To me, wine aficionados have little to recommend them. There's the swirling, the slurping, the spitting -- and the inability to allow anyone else at the table to peruse the wine list without butting in. Then there's all the empty evidence -- the clanking soldiers lined up for recycling, an echo of the throbbing in one's morning-after brain. One positive bit of wine-snob detritus, though, is the old-fashioned wooden wine crate. As liquor stores generally reserve these for people who buy full cases -- and only the finer vintages are still packaged this way -- they provide the perfect excuse to splurge on a bunch of the good stuff. Their design is also one of the most classic consumer packages ever created; it can be retrofitted in any number of ways. This project takes a nifty French crate (block your eyes, Francophobes) and turns it into a rustic and handy garden-supply box-cum-potting table.
Assemble your supplies: You'll need a wooden wine crate; a piece of 1/4-inch-thick plywood cut to cover the top of your case (since prying the top off a wine crate often damages it); a pair of butt hinges (ours were brass and measured 2-by-13/16 inches, though anything near those dimensions will work); four table-leg mounting plates (available at hardware stores and from www.waddellmfg.com) and four screw-in table legs from the same manufacturer (ours were 4-foot-long, parsons-style legs, the perfect height for a potting table); fine sandpaper; clear polyurethane and a brush; a few scraps of wood trim; and a drill with assorted bits.
Begin by examining the screws that came with your hinges. If they're longer than your tabletop, you'll need to drill them through flat wood scraps before attaching so that they won't just plow through the cover. Then drill your hinges in, as shown, equidistant from the outer edges, so that the tabletop will rest evenly above the crate.
Lightly sand the cellar schmutz off the exterior surface of your crate, and give your top and table legs a quick once-over as well. Then brush a coat of polyurethane onto the outside of the crate, top and legs. Enjoy a glass of vino while it dries (about a half-hour, though it may take longer in the lovely D.C. humidity).
Screw in your table-leg mounting plates at the four corners of the underside of your crate, with the screws provided. Then screw your legs into the plates, and that's it! Fill your box with garden gloves, trowels, pruners and the like (die-hard wine fans, this can be changed to glasses, corkscrews and napkins). Place your table in the garden or on the back porch, and toast the clever transfiguration of your addiction!
Laura J. Vogel
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