Wine Cabinet and project lessons

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Project by Bullet posted 08-11-2010 06:04 PM 2215 views 9 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This is really long, sorry, but I want to talk about my thought process on some of the decisions here in case there’s someone out there as inexperienced as I am with certain aspects of a project like this.

Actually, thid should probably go in a blog post or something – next time.

Here’s a project I just finished that I learned a lot from. First, a little background on the project.

This is a wine cabinet that my brother-in-law (BIL) will give to a friend as a wedding gift, so I wanted to put a little extra something into it as it’s my first project going to someone outside my family. I had made one for him a few years ago that his friend really likes so BIL thought it would make a nice gift. BIL requested a dark wood and a silver colored pull – other than that, he said to use my imagination.

I purchased one 4×8 sheet of 3/4 oak ply from Lowes as the base wood and all the rest was scrap mahogany and walnut that I had gathered over the years. Now for the lessons.

1. DYE.
Since BIL wanted a dark wood, I first tried to find a walnut ply. Well, my budget wouldn’t allow that. So I thought about how to get as close as I could. Walnut and oak have a similar grain structure, but a different color so I bought the oak ply with the intention of staining it to look like walnut.

I hate stain, I almost never use any colorant on my projects so this was really a first for me. I researched and found out that using a stain on oak (as well as most woods) can result in a blotchy result (which is why I hate stain). I had heard dyes perform better. I also considered a tinted poly for a brief moment, but that scares the bejesus out of me.

It was my first time using a dye. I used a powdered Transtint dark walnut dye (bought at my local Woodcraft), mixed about .5 oz to 1 quart of water. The other option was a liquid dye, but I wanted cheap and the powder was half the cost of the liquid.

I pre-cut the pieces I wanted to dye and after mixing the dye in a plastic Tupperware container (don’t tell my wife!), I tried it on a scrap piece of the ply. After about three applications I got the color I wanted. Just to be sure, I applied a coat of clear shellac as a sealer and to my surprise, it actually looksed pretty good! See, even an amateur like me can do this!

Now here’s where I learned something. I hadn’t done the dados for the shelves before I dyed the wood. When I cut them, the dado had a little tear-out which exposed the lighter wood underneath. OK, I thought I’ll just touch-up the light spots. Not a good idea. If any dye gets outside of the lighter area, it ends up making darker spots on the already dyed wood. I tried this on one small area but decided to just leave the rest with the tear-out.

Moral – dye it after you’ve made all your cuts. Or at least invest in a realy nice dado set, which I don’t have.

Ah… you might be asking yourself (if you’re even still reading this novel) why not just assemble the whole thing and then finish it. Well, I like contrasting wood in my pieces, I didn’t want to risk getting dye on the mahogany. So that made the most sense.

My typical joinery is glue and screw. I wanted this piece to be special, so I set out to make it with no screws. I have the dados with glue in them, for the shelves, that should hold pretty well and I used dowels to hold the sides to the legs, those should also hold well. But for the rest, I only glued them. I though that this would be OK…
then my wife reminded me of a changing table I built that ended up going from Vermont to Minnesota that was only glued. It fell apart in the drier climate. Ah… Crap. Well the wine cabinet is now done. I think I will have to go back and add something to the only glued joints to help reinforce them. I still don’t want to use screws – if you look at the piece, you’ll see that ther are 80 glue joints on the wine rack alone. That’s a lot of screwing.

Luckily, I made the racks removeable. I think I will pull them out and drill through the joints and add a piece of bamboo skewer to them to help reinforce. I’ll have to put one more coat of poly on them then… but at least it might not fall apart.

Moral – Pick at least some sort of joinery other than a butt joint with glue. At least ask my wife first.

Woah, this is long. So I’ll make the rest quick

How do you get the mahogany edging on the top to be exactly the same thickness as the dyed plywood top? I couldn’t sand to make them even because I couldn’t risk removing the dye, I actually tried planing it but hit the dye… Crap (see tear-out above).

Moral – I don’t know

I first wanted to use metal slides. I decided to make my own using a wooden rail mating with a dado in the drawer side. Works really well. Probably obvious to everyone, but I’d never done it before.

Moral – Keep your posts short and sweet – next time

-- Anything is possible when you have no idea what you're talking about.

7 comments so far

View terry603's profile


320 posts in 2913 days

#1 posted 08-11-2010 06:36 PM

looks good. just think, if you make 1 more it will be perfect

-- may not always be right,but,never in doubt.

View Ken90712's profile


17556 posts in 3188 days

#2 posted 08-11-2010 06:37 PM

Nice looking project you have made!

-- Ken, "Everyday above ground is a good day!"

View John Stegall's profile

John Stegall

505 posts in 3516 days

#3 posted 08-11-2010 07:21 PM

I agree that this really looks good. One trick on cutting dadoes in plywood is to use a utility knife with a fresh blade or a single edged razor blade to score the veneer before you run it over the dado blade. This has allowed me to do a good job with a low cost (or a set that needs sharpening)set. The reason this helps is it severes the top layer of veneer and helps prevent chipping.

-- jstegall

View schloemoe's profile


709 posts in 2937 days

#4 posted 08-11-2010 07:38 PM

Nice wine cabinet keep practicing you’ll get it perfect…............................Schloemoe

-- schloemoe, Oregon , http://www.

View Bullet's profile


150 posts in 3329 days

#5 posted 08-11-2010 08:01 PM

John – great idea! I’ll give that a try next time.

-- Anything is possible when you have no idea what you're talking about.

View Flemming's profile


417 posts in 2896 days

#6 posted 08-11-2010 10:52 PM

superb design… i love the floating guides for the wine bottles. brilliantly thought through this project :) thanks for sharing

-- Flemming. It's only a mistake if you can't fix it.

View BigMig's profile


439 posts in 2613 days

#7 posted 01-23-2014 03:45 PM

It’s a gret project! And learning to boot – what could be better? Thanks for teaching me some lessons from your project. That’s why we have this group, right?


-- Mike from Lansdowne, PA

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