Wood & Veneer Tap Handle

Hello everyone! I am finally getting my first post up after admiring everyone else’s amazing work for the last year. I’m excited to finally be joining the party!

My dad’s birthday was last week and I wanted to make him something special. He’s a passionate home brewer and he has been working on building his own kegerator, so it seemed to make a lot of sense to make him a custom tap handle. Going in, there were a few things I was set on: I knew I wanted it to be a completely custom design and having recently bought some gorgeous wood veneer, I knew I wanted to incorporate that in some way. I also knew that the project needed some minimal brand development so that I could put a name on the tap handle that would really make it his. After much brainstorming and debate, I ended up with “Chuck Ales.” I know, I know - it sounds way too simple (and also like bad grammer) and seems to have no imagination. But actually it is a play on my nickname for my dad - “Chuckles” - which is what “Chuck Ales” sounds like, if you say it out loud quickly! I’ve clearly inherented my dad’s sense of dad humor because things like this totally tickle me. And I knew it would tickle him too, so it was perfect!

I purchased a blank 12" solid maple tap handle from Amazon and went to work designing. A couple hours of sketching later and I had a plan that incorporated elements of art deco and Scandinavian design. I mapped it out in Illustrator and went about selecting the materials. For the outlines of the design and the letters, I selected a 1/16" thick basswood sheet (solid wood, not ply) which cut beautifully, even with the very tiny letters in “ALES.” I primed all the pieces and then hand painted them a super dark brown (almost black) since I wanted lots of contrast with the light maple wood of the base. If I could redo anything in this project, it would be chosing to airbrush or spray paint these pieces instead of hand painting them because I would have gotten a smoother finish. But that is just me being picky and was in no way a deal breaker.

Next I selected the three types of wood veneer I would use to fill the outlined shapes of the design. I went with olive wood for the wheat fill, cherry for the diamonds and an unknown light/medium wood with long thin wood grain lines for the 3rd veneer. When it came to cutting these, I ran into issues with the tiny pieces dissapearing through the crumb tray holes. But then I remembered a tip I had read previously - add foil tape to the back of the material. The laser cut through the veneer but not the thin metal of the tape so I didn’t lose any more pieces. MAGIC! However I learned that my foil tape had adheasive so strong that it destroyed the small pieces of veneer when I tried to peel them off. A few very high tech stick-n-peels on my tshirt reduced the stickiness of the tape and attempt #2 worked perfectly.

Last step before assembly was using the glowforge to lightly score the outlines of all the veneer and basswood pieces onto the blank maple tap handle so everything could be perfectly placed.

Using wood glue, I attached the veneer pieces first, being VERY careful to make the alignment with the scored lines exact. After that I glued on the painted basswood pieces. The ones that had veneer fills pretty much snapped right into place, like puzzle pieces. Very satisfying!

To finish the wood and protect the tap handle when it was in use, I gave it two coats of triple thick polyurethane spray. Once that was dry (I waited about 48 hours) I cut and applied the chalkboard label.

All in all, this project went really smoothly, and I am very pleased with the result! Especially considering I was using unfamiliar materials and a new process. I’m looking forward to using what I learned here to make something else soon!

And the very best part? CHUCKLES LOVED IT! Mission accomplished!



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First and foremost, love the name Chuckles.

I have a project for you. Tomorrow go undercover and visit different craft beer establishments. Takes photos of each place. Come home, design some handles and take them back. You will sell all of them.

I do not drink beer but I can admire the artistry. Beautiful handle!!!

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Thank you so much! I don’t drink beer either as gluten and I do not get along. And sadly, that change happened not too long before my dad started brewing so I haven’t ever tasted his beer. I smell it sometimes and pretend I can taste it with my nose! It just makes my dad so darn happy to make something that he can share with others and bring them some happiness. Much like most of us creative types feel about our endeavors! Joy making joy making joy- if that isn’t magic, I don’t know what is! Making is the best.

And I happily accept your project! I think you’re onto something there!

Also, your dog is adorable! Besides creative things, animals are probably my biggest source of happiness, so I love seeing other people’s furry loves.

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This is really nice work. A couple of process questions… How thick was the tap? How did you get the alignment worked out?

