Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Wine Rack Boat Shelf and Storage Unit

I really enjoyed making this unit and I can make you one if you like or you can read the description below and build your own and also review the Boat Shelves entry for more details. What I like about this unit is the depth is relatively shallow, and I designed it so it would just barely conceal a bottle of wine when the bottle was laid horizontally and the shelves are viewed from the side. This also allowed me to optimize the amount of wood I used in the design. I also made it so that the wine bottle holder and stemware rack are removable; if you want to use it as a book shelf or have something else you want to display, the wine bottle rack slides right out and can be put in the attic and four screws remove the stemware rack and you have a great display unit for a living room, bedroom (television stand?) or other area where wine and alcohol might not be needed. So, it's versatile.


I made the unit 32" wide by 17" deep by 72" tall. I wanted to utilize as much plywood in the design as I could, but I didn't want to make the unit over bearingly big. Figuring that most people, myself included, might be placing it in a basement where there are 7 foot or lower ceilings, I kept the overall height in mind. I didn't fabricate the stemware rack. I purchased from a local supplier of under mounted cabinet supplies. I purchased it plain and finished it with the rest of the cabinet.

I made the back out of 1/2" exterior grade plywood and 1/4" bead board, similar to how I made the boat shelves. I wanted this unit to be a little heavier. The shelves were made from 3/4" birch plywood that I capped with 1/4" strips of maple. The lower cabinet frame was sized and custom made from Maple and fit the space inside the boat. The doors are simply ply wood, believe it or not. I had some 5/8" plywood that was superior grade that I simply routed an ogee on the front and made a 3/8" rabbet in the back. It was an experiment I decided to try to see how it would look visually. I thought about raised panel doors, but when I saw this in the rough with the doors attached, I really liked the simpler non-busy look. I had an old raised panel door that I was able to put in the hole and had several people give me their opinions. Surprisingly, we all thought the same thing. The raised panel door took too much away from the overall look of the boat. So, I stayed with the simple door design.

I considered glass doors as an option, but I quickly dismissed that idea. I figured as a storage unit, we would be putting things in the lower cabinet to get them OUT of sight. We wouldn't want to have to look at things that were stored away.

I did a two tone stain scheme - light on the inside and dark on the gunwales, bow and transom plates. Finishing was with 3 coats of varnish and paint on the exterior. The hardware was cleats purchsed from a supplier with some brass hinges purchased at your local home goods store. I also added some magnets to keep the doors closed.

For additional detail on any step, I would review the Boat shelves post. That will hopefully answer questions you might have on any step. If not, you can always e-mail me at

Step 1. Making the bottom.

Laminate the Bead Board to the 1/2" plywood. I started with two 4x8 sheets. Find a "center" that represents 32". I personally like to have a "gap" or open are as my center vs. a bead. I have sometimes stained the gap a different color inside to represent a keel on the boat. This is completely up to your personal tastes. The 32" width is somewhat arbitrary as well, but I wouldn't make the shelves any wider! Otherwise, you will not be optimizing your plywood usage when it comes to making the shelves. NOTE: I used door heights that would be proportionally right when placed next to kitchen cabinet doors on a standard 34 1/2" kitchen cabinet.

Draw the side of the bottom lines up to the 48" mark when measured from the floor. Find the center mark at the top of the plywood at 72". You need to make a bow arc that is the same for both sides. On this particular design, because of the straight sides, it's important to note that the majority of the bow arc will happen between 48" and 58" on the sides. Then, the bow line will straighten out, more or less, to the center point. I have attached a pattern that you can blow up and use, but I find that I always like to tweak the lines a little until I get what looks right. In order to make that arc without a pattern, I used the following as a guide.

Cut a piece of 1/4" by 3/4" scrap that is at least 48" long with one straight and true edge. You will be scribing a line on this edge. Secure one end of this at the bow tip. Place one screw at the 48" mark of the side that is slighty (about 1/4") off the line to the outside of the side line that you drew earlier. Lay the scrap against that line. Now, by placing a finger at various points on the scrap you can "pull" the bow line arc into place. I found that a good spot to pull from is about 12-14" up fromthe 48" mark. You can use two hands, one at the far end of the scrap that isn't attached, and also "shape" the bow line. Once you're satisfied, scribe the line.

Repeat on the other side, or to insure the measurements exactly, take half measurements from the center line and mark every 4 inches on the other side and connect the dots.

