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This article was published in the Summer 2007 edition of Woodturning Design. 

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Wine Rack as 8 page pdf

Wine Rack


Turning of eccentric rectangular objects with a Backup Plate is limited to largely two dimensional designs.  But that doesn’t mean the project has to stay that way.  In this article I’ll show you how to mount and turn two boards at the same time on a Backup Plate and then separate them and assemble them into a Wine Rack.


The Backup Plate turning puts a striking modernistic design on the two pieces.  They are then drilled and cut to hold wine bottles.  Since a Wine Rack can’t risk being top heavy, bricks are used both as ballast and as the bottom.  The rough texture of the bricks provides a nice contrast to the smooth finish of the turned end pieces.



For this project you need a Backup Plate 18-20” in diameter.  A Backup Plate is simply a disk of stable material, such as MDF or Melamine, that wood can be temporarily glued to with hot-melt glue.  See the Spring 2007 issue of Woodturning Design, or my web site to learn how to make one.  Start by selecting wood for the End Pieces.  I used two pieces of White Oak that were 5”x15”x1”.  Slightly wider stock, maybe 5-1/2” or 6” would have been a little less crowded and allowed a larger hole for the base of the wine bottles.  If in doubt, jump ahead to Fig17 only try it with cardboard first. Once you’ve selected your stock, clean up the edges and at least one face of each piece with a jointer, planer, or sander. 


Heat up your hot-melt glue gun.  Draw a line all the way across your Backup Plate through the center.  Place your End Piece stock on the Backup Plate clean face down, so that one edge is on the center line, and one corner of that edge is at the rim.  Trace around the pieces so you can quickly locate them when gluing them one. 

Fig01:  The mounting plan drawn on the Backup Plate.



Holding an End Piece in place, trace the Backup Plate from below on the underside of the End Piece.  Cut outside this line on your band saw. Having an additional glue stick close at hand, run a zigzag bead of glue down the clean face of the End Piece and glue it in place on the Backup Plate.  Repeat tracing, cutting, and gluing for the other End Piece.  Select some stock to use as filler pieces.  I used 5/4 pine from Home Depot as it was about the same thickness as my 1” White Oak.  Hold a straight edge of filler stock on the Backup Plate so that it’s against the square edged bottoms of the End Pieces and trace the outline of the Backup Plate from below onto the filler stock.  Cut along this curve on your bandsaw, and then hot-melt glue it in place on the Backup Plate.  Hold a piece of filler stock with a straight edge and 90° corner in place along the edge of an End Piece and trace from below.  Cut along the traced line and glue in place.  Repeat for the other side.

Fig02:  Tracing the cutting line from beneath for the second End Piece.



At this point I mounted the Backup Plate on my lathe—and it immediately rotated so that the top of the End Pieces were down.  The White Oak was a lot heavier than the pine making the Backup Plate quite a bit out of balance.  My Ulery lathe has 800 pounds or so of sand in the base, so I probably could have kept the speed down and forged ahead.  But since I’d fantasized about groundhog hunting with a 50 caliber sniper rifle that morning, I thought it would be more elegant to balance the Backup Plate rather than take the heavy handed route again.


Fig03:  Without a balancing weight the Backup Plate rotated itself top end down.

If your Backup Plate is similarly out of balance, clamp a straight edge (I used a framing square) in a vice.   Make a couple of pencil marks on the edge of the Backup Plate at the center line that’s at right angles to the length of the End Pieces.  Balance the Backup Plate upside down on the straight edge lined up with the marks.  Try various pieces of scrap wood and placement until you find one that balances the Backup Plate.  Mark the position, then glue it in place on the back of the Backup Plate with hot-melt glue.


Fig04:  The Backup Plate is balanced on a straight edge.  Marks on the rim let me be sure it’s centered at a right angle to the End Pieces.  The scrap block on top provides the balancing weight to make up for the heavier off center White Oak.


