So! For Father's Day, like any good daughter, I wanted to make my dad something cool and unique and just for him! He's a big beer connoisseur and we have a large collection of exciting bottle caps because we were collecting them for a family friend to do an inlay for a bar that ended up falling through and I thought PERFECT! I can make him an awesome decoration based on two of his favorite things! The great state of Ohio and Beer!
(FYI, for beer fans out there, Cincinnati is a hotbed of microbreweries and fresh and exciting beers. Come visit us some day!)
Materials you will need:
- Wood of your choosing
- Bottle Caps
- Wood Stain
- Wall mounting kit
- Rubber Gloves
- Wood Glue
Tools you will need:
- Hand saw
- Power saw or band saw (recommended. you can do it without, but that's a lot of sawing by hand)
- Sander and sand paper
- Ruler and/or Yard Stick
- 1 1/8 Drill bit
- Paint Brushes
- Hot Glue Gun and Glue
- Rubber Mallet
Step 1: Step 1: Cut Out Your State
You'll need a nice good slab of wood for this. I unfortunately could not find one to meet my ideals so I went to my local home depot and got a long 2 x 8 inch board of pine wood (which was really about 1.5 inches thick) and had them cut it down for me into three sections. I took those three sections home and glued them together with wood glue and some large clamps to create the piece of wood you see here.
Take your board and draw out your state. This is where people in boxy states like Wyoming have an advantage over us curvy and weirdly shaped states. Once you have outlines drawn, it's time to cut!
If you are using my approach and gluing boards together to create your slab, I recommend drawing it out and cutting the pieces first, then gluing them together. It can be easier to get some angles and pieces this way. Make sure you make tick marks on the boards so you can line them up correctly when you go to glue them together.
If you have a curvy shaped state, Try cutting out broad shapes with your power saw, before going in for finer details with a hand saw. Remember, you can always cut more off, but it's hard to glue a accidental snip back on.
Step 2: Step 2: Figure Out Where You Need to Drill
This can be a bit tricky with the shape of your state, but you need to think about how you want your grid to layout and make sure that you don't end up with a bottle cap hanging half off the board.
Bottle caps are about 1 1/8th inch wide and I decided to space mine out so that there was about 1 1/2 inches between each cap vertically and horizontally. So! Plotting out center lines for the caps, each line needs to be 2 5/8ths inch distance apart. It might take you a couple tries to find a grid alignment that works for your state.
Once you've drawn lines across your state, it's time to draw your caps. The center of the cap will be at the cross section of the lines. I found that the cap of an Elmer's Glue container is the same size of a bottle cap and is much easier to trace around.
Step 3: Step 3: Start Drilling!
Before you drill a hole, I find it's best to use an awl to punch a dent into the center of each cap spot to make it easier to keep your drill where you want it while your drilling. Using your 1 1/8" drill bit, drill each of your holes. It doesn't need to go too deep because honestly, beer caps aren't that tall. At most you need to drill 1/4 an inch deep.
My electric drill pooped out on me about 1/3rd of the way (it's about 14 years old, so fair enough) so I ended up using my grandpa's old manual drill, which honestly worked better.
Step 4: Step 4: Final Sanding
You want your state to look nice so it's time to sand any rough edges! This will help level off your wood and get rid of any splintery bits from where you drilled or sawed the edges. Work from rougher grit to softer grit sand paper and make sure to get the edges.
Step 5: Step 5: Staining
Staining can be confusing and intimidating for someone who doesn't really know much about wood finishing. There are a lot of options out there and it's easy to get overwhelmed.
For this, since the wood isn't really the star of the show, it's perfectly ok to keep it simple. I used this little tube of MinWax Express Color. It's easy to use. Just pour a small glob of the stain directly onto the piece, then use a bit of linen to move the stain with the grain into the wood. Make sure to hit the sides as well. Don't worry about getting it into the holes as they'll be covered anyway.
Step 6: Step 6: Add Your Bottle Caps
It's time to insert your bottle caps. I found that most went in fairly easily and I just had to give them a few taps with a rubber mallet to fix them in place. More stubborn caps that wouldn't stay in were hot glued in place easily enough.
How easy this part goes depends largely on the state of your bottle caps. Twist off caps tend to work the best, but as long as the cap isn't bent in half you can use just about any cap. If they got bent and distorted when you popped them off the bottle, you might have to bend and reshape them with some pliers. I also used a screw driver to bend the edges and teeth of some stubborn caps to wedge them into place.
Step 7: Step 7: Touch Ups
With the caps in place, you might see a few little places where the original wood shows in around the edges of the caps. This is your opportunity to touch these places up with a paint brush and a bit of stain.
Optionally you can also add a coat of polyurethane at this point to give the whole piece a shiny finish. I didn't because I didn't think it really needed it, but it's a personal choice.
Step 8: Step 8: Mounting
Depending on how you want to display your creation, you'll need to add some hooks to hang it. Home Depot sells little kits with all kinds of hanging findings.
I chose to use two screw in eyelets with a connecting wire to support the piece as its a bit heavier than your typical wall hanging (but not by much. It depends on what kind of wood you use.)
I also added rubber stoppers to the bottom so that it could rest against the wall without scratching the paint.
Step 9: Finished!
Congratulations! You have made an excellent conversation piece that will last for years to come! Bask in your accomplishment and crack open a cold one to celebrate your victory!