Introduction: Beer Tasting Paddles

About: Most of the things I build usually relate to either astronomy, physics or woodworking in general.

It's beer o'clock and here's the dilemma: All these beers look delicious but you still have to drive home.

Well... worry no more because here's the solution: These paddles can hold 4 taster-sized glasses that will let you experience 4 different kinds of beers while keeping you on your feet.

In this Instructable, I will show you how to build these paddles and customize the glasses by etching your own design using a laser cutter.

Step 1: Materials and Tools

The materials list is pretty simple for this project:

  • A piece of 2x4 at least 18 inches long per paddle. Hardwood is preferred since it is usually more resistant to water. I am using Western Red Cedar.
  • A set of 4 glasses such as these: Libbey-5-Ounce

To build the paddles you will need a few basic tools:

  • Tape measure and ruler
  • 2.25" Forstner bit
  • A saw (a band saw works great if you have access to one)
  • A bastard file to round the edges
  • Coarse and fine sand paper (100 & 220 is a good choice). You can use an orbital sander to save some time and effort.

If you have access to a CNC, then you won't need the Forstner bit.

Step 2: Design Your Paddle

You can design your paddle by first drawing it to scale on a piece of paper. I used 1 cm for 1 inch. That way, I can measure my drawing and multiply the dimension by 2.54 to get the real measurement.

Another technique is to space out the glasses on the wood and leave some room for the handle. Measure the amount of space taken by the 4 glasses and divide it by 4. Remember to consider spacing between each glass.

On my paddles, I am giving about 6" for the handle and 12" for the glasses. My glasses are just under 2.25" diameter at the base and the wood is 3.5" wide. Therefore, I have (3.5-2.25)/2 = 5/8" on each side of the glasses.

A small carpenter square lets you easily trace a pencil line 5.8" from the side of the wood. I also used 5/8" between each glass.

Step 3: Cut Out the Glasses Cavities

The first thing to do here is to pre-drill the center using a 1/8" bit. This will keep the Forstner bit centered. Don't pre-drill all the way through. You only need to go 1/2" down.

Using a 2.25" Forstner bit, measure when the center of the bit touches the wood and go down 1/2". You will end up with 4 nice circular cavities with a tiny hole in the middle.

Step 4: Carve the Cavities Bottom (Optional)

If you want to get rid of the center hole, you will need to use a router and remove a layer of wood at the bottom of the cavities.

This can be done with a hand held router. As I own a CNC, I used the computer to complete that step. You will need to measure how deep the hole is (the size of the center tip of the Forstner bit) and remove this amount of wood.

Step 5: Cut the Handle

Cutting the handle can be done with a hand saw, a scroll saw, a jig saw, a band saw, etc. I used a band saw available at the local makerspace. Using a guide will help you make straight cuts very fast.

Once you've cut both sides of the handle, flip the paddle on its side and cut out the bottom. This will create some room for you fingers when you later grab the paddle from the table.

Step 6: Round the Edges

The paddle is now mostly complete but holding it is not very comfortable at that stage. We need to smooth out the edges. You can use a bastard file to quickly shape a radius and then use coarse sand paper. I used handmade sanding drums and 60 grit sand paper to accelerate the process.

Once the desired curve is reached, use some fine sand paper (220) until all file marks are gone.

Step 7: Finishing

The paddle is now ready for the last step: coating. But first, you should inspect the surface closely for any dents. If you spot some, just put a damp cloth on it and press a hot clothes iron on it. The steam will get the wood fibers to come back to the surface.

I used wipe on polyurethane varnish mixed with paint thinner as a first coat to get the varnish to penetrate the wood in depth.

After light sanding, the second coat can be applied. Pure varnish can be used since it won't soak in the wood any more.

Step 8: Customize the Glasses (Optional)

If you want to get fancy, you can etch the glasses using a laser cutter. I used an Epilog Laser cutter equipped with a rotary gig. The glasses where taped with painter's tape to limit glass chipping.

I used this setting as a test: 100% speed, 10% power. It won't go through the tape but it's a good step to check the position and size of your drawing.

Once I was happy with the design, I used this setting: 60% speed, 100% power.

Remember to rotate your drawing by 90 degrees counterclockwise in Corel Draw to keep it oriented the same way as the glass.

When removing the tape, you can use some paint thinner to clean the glue that sometimes sticks to the glass.

Step 9: The Result

You can now grab a few different beers and pour them in the glasses. Arrange them from light to dark which is the usual order of tasting if you want to keep your taste buds happy.

An option here would be to paint one side of the paddle with chalkboard paint and use it to write down the name of the beers.