Mount the Backup Plate on your lathe and place the tool rest parallel with the face of the Backup Plate.  Turn the lathe by hand to make sure nothing hits the tool rest.  Turn the lathe on at a very slow speed at first and turn it up to what feels comfortable to you.  You want to avoid a high energy catch which might pry one of the pieces off the Backup Plate, so keep the speed reasonable and use the small area of the tip of your bowl gouge rather than the larger area of the wing.  Make cuts across the face until the face is flattened.  At the rim, cuts from inside to outside are less likely to result in a catch.


Fig05:  After turning the face flat and even.



Stop the lathe and move the tool rest to true the rim.  Again, rotate by hand to check clearance and start out at a slow speed.  Gently true the rim with the tip of your bowl gouge.  You may wish to reduce sanding time by also using a shear scraper.


Fig06:  After turning the Rim true.


Now it’s time to plan your design.  The End Pieces will be screwed to the bricks.  Plugs will be use to cover the screw heads, so you want the immediate area around the screw holes to be flat.  To insure this, take a brick, place it at a bottom corner of an end piece and trace around it.  Repeat for the three other bottom corners.  Mark locations for two holes per brick, centered on the brick and evenly inset from the edges.


Layout your design, making sure there’s a flat area where the screw holes are marked.  I used a central dome with a collar, and three different sized beads with different spacing between them.  You can trace your design on the Backup Plate by holding a pencil against it with the lathe turning slowly.  I have a lot of really cheap pencils left over from when the kids were still in school and the half-life of an unguarded sharpened pencil was measured in minutes.  I even tried carving “Dad Only” on some with my Turbo-Carver—didn’t work.  Oh, back to the Wine Rack…I had to rotate the lathe by hand to have the pencil lead survive marking the design.


Fig07:  After laying out the mounting hole locations and penciling in a design that leaves flat areas around the mounting holes.


Start turning the design by cutting V-grooves on the marks for the central dome and surrounding collar.  Round the dome and collar with a bowl gouge and refine the surface with a shear scraper.  I added a small cove in the middle of the collar with a mini-beading tool (see the Fall 2005 issue of Woodturning Design or 

Fig08:  After turning the center dome and collar with mini-cove.


To make sure that your beads don’t look like shallow speed bumps, begin turning the beads by cutting on either side of the beads with a parting tool.  Try to keep the parting tool cuts (and your V-groove cuts for the center elements) the same depth.  Remove the bulk of the wood in between the parting tool cuts with a bowl gouge.  Begin to round over the beads with a bowl gouge, and then refine their shape with a shear scraper or pyramid point tool.  You can really set off the beads by undercutting them with a pyramid point tool.  Complete the turning by leveling the areas between the beads with a shear scraper.

Fig09:  After making parting tool cuts on both sides of the beads.



Fig10:  The wood between the beads has been removed leaving a flat background.


Fig11:  The beads have been rounded.  Try for a full hemisphere, not a speed bump.

Fig12:  After finishing the tool work.



Start sanding at a grit determined by utility, not ego.  Stop the lathe after each grit and blow off the sawdust and spent grit lodged under the beads.  Check for adequate sanding, especially on the end grain on the sides of the beads before moving on to the next grit.

Fig13:  After the sanding has been completed.



Remove the End Pieces.  I used a 6” putty knife and a mallet.  Remove the filler pieces first if necessary so you don’t risk denting the End Pieces by prying too much.


Fig14:  Starting to remove the End Pieces from the Backup Plate with a wide putty knife and mallet.



The End Pieces need a fair amount of post-turning work, mostly making holes.  Re-mark the positions of the mounting holes needed to attach to the bricks.  Drill holes through the End Pieces at each of the marks with a drill that permits the screws you want to use to pass through.  Then countersink each drilled hole with a ½” drill.  This will create a mating surface for the flat head screw and create a mortice to mount a covering plug at the same time.


Fig15:  Drilling body holes for the mounting screws.  I’m using spaced stop-blocks on a fence to automate placement.


Fig16:  Drilling Countersink/Plug Mortice holes.


