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This article, “A Different Take on Bottle Stoppers,” by Pete Blair, is from the pages of American Woodturner and is brought to you by theAmerica Association of Woodturners (AAW) in partnership with Woodworker’s Journal.
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- All you will need is: Some paper Minimum really is about 32 A4 or US Letter sized sheets, to make a half A4 (half US Letter sized book), although smaller books can be made as can ones with more pages. You can use tracing paper, thick or thin paper and of course colored or even preprinted or written on paper.
In today’s kitchens, many types of bottles can use a stopper. From olive oil to vinegar, wine bottles are only one possibility. I have made bottle stoppers utilizing everything from high-quality American-made parts to off-shore plastic, “stainless” steel that wasn’t stainless at all, and natural cork. I wanted my stoppers to be relatively inexpensive to make, while still unique. In addition, typical wine bottle stoppers often make bottles so tall, they no longer fit on my refrigerator shelves, so I designed mine to have a low profile.
As a frugal woodturner, I looked for a less-expensive way to make the age-old stopper and wondered why natural and synthetic corks were so prevalent. I believe the answer is that they are a throwaway item and can be purchased very reasonably in bulk. A quick online search for T-top corks reveals a variety of sources. Many sizes are available; I bought 100 of the standard wine-bottle size with plastic T-tops. These cost about fifty cents each, with the price dropping as the quantity increases.
T-top corks can vary in length and diameter of both the cork and the plastic top, so all dimensions shown in Figure 1 are approximate. Adjust your stopper dimensions to the particular units you buy.
Prepare Stopper Blank
Begin by cutting a project blank approximately 2″ (5cm) square, or a little longer than that, depending on what shape you plan to turn. Grain can run lengthwise or across the blank, but remember that endgrain can be trickier to finish. Based on the diameter of your plastic T-top, bore a hole in the blank (mine was 1-3/16″, or 30mm, in diameter). This hole will be used first to mount the blank on a jam chuck, then to accept the T-top in the finished piece.
The depth of this hole should be just a little deeper than the length of the T-top and cork to ensure the finished stopper sits evenly on its base, not on the protruding end of the cork, when placed on a flat surface. If the wood is square or easily gripped in a chuck, drill the hole on the lathe. If not, use a drill press, holding odd-shaped pieces with a clamp. After boring the hole, finish-sand the end around the drilled hole, sanding by hand if drilled on a drill press.
Turn a Jam Chuck
For holding the stopper blank on the lathe, turn a jam chuck, held in your chuck. Turn a spigot sized to fit snugly into the hole you drilled in the blank.
The jam chuck should have a positive tenon and shoulder for the scroll chuck to grip and register against, and a positive shoulder for the stopper blank to register against. You will also bore two concentric holes in it—a 3/4″ (19mm) hole deep enough to hold the cork and a 1/2″ (13mm) hole all the way through, to help if the cork gets stuck.
Shape the Stopper
Mount the drilled stopper blank on the jam chuck and bring up the tailstock for support as you shape it. I use a washer or plastic spacer on my live center when I need to use the whole length of the blank and wish to avoid damaging the wood with the live center. But if I have enough wood to waste, I prefer to use the live center as usual.
Wood tends to change shape, and sometimes the fit on the jam chuck is not precise. I have noticed if I drill with the same bit into both endgrain and sidegrain, the fit is usually a little different. If the fit on the jam chuck is a bit loose, simply wrap a little masking tape around the spigot to take up the slack.
Turn the blank to your desired shape, leaving a small amount of material at the tailstock end. I sand to 600 or 800 grit at this point. Masking tape secures the partially finished blank on the jam chuck, allowing me to remove the tailstock and carefully complete the shape with fine, gentle cuts followed by final sanding.
If you want to apply a finish on the lathe, this is the time to do it. I use an oil/urethane blend, but cyanoacrylate (CA) glue works well, too.
Any number of turned shapes and designs can be employed. See Wine Barrel Stopper sidebar for my take on a themed version.
Now the holes in the jam chuck come into play. With the stopper blank removed, press a T-top cork into the larger hole. Spin it on the lathe slowly and rough up the plastic top with an abrasive. I cut a few grooves around the edges, as well. This helps form a better bond when gluing the T-top into the stopper blank. The jam chuck also allows me to later remount the completed stopper to finish or make minor adjustments.
Turn an Insertion Jig
I find it useful to turn a dedicated insertion jig for holding and centering the T-top in the stopper blank during glue-up. To ensure proper alignment, the spigot on this jig must fit smoothly and without force into the hole in the stopper, so turn this diameter carefully. I then cut four shallow slots around the perimeter of the spigot to allow air to escape as the T-top is pressed into the stopper body. These notches are shown on the front view. I use an old hacksaw blade to create these slots, but a chisel would work fine as well.
Part the insertion jig from the wasteblock. Use a parting tool until there is a small amount of wood remaining, then finish with a handsaw with the lathe off.
