Ripping the boards

To rip the rough boards, I secured a 3/4" plywood strip (the longer, the better) to my table-saw rip fence. Doing so enables me to make straight cuts even if the boards aren't. This is a particularly effective blade-saving technique if you don't want to run such wood through your jointer.

Cutting the parts to their final dimensions

After ripping enough stock for the project, I used a wire brush to remove any dirt and grit from both faces of the boards and then headed to my thickness planer. Notice that I used a wire brush instead of sandpaper because the latter leaves grit in the wood, which dulls the blades quickly. (Here, again, you want to keep your blades sharp as long as possible.) Using a regular-sized wine bottle, I was able to rip and cut my parts to their final dimensions.

Test cuts

To avoid using nails, I rabbeted the end board side edges. This way only glue was used to join the sides. I installed a 1" straight router bit in the router table, took the time to set the fence properly and did some tests on a scrap. The following photos show the difference between the last two fence set-ups, done to ensure perfectly tight joints. Believe me, this is not wasted time!

Left) Measuring the bottom. Right) Rabbet on the bottom piece.

After milling the rabbets, I was able to dry-assemble the parts to take the exact measurements for the bottom. When done, I installed a sacrificial fence on the table-saw rip fence to partly bury the blade. I then set both to mill a shallow 1/32" wide x 1/16" deep rabbet along the perimeter of the bottom piece to give the box a refined touch.

Left) Adding strips to the lid. Right) Looking for scratches.

The next step was cutting the lid to size, aiming for a loose fit. I cut to length and ripped two thin strips to act as rests to prevent the lid from falling in. This is an easy solution to set the lid and it adds another accent to the box. Once again, only glue secured the strips to the lid. (Glue squeeze-out did occur and I had to wipe it off using a damp cloth. As a result, the wood grain rose after contact with the water. This issue will be addressed later.) I sanded those three parts smooth using up to 500 grit. I then used methyl hydrate (could be denatured alcohol) to look for any scratches that would show after the finish was applied.

Left) Preparing for glue-up. Right) Assembling using shop-made clamps.

Remember, I used no nails. I planned out my glue-up ahead of time so that everything required was at an arm’s reach. To prevent squeeze-out that would compromise the finish, I applied only a thin coat of carpenter's glue around the perimeter of the bottom as well as in the rabbets milled in the end boards. As shown, it was a good opportunity to use a few of my shop-made tools – a mallet, hand screws and a sanding block.

Sanding with the grain

Because in a previous step wetting the lid to remove glue squeeze-out caused the grain to rise, I had to sand the area using more 500-grit sandpaper. To prevent sanding across the grain along the thin cleats, I managed to wrap the sandpaper around a wide putty knife and effectively sanded with the grain by means of several back and forth movements.

Left) Adding a Miller dowel. Right) Gluing the dowels.

To further secure the joints, primarily because of wood movement caused by seasonal humidity, I added a miniature Miller dowel to all short joints and two to long joints. Those dowels not only keep the parts together, they also pull the joints for a tight fit. I spread the glue only on the ring parts of the dowels so that no squeeze-out would occur. A starter kit of Miller dowels came with a specially sized stepped drill bit.

Left) Dowels installed. Right) Card used to prevent saw teeth from marring the wood surface.

As shown, the dowels bottomed out on their shoulders, and only part of the heads were proud of the surface. An easy way to trim them is by using a flush-cutting saw. To prevent the saw teeth from marring the surrounding surfaces, I punched a hole in a playing card and dropped it over each dowel before cutting them flush. The next step was the final sanding. As already mentioned, I like to go down to 500 grit for a very smooth finish.

Burning a decorative detail

A neat way to personalize such a hand-crafted gift is to burn something on it. I used a pencil to draw a rustic-looking wine glass on the top side of the lid and did the same on the bottom; I also added my co-worker’s initials. This burning step is fun and easy and you don't need a fancy or expensive tool to add such a charming detail.

Left) Applying the linseed oil finish. Right) Buffing the finish.

To feature the nice grain of this mahogany, no doubt an oil finish was the best choice. I used boiled linseed oil. I applied a single heavy coat to the inside and outside of the box using a lint-free rag and wiped off the excess after 30 minutes. Two days later, when it was completely dry, I buffed the finish using heavy brown paper – in fact, the same paper used by Lee Valley to fill mail-order boxes! You should feel the smoothness of this box!

The completed box

The choice of wine to fill the box was as easy as the choice of wood! To prevent the bottle from rolling around in the box, as well as to provide a nice nest to lay it on, I purchased a bag of wood shavings at my local craft-supply store to fill the box (just kidding!). I grabbed my bench plane and shaved a pine scrap to get a fair amount of shavings. I chose pine because of its aroma and because it would also absorb some of the oil odor. Finally, I tied the lid with twine to give the piece an additional crafty look.

The completed box

Happy retirement, my friend! From now on, you'll have plenty of time to enjoy your passion as I do mine – woodworking!

Text and photos by Serge Duclos

Serge Duclos started woodworking 40 years ago after purchasing a house. He soon found it was a way to relax from the stress related to his job as a human resources professional. Since retiring in 2004, Serge continues to enjoy his pastime and to update his bilingual woodworking blog with his projects, as well as his tips and techniques.

Useful Tools for This Project

05K3601 - Veritas Flush-Cut Saw, Double Edge

Veritas Double-Edge Flush-Cutting Saw


05K1505 - Set of 2 Veritas Journeyman’s Brass Mallets

Veritas Journeyman's Brass Mallets

From: $36.50

05N5410 - Veritas 1 1/2" Pocket Layout Square

Veritas 1 1/2" Pocket Layout Square


09A0260 - Chinese Fan Brushes, set of 4

Chinese Fan Brushes

From: $3.40

56Z4500 - Polymerized Tung Oil, 250ml

Polymerized Tung Oil

From: $24.90

Multi-Function Heat Pen Set

Multi-Function Heat Pen Set


09A0335 - Pulltap Double-Lever Corkscrew

Pulltap Double-Lever Corkscrew


45K2242 - Silicone Wine-Bottle Caps, pair

Silicone Wine-Bottle Caps



EV606 - Wine Discs, pkg. of 3

Wine Discs

(Pkg. of 3)


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