Introduction: ​Essentials for Better Beer Box Design

Picture of ​Essentials for Better Beer Box Design

We make our own beer. This is a tasty and rewarding hobby, and produces a lot of empty beer bottles. The bottles that are gifts rarely return, so when we fire up a new batch of six gallons, we sometimes don’t have enough bottles.

Our solution is to have an empty case available, to remind our patrons to conserve and save the bottles. So we fill our need with a homemade beer case that is functional, sturdy, and attractive. Almost a piece of furniture.

  • A case must accommodate a variety of bottle diameters. Our largest bottles are 2½ in diameter.
  • Cases must be stackable, full or empty. The dividers extend above the case frames, which allows stacking.
  • A case must be sturdy - they weigh over 20 pounds full. Hardwood case frames with a locking corner joint will create a strong case. You may want to add small dowels to re-enforce the corners.
  • A case must have comfortable carrying handles. I used a 4” x 1” handle. Use whatever is right for you.
  • Cases must allow drainage from wet bottles. Six drainage holes should be plenty.
  • Cases must be simple to construct from readily available materials. Home Depot, Lowes, and Tractor Supply have everything you need.

Step 1: ​Cut List & Piece Names

Picture of ​Cut List & Piece Names

Cut List & Piece Names

Red Oak

  • 2 @ 17½ x 3½ x ¾ Long Case Frames
  • 2 @ 12¾ x 3½ x ¾ Short Case Frames

Poplar

  • 2 @ 16½ x 3⅛ x ¼ Long Divider Sides
  • 2 @ 11¼ x 3⅛ x ¼ Short Divider Sides
  • 3 @ 16½ x 3⅛ x ¼ Long Dividers
  • 5 @ 11 x 3⅛ x ¼ Short Dividers

Plywood

  • 1 @ 17⅛ x11⅝ x 3/16 Bottom

Step 2: ​Prep Work

Picture of ​Prep Work

Prep Work

Rip and cut to length all four case pieces, twelve divider pieces, and the bottom. Lightly sand all edges.

Cut out templates #1 and #2 and attach the vertical extensions that allow clamping them to the rip fence.

Rotating a piece of stock means turning it 180, end for end, same side up.

Templates


Two templates are used to position all the dado and rabbet cuts. You need to be very precise with template creation. Accuracy here is important.

Template #1 has three steps labelled Step 1, Step 2, and Step 3. The steps are 2 ¾ apart. Each step is an arbitrary 2+ high to support the cut piece. A vertical extension is attached to the right edge to allow the template to be clamped to the fence. The distance from the fence to Step 1 is the starting point, and represents the location of the right side of the blade. Step 2 is 2 ¾ from the blade, and Step 3 is another 2 ¾ (5 ½) from the blade. The template is zeroed with step 1 against the blade, and the fence is moved against it and locked. Then the template is moved to the starting point, near the front edge of the tablesaw.

A cut that begins at Step 1 will produce a rabbet on the end of your stock, as wide and deep as your dado blade. Rotating the stock 180 will produce an identical rabbet on the other end.

A cut that begins at Step 2 will produce a dado at 2 ¾ from the end of the stock, as wide and deep as your blade. Rotating the stock 180 will produce a dado 2 ¾ from the other end of the stock.

A cut that begins at step 3 will produce a dado at 5 ½ from the end of the stock, as wide and deep as your blade.

Template #2 works just like Template #1, with 5 steps, 2 ⅝ apart. Step 2 is short at ⅜, and is used to create the locking rabbet on the Short Case Frames.

Step 3: Making the Case Frames

Picture of Making the Case Frames

Long Case Frames - Red Oak

Set dado blade for ⅜ wide and ⅜ high.
Long Case Frames are 17½ x 3½ x ¾ .
Two cuts, 1 and 2, only on the ends. Makes two Long Case Frames.

Instructions

Zero Template #2 between fence and blade

Fix fence. Clamp template #2 to fence 10” before blade.

Put one end of Long Case Frame against Step 1.

Make cut 1. Rotate 180 and make cut 2.

Short Case Frames - Red Oak

Leave dado blade at ⅜ wide and ⅜ high.

Short Case Frames are 12¾ x 3½ x ¾ .

Two cuts, 1 and 2, only on ends. Makes two

Short Case Frames Instructions

Put one end of Short Case Frame against Step 2.

Make cut 1. Rotate 180 and make cut 2.

Cutting Case Pieces to Receive Bottom

Set the dado blade at ¼ wide and ¼ high.

Fix fence at ¾ from blade.

Instructions

Cut a ¼ wide x ¼ deep groove along the length of all four case sides, ¾ up from the bottom. These cuts are on the inside. The grooves will show on the outside of the Short Case Frames in four places, which we conceal with square ¼ plugs. Since these cuts are made along the grain they are called grooves, even though we used a dado blade. They’re not on an edge, so they’re not even rabbets. English woodworkers love this terminology, which they claim they invented.