Next plan the holes to mount wine bottles.  Put an End Piece decorated face side down on your work bench.  Place a brick in place at one of the bottom corners.  Now arrange three wine bottles on the End Piece.  I have a scroll saw so I didn’t mind interior cuts.  If you only have a band saw, you may wish to let the bottles overlap the front or back edge of the End Piece so you don’t have to cut the holes by hand.  You should probably start with a wine bottle in the higher upper corner, then arrange the other two.  Now use a compass and some thin cardboard (cereal box, for instance) to create some templates.  Punch a hole at the center of each circle so you can mark the center location, and cut the circles out so you can trace the circumference.  The hopefully typical (at least for what my wife buys) wine bottle diameter is just about 3”.  I wanted to use a 3-1/2” circle, but had to use a 3-1/4” to fit three bottles in.

Fig17:  Planning hole placement with brick and bottles.



Place the templates where you had the wine bottles on the End Piece.  Trace the circumference of the upper and lower template and mark the center of the middle template.  Drill a hole to insert your scroll saw blade near the edge of each circle, and cut out the holes with your scroll saw, fret saw, or coping saw.  Move to the drill press and drill a 1-1/2” hole at the marked middle location.  Drill slowly so you don’t get chip out on the decorated face.

Fig18:  Using cardboard templates to layout hole locations.



Fig19:  Alternate hole locations.  Use holes that overlap the edges,as on the bottom piece, if you only have a band saw.


Fig20:  Drilling a 1-1/2” hole for the neck of the bottle.  Drill slowly to avoid chip out on the underside.  A Forstner bit might chip out less than my spur tooth bit.


Fig21:  Cutting out a hole on the scroll saw.


Now transfer the hole locations to the other End Piece.  Place the other End Piece decorated side down on your workbench, and place the already holed End Piece on top of it decorated side up.  Transfer the center of the 1-1/2” drilled hole by eye.  Place the templates inside the scroll sawn holes and use the center holes of the templates to mark the centers.  Remove the first End Piece.  Align a template with the center mark in the middle and trace its circumference.  Scroll saw out this hole.  Drill 1-1/2” holes at the upper and lower marks.


Fig22:  Transferring hole locations using the paper templates inserted into the holes.


Sand the edges of the End Pieces and the holes.  You can use a drum sander (a pneumatic cushion sander is great for this) or sand by hand.  Apply the finish of your choice.  I used linseed oil.


The first Wine Rack I made I used those blue masonry screws.  I wasn’t really happy with the results.  Over-tightening one screw spalled off a piece a brick, and even so it never felt really solid.  I suggest you drill two holes for each mounting screw, one for the screw, and another at right angles for a cross-pin dowel.  The Wine Rack done this way feels much more solid and sturdy.


You don’t want the bricks marring the surface the Wine Rack is set on, so begin marking the holes on the bricks by setting the bricks on a piece of cardboard.  Mark on the bricks which is in which position and orientation.  With the width End Pieces I had, a piece of cardboard in between the bricks gave the right spacing.  Place an End Piece against the bricks and transfer the locations of the mounting holes with a marker or pencil.  Repeat marking the holes for the other End Piece.


Fig23:  Using a marker to transfer the mounting holes to the bricks.  Note the cardboard beneath the bricks to raise them for mounting, so the End Pieces, not the bricks, will contact the surface it will be set upon.


Make sure the marks are easily visible.  Transfer the height location of the marks to the inside surfaces of the bricks by drawing right angle lines.  Mark on this line at least ½” from the edge for drilling holes for the dowels.  I used some rather old erratic bricks I was using to get my firewood off the ground, and had to go further in to reach a semi-flat area that wouldn’t deflect my drill.


Chuck a ½” masonry drill bit in your drill press and drill holes about ½” further than half way through the brick.  Just like drilling wood, you’ll get more consistent results if you use mechanical aids to hold the work in place.  Now use a smaller masonry bit, sized so that your wood screws will pass through, to drill holes on the ends of the bricks at the marked locations.  Cut some ½” dowel to length and place in the ½” holes.  A dab of hot-melt glue or tile adhesive will keep them from falling out until you get the screws installed.


