Reusing Grandpa’s Shot Glass Cabinet

When I was a child, I used give my Grandpa Kainz shot glasses from places we’d visit on our family travels. I don’t think he actually collected shot glasses, but once I started sending them to him he, well, had a collection. What delighted me growing up was visiting Grandpa and Grandma’s basement and seeing the collection of shot glasses hanging on the wall. Grandpa made a couple of cases to house the collection, which loomed over the pool table.

When Grandma moved out of the house, Mom and Dad collected a few mementos, which included the shot glass cabinets from the basement. They packaged the cabinets up, wrapped the individual shelves and shipped them to me. Unbeknownst to my parents, the glass Grandpa decided to use for the shelves was thin windowpane glass, so when I pulled away the packing I discovered that the five shelves were sharp shards. From that point on, the large shelf (pictured) sat empty under a desk.

In the intervening years, my photographic collection grew and I finally ran out of display space. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted the bare shot glass cabinet and after a few measurements, discovered that it had both the depth and shelf-to-shelf height to fit parts of my camera and lens collection. The problem, however, was that I needed new shelves.

I live in an apartment without a proper workspace to cut material with precision. Grandpa built the cabinet using materials he had on the farm, so the interior dimensions were non-standard. The other thing is that I wanted the cabinet for display and being a bit particular, clean cuts were a must. Since I couldn’t do the work myself, I turned to on-demand manufacturing.

Ponoko is an on-demand laser cutting service based in Oakland, CA. While capable of producing a wide range of precision objects, what I needed was quite simple — a set of precision-cut shelves that wouldn’t flex and could present my photographic gear well. Following their instructions, I used an illustration package to generate a pattern, selected the material I wanted to use, uploaded the 2D file, and authorized a laser cutting job. A little over a week later, I had five identical laser cut black laminate shelves that fit perfectly within the cabinet.

Shelves installed
Shelf detail

Happy with the fit and finish, I loaded the cabinet with my photographic gear (below). You may notice that a couple of shelves are missing. Because some of the gear is rather tall, I left those shelves out. But rather than storing them away, I placed one on the bottom and one on the top to provide a nice black surface for the gear to sit on. When the shelves arrived, each side had a protective adhesive backing to protect the laminate surface. For the topmost and bottommost shelves, I left the backing on the underside so that the wood of the cabinet would not scratch the surface. The paper backing gives each shelf a little more friction to hold it in place. If the top one moves, I may use some kind of adhesive material to hold it in place.

Configured cabinet with shelves

Now that I’ve had the experience of having some material cut by Ponoko, I’m starting to think about other bits around the apartment that could be put back in service. Who knows… maybe one day soon I’ll design something for my custom interior project for my BMW M Roadster and Ponoko will come to the rescue again.