It's that simple and you should have a really good bow line as you can see here:

Click on the picture to expand and see the detail.

Cut about 1/8" proud of the lines and clean up and true the edge with a belt sander or power plane. If you cut to one side of the ply wood, you will have enough left over to make two smaller shelves (48" tall by 14" wide) or possibly one 60" shelf (16" wide is as narrow as I would want to make this size shelf) from the leftover of this back board.

Step 2. Making the Shelves

Rip your shelves to a depth of 16" by cutting with either a skill saw or a table saw. Again, the depth I used was 16". This is perfect and you can make up to three units from one piece of 3/4" birch.

You are now ready to cut your shelves to width. You will need three shelves. Two will make the top and bottom of the cabinet and one will make the upper shelf. Cut the cabinet shelve to 32" in width and set aside. Take the remaing wood and go over to the back of the boat. I like the upper shelf to be "in the curve" of the bow. I like to "edge" all my exposed shelves before I cut them to width. Using a good piece of 3/4" maple, rip a 3/8" piece that's a little longer than 32". Plane both 3/4" sides so that you end up with a final thickness of 1/4". Glue and attach the trim piece to one edge of the ripped plywood using brads.

The height of the top shelf is somewhat arbitrary, but is probably at about the 50" mark at a right angle on the center line. Using a carpenter's square, square the shelf and position at the beginning of the bow curve. Make indicator lines on the back board and mark the back of the shelf for the angle to cut the shelf edge. Make the right angle cut using the table saw, radial arm, or skill saw with the blade set to the appropriate angle to match the line.

You can now mount this shelf. Take it back to the back board and apply with some glue and use 2" finish nails from the back side of the back board to secure. You can also pre drill and insert 3 or 4 2" dry wall screws for extra support.

I made the lower cabinet following kitchen cabinet rules and dimensions. If you have never made a cabinet face, here's a simple way to do it.

Rip some 3/4" maple stock to 2" in width. This will be the upper and lower frames for the cabinet face. Next, rip 3/4" stock to 1 3/4". This will be for the vertical pieces. You will need enough 2" length to make two pieces that are 32" long and 1 3/4" pieces that are 28" long. Cut the upper and lower frame pieces to lenght by MARKING the pieces on the 3/4" plywood shelf pieces you cut earlier. Cut the frames precisely so you won't have gaps later. Cut the 1 3/4" pieces to 28" and check for length.

If you don't have access to a biscuit planer or pocket screw jig, I have found a simple way to make a quick cabinet frame. Using some scrap hard wood that's 4" x 1" x 3/4(preferably oak) and a 1/4" piece of plywood that's approximately 4" x 8", make an "L" shaped jig that lines up the 4" width and lenght of the wood. Before you attach cut a slot in the plywood approximately in the middle. Then, drill a hole in the hardwood using a 3/8" drill. The plywood will lay on the face frame of the wood and the hardwood should be positioned so that the edge can be drilled into the frame. Now, you have a jig.

Make indicator lines on the adjoining frames once you have set them up and insured they are square. Using your jig, drill holes to a depth of 1" in the corresponding edges, using your indicator lines and the slot in the plywood jig as a guide. I usually drill two holes. Drill all the face frame intersections. Next, cut some 3/8" dowel to 1 1/4" length. It's elementary now and you can dry fit your frame together and check for fit. Once you're satsified, disassemble, glue the dowels, re-assemble and clamp. Set aside and let dry.

Take your top and bottom cabinet shelf and "trim" 3/4" off one edge due to account for the face frame so that when you attach the face frame, you will have a total width of 16".

Once the frame is dry use the same technique to attached the face frame to the shelves. I flushed the top shelf to the top of the frame and flushed the bottom shelf to the top of the bottom frame. You can see the top shelf in this picture here:

Click on the picture to expand and see the detail.

Once you have assembled the shelves to the face frame, you can square up and attach to the back board. I placed the frame and shelf assembly so that the shelf was 5" above the bottom edge of the back board.

The frame extends below the shelf so the "finish" look will about 4" above the floor, or about the same height as a cabinet frame. Make sure your bottom shelf is square to the bottom edge and the top shelf is square to the bottom shelf and also square to the face of the back board. Secure with glue and 2" finish nails from the back of the back board. You may want to re-drill and add some 2" drywall screws in this assembly as well.