Step 4: Making the Divider Sides

Picture of Making the Divider Sides

Cutting Short Divider Sides - Poplar

Set dado blade to ¼ wide, ⅛ high.

Short Divider sides are 11¼ x 3⅛ x ¼.

Five cuts, 1 thru 5. Makes two Short Divider Sides.

Instructions

Zero Template #1 between fence and blade.

Fix fence. Clamp Template #1 to fence 10” before blade.

Put top Short Divider Side against Step 1.

Make cut 1. Rotate 180 and make cut 5.

Put top Short Divider Side against Step 2.

Make cut 2. Rotate 180 and make cut 4.

Put top Short Divider Side against Step 3.

Make cut 5. Repeat for bottom Short Divider Side

Cutting Long Divider Sides - Poplar

Leave dado blade at ¼ wide, ⅛ high.

Left and right Long Divider sides are 16½ x 3⅛ x ¼.

Five cuts, 1 thru 5. No cuts on the ends. Makes two Long Divider Sides.

Instructions

Zero Template #2 between fence and blade.

Fix fence. Clamp template #2 to fence 10” before blade.

Put left Long Divider Side against Step 3.

Make cut 1. Rotate 180 and make cut 5.

Put left Long Divider Side against Step 4.

Make cut 2. Rotate 180 and make cut 4.

Put left Long Divider Side against Step 5.

Make cut 3. Repeat for right Long Divider Side.

Step 5: Making the Dividers

Picture of Making the Dividers

Cutting Long Dividers - Poplar

Raise ¼ dado blade to 1⅝.

Long dividers are 16½ x 3⅛ x ¼.

Five cuts, 1 thru 5. No cuts on the ends. Makes three dividers.

Instructions

Clamp all three dividers together.

Put one end of Long Dividers against Step 3.

Make cut 1. Rotate 180 and make cut 5.

Move Long Dividers to Step 4.

Make cut 2. Rotate 180 and make cut 4.

Move Long Dividers to Step 5. Make cut 5.

Cutting Short Dividers - Poplar

Leave dado blade at ¼ x 1⅝ .

Dividers are 11 x 3⅛ x ¼.

Three cuts, 1 thru 3. No cuts on the ends. Makes five dividers.

Instructions

Clamp all five dividers together.

Put one end of Short Dividers against Step 3.

Make cut 1. Rotate 180 and make cut 3.

Move Short Dividers to Step 4.

Make cut 2.

Step 6: Making the Bottom & Adding Handles

Picture of Making the Bottom & Adding Handles

Bottom

The bottom is 17⅛ x 11⅝ x 3/16 plywood. Don’t make the fit too tight, and don’t glue it. We need a loose fit to accommodate wood movement in the case frames. Install the bottom just before you glue up the last case frame. Be sure to do a dry assembly to verify that the bottom piece allows the case frame joints to close completely.

Trimming the plywood corners slightly will ease assembly.


Carrying Handles

We also need to cut handles in the Short Case Frames which extend through the Short Divider Sides, top and bottom. Clamp the case frames together with the Bottom installed. Do a dry assembly to locate the position of the dividers. Screw the Top and Bottom Short Divider Sides to the Short Case Frames before making the cutouts. The dividers sit on the bottom piece and extend up beyond the case frames, but hopefully not more than ¾. If they extend too far, the cases won’t stack neatly.

Instructions

The handle cutouts are 1” x 4”, centered on the Short Case Frames, with the handle horizontal centerline about 2” up from the the Short Case Frame bottom. I used a 1” Forstner bit in the drill press and drilled a line of holes 4” long, then cleaned up with a jigsaw and wood rasp. When assembled, the handle holes expose the Long Center Divider, but your fingers will naturally go two to each side.

Drainage

Drill some holes through the bottom with the 1” Forstner bit to allow liquid to drain out and promote drying. I drilled six holes on divider intersections.

Step 7: ​Order of Assembly

Picture of ​Order of Assembly

  1. Cut all pieces to length.
  2. Cut all dados and grooves.
  3. Dry assemble the Case Frames with Bottom in place. Clamp together.
  4. Screw the Short Divider Sides to the Top and Bottom Case Frames.
  5. Disassemble the Case Frames and cut both handles.
  6. Glue up the Case Frames with no glue in the bottom groove. Clamp.
  7. Install the left and right Long Divider Sides.
  8. Assemble the three Long Dividers.
  9. Assemble five Short Dividers.
  10. Dividers may not need glue.

Step 8: Finishing

Picture of Finishing

Finishing

If you built your case frame from hardwood, you may want a little stain and varnish to finish things off. Shellac the dividers, and shellac the bottom before installation, so it won’t get stuck in the groove.

If you build more than one, you’ll see how nicely they stack, full or empty. (I, of course, forgot to take a picture of that)

That should do it. Enjoy!

Comments

wold630 (author)2016-04-01

Nicely done!!

JohnSypurist (author)wold6302016-04-02

Thanks!

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