Introduction: Brewery "Tap List" Chalkboard Sign

About: JoeJoe is a PCB designer, artist, and make-hack-tinkerer who lives in San Francisco, CA. He is currently an Artist-in-Residence at the Autodesk Pier 9 Workshop, and also co-founded LumiGeek (…

As a long-term homebrewer, I often brew up a few kegs for special events and holidays.  While I've got a kegorator, jockey box, and drawers full of tapping equipment, what I didn't have was a tap list sign.  Modeled after the adaptable chalkboard ones that I've seen in brewpubs and my favorite local tap houses, this sign was perfect for showing what was on each of the two jockey box taps at my last shindig.  This last shindig happened to be my wedding and we had kind of a crab theme going on, hence the "Carapace Brewing Co.". 

It's pretty easy to whip one of these up for your home bar-  I had access to a laser cutter to make the outline of the back piece, but you could also do this with a jig saw or even a square piece of plywood.  Let's get started!

You'll need:  Metal cup hooks, eye screws (with an eye big enough to accomodate the cup hooks), some wooden slats or other thin material, a can of Chalkboard paint, some chalk, chalk markers, and some sort of sign on which to attach of all this.

Step 1: Making the Chalkboard Slats

This is the piece that forms the base of the whole project-  the wooden pieces that will become 'chalkboards'.  For mine, I went to the trim/baseboard section at my nearest big box hardware store and cut a few 18"-ish sections of baseboard material that was about 3" wide.  The whole piece of this lumber was already primed and had a nice smooth(ish) surface, which saved a step.

Next, I sanded down the cut marks on the ends and picked the nicer side to face upwards.  Then I hit them with about 4 coats of the Rust-O Chalkboard spray paint.  This stuff goes on *very* evenly; you just want to build up a nice thick coat over many applications to make sure there are no drips or runs.

Step 2: Putting Eye Screws Into the Slats

This is an important step to get right-  it doesn't have to be exact, it just has to be consistent across all of your chalkboard slats.  To ensure that I got the same measurements, I adhered a piece of tape to the side of the table and marked my locations on it with a sharpie.  Then I marked each slat and twisted in the eye screws.

Hopefully you picked an eye screw size that is small enough to screw into the board without splitting it, but also with a big enough eye to accommodate the cup hooks that are used later on.

A little tap with a hammer usually helps to start these little screws, and then you can turn them in my hand or by sticking a small screwdriver through the eye and using it for leverage to twist.  Depending on the material you *may* need to drill a small pilot hole first to keep it from splitting.  These slats were some fiber-board based manufactured lumber and didn't require any more than hand torque to twist the eye screws into place.

Make sure you screw them in roughly the same amount so your signs will hang straight!

Step 3: Make the Sign to Hold the Chalkboard Slats

Ok-  here's where you add your artistic twist and improvise with whatever tools are at your disposal.  At the Pier 9 shop we have some nice 120W laser cutters, so I went that route.  Here the Epilog laser is cutting a large crab outline out of some 3/8" MDF-core plywood which will form the body of my tap list sign.  You may recognize the vector shape from the candle holder I made last month.

I chose to flatten the bottom of this design so that the sign could be placed on a table, or hung from a wall using s-hooks under each of its' pincers.

You could also just use a nice piece of rectangular lumber, a giant picture frame, an outline cut out with a jig saw, or skip the sign altogether and just install the hooks in your wall. 

Step 4: Screw the Cup Hooks Into the Sign

Now that you have a sign (or your wall), you need to screw in the Cup Hooks that will hold the chalkboard slats.  Again, these may need a bit of a pilot hole to keep from splitting the wood of your sign.  Screw them in all the way to the collar above the threads, as this gives them a little rigidity when they have some weight on them and keeps them from pulling out with downward force.

Here you just use the same measurement from Step 2 and your slats should fit on them just fine.

Step 5: Prep the Chalkboards and Write on Them

Following the instructions from the chalkboard paint, you will now take a large piece of chalk (I used sidewalk chalk which is square shaped and perfect for this task) and brush it across your shiny black chalkboard.  Then you kind of brush over it with a piece of cloth or a rag to even it out.

You can see in the first picture the ripples of the material, and how they are somewhat hidden in the second picture-  having a base layer of chalk kind of makes it look more consistent.  You can also repeat this step after cleaning the sign off with a damp cloth to prep it for the next beer selection.

Finally, you write your beer name (and possibly alcohol percentage) on the slat.  I chose to use 'chalk markers' which are liquid based chalk because it has a much finer writing point than trying to use a regular piece of chalk, makes a nice dark thick line even on non-smooth material, and still erases easily.

Step 6: Hang the Sign, and Serve Up Some Tasty Beverages!

Hang your signs on the hooks...  and...  Boom!  Finished!

Just a quick wipe with a damp cloth and a quick brushing on and off of your white chalk and you're ready to change beers.  Or you could make a bunch of slats so that you can swap them out when changing kegs without having to write up some new signs.