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“You burn, you learn.” This is a phrase I use occasionally to explain how lessons are sometimes best learned by firsthand experience. For better or worse, this is often how I learn.


Lessons Learned from the Trial and Error of Making a Bottle Glorifier

By Shon Roti

“You burn, you learn.” This is a phrase I use occasionally to explain how lessons are sometimes best learned by firsthand experience. For better or worse, this is often how I learn.

I was recently tasked by my client, a liquor distributor, to create some bottle glorifiers for one of their brands, Pendleton Whisky. Although I had seen bottle glorifiers before, I wasn’t they had a name. A bottle glorifier, or bottle riser, is a stand that a bottle rests upon to elevate itself above other brands to attract more attention on the shelf in a bar or store display. Often, they will also have a light feature to illuminate the bottle. An example of this can be seen with my final product for the client in FIGURE A.

Figure A

I’ve been working with this client for 3 years now, and I have to admit that I was a little embarrassed that I had not been aware of this product or that it had not come up in a conversation along the way in our relationship. It is my philosophy that I should familiarize myself with the client and nomenclature of the industry to better understand the client’s needs. This product was not on my radar. But it should have been. You burn, you learn.

When a client asks for a product that I am unfamiliar with or if I lack the proper equipment to create the product, I rely on my promotional product membership to find a wholesaler to complete the order. I did not originally think this was in my wheelhouse, so the wholesaler option is where I started.

What I found were products that were either too expensive or had a minimum order quantity that was too large for the client. I was also not entirely satisfied with the look of the products. I did not see a product that fit the western/ cowboy theme that exemplifies the Pendleton brand.

After I had exhausted my search without satisfactory results, I began to consider creating this product with a few tools in my garage woodshop and my laser engraver.

I offered to create a prototype to demonstrate that I could make something that fit the brand better than the wholesale options I had previously sent to the client. The first step was to create some dimensional drawings using CorelDRAW to see how large the overall structure would be based on the thickness of the wood (FIGURE B).

Figure B

This also helped me determine the dimensions of the acrylic shelves that I would eventually vector cut with my laser. These shelves would house the LED lights and become a resting platform for the bottles on top.

The tools I used for the box construction included a table saw, belt sander (not shown), drills and drill bit (small), 1-in. nails, brown and black spray paint (for paint-filling the lasered logo), a butane torch, a wood chisel bit, various wood clamps, a hammer, a Phillips-head screwdriver, LED lights, and safety equipment (FIGURE C).

Figure C

The prototype (FIGURE D) was not perfect. The hardware (hinges and latches) was cobbled together from spare items that I had laying around in the garage and would not be uniform or sustainable for multiple units. I also used scrap sublimation aluminum to create the base, which was a mistake, as it was too thin and gave the whole piece a flimsy feel.

Figure D

I also tried to spray-paint the horse component of the logo red to mimic the actual logo colors, but the result was a bit of a mess. It looked like a DIY project. These were more of those lessons learned the hard way. You burn, you learn.

I made a short video demonstrating the prototype anyway and sent it to the client, explaining the modifications I would employ to correct the few disappointing components of the box. They were excited about the design despite its faults. I was soon busy with a new order for 27 units.

I purchased the necessary LED lights and wood from a local home improvement store. After cutting and sanding the wood, I masked and lasered the front of the box (FIGURE E). I learned from my first experience with the prototype that black paint-fill was too dark, and the brown did not quite match the burnt wood effect. So, a combination of both was employed—first the brown and then a lighter spray of black.

Figure E

I pre-drilled holes in the front and bottom pieces to help prevent the wood from splitting when I hammered in the nails (another lesson I learned the hard way). The side pieces would need two channels cut to support the acrylic shelves and top. The table saw worked great for this step.

Fortuitously, the thickness of most saw blades is 1/8 in., a standard thickness of the acrylic sheet stock that I would be using. The channel that the table saw blade created worked perfectly. FIGURE F shows the marriage of the side channels and the acrylic shelves.

Figure F

I fashioned a jig to hold three sides of the box in place while I hammered the nails from the front. Using keywords “jewelry box hinges” and “latches,” I searched online and found antique bronze hardware that I used to create a door in the back to access the lighting components.

One of the key features of this build was the red translucent acrylic sheet stock, also found online. This allowed me to easily find a standard LED, knowing that the red acrylic bottle base would filter the light and make the bottle glow red. FIGURE G shows a finished box with the red acrylic shelf.

Figure G

The most satisfying part of the construction was the burning technique I employed with the butane torch. I kept the flame 1 in. to 3 in. from the wood and moved the flame quickly. I found there was nothing tricky about this step except knowing when to stop burning. There is a point at which too much burning can spoil the effect. I found the process so satisfying, I wished I had more boxes to burn! See all 27 units in FIGURE H. The butane torch burn technique can be viewed by following the QR code found in FIGURE I.

Figure H

Figure I

Although I had noodled this project beforehand as I do many projects, there are always unforeseen challenges and issues. The most import thing to remember is to not be afraid to try. You burn, you learn.

Shon Roti is the owner of 9th Street Designs, a sublimation and graphic design consulting and promotional products business. A graphic designer, Roti has spent more than 2 decades working as a production artist and instructor in the awards and promotional products industry. In 2014, the Awards and Personalization Association named him Speaker of the Year. Find him at or contact him at

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