Step 3. Bow Support

See Making Boat Shelves for additional details for making the bow support.

Cut a piece of 1 3/4" by 1 3/4" stock from a piece of hardwood or pine. This will be not be immediately visible, but should be of better quality wood. Cut this to 16" in length block. Hold this piece on the back board at the bow vertically to get the angle of the bow and transfer on to one edge of the block. Rip the angles on your table saw and attach to the point of the bow with glue and a drywall screw.

Step 4. Cut and Attach the Sides

Review the Boat shelf Entry for additional detail on making sides for the boat shelf.

Rip a 4' x 8' sheet of 1/4" birch plywood to 18" widths. You will get three sides out of a single sheet of plywood. You will only need two, but you will end up with left over wood in case you would ever want to build another one.

Glue the back board edge and the edges of the shelves. Starting at the bottom and using the good side to the interior of the boat, square the edge to the bottom and attach it to the back board and the shelves using 1 1/4" brads or finish nails. Work your way towards the bow, bending and nailing as you go. Using you jig saw, cut off the excess at the bow and flush to the opposite side of the bow support.

Repeat for the opposite side. The sides will extend beyond the shelves and the face frames by about 3/4" to 1".

Step 5. Making the Gunwales.

For additional details on making the gunwales, see The Boat Shelves entry.

Look at the gunwale detail in this photo:

Click on the photo to enlarge and see the detail.
The gunwales on the Wine Rack are a little bit different. I mounted the spaces and the "outer" gunwale outside of the boat. I did this for a couple of reasons:
1. I wanted to make sure that the cabinet doors would open fully and there was going to be a slight interference issue if I mounted to the inside.
2. On the lower cabinet, I would not have been able to do spacers and I would have had to put a solid piece in the thickness of the spacer due to the fact that you would not have been able to "see through" the gap. You wold have been looking at the face frame.
So, I move the spacers to the outside of the plywood. It's a small detail, but I think it turned out okay. I made my spacers 4 inches in length and spaced them 4" apart. I think it looks better to use slightly larger spacers and spaces on the larger boat, but this is a matter of taste.

Using better ¾” stock ( I prefer either maple or really nice pine here), rip gunwale strips ¼” to 5/16” thickness. If you want to go a little thicker and you have a jointer or plane, rip them thicker and plane to final thickness. You will need at five 8’ strips for the gunwales. Two per side plus spacers, if you choose to use them.

Cut your spacers to length.
Get your clamps and glue the spacers in place starting at the bottom and then spacing with another spacer every 4". Lay the inner gunwale in and cut to length. Glue the inner gunwale and clamp as you go, opening and closing the spring clamps as you work your way up. Next, glue the outer by putting glue on the spacers and clamping. Trim the gunwale flush to the opposite side when you reach the bow. Repeat the steps for the other side.
The plywood sides will be standing slightly proud of the gunwales at this point. We'll clean those up in the next step. Let this set up dry overnight.

Step 6. Finishing the Gunwales

You are probably looking at a clamped up mess wondering how you are going to make this looked finished. And this is where it gets fun, because the finishing can go really quickly here. Remove all your clamps and using either the power plane or the belt sander, start removing the plywood side material that is standing proud. Once you grind that down, go ahead and rough sand the gunwales. Don’t be afraid to remove a little material here and round the edges a little. Boats don’t have sharp lines on the topsides and you can round and flush all the surfaces as you go. You will be amazed what this starts to look like after 10 minutes with the plane or belt sander. Once it is relatively even, get the finish router and a ¼” or 3/8” round over bit.Using the router, round over the INSIDE of the spaces created by the spacers and the gunwales. This will give the gunwales one more dimension and a truly finished look. When you have finished all the openings, finish sand the gunwales using a 120 grit paper with a palm sander. The final product should look great.

Step 7. Making The Transom

This shelf doesn't have a transom plate, but I made a "base plate" for the bottom and gave it some shape like a transom on a real boat, where the engine would hang. This reinforced the plywood at the bottom and gave the shelves extra strength. Using either the pattern or your own design, cut a 3/4" piece of maple stock to length and then shape the transom. Attach. I then put a "kick" in on the bottom that you can't see, but it's essentially a piece of scrap plywood (1/4") that I tacked in place to keep dirt and dust out from under the shelves

I don't have a detail picture, but you can see it in this picture. Click on the photo and zoom in for detail.

