Intro: Waterjet Aluminum Tap Handle
An old friend is opening a pub in Boston named Lulu's. Their cheapest beer on tap will vary, but will always be called the "Village Keg". I created a custom tap handle to help the less pocket-heavy patrons find their mark.
Step 1: Choose a Font
Tap handles are almost exclusively made with wood. I like metal! I chose a simple metal design for the handle: cursive script. I started by selecting several fonts that could work. I decided to use the middle font on the right. I then imported that font into Adobe Illustrator where I was able to push, pull, bend, extend and distort the lettering until it was all one connected shape. (You'll have to sort that part out yourself...)
Step 2: Waterjet Cut the Script
I wanted this handle to be plenty strong and look substantial, so I used half-inch aluminum.
Step 3: Create the Handle's Mounting Block
Tap handle's have a 3/8-16 tapped mounting hole. I didn't have any aluminum nuts lying around (who does?), so I created my own hardware. In the scrap bin, I happened to find some aluminum plate with a tapped hole of the right specs, so it didn't take much work. I cut out the hole and sanded down the rough edges.
Step 4: Amateur Hour
I ain't no aluminum guy. I'm just a dumb steel worker. This was my first TIG aluminum job. The Miller Dynasty TIG machine over at the Instructables shop might as well have been a rocket ship. And I might as well have been a blind-folded monkey pilot. I stopped just shy of destroying my parts and then found a TIG veteran for some pointers.
Notice that I screwed a bolt into the mounting hole. This was to minimize my chances of destroying the threads while welding.
Step 5: Phew!
That's more like it.
Step 6: Sandblasting
The particular piece of aluminum I used for the script had a near mirrored finish. I wanted satin. I sandblasted the piece to achieve a flat and uniform starting point. During this step I was sure to keep a bolt in the mounting hole to protect the threads.
Step 7: Finishing Touches
Straight off the waterjet, the handle is too sharp... to handle? After sandblasting, the edges are still too sharp. I used some sandpaper to knock them down by hand. A Dremel could do the trick too. Then, using a wire brush, I added luster to the front face. I brushed at a consistent angle (parallel to the angle of the italicized letters).
Step 8: That's a Wrap
Time to bring it down to the pub!