Games, Design & Game Design

In Vino Veritas (Custom Wine Rack)

In Design Practice, Design Process, Product Design, Self-Reflection, Sketches on December 17, 2011 at 1:42 pm

I have a little problem with ordering wine on the internet. I wish I could say that I’m a customer of discerning taste, but it’s more like I get coupons from totally unrelated purchases and figure that if I’m going to eventually drink 12 bottles of 10$ wine, I might as well get it delivered all at once and not have to shlep down to the liquor store every weekend.

At some point, I lost track of my purchases, and a couple different orders all came at once.

18 bottles of wine

18 bottles of wine, original storage solution

This, of course, demanded that I make a wine rack to hold these fine beverages in style. I think I have one more round of revisions to make to be totally happy, but this is the current solution:

In Vino Veritas mark 2

Current version of the rack. 18 bottle capacity + internal shelf.

Materials & Process: CNC machined .5″ baltic birch, blue wood stain (face) and Xact-2-Form .5″ cement form material (sides and back). Drawn in Rhino and Illustrator, cut with a custom Shopbot rig at my work. Machining time about 2 hours, plus another hour or so of sanding and finish. Pressure-fit slot construction, no fasteners or glue. Overall dimensions ~ 31″ wide x15.5″ tall x 8.25″ deep.

Full process, detail shots and more info after the jump. All images are click-to-embiggen-able.

Sketches & Digital Design

My initial sketches. I tend to use 2D sketches to set parameters (like size) and visualize the basics, and then move on to 3D sketches to work out actual design details.

Wine Rack Sketches

Initial sketches, basic form-finding

Cardboard 3D Sketch

Testing out the basic physics and visual effect. I did achieve a free-standing cardboard version, just forgot to take a picture.

I moved into Rhino (my 3D software of choice) to sketch out the arrangement and actual size of the holes, and assemble a digital 3D version to make sure all the friction-fit holes would be sized correctly. I then used Adobe Illustrator to lay out the components for cutting and add the decorative graphic elements. Last step was to import the Illustrator files into the software we use at the shop for toolpath programming.

Illustrator Image

The Illustrator file used to generate toolpaths for cutting the wine rack.

The graphic elements actually took the longest amount of hands-on time, because I was combining some stock elements with my own hand-drawn vine-y bits, and making it all mesh and work harmoniously around the holes took a lot of revision.


My first impulse for the material was to use Xact-2-form, a plywood finished with some kind of extra-slick material to make separating from concrete forms easier. I like the finish and slide-y-ness, and it cuts well, but it does have big gray branding all over it. As a prototype material, though, it’s great (and we have a bunch lying around the shop).

Wine Rack Mark 1

First prototype of the wine rack, in black Xact-2-Form

Mark 1 Detail

Detail of the carving for the mark 1 wine rack.

For the prototype, I gave the functionality a 7 (of 10) and the aesthetics a 5. It worked, obviously, but at some point I either mis-measured or mis-extruded something in Rhino, and the whole thing was an inch deeper than I’d intended, which meant some bottles just barely made it from front-to-back. Aesthetically, I over-cut the engraving by about 1/16″, giving it a much stronger and muddier effect than I had intended.

After taking some measurements, I determined that I had to recut the standoffs to bring the depth down by at least 2″ anyway, and I wanted to recut the face. So, on to the Mark 2!

Mark 2 (aka the current version)

On the router

The engraving pass being done on the Mark 2 face

For the Mark 2 I went with a sheet of blue-stained Baltic birch that we had lying around from a previous project. It seemed like a less brooding color for our wine, and goes with the Nouveau-style type that I’d chosen better anyhow. And my girlfriend likes it more.

In Vino Veritas

The correctly-engraved type! The typeface is Eccentric Std.

Mark 2 Wine Rack Detail

Mark 2, in use!

For the Mark 2, I’d say we’re at Functionality 9, Aesthetics 7. The new depth is much better, and allows the wine neck to protrude out of the opening far enough to be used to lift the bottle out. The slots are not quite right, now that two different materials are being used (even though they’re nominally both .5″ thick, the pegs are a little loose in the slots). The final functional issue is that there isn’t much access to the little shelf that sits behind the nameplate area, making it difficult to use and see (we’re using it to store our shot glasses that we never use anyway).

Aesthetically, the birch is really rough to cut, and I ended up with burn marks in the holes and had to sand the face more than I wanted too, giving it a bit more of a weathered effect than I intended. Finally, there’s one spot where I made a mistake in which toolpath I was running, resulting in a big carved blot in the middle of a vine engraving.

But, overall, it’s pretty neat!

One unintended side effect is that it looks lonely without wine in it, making it even MORE difficult not to buy wine online. But hey, if that’s the worst of my problems that’s not so bad…

So, I think I’m one revision away from the final version, but actually getting around to doing that is pretty far down my priority list, and this is our new kitchen item for the foreseeable future. I’m pretty happy with it! And happy that I (almost) completed a personal project! Huzzah!


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