Turning Water Into Wine — Or Wine Into Herbs?

By Bruce Johnson

When a case of wine came up for bid at a charity auction last year, I sensed my wife Leigh Ann was just as excited about the wooden case as she was about the wine. There were still bottles left in the box when she announced last week that she wanted to turn it into an indoor herb garden. If you’d like to see how she transformed an ordinary pine box into this colorful collection of herbs, just keep on reading….

Fortunately for us, the wine box came with a slide-out lid and partitions that could easily be removed. Unfortunately, the box was made from #2 pine, which meant knots and the likelihood that it would turn blotchy and uneven when stained — unless we first took steps to prevent that from happening.

After rummaging around in our garage, Leigh Ann found a plastic storage tub that fit snugly into the box. By planting her herbs in it rather directly in the pine box, she knew she could extend the life of the box and make planting much easier.

Since she wanted to stain the box using the Fruit Punch color of Minwax® Water Based Wood Stain, Leigh Ann gave the pine a light sanding with #150-grit sandpaper, wiped off the dust, and then brushed on a liberal coat of  Minwax® Water Based Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner using a synthetic bristle brush. After five minutes, she wiped off any Wood Conditioner left unabsorbed.

Knowing the Water Based Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner would require about 15-30 minutes to dry, Leigh Ann began assembling what she would need for her herb garden:  a layer of drainage rocks in the bottom, followed by potting soil and her selection of herbs, including parsley, oregano, cilantro, and two kinds of basil.

Once the Water Based Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner had dried, she sanded off any fuzziness using #180-grit sandpaper, wiped off the dust, and began brushing on a coat of Fruit Punch Water Based Wood Stain, again using a synthetic bristle brush.

Since all water based products dry very quickly, she only worked on one side at a time, wiping off the excess stain just 2-3 minutes later.


While the Fruit Punch stain was drying, Leigh Ann returned to the workbench and began planting the herbs in the plastic storage tub that will protect the wood from water, roots and dirt. Even if she hadn’t been able to find the perfect tub stuck on a shelf in our garage, we could have purchased an inexpensive dishpan or similar waterproof liner to serve the same purpose.

Even though her herb garden box will stay inside the kitchen, protected by a sliding glass door, Leigh Ann knew both the wood and the stain would need some protection. She opted for the gloss version of Minwax® Polycrylic® Protective Finish, giving the outside and inside of the box two coats for additional protection and shine.

Our Saturday project not only was fun and easy, but it also took very little time out of our day. Right now you can still see the lip of the plastic tub, but within a few weeks the herbs will have nearly covered it. And the next time we need some parsley for our baked potatoes or basil for our tomato sauce, we won’t have to go outside to the garden, because we will have an indoor, year-round herb garden in a colorful, classic wine box.

Until next time,

Thanks for stopping by!


PS – Be sure to check out the Minwax® Facebook page for even more tips, techniques, and projects.

About Bruce Johnson

Author-craftsman Bruce Johnson has introduced millions of do-it-yourselfers, craftspeople and antique collectors to the world of wood finishing and antique restoration. As the official spokesperson for Minwax®, the leading manufacturer of wood finishing and wood care products, Bruce motivates people to take the initiative to beautify their surroundings. Through his many books, magazine articles and columns, as well as frequent appearances on national television talk shows, Johnson is recognized as an authority in the do-it-yourself community. Appearing on PBS, HGTV, The Discovery Channel, and currently hosting “DIY Woodworking” and “Build A Log Cabin”, on the DIY cable network, Johnson has brought the illustrious craft of wood finishing to the forefront of the American home. An expert in wood refinishing, antique restoration, and home improvement, Bruce has published more than a dozen books on these topics, including Fifty Simple Ways To Save Your House, The Wood Finisher, The Weekend Refinisher, and The Official Identification and Price Guide to the Arts and Crafts Movement. For more than 20-years, he penned an antique refinishing advice column, "Knock on Wood," which ran in dozens of antique/collectibles publications. Currently, he writes a column on Arts & Crafts for Style 1900 magazine. A rare combination of craftsman and journalist, Johnson began his career as a high school English teacher, but left teaching to set up his "Knock on Wood Antique Repair & Restoration" shop. He spent the next 10 years as a full-time professional refinisher, but eventually returned to writing. Yet, Johnson says, he won't ever be without a workbench and a couple of refinishing projects down in the basement. Johnson is also the founder and director of the Arts and Crafts Conference and Antique Show held every February in Asheville, North Carolina, at the Grove Park Inn. The conference, which includes the largest Arts and Crafts antiques show, attracts more than 1500 Arts and Crafts collectors each year to its many seminars, tours, demonstrations and exhibits. Johnson is proud to have played a role in reviving interest in designers like Gustav Stickley, who founded the Arts and Crafts movement. His latest book, “Grove Park Inn Arts & Crafts Furniture,” was awarded the 2009 Thomas Wolfe Literary Award. These furnishings are treasured by such collectors as Steven Spielberg and Bruce Willis, among many others.

2 comments on “Turning Water Into Wine — Or Wine Into Herbs?

  1. Lynn & Larry Mills

    Hi Bruce from the cousins in Shreveport ! You might want to watch out, Leigh Ann might take your job !

  2. Sue Weaver

    Leigh Ann, How delightful to see pictures of you after all of these years! I am going to forward them to Dana. Your Husband seems to be quite talented and very nice looking. Ashville is one of my favorite places and I am sure you are glad that your Parents bought a home there.
    It seems like yesterday that you girls and Clark and John were running all over the neighborhood.
    hope to see you sometime if you ever get to Dallas. Maybe Moms and Girls could have a lunch out. Love, Sue

Comments are closed.