Intro: Custom Beer Tap
I made this beer tap as a birthday present to a buddy of mine who recently acquired a kegerator. It was made some select pine pulled out of the middle of a pallet that was left over from a previous project and took a few hours to put together. I ended up making two taps because everything was so cheap! The first one with the "Lucky 7" inscription has the same name as a hunting cabin my friends and I spend a lot of time drinking beer at during the fall hunting season here in Michigan. The second one is engraved with the name of my buddy who the taps were made for. Even without a kegerator, this project could be an excellent gift for any beer lover.
Step 1: Tools and Materials
-Dremel with wood carving bit
-Table saw or other wood cutting implement
-Drill or drill press with 1/2" bit
-Random orbital palm sander (optional but time saving)
-Various grits of sandpaper
-Sureform rasp (optional)
-Paint scrapper (optional)
-Spray Paint (color of choice)
-Wood finish of choice (I used semigloss polyurethane left over from another project)
-2"x4"x1' piece of wood
-Threaded brass insert (These inserts have an exterior diameter of 1/2" and an interior diameter of 3/8"- the 3/8" is standard in the US and will match the male end of the handle attachment portion on the beer tap. They are a bit pricey online but I found them at Home Depot for $1.63 under the "Furniture accessories hardware" section)
-2 part epoxy (clear)
Step 2: Step 1: Rough Out the Form
First step is to rough out the wood. I went with a triangular handle with a large enough base to accommodate the threaded insert. I used a table saw with a jig to cut the angled portions then rounded the edges out with the sureform rasp. Since I used a piece of dimensional 2x4, I cut the angles before trimming it to length in an effort to keep my hands further away from the blade.
Step 3: Step 2: Insert The... Inserts...
In the bottom of your handle, drill a 1/2" hole to accommodate the threaded brass insert. I used a drill while the handle was in a vice but a drill press would probably be a bit more precise. I did this immediately after roughing out the handle because I have read about the handle splitting upon insertion (didn't want to get all the way done and then break the handle). It was quite difficult to twist in but nothing cracked. If I ever make another one I will probably use a larger bit and apply a bit of glue to the exterior of the insert in order to secure it in place.
Step 4: Step 3: Carve a Design
After I had the handle roughed out I drew the pattern on the wood in pencil. Using a dremel tool with a wood carving bit I carved out the pattern. At this point I learned that carving wood with a dremel takes a bit of time and patience. I ruined one piece of wood by trying to move the bit to fast and carving outside of the predetermined pattern. Take your time and make sure your carving is fairly deep because some sanding will be required once the epoxy has been inlayed. Once I was done carving the pattern I did a couple passes with 220 grit sandpaper just to get some of the excess debris off.
Don't worry about minor imperfections, sometimes they can be incorporated into the design. Like I said, It's not the easiest skill to make clean lines with a dremel but it will come together once the wood is inlayed with a contrasting color.
Step 5: Step 4: Apply a Liquid Inlay
Once the handle is shaped and the pattern is carved it's time to add some color. My plan was to use a sort of inlay in the carving to make it pop. I read a bit (5 minutes) online about using epoxy and mixing pigments, then working the mixture into the carved areas. I couldn't find any pigment at a local art store but the clerk told me acryllic pain would work. However, the clerk would not let me use my credit card to buy a 2 dollar bottle of black acryllic pain and I had no cash on me. I thought amazon might have something I could use but I didn't want to wait to have some shipped. So instead I used some spray paint that was sitting in my basement. Pretty sure it's not the preferred method for coloring epoxy but it was cheap and easy and looks pretty good.
I started by spraying some paint onto a piece of scrap wood in one spot. I sprayed enough so that it started to pool in the area. Next I squirted the 2 part clear epoxy out of the convenient syringe that it is sold in, mixed thoroughly and then began to work the goop into the carved areas. I wore rubber gloves during this process and just used my hands, followed by a paint scrapper to clear the excess. I've heard that an expired credit card works well. The epoxy takes the color of the spray paint nicely and takes about an hour to cure (I gave it a few hours just to make sure it was hard enough to sand before proceeding to the next step).
Step 6: Step 5: Remove Excess Epoxy
Starting with 80 grit, I used my random orbital hand sander to remove the excess epoxy that cured outside of the carving and to make everything on the surface flush. This took a bit longer than expected because the epoxy had worked itself into the grain of the wood. The effect of colored epoxy in the grain of the wood was kinda cool looking but it wasn't uniform so I sanded it all off. Sand until the wood looks clean outside of the carved section, then work your way up in grit until desired 'smoothness' has been achieved. At this point, the epoxy will appear a bit dull and dusty but that will be remedied in the next step.
Step 7: Step 6: Apply a Finish
Finish with a desired wood finish of your choosing. As previously mentioned, I used semi-gloss polyurethane. The poly really brightens the epoxy and makes the whole project come together nicely. I'd be interested to see what other finishes might look like if any other friends get similar kegerator set ups (tung oil, linseed oil or minwax).
Overall this was an easy project for how nice the finished product looks. The most difficult aspect is the wood carving (in my opinion), but mistakes can sometimes be considered as artistic interpretation and proof that it was built on someones work bench.