Fig24:  Drilling ½” holes for cross-pin dowels.


Fig25:  Drilling clearance holes for the screws in the bricks.


Place the bricks back on the piece of cardboard in the original orientation.  Put the End Pieces in place and confirm everything is lined up and in the right orientation by inserting wood screws loosely in place.  If all looks well, drive the screws in.


I was planning to use flush cut dowels to cover the screw holes—but then it occurred to me that I could use a similar turning technique to create buttons that echoed the design the End Pieces.  You may be wondering why I still used round buttons instead of rectangular ones to further echo the End Piece design.  Mostly because I didn’t think of it; I could easily have cut in from the rim of a filler piece with a band saw.  Next time.  On the other hand you may feel that the turned buttons didn’t add enough to the design to be worth the trouble, in which case you can use flush cut dowels.


Start the buttons by mounting a 1” square piece of matching hardwood that’s long enough to do all eight buttons.  5” long should suffice.  Turn the piece round and reduce the diameter to just under ¾”.  Then use your parting tool cut to ½” diameter every ½” along the piece starting at one end.  Sand the edges of the future buttons, then remove the button blank from the lathe.  Separate the buttons by cutting them apart on the band saw.


Fig26:  The button blanks after turning between centers.



Make a filler piece.  Start by drawing two concentric circles (7” and 5”, for instance, it’s not critical) on a pine board.  Mark eight more or less evenly spaced locations on the inner circle and drill a 3/4” hole at each mark.  Mount the filler piece centered on a Backup Plate with hot-melt glue.  Then glue each button blank to the Backup Plate in a hole in the filler piece.


Fig27:  Laying ou t the filler piece for turning the buttons.

Fig28:  The filler piece after drilling, with the button blanks.



Mount the Backup Plate on your lathe and turn the filler and button blanks flat.  Mark the location of a bead that will cross all of the button blanks.  Turn the bead, then sand the buttons.  Remove the Backup Plate from the lathe.


Fig29:  After turning a bead on the buttons and sanding.


If your shop is anything like mine, you need to secure the buttons before removing them from the Backup Plate or you might never find them again.  Put a piece of masking tape over each button so it won’t go flying to places unknown.  Separate the filler piece from the Backup Plate with a putty knife and mallet.  Then remove the tape and separate the buttons from the filler.  Touch up the sanding on the sides of the buttons by hand.

Fig30:  Removing the buttons from the Backup Plate.  I’ve taped them to the filler piece so they don’t go flying off.



Spread glue on the tenon of a button and insert it into a hole in an End Piece.  You may wish to align the apparent center of the curved bead with the turning center of the piece.  Repeat for the other buttons, then apply some finish to them.


You’re now ready to proudly display your wine rack, so go out and buy a few bottles.  Even Thunderbird would look great in it.  You’ve probably thought of several design variations to try out, so go ahead and make one for every wine aficionado on your gift list.  I’ll bet they don’t have anything like it.

Fig31:  If I had been more careful with my access holes to start scroll sawing out the holes I could have added a matching corkscrew and bottle stopper.



Fig32:  The completed Wine Rack.

Tools and Materials

Large Backup Plate

Hardwood for End Pieces (two pieces about 5-1/2” x 15” x 1”)

Two plain Bricks

Turning Square, matching Hardwood (1” x 1” x 5”)

Pine for filler wood (about half of a 5/4 x 6 x 8)

Hot-melt Glue Gun and glue.

Abrasives and finish of choice


Bowl Gouge

Parting Tool

Pyramid Point Tool

Shear Scraper

Spindle turning tools for buttons.


David Reed Smith is a Basement Woodturner living in Hampstead , Maryland whose wife and Uncle like to experiment with different wines.  Sometimes he “helps” pick one out based on unusual label designs.  He welcomes comments, questions, and suggestions via email at  This article, perhaps with some additional pictures and variations will be available on his web site at