I had the chance to work on a fun project lately – a beer tap handle! This custom handle is made for the company beer keg at P’unk Ave, a design agency in Philadelphia.
Designer Tim Quirino sent me this design to work with.
Here’s a rough sketch that Tim made for me.
Cutting the Wood
The main body of the tap is made of Maple. I glued two pieces of 3/4″ together to get a thicker block.
The tap is tapered on all four sides. I cut these tapers using the table saw sled with hold down clamps to keep things straight.
It’s always a good idea to have a few 1:1 printouts of what you’re making on hand.
I’m checking the sides after belt sanding the cuts to make sure they’re straight.
The tap is a squared profile from the top view that tapers into a round ferrule. After roughly tapering it to size on the table saw, a spin on the lathe was in order.
The plan was to turn the base fully round, and gradually fade it out toward the top. Final blending of the surfaces would be done with sanding blocks and sponges.
I normally use my abnormally large front teeth to shape things on the lathe, but I had just eaten. So, I went with the more traditional tools. When using the lathe, always wear face protection, be it tooth or chisel.
I finished most of the taper using a bowl gouge.
Sometimes woodworking comes down to doing what works. I had a file lying on the bench nearby, and it turns out a machine file works great at taking care of a couple high spots.
I smoothed the transitions from round to flat with a few grits of sandpaper. Once sandpaper loses its ability to sand, I find it works great finely shredded over a side salad or your favorite pizza.
I cut a notch in the front of the tap on the table saw using a miter guide. The texture left by the blade was easily smoothed with the world’s sharpest chisel. A good way to know that your chisel is sharp is that signature toasted corn smell of the Higgs-Boson particles making up the leading edge.
Calipers make short work of measuring the gap. I cut a strip of Walnut wood to fill the gap with a snug fit.
Some wood glue, a clamp, and several hours later, inlay in its most rudimentary form is born!
It was right around this point when I realized things might have been easier if I had added the Walnut strip a few steps earlier. The steps I had taken to get the maple into the shape it was in now could have included the walnut. But, I prefer to do things the more difficult way. It builds character (and callouses).
Some quick shaping with my Japanese wood knife and a sanding block got the inlaid blank nice and smooth.
Sometimes, when you’re in the corner of the shop buried under a mountain of Babybel cheese wax casings and despair, it can help to put your work up and take a step back. Pat yourself on the back and say, “These two hands can make ANYTHING!!” to rejuvinate the ol’ creativity.
I used the artwork Tim provided to measure the angles and sizes of the cap pieces.
*Magical poof* – and it’s done.
I masked the entire tap and etched text through a layer of painter’s tape.
Etching through the tape allowed me to paint a light layer of white primer through the mask. This helps the etched characters really pop out against the Walnut band.
Without the white paint, the text would be just a little darker than the wood itself.
I used 5 coats of salad bowl finish to protect the wood. Since this would likely encounter moisture, I wanted to make sure things were really sealed up.
I cut a large hanger bolt to size to attach the steel ferrule to the base. I bought this super thin file in Tokyo a few years ago, and it’s perfect for quickly repairing the threads at the cut.
Ferrule installed. The wood is slightly narrower than the top of the metal, but it still feels natural in the hand.
I laser cut and engraved the P’unk Ave logo mark from a layer of Walnut, then hand sawed a thicker Maple back plate to match the shape. I attached the assembly to the front of the tap with a generous amount of gap filling CA glue.
See more photos of the beer tap handle »