Wine Barrel Stopper
(1) Form a gently curved barrel shape, leaving three raised, wrap-around “bands.” Adjust the toolrest height so its edge is parallel to the central axis, and use the toolrest edge as a guide to mark the staves, first in pencil, then in marker. Use an indexing wheel to space the staves evenly, or determine and measure the spacing manually.
(2) With the tailstock removed and the blank taped securely on the jam chuck, form a recess in the end of the barrel for the “top” detail.
(3) Burn in the lines dividing the staves.
(4) Color the bands with a permanent marker or burner. Then sand and finish. Barrels are typically pretty rustic, so don’t spend a lot of time sanding.
Glue in T-top Cork
Mix up a small amount of epoxy (or use another glue that works on plastic and wood). You need only a little. Carefully use a mixing stick to apply the epoxy to only the bottom of the stopper hole. Try to avoid getting glue on the inside walls of the hole, but a little squeeze-out around the plastic T-top and its grooves is desirable.
I then use the insertion jig to hold the T-top cork, center it in the stopper blank, and ensure it makes secure contact with the glue. Insert the T-top only part way into the insert plug to ensure it will reach all the way to the epoxy at the bottom of the hole.
Then, using the insertion jig as a holder and positioner, push the T-top fully into the stopper. Once the epoxy sets, remove the insert jig from the stopper. Any difficulty in removing it can be resolved using the through-hole and a tap-out bar to nudge it free.
These bottle stoppers are durable, functional, and inexpensive to make. They don’t add much height, so bottles can be stored vertically in the refrigerator. The corks have a snug fit, so bottles can be laid on their sides without leaking. Many sizes of T-top corks are available, and best of all, there are endless design opportunities, both in turned shapes and embellishments.
Pete Blair was first introduced to woodturning in high school shop class in the 1960s. Having completed a professional career, he has now returned to the lathe and spends many of his waking hours turning or thinking about what he wants to turn next. Presently, Pete is exploring ways to allow his artistic side to emerge, such as adding detail, color, and texture to his work.
Introduction: Make a Wine Bottle Stopper
A good bottle of wine really should be complimented by a beautifully crafted bottle stopper. In the picture you see two bottle stoppers. The one on the left is made from cherry and the one on the right from walnut.
Not a wine drinker---no problem. You can still use this bottle stopper for other containers that store vinegerettes or oils. I made this bottle stopper on my JET mini lathe, during the middle of a dreary, rainy, southern day. But nothing is dreary inside the workshop. Thank God for this great hobby called woodworking!
Step 1: Quick Word on Safety
As with all my instructables, I assume you have some basic knowledge of woodworking along with some basic training. Read the operating instructions of all your tools to make sure you know how to use them safely and effectively. Take into account all the safety hazards in your own shop environment. Things like, but not limited to, eye safety, hearing protection, skin protection, dust control.
Have fun and be safe!
Step 2: The Materials Needed
For my bottle stopper, I used what I had in the wood pile which was a piece of walnut (Photo 1). I also made a second bottle stopper out of cherry, which you saw in the introduction photo. Below is a list of other materials you will need to make the bottle stopper:
The Mini Bottle Stopper is from Rockler, wood not included (Photo 2). Most woodworking stores do sell the wood separately and already cut to bottle stopper size. I highly recommend the stainless steel bottle stopper, because it will not corrode or react to wines like other platings. The chrome platings will react to some wines. The Mini Bottle Stopper has a threaded stud and the dimensions are 3/8 inch X 16 TPI (threads per inch).
30 Minute or 60 Minute Epoxy from the local hardware store or home improvement store (Photo 3).
Sandpaper - 120, 220, & 320 grits from home improvement store (Photo 4). Micro Mesh pads from Woodcraft or Hobby Lobby (Photo 5).
Friction Polish from Woodcraft store (Photo 6).
Step 3: Tools Needed
Tools you will need:
Mini lathe (Photo 1) and spindle gouges (Photo 2)
A lathe drill chuck (Jacob's chuck) (Photo 3). If you have a Collet Chuck that's even better.
3/8 16 TPI -- tap for making bottle stopper threads in the wood stock (Photo 4)
5/16 drill bit and electric drill.
Bottle Stopper Mandrel from Rockler (Photo 5). The mandrel holds the wood so you can shape it on your lathe. Note that the threaded stud on the mandrel matches the stud on bottle stopper, in this case, 3/8 inch X 16 TPI (threads per inch). The smooth shaft slides into the chuck. The shoulder or washer-looking thing is the bushing.
Step 4: Pick Out Your Wood
A bottle stopper is a small scale project, so pick out a wood that has some interesting colors or grain figures. I chose walnut and cherry, but other interesting woods would be cocobolo, buckeye burl, bocote, purpleheart, olive, or zebra wood. Google bottle stoppers or look through woodworking catalogs to get ideas.
The piece of walnut in the picture has a check (crack) in it, and so I ended up using a different piece of walnut cut from the same board. Examine your wood for any imperfections and select interesting grain patterns. As I mentioned before, most woodworking stores already have wood blanks cut to bottle stopper dimensions. It's also a good idea to get multiple pieces of wood in case you mess up.
