clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

How to Build a Reclaimed Wine Rack

Ask This Old House general contractor Tom Silva and host Kevin O’Connor build a wine rack out of a reclaimed beam.

As a contractor working on old houses, Tom often has to remove old beams and floorboards to make way for new materials. But he’s careful to save some of those wood remnants—which may have been milled hundreds of years ago—and keep them out of the d dumpster.

“I look for old wood with stable knots and tight grain that takes a stain really nice,” Tom says. “It’s a little more e ort to clean up the old boards, but I think it’s worth it.”

For this wine-rack project, Tom and Kevin milled all the parts from a weathered 8-by-10-inch by-12-foot-long white pine beam and some worn 17-inch-wide pine floorboards from Tom’s stockpile, saving as much of the wood’s aged patina as they could.

Don’t have your own cache of salvaged wood? No worries —all the parts can be made from lumberyard stock, using the cut list below. You could also mix in salvaged pieces from one of the many sellers that specialize in reclaimed wood. Either way, you’ll end up with a handsome, functional piece for storing stemware and a nice collection of wine, which also puts your woodworking skills on display.

How It’s Made

Illustration of an assembled wine rack Peter Sucheski

Cut list

  • Legs: four @ 2 by 2 by 37 1/2 inches
  • Side rails: four @ 1 by 2 by 12 inches
  • Side panels: two @ 1 by 12 1/2 by 28 1/2 inches
  • Front rails: one @ 1 by 3 by 18 3/4 inches
  • Back panel: one @ ½ by 19 1/4 by 28 1/2 inches
  • Top: two @ 2 by 17 1/2 by 12 3/8 inches
  • Bottle-rack shelves: eight @ 3/4 by 3/4 by 18 3/4 inches and 24 @ 3/4 by 3/4 by 12 1/4 inches
  • Stemware holders: four @ 1 by 3 by 13 3/4 inches
  • Stemware holder spacers: four @ 3/4 by 2 by 13 3/4 inches
  • Stemware holder supports: two @ 2 by 18 3/4 by 1 inch

Build a Wine Rack: Step-By-Step

Step 1: Cut the pieces to size

Tom cuts the wood to size Colleen McQuaid

Following the cut list, use a table saw to rip the pieces to width. Cut them to length with a miter saw. Cut the 1/2-inch panel for the cabinet back on a table saw. (Run any salvaged wood through a thickness planer.)

Step 2: Make the top

Tom clamps together the two pieces for the top of the wine rack. Colleen McQuaid

Edge-glue and clamp together the two pieces for the top; if using salvaged lumber, glue together the sawn edges. Wipe up excess glue with a damp rag. Wait 30 minutes before removing the clamps.

Step 3: Dado the legs and rails

Colleen McQuaid

Chuck a 1/2-inch router bit in a router table. Set its depth to 1/2 inch; adjust its fence to offset the dado 1⁄8 inch to the outside. Stabilize the workpiece with a feather board and make stopped, 28-inch-long dadoes in each leg and a continuous dado in one edge of each rail.

TIP: Scan for Hidden Metal

Scan wood for hidden metal, like. nails and screws. Colleen McQuaid

When working with salvaged wood, a handheld metal detector, like those used for airport security, is an essential tool for locating buried nails, which can damage planer blades, router bits, and joiners. Run the wand methodically over the surface. When a sensor is activated—most detectors have visual and audio alerts—stop and extract the metal. Then scan the surface again to ensure you didn’t miss anything.

Step 4: Rabbet the sides

Tom rabbets the sides of the wine rack. Colleen McQuaid

Adjust the router fence to cut a 1/2-inch-by-1/2-inch rabbet into all the edges of each sidepiece. Sand and round over all the edges; sand salvaged-wood panels gently to preserve the wood’s patina.

Step 5: Prep for pocket screws

Prepping for pocket screws Colleen McQuaid

Using a pocket-hole jig, drill a pair of pocket holes into the ends of each rail. Lay one leg on the workbench, with the dadoes positioned as shown. Hold a rail piece vertically on the leg so the dadoes line up, and the rail sits flush with the top ends of the leg. Drive two pocket screws into the leg, as shown.

Step 6: Assemble the sides

Assembling the sides of the wine rack. Colleen McQuaid

Fit the side-panel rabbets into the dadoes of the leg-and-rail assembly. Slip a side rail onto the panel’s rabbet and tap it snugly. Pocket-screw the end of the rail to the leg, as in Step 5. Assemble a second sidepiece the same way. Place it facedown and, following the instructions in Step 5, pocket-screw two vertical rails to one of its legs to hold the back panel.

Step 7: Make the bottle racks

Making the bottle racks. Colleen McQuaid

Using a loose-tenon joiner, cut mortises into the ends and sides of the rack pieces. Add glue to each mortise, insert tenons into the end pieces, and tap the sidepiece mortises into them; wipe up excess glue. Make three more racks in the same way.

Step 8: Attach the bottle racks

Attaching the bottle racks. Colleen McQuaid

Lay one sidepiece facedown on a workbench. Using a framing square, mark the legs where each rack will go. Dab glue on the marks closest to the cabinet’s bottom, set an assembled rack on the dabs, and brad-nail it to the leg. Repeat.

Step 9: Finish the cabinet assembly

Finish assembling the wine rack cabinet. Colleen McQuaid

Slide the plywood back panel into the dadoes of the vertical rails assembled in Step 6. Use a framing square to find the centers of the racks on the panel’s back side; brad-nail the panel to them.

Lay the remaining side piece next to the back panel assembly. Dab glue on the sidepiece legs, then turn the entire cabinet assembly onto the dabs; fit the back panel into the leg dado. Brad-nail the shelves to the legs at the dabs. Finish connecting the sides by driving pocket hole screws into the front and back legs.

Step 10: Make the stemware holders

Making the stemware holders. Colleen McQuaid

On a table saw, rip side-by-side, 15-degree bevels in the 5⁄4x4 stock. Cut the pieces to length and round over the edges with a block plane. Glue a 1x2 to the unbeveled side. When the glue dries, cut one in half lengthwise.

Step 11: Add the stemware holders

Adding the stemware holders to the wine rack. Colleen McQuaid

Line them up parallel to one another, with the half-width pieces on either side, as shown, and brad-nail two crosspieces on top of them. Insert the assembled holders into the cabinet above the top shelf and pull them up against horizontal 1xs inside the cabinet’s top, front and back. Glue and nail the crosspieces to them.

Step 12: Secure the top

Securing the top of the wine rack. Colleen McQuaid

Fasten the top to the cabinet from underneath with screws. Finish the legs and sides with five coats of wipe-on polyurethane. Coat the top with a black polyurethane stain, followed by three coats of gloss polyurethane.


Tom used an old piece of white pine he pulled from a job site years ago and had been holding onto in his workshop. When deciding what wood to save and what wood to get rid of, in general, Tom holds on to old wood that has a tight grain. This project could also be done with a variety of different types of lumber that can be found at home centers and lumber yards.

The wood glue Tom used to assemble the top and some of the other pieces of the rack is manufactured by Gorilla Glue.

For the top, Tom finished it with a black wood stain, sanded it down until some of the color of the wood grain came back, and then coated it with some wipe-on polyurethane. These can be found at home centers. The other materials Tom used for the wine rack can also be found a home centers.