Step 8. Making the Doors

As I stated earlier, I made the doors out of the some 5/8" cabinet plywood I had laying around. I simply over cut the doors by 3/4" to the dimensions of the holes in the face frame and used a round over bit in my router to soften the outer edge. I used a rabbitting bit and made a rabbit around the entire back of the door. I purchased some recess - step hinges and mounted the doors. These are the simplest doors you will ever make or see.

Step 9. Making the Wine Bottle Rack

This is a little tricky, and it will help to have a drill press for this step. I used Maple for the wine rack. I bought 1" x 8" by 8' boards.

Cut a blank board approximately 30" from one of the 8' boards. Mark a center line. Find the center of the lenght, or the 15" mark, and strike a line. Mark two more lines on either side of that line that are 5" on center. You should have a total of 5 marks on the center line at this point, centered on the board.

Take this piece to your drill press. You will need a 4" hole saw for the next step. On your marks, make a center punch and then drill with the hole saw about half way through or until the center bit comes through on the back side. FLIP THE BOARD OVER and line up the center bit with the holes and finish drilling the hole from the other side. You should have 5 holes. Take the board to the table saw and rip it on the center line. This will become the front and back of the first shelf of the bottle rack. Don't cut any angles yet.

Repeat the above steps with a 26" section of maple. Except this time, the center will not have a hole. From the center, measure 2.5" in either direction and strike a line. Measure 5" from those marks and strike two more lines. Drill 4 holes using the same procedure. Rip the board on the center line.

Finally, with an 18" section of 1"x8", mark the center, make three marks, cut three holes and rip the board.

Now you have 6 pieces of wood with half circles in each. I softened the edges on these on the circles both front and back using a round over bit in the router. Lay the shelves out on a work space so they are flat and spaced so that a wine bottle will fit between them. I used an angle meter to measure the angle of the bow and transferred that line to the edges of the boards on both sides using a straight edge. Then, on the table saw or radial arm, cut the angles. I usually cut both pieces at the same time so they are the same length and flush.

Assembling the wine rack is simple. Measure and cut two boards, approximately 18", that will service as the sides. If you want to miter the bottom, you can, but you won't see this board as is evident in this photo.

Glue and use 1 1/4" finish nails to assemble.

Step 10. Attach the Glass Rack

Attach the glass rack using 4 screws and centering on the upper shelf.

Step 11. Finish

Sand the entire boat. This will include removing the side material on the back of the shelves and finish sanding with 120 grit paper. I use a 220 grit on any surfaces I plan to finish with polyurethane. Once you are satisfied with the sanding, I like to blow off the book cases with compressed air. If you don’t have compressed air, use your shop vac or cheesecloth to get all the dust off of the assembly. But with all the sanding, there will be dust everywhere. Take the assembly outside and blow it off if you can. It will make finishing that much easier.If you are staining – painting - varnishing, here is the order that I use for finishing.

1. Stain the inside of the boat and shelves. If you want to make a two tone finish, stain the gunwales and transom and bow plates.
2. Flip the boat over. Fill any brad holes or imperfections in the wood. Prime the outside of the shelves. Let this dry.
3. Paint the outside or apply whatever finish you are using. Completely finish the outside of the shelves at this point.
4. When that is finished and dry, flip the assembly back over and prep it for polyurethane.
5. Mask off the sides at the gunwales. Lightly sand any badly raised grain from the staining step.
6. Apply a coat of polyurethane. Let dry.
7. Lightly sand the first coat and using a brushing liquid or mineral spirits, clean up the sanding swarf.
8. Apply another coat of polyurethane.
9. Lightly sand and clean.
10. Apply another coat of polyurethane.
11. Your finish should be getting some depth at this point. Instead of sanding, when I feel that I am nearing a final coat, I like to take fine steel wool and rub out any imperfections, runs or bumps that are in the polyurethane. Complete that step and clean any dust using mineral spirits.
12. Apply the final coat.Remove the masking tape.

On the outside gunwale where it meets the side, there is one last step you can take to give the boat a finished look. Using white silicone caulk, place a bead in the intersection of the gunwale and the side from the bow to the transom. Take your finger and smooth it into the joint, making a nice fillet
Adding the Hardware
Add Door handles that can be purchased on line - I like Jamestown Distributors. You can get there by clicking this link.


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