pieces of wood from the box front (which will not otherwise be used), one to be fixed in place at the bottom of the opening and the other to go at the top of the new transparent front. The bottom piece should be about 4 or 5cm deep and its function is to hide the lower part of the carrying case where you can place some foam to catch any drips (in case you forget and put a used glass back in the case upside down). You could also keep other bits and bobs in there out of view, like a spare cork or a pourer. The top piece of wood could be less deep, say 3 or 4 cm, but it doesn't really matter. It serves as something to get a hold of when sliding the front in and out and means that you won't get finger marks on the clear sheeting.
You don't have to use the parts of the wooden front that are currently at the top and bottom of it, choose the most interesting sections instead. The width of each of the two pieces will be narrower than the wooden front, because they will now rest on top of the sliding front, fitting between the sides of the box. Measure the gap between the sides at both the top and the bottom of the box (the measurement may differ) and cut paper or card templates to this width and whatever depth you have chosen. If you saw accurately outside the lines you are going to draw you will probably end up having to remove a little extra width from the upper piece with sandpaper afterwards, as there needs to be a small amount of clearance on each side for it to slide into place easily when the box is closed. If your sawing is less accurate, then size the templates generously. Draw round them with a pencil onto the parts of the wooden front that you have elected to use, being careful to mark which is the top and the right side of each piece, if it isn't obvious from the design on the wood. Now cut the pieces out using a hand or powered saw as before, rub off any pencil marks and sandpaper away the rough edges.
Slide the transparent front into place to give you a surface to lay these wooden pieces on. Starting with the lower one, adjust its sides using sandpaper until it fits neatly into place at the bottom of the box's opening. Do the same with the upper piece, remembering that clearance is needed at the sides for it to slide, because it is going to be stuck to the transparent front The top edge of the upper wooden piece should be level with the top edge of the transparent front, and when the lid is closed both should be level with the top edges of the box sides and the top of the box. Remove the lower piece of wood for now, lay the box on its back with the transparent front fully shut and the upper piece of wood in position. Carefully slide the lid open by half an inch or so, without displacing the wooden piece, until you can grasp the two top edges firmly and clamp them together with a bulldog clip or small clamp. (You may want to pad its upper jaw to stop it denting the wood.) Slide the lid fully out, turn it over and mark on the back where the side edges of the wooden piece are, using masking tape or a marker pen (if you're sure the ink will come off afterwards). Remove the bulldog clip and apply a thin layer of panel adhesive to the back of the wood then press it into position on the transparent front with the top edges level and the sides where you have marked. Wipe away any visible adhesive with a damp cloth and then use bulldog clips to apply pressure while it sets. Before it is fully set, check that the front will slide fully home without the wooden piece fouling the edges of the box.
While the adhesive is setting you can glue the other piece of wood into place at the bottom of the opening. If you've made it a good fit it may not need to be supported, but if it does, cut a piece of stiff cardboard of the same width as the sliding front and a little deeper than the wooden rectangle, so maybe 6cm in the vertical dimension. Slide it down to the bottom of the slots and then build up its thickness with a few pieces of thin card so that, when you lay the wooden rectangle on it, its upper surface is held level with the uppermost edges of the box sides and base. There should then be enough clearance between the back of this piece of wood and the front of the sliding lid for the lid to move freely. Cut the thin card that you use for packing into rectangles that are a little smaller than the wooden rectangle, so that they will not come into contact with the glue when you apply it. Remove the wooden rectangle, apply wood glue to its sides and lower edge and then replace it in position. Wipe away any glue that has oozed out of the joints and try to make sure no glue gets in the slots in which the lid will slide. When the glue starts to grip, slide out the stiff cardboard and carefully pull away any pieces of thin card that have got glue on them. Check that the transparent front will slide fully home - it should be OK to handle with care by now – and then leave it all to dry fully.
Step 3: Slots for Hanging Your Glass
You really only need one pair of slots, towards the bottom of the box to hold the foot of the glass, as it can be held upright whether it is clean or used. But I put a second pair in the upper half of the box so that I can take my clean glass to tastings upside down – it just seems right to carry it rim down when it is clean. If you put in both pairs, just check that the distance between them is sufficient for the bowl of the glass to clear the wooden strips that form the slots that are not holding the stem - see the photo in the Intro.
For each pair of slots you will need a strip of wood totalling 200mm (8") long formed from two wooden coffee stirrers stuck one on top of the other. My stirrers were only 140mm long so I needed to use 4 of them. Start by sticking the stirrers together in pairs with wood glue, putting them under a heavy book until the glue is fully dry to prevent warping. Then sand the edges to make them level. Saw the strips into 5cm lengths and round one end of each length using coarse sandpaper. Finally, smooth the ends (the square ones and the rounded ones) with finer sandpaper.
Next you must mark where the lower of the two strips that form the lower slot will go, on each side of the box, using a pencil lightly. The foot of the glass will rest on these two strips and they need to be positioned a little above the top of the piece of wood that is fixed to the front of the box. Measure up from the base of the box to get them at the same height, and judge by eye to get them horizontal. Or you could cut a rectangle from stiff card that will rest on the bottom edge of the box and that is the height you want the bottom of the strip to be at, and move it from one side of the box to the other (inside the box) to ensure the strips are level with each other. The curved end of each strip will be positioned about 1cm back from the slot in which the lid slides, which means the straight ends will be a similar distance from the back of the box.
Glue each strip in place where you have marked it, holding it with some tape while the glue dries. Then glue a second pair of strips above the first two, leaving a gap between them of about 4mm or whatever is necessary to take the foot of the glass. Ideally, the foot should fit quite closely into the slot to keep the glass securely held in transit.
If you decide that you do want to be able to carry a glass upside down as well as the right way up, fit four more strips with the top pair about 55mm from the top of the box. As well as checking their position is such that the glass will fit in both ways up, allow enough room above them for the knots securing the ends of the rope handle.
Step 4: Finishing
Make a handle if your wine box doesn't already have one. Measure the diameter of the jute rope and drill a couple of holes in the top of the box that are slightly larger. They should be halfway between the front and back of the top and about 20mm in from the sides. Feed one end of the rope through each hole from the outside and tie a knot on the inside to hold it in place.
If you have some suitable plastic foam, then measure the internal size of the base of the box – you should be able to see the dimensions of it from the outside – and mark cutting lines on the foam using an indelible pen. Then cut the foam using a sharp craft knife and a metal ruler, preferably on a cutting mat. Push the foam piece tightly down into the base of the box so that any drips of red wine don't stain the base of the box. It will also mean that your glass won't break if you manage to drop it into the box after a drink or two instead of sliding its foot smoothly into the slots.