Wine, it’s a magical substance. It has the uncanny ability to make this gravity-defying piece of wood balance at a seemingly awkward angle and, later the same day, making you lose your balance. If you’d like an easy to make gift for your favorite wine connoisseur – or just want to impress visitors with your levitating bottle of liquid microbe poop – raid your scrap bin and read on to learn how you can make your own balancing wine bottle holder. We’ll hold your hand through the build process; wouldn’t want you to lose your balance!
One of the best parts about a project like this is how little wood it requires. Just about every woodworker has bins and piles of scraps left over from other projects and this is a great way to put some of them to use. The ones pictured in this article were made from a mixture of scraps and wood salvaged from pallets and shipping crates.
I began this project by sifting through some of my scraps. I’ll be using power tools that some hobbyists may not have access to, but don’t let a lack of machinery scare you off. This project is simple enough to manage with the basic tools found in most garage workshops.
If you just want to get in and out and keep things simple, you can make the balancing wine bottle holder from a single piece of 3/4″ lumber from the big box store. However, if you’re willing to put in a little more effort you can produce some really nice looking pieces. Whatever wood you use, keep in mind that – for stability – you’re going to want a final thickness of 3/4” – 1” and a length of 8-1/4”.
Hitting The Joint(er)
I began with pieces that were rough sawn or otherwise lacking a clean, flat face, so my first step was to create a flat surface with the jointer. You can skip this step if you’re using pre-surfaced boards.
Once I had a flat reference surface, I used my table saw to cut a straight edge. After creating a straight edge, rotate the piece – keeping the same (jointed) face down on the saw – and cut the other side. You should now have one flat face and two parallel edges.
How Wide Should The Balancing Wine Holder Be?
This holder is designed for use with a standard 750ml wine bottle. I found the most visually pleasing width to be about 3”, the width of the bottle. Though one of mine is only 2-1/2” and it looks just fine. I wouldn’t go any narrower than 2-1/2” and wider than 3” starts looking clunky and less graceful.
Gluing Up Blanks For The Balancing Wine Bottle Holder
Lay your pieces out in the desired order, jointed faces down. Then roll each piece – except for the one farthest from you – a quarter turn towards yourself. This puts the glue surfaces up. You’ll then apply glue to the surfaces you just rotated upwards. The piece farthest from you (the one you didn’t turn over) should not receive glue.
When I spread glue, I use a silicone sauce brush with its bristles trimmed short. But you can buy a ready-made glue brush HERE from our sponsor, Rockler. It’s already the perfect length and costs the same as or less than you’ll pay for a sauce brush. It also has a flat end for getting glue into tight crevices. A silicone brush is so nice because it spreads the glue perfectly and can be used over and over.
After you spread the glue, rotate the pieces to their original orientation and clamp them all together. Keep the bottom edge of all the individual pieces as level to each other as you can. That is, try to prevent the strips from becoming staggered.
You’ll notice that I use a lot of clamps. It’s OK to use less if you aren’t as well stocked as I. In general, I’d recommend spacing your clamps closer – thereby using more clamps – when gluing up thinner strips. Especially if those thin strips are on the outside. If you’re clamp poor, use wider, stiffer pieces of wood as cauls on either side. This prevents any potential waviness by evenly distributing the clamping force.
The Advantage Of Batching Out The Balancing Wine Bottle Holders
By now you’ve undoubtedly noticed that I’ve glued way more than I need to make one of these balancing wine bottle holders. I discovered a long time ago the value of batching over making a single item. Sure, there are times when it makes sense to produce a one-off. But the simplicity of this project lends itself perfectly to batching.
You see, tool setup can consume a lot of time. Once you’re ready to perform a given operation it’s often beneficial to go ahead and repeat it a bunch of times. In the time it takes to, say, find the right bit, chuck it in the drill press and adjust the table, you’ve spent more time getting ready to drill the hole than you do actually drilling the hole. Now, if you go ahead and drill 20 holes while you’re at it, you are way ahead of the game with respect to “time per hole”. It might take 5 minutes to drill one hole, but only 8 minutes to drill 20.
And when you’re milling wood and gluing up a blank, you can make 20 blanks in the time it would take to do, perhaps, only 2 or 3 if you were to start the process from the beginning each time. So batching can dramatically reduce the amount of time and effort required for each end product. In the end, I made 18 balancing wine bottle holders in the time it would have taken to make maybe 3-4 of them. Now I have products I can sell at a reasonable price. Doing batches is also great if you’re planning on using the items as gifts.
… and I’ve returned from my tangent!
Plane And Simple
The next step is to flatten both faces of the glued up blank. I used a thickness planer; you may chose to hand plane or use an electric sander. The advantages of a thickness planer are speed and accuracy. You’re guaranteed to end up with a piece having two flat faces that are parallel to each other.
When planing, start with the flattest side down and make light passes – removing small amounts of wood at a time – until the top surface is flattened. When the top surface is done, flip the piece over and flatten the other side.