Step 5: Drill Hole for Bottle Stopper Threads
First, I found the center of my bottle stopper blank. Just draw a line from each corner and where they cross should be center. I used a drill press which is preferred, but use what you have and try to drill as straight a hole as you can. For the 3/8 X 16 TPI bottle stopper, I used a 5/16 drill bit. Notice that I'm using some tape to help me gauge how deep to drill. I measured the distance off the bottle stopper stud and added 1/4 inch more for my hole depth.
Also, try to make sure you drill into the end of the blank that is most square or flat. If you buy the blank from the store, it will probably already be squared up fairly well. However, if you cut your own stock, use a tablesaw or chop saw. DON'T use a jig saw or bandsaw, because you won't get a square face on the wood. As an alternative (if you have one) you could use a disc sander to true up the face of your blank. Keep in mind this is where your bottle stopper will screw into the wood, so you'll need that flat surface on the wood.
Step 6: Tap Some Threads for the Bottle Stopper Stud
I purchased a 3/8 X 16 TPI tap (with handle attachment) from my local hardware store. They are normally used to tap threads in metal but also work on wood. Let me make a confession here--I had to go through about 3 walnut blanks to get this step right. The 5/16 hole works fine, but make sure you twist the tap straight into the wood blank. Also, go slow and periodically reverse the tap to clear out wood chips that might be building up. I used some tape to help me gauge the depth I needed to go. Don't get discouraged if this doesn't work correctly the first time. Just pull out another wood blank and start over.
Step 7: Attach a Jacob's Chuck & Bottle Stopper Mandrel to the Lathe
I used a Jacob's Chuck (Photo 1), which I bought from Rockler, to hold the bottle stopper mandrel (Photo 2). Just slide the mandrel into the chuck and tighten it down (Photo 3). Make sure your chuck is properly seated in the headstock of the lathe. My lathe takes a morse taper #2 adapter which connects with the chuck. Make sure you have the right chuck for your lathe.
Another option would be a Collet Chuck which may be even a better choice over the Jacob's Chuck.
Step 8: Turn the Wood Blank
Make sure your lathe's speed is set to about 1800 RPM. Bring up the tailstock and live center to help hold the blank in place. Put on your face shield.
Think about the shape you want and how the bottle stopper will fit in the hand. I'd suggest starting with a very simple design. I used a medium and small spindle gouge to do all my turning.
First, turn the blank down to a cylinder. Then begin shaping it like you want it. The mandrel's shoulder acts as a bushing, guiding you to the correct dimension to match the bottle stopper diameter. I found that it's okay not to turn or sand the wood all the way down to the bushing.
When you get it down to the final shape (before sanding), turn the lathe off and remove the tailstock and live center. Make sure the chuck is still firmly set in the headstock and the wood is still gripping the mandrel threads well. Be careful and go slow. Use a light touch as you attempt to remove the dimple left by the live center and finish the end of the bottle stopper.
Step 9: Sand the Bottle Stopper
Turn the lathe off and move your tool rest out of the way. Turn the lathe back on and use 120, 220, & 320 grit sandpaper. I like to cut my sandpaper into 1 inch strips. Turn the lathe off between grits and inspect your work. Finish the sanding with Micro Mesh pads which you can get at Hobby Lobby or a woodworking store. I also like to wipe some denatured alcohol on the wood between sandings to help clean the dust away. It also raises the grains for additional sanding. DON'T FORGET TO WEAR YOUR DUST MASK.
Step 10: Apply a Finish
Probably the easier finish to add is the friction polish (Photo 1). There are different brands, but check with your local wood/craft supply store or order online. Apply about a quarter size amount onto a paper towel. Wipe it all over the blank with the lathe off. Turn the lathe back on and move the paper towel back and forth along the bottom of the wood. You should feel a little heat and this is good because it helps to cure the polish. The polish will help seal the wood and your blank will leave the lathe with a glossy look (Photo 2). Over time, the glossy look will fade, but some people are okay with that. I prefer to feel the wood in my hand.
Some like the CA finish or polyurethane. If you want to explore other finishing methods, I would suggest going to Google or YouTube.
DON'T FORGET TO WEAR YOUR FACESHIELD OR SAFETY GLASSES.
Step 11: Assemble the Bottle Stopper
Remove the turned and finished wood from the lathe. To assemble the bottle stopper, screw the bottle stopper into the wood and test it for fit. Unscrew and mix up some 60 minute or 30 minute epoxy. I used a Que Tip and applied a small amount of the epoxy onto the threads of the bottle stopper stud and screwed it back into the wood.
You are finished! Allow the glue to dry overnight before you use the bottle stopper.
Please take a minute and visit my website: www.FourOaksCrafts.com. I continue to add tutorials, tips, and articles on woodworking and DIY projects. Periodically I will hold giveaways where I offer up a few of my handmade crafts---particularly handmade writing pens.
I'm also looking for writers. So feel free to pitch me with ideas on tutorials or articles that compliment the theme of my site.
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