If you try this again, do you think sticking the foil tape to the crumb tray face down first, then placing your wood to be cut on it would solve the adhesive/parts loss problem?

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Thanks for sharing the photos and write up. You did a great job.

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Very nicely done! Looks great!

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Very, very nice work (both design and fabrication)!

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Great story to go with a great project!

I’ve engraved a bunch of tap handles, but I haven’t thought of using veneers. Thanks for the inspiration.

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Love Chuck Ales! Great gift for the kegerator.

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Wow that is a great quote. Unfortunately about a year ago all neighbors and family said no more Glowforge prototypes!!! All of their houses are displayed with everything I have made in three years. No more room!!

Thank you for the compliment regarding my precious Jimmy Wayne Westie. He goes by all three names not Jimmy or Jimmy Wayne it is Jimmy Wayne Westie.

Like you —-my joy is also animals. I love dogs and cats.

Your post made me remember a funny story from high school. I did not have any problem drinking beer in high school and this was in the 80s. I went to a Catholic high school and all the girls wore the classic uniform. Plaid skirt, button-down shirt, penny loafers or saddle oxfords.

One day after school me and my best friend wanted some beer. We went to the local convenience store and saw there was an older gentleman working as a cashier. We knew we would get carded. I left my fake ID at home.

We saw some construction workers. Instantly I came up with a plan. Pulled the Aqua Net and make up kit out of my bag. Kathleen drove up to the guys. I said something like “Hi Baby!! We were wondering —Would you buy us some beer? We we have the money.

Young construction worker asked “You girls under age?” I am trying to pout my lips so the guy can focus on my glossy lip gloss and be mesmerized.

“No, we’re not under age— we’re in our work uniforms and we don’t want to be seen in them.”

Three minutes later a six pack of beer is in my hands.

Thank you for posting—- it is been a very long time since I remembered that wonderful moment in my life.

Keep me updated on your beer establishment journey. If you need any help I would be very honored to help you.

Love and Hugs,

Elena

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There are craft brewers who make gluten free beer. :beer:

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Super job. I wish I still had my dad around to make things for too.

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This is a lovely design, perfect for the piece, no wonder he loved it!

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A terrific piece! :heart_eyes: If you can take out the crumb tray a get the Amazon handle flat and between 1.5 and 2 inches high, you can engrave the design into the handle so it would all sit flush or alternatively use 1/16 Maple to cover the area and after having a bit of overlap, sand down the edges to flush.

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We brew our beer too, and have a kegerator that we use, although not homemade. I’ve often thought of making a tap for it. Now you’ve given me inspiration!

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There is always Mead using honey instead of grains :yum: It takes longer but I much prefer it and you can age it under pressure so it foams like beer, and add flavors, and it is gluten-free!

There is also Ginger Ale and Root Beer that need not have gluten and taste much better than the non-alcohol stuff at the store.

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It turned out gorgeous! I’m sure you were giddy making something for your Dad.

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Wow! Great project and story!

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Thank you very much! The tap was 15/16" thick - here is the Amazon link in case you’re interested.

To get the perfect alignment, I removed the crumb tray and cut a corrugated cardboard jig for the tap handle to fit into. Then I lightly scored the outlines of the veneer and wood parts onto the tap handle, which gave me a perfect guide for the placement of all the parts to be glued. If you’re interested in how I made the jig, please let me know and I can elaborate!

And yes, I think flipping the foil tape around would have also worked well! Having it be slightly sticky was actually a little bit helpful for me because I’m not always the most graceful and I didn’t have to worry about those tiny, super lightweight pieces getting away from me when I was getting them out of the GF. I just picked up the whole piece of tape with the pieces and then removed them from the foil tape at my work table and put them into a small dish. If I was using a material more delicate than the veneer though, I would definitely say that flipping the tape is necessary.

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I’m so sorry, Steve! Even though we still have my dad, we lost my father-in-law to Covid right in the beginning of the pandemic, and we wish the same thing about him. We didn’t get our GF until last year but I’m always thinking about how excited he would have been to see all of our projects and how much we would have loved making things for him. It’s a truly hard thing losing our special people. :yellow_heart:

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