A Little Trim
If you’re making this project the easy way – with a solid, pre-milled board – here’s where coach calls you off the bench and back into the game. Go get’em, Tiger!
Now we need to cut the blank to length. First, square off one end. There’s many ways to skin this cat; I’m using my table saw with a crosscut sled.
Next, cut your blank to a length of 8-1/4”. Since I’m making a batch of these, I set up a stop block for instant repeatability: Measure once, cut 18 times.
Laying Out The Balancing Wine Bottle Holder
Layout is pretty straightforward. Begin by finding the vertical (long dimension) centerline. Along that centerline, mark 2” from one end. This is where the hole will be drilled. From the same end, also mark at 1-1/2”, locating the center point for the arc.
With the 1-1/2” mark as your pivot point, use a compass to draw the arc. The arc is only a cosmetic detail. As an experiment, in the picture below I decided to use the hole centerpoint as my pivot. But I quickly reverted back to the 1-1/2” mark, as I felt it looked better. Plus, I wasn’t wasting any of my length.
What A Bore
To drill the hole, use a 1-1/4” forstner bit or spade bit and be sure to use a piece of waste wood underneath your workpiece. In order to ensure a nice clean hole that’s free of tearout, it’s generally best to drill from both sides. Set your depth stop so that the point of the bit just breaches the bottom side of the wood. Then turn over the workpiece and finish drilling from the other side.
Mitering The Bottom Of The Balancing Wine Bottle Holder At 45°
The proper angle for the bottom of the balancing wine bottle holder is dependent upon a couple factors, the angle of the hole and the distance from the bottom to the center of the hole. When I set out to make these, I experimented with a few different designs.
My first design was based on a 30° hole, which gave a more dramatic look to the balancing bottle. I was going to go into the details of exactly how to determine the length the would work for any given angle, but it quickly became apparent that I was grossly over-complicating things and needlessly adding steps to the process.
I ditched the drilling jigs I’d made and rethought my approach to keep it as simple as possible. Using the dimensions in the pattern I sketched out, there’s no fancy angling of the hole and the miter is a straight-forward, easy to produce 45°.
Since the miter needs to be a flat, accurate cut located right at the end of the wood, I recommend using either a compound miter saw or radial arm saw with the head tilted to 45°. Or a table saw with the blade set at 45°. For me, the miter saw was the easiest way to go.
Cut the arc using your saw of choice. I prefer the band saw.
Routing A Roundover And Troubleshooting Some Sour Grapes
The final shaping operation is to rout a 1/4” roundover. This can be done with a handheld router, but a router table makes the job easier and safer. Round over all edges except the perimeter of the miter itself. When in use, the edges of the miter need to contact the table top. If they were rounded over, stability would be greatly compromised. So the 45° surface on the bottom needs to remain flat.
The 1/4” roundover bit has a guide bearing that maintains an even depth of cut. Well, I didn’t think about the fact that the taper is going to fall beneath the guide bearing. So the first one I routed inadvertently dips near the point, giving the impression that perhaps I’d popped that cork a little too soon. No worries though, there’s a simple way to avoid a spoiled batch.
You may wonder why I didn’t rout the roundover before cutting the miter. My reasoning is that cross grain cutting can sometimes cause a little tearout on the back end. Routing the roundovers afterwards will clean up any torn or chipped out corners. If I were to do it again, however, I might try reversing the order of operations, first routing then cutting the miter.
To solve the problem, I left about a half inch un-routed at the tapered point. Then I set the fence flush with the guide bearing and touched up that last little bit.
Home Stretch – Finishing Up The Balancing Wine Bottle Holder
All that’s left to do now is a little sanding and apply a finish. After sanding the hole and both faces, I hand sanded the roundovers until everything was silky smooth.
For a finish, I went with a two step process. First, I applied a generous coat of “boiled” linseed oil to the balancing wine bottle holder and gave it some time to soak in. It can be applied with a rag or brush. After about 20 minutes, I used a clean rag to wipe off all the oil that remained on the surface. If you fail to wipe off the excess it may dry to a gummy mess. Keep in mind that rags soaked in linseed oil can spontaneously combust, so make sure you store / dispose of them safely.
Allow the pieces to sit and dry for at least a day.
Finally, I treated the balancing wine bottle holder with “butcher block conditioner”, a food grade mixture of mineral oil, bee’s wax and carnauba wax. I chose this product not for its food safe quality, but for its resistance to water and other liquids that are typically encountered on kitchen countertops. With this finish, the piece can be lightly rinsed in water if it ever needs a cleaning.
Balancing Wine Bottle Holder – The Movie!
Drink No Wine Before Its Time – It’s Time!
And that’s all there is to making your own balancing wine bottle holder. It’s perhaps simpler than I made it seem. But a true sommelier will never say “it tastes good” and leave it at that when there’s so much nuance and nutty overtones to convey. As I’ve pointed out, you can simplify things by using a board and skipping the gluing and planing aspects of the project (I made some of each). A fine wine deserves a fine holder. Cheers!
While supplies last, you can also buy some of the wine bottle holders you saw me make via my Etsy store, for around $15!