The Travel Bar inside a suitcase is a way to always have exactly what you need to make more complicated drinks anywhere. My case is designed to make 3 different whiskey based drinks and has enough glasses and coasters for 6 people.
For more photos of the finished case and higher quality photos, please visit my personal blog by clicking here.
Note: Some of the photos/steps may seem out of order. I made this suitcase for the Instructables Show and Tell at the Craftsman Experience studio. To properly document how I made the case I had to take it apart at times after completing steps and reassemble while taking photos.
Step 1: What It Is Built to Carry
I created this case to hold supplies for a few types of whiskey drinks specifically. This case was built around the objects I wanted it to carry so before I started I searched my local stores and purchased the objects needed to complete my vision. This included bottles to hold the alcohol and mixers. I might change the brand of whiskey to carry or the company may change the size/shape of their bottles and I didn't want those things to effect the future usability of my case.
Here is a list of items the case is set up to hold:
- 2 large bottles (one for whiskey, one vermouth)
- 2 medium bottles (one for lemon, one bitters)
- A shaker
- A set of 6 glasses
- A jigger
- 3 glass jars (for cherries, sugar, and orange slices)
- A set of coasters
- Tongs for serving sugar
- Stir sticks
Step 2: Supplies (and Tools) to Build the Box to Hold Everything
Here is a list of supplies I used:
1/4" Thick Board (I used aspen boards)
Skirt Hooks and Eyes
Saw (Hand Saw and/or Table Saw)
Laser Cutter or CNC Router & Small Chisel or Drill & Small Chisel
Leather Needle & Thread
Pen or Pencil
Step 3: Prepping the Suitcase
In my suitcase there was a divider that wasn't going to work with my plans for the finished case so it had to go! Some pulling (with the pliers) along with a little bit of cutting and it was free. I tore the fabric covering the hinges in the process but I had already planned to cover it so it didn't matter.
The divider clipped into the frame with two rotating clips. Those I could not remove and had to work around.
I glued fabric into the case in places that will show at the end of the project. Gluing new fabric can happen at any point in the construction process right up until you place the wooden boxes into the suitcase.
Step 4: Figure Out What You are Working With
Also, measure the depth of each side of the suitcase. A depth adjustment between the two sides of the cases may need to be negotiated. To fit the glasses on the left side of the case the shelves needed to extend past the edge of that side of the suitcase. The shelves on the right side need to be less than the depth of that side to accommodate the extra space the left side shelves need.
Step 5: Using A Computer Drawing Program to Build the Layout
I used Adobe Illustrator for creating my layout but I'm sure other drawing programs could do this, also. I had 1/4" thick stock to work with so I created template shapes to work with. In the drawing program I made boxes that were 1/4" x 1" to copy/paste when drawing my layout so the width of the stock was always taken into consideration.
The paper pattern was used to determine what was my usable space inside the suitcase. I start by creating a box in the drawing program for my usable space.
I copy/paste the stock template shapes to denote what will be my wood stock just inside the box I've just drawn. I stretch long direction to match the length of the side. I do this to all sides to create a box to work inside.
Every time I decide to place a wooden support inside the box I repeat this copy/paste/stretch technique. By keeping with this, I know that I have enough space for the supports and whatever it is I'm trying to hold.
Now is the point to begin making final layout decisions based on the exact size and shape of what you want to carry. In the drawing program, make boxes that are the height and weight dimensions of the items for the case. I used a bit of a color-code system to help myself keep things straight. The purple rectangle represents the shaker, the blue rectangles are the glass bottles for alcohol and mixers.
Create the shelves and supports needed for the layout. I placed a support piece between each bottle as well as a shelves for things to sit on. Leave a bit of space on either side of each object so you can easily place and remove the objects.
With the space at the bottom, I'm going to create a drawer. For the drawer to work properly, it can't be as wide as the rest of the box (it will catch on the frame of the suitcase). Eventually I will add bit of support below the drawer casing but that comes in during final construction.
The opposite (left) side of the suitcase will hold glasses, a jigger, jars for cherries, sugar, and orange slices, a set of coasters, tongs for serving sugar, a drawer for tooth picks, and 2 pockets for straws and stir sticks. That is a lot of stuff but luckily it is all quite small and fits together nicely.
The layout really depends on the objects you find and wish to carry. Here is how I determined how to hold my objects:
To securely hold glasses made of real glass create little cutouts for the bases to sit in. I used one layer of stock as a proper shelf and glued a second layer to the shelf with half-circle channels just large enough to fit the base of each glass. I spaced the glasses evenly across the self with a bit of room on either side. The distance between the shelf supporting the glasses and the shelf above the glasses is just barely wider than the height of the glasses. This will lessen the chance of the glasses from tipping out.
I ran rectangular dowels between each glass as an extra spacer to prevent the glasses from hitting one another and breaking inside the case.
I was lucky in planning my case because the jigger was the same height as the jars for holding sugar/cherries/orange slices so I could place all of those objects on a shelf together. I placed dowels between the jars also.
With the remaining space, I created a layout to efficiently and securely hold the other objects. Make it work.
Step 6: Finger Joints - A Laser Cutter Friendly Building Technique
I used the finger joint technique for the construction of this project. I chose a consistent joint size to use across the whole project - making small adjustments to areas that overlap or might give me trouble. Some of the pieces will be placed at right angles to others so I chose 1/4" as the depth of the finger joint - the depth of the stock I'm using. I decided to make the width of the finger joints 1/2".
The idea in creating finger joints is to make two pieces that interlock perfectly so they can be glued together. Material needs to be removed from one piece and left intact on the opposite piece so the two panels interlock.
I used this technique for every piece on the project. The selves and supports were created in the same way. I cut joints on one edge of the shelf and correlating holes in the back panel of the box as well as on the side supports.
The construction of finger joints is not that dissimilar to putting together legos - they press together and if cut well fit very tightly.
At this point, you need to start thinking about the depth of each side of the case. Things to take into consideration:
- Depth of objects
- Inside dimension of the suitcase
- The stock you are using
This is the point where you figure out exactly how deep each shelf will be.
While creating the layout on my computer, I used a color-code system for the different widths of wood so I could quickly identify the depth of shelves and side panels.
Step 7: Cut a Test
One thing I cannot stress enough with a project like this is make a test sample out of something light weight and easy to cut like chip board so you know if there are layout or sizing errors. Even if you use a laser cutting service, you can print out a cardstock/paper model on your home printer for a test run.
Step 8: Initial Assembly - Back Panels
For my project I needed to piece together the back panel. I'll walk you through the way to glue finger joints together as it will be the same process throughout the construction of the box.
Place a dab of wood glue in each valley point of the finger joint on each panel.
Place the panels together adding the sides of the boxes (without glue!) to make sure there the back isn't glued together so tightly that the sides won't fit in on final construction.
Clamp the pieces together to encourage a good glue connection.
At this point you will want to finish the back panel with a technique of your choosing.
I decided to cover the back with the same fabric that I used to re-line the suitcase. I added a bit of glue around each of the finger joint points for shelves and placed the set the fabric in place. Once the glue was dry I went through and cut the fabric away from the holes so I can place my shelves using a straight edge blade and scissors with a sharp point. I also trimmed away the fabric from the finger joints around the edges that will join with the side. After doing a couple test fits and adding the sides in for proper spacing it became clear that I needed to glue the fabric along the edges as well or they would be pushed into weird positions during final construction.
Step 9: Prepare the Shelves and Supports
If you used the cut-away glasses holder method I suggested during the layout, glue your pieces together. I cut holes for the dowel supports. When I glued the shelf to the glass holder I had the dowels in place to make sure everything was lined up just right.
When I placed all my shelves together with the sides in place the glasses didn't fit exactly how I hoped. Upon further inspection the was a little bit of variation in the sizes of the glasses and the laser cuts at a slight angle. A little bit of sanding and the glasses fit perfectly.
Step 10: Construct the Drawers
The large drawer in the bottom of the right hand side of the case was designed so that the drawer front was large enough to cover the frame that holds the drawer. Therefore the drawer bottom and side pieces need to be smaller than the drawer front. I designed the drawer front to hold finger joint connection points slightly inside the edge of the drawer.
Place dots of glue in the valleys of each finger joint piece.
Match the parts together to complete the drawer.
Clamp in place until the glue is set.
Step 11: Decorative Touches
By designing everything in Illustrator I knew the exact size and shape of each piece I wanted to add veneer to. If you aren't working with a computer you could also draw your design on paper and trace off each piece to cut by hand.
I did a rough layout of each of the veneer pieces so I knew everything was there and in the right place.
Apply a thin consistent layer of wood glue on the surface you are gluing to. Carefully place the piece of wood veneer. I used stacks of washers to hold the veneer flat and in place as I added pieces of veneer.
Step 12: Assembly
Below the large drawer support I glued two rectangular dowels to the bottom of the support. These will lift the drawer up so it isn't sitting on the suitcase and it will be much easier to use.
Step 13: Support Straps
After a lot of searching through craft stores and hardware stores, I settled on using skirt hooks and loops for the closure.
The holes on the metal loop part are very close together - too close for drilling holes into wood. I attach the metal loop piece to a square of leather and then attach the leather to the wood. Drill holes in the wood that match the holes punched in the leather and sew the leather to the wood.
Create strap of fabric long enough to be attached to the wooden case and hook to the loop. At one end of the strap attach a metal hook with consideration taken to the angle, side of the leather, and overall positioning of the strap. Attach the strap to the case.
For the straps that hold my glasses in place, I wrapped the dowels in leather and attached the hook to that piece of leather.
To hold the tongs, I made a loop of leather.
Step 14: Finishing Touch - Leather Coverings
I covered the exposed wooden dowels with some of the leather. Barge cement plays well with leather so it is a great option when gluing anything to leather. Using a toothpick, spread barge cement on the wooden dowels. Wrap with leather and clamp in place until set.
Step 15: Finishing Touch - Wood Veneer Edges
I had my veneer pieces laser cut. If cutting by hand pre-cut a whole bunch so you have lots to work with once you start applying glue to your surfaces.
Apply a smooth coat of wood glue to the surface you want to add the veneer to. Carefully place your veneer pieces. This process might take a while as clamping tends to push the pieces out of position and you are better off just holding them until the glue sets enough that they are unlikely to move.
Step 16: Finishing Touch - Leather Handles
I used a similar technique to attach the handles as I did for the hooks and loops. I pre-punched holes in the leather to create stitching points, transferred the marks to the wood, and drilled holes. I then used a needle and thread to sew the handle to the drawer fronts.
One of my drawers is pretty narrow front to back. I used a curved needle to sew the handle to the drawer front.
Step 17: Finishing Touch - Covering Remaining Spots with Fabric
I used a bit of E-6000 glue to hold the fabric in place. I added glue along the front edge of the case and very carefully folded the fabric and glued it in place along that edge. After that was set I added more glue toward the back of the case to tack the fabric in another spot.
Basically, any unfinished wood that is visible when the wooden box is in the suitcase should be finished in some way - I added fabric.
Step 18: Last Steps
For more photos of the finished case and higher quality photos, please visit my personal blog by clicking here.