Tuesday, September 4, 2012

This may be a New “Un-Tapped” Market for me!


Finished Beer Tap Handle
That is a carved wooden handle for a Beer Tap!

When I first received the commission to carve my first Beer Tap Handle ever, I did a little “research” into Beer Tap handles on the Internet.  To my surprise, I discovered that there are many people -- “home-brewers” for the most part, I’m guessing -- who are making, or having made for them, beer tap handles that are as distinctively personal as the fermented results of their hard work and patience.  I’ve found a little bit of everything from fancy turned spindles to replicas of handles you’d expect to see in a 200 year old Irish pub to dragon’s heads to images of drunks and monks!

This commission came about as sort of a “chance encounter”…with the emphasis on the “sort of"  part.  At the dinner following my Son and brand-new Daughter-in-law’s wedding a few weeks ago I ended up sitting next to…now, give me a minute to get this right…my wife’s...cousin’s... daughter’s...husband. You know, one of those really “straight-line” family connections.  

“A” (his name, for our purposes here) and I had met a number of times before.  Since he knew I was into carving our conversation started out with a question from him regarding (kitchen) knife-sharpening techniques.  One thing led to another and within a few minutes he had his Smart Phone out and was looking at pictures of carvings on my blog.

A couple of days later he e-mailed me to ask if I would be interested in a commission to carve a Beer Tap Handle for him.  As I intimated above, prior to this time, I didn’t know that people even did that sort of thing.  But we e-mailed back and forth and he soon came up with a pretty respectable picture of what he was looking for that he had cleverly cobbled up with bits and pieces from a number of Google Image pictures.  Ain’t Photoshop great!

It took a couple of days for the ideas to gel in my head but eventually I plunged in.  (I think/hope) I was able to capture his concept of an “open design” with Barley “Sprigs”/”Stems”/”Stocks” (?) and Hops “Blossums”/”Buds” (?). 

Roughout with Drilled Holes to begin Carving
I thought that a nice full head of foam sliding down over the edge of the glass was a really cool idea.  He wanted a design that was as “open” as possible, i.e., with a lot of “negative space”, so the latent Engineer within me was very happy about the additional source of rear support it provided for the Barley.  After all, there may be times when the handle will be pulled “very enthusiastically” and we wouldn’t want it to snap. :-)

The handle threads onto the end of the tap onto a standard 3/8-16 threaded stud.  At his suggestion, I found a suitable “T” nut at Home Depot and installed it into the base of the cutout.  The handle has to be as light as possible – you don’t want it to accidentally flop forward and spill any “goodies” on the floor -- and can really only be about ¾” thick in order to clear the front of the refrigerator door and still have room behind it for your fingers.  However, the flange of a 3/8-16 thread “T” nut was slightly over 1” in diameter, so I ground it down until it was sort of oval in shape.  I countersunk it a bit and to use some “five-minute” epoxy to make sure it stayed put!

"T" Nut in the Bottom End
The carving went pretty well.  I found, via Google Images, some very good photos of both plants.  The kernels and petals on “real” hops and barley plants are very irregular and random.  To my surprise, making them irregular was much more difficult than would have been to keep them in a nice, regular pattern, particularly, on the nearly round hops.  While I think they came out OK, I wasn’t as pleased as I might have been with the petals where they start to wrap around to the sides.  In addition, right in the middle of the piece…precisely where the barley and hops come together… there was either a “bad spot” in the wood or I was asking the Basswood to do something that it just wasn't willing to do.  As a result, the hops are slightly smaller than they started out to be (the result of “uncarving” and then  “recarving” them) and are now present only on the front side, because I just could not get them to “lay” down correctly all the way around to the back.  The outline of the glass got in the way, as well…so I’ll blame it on that.:-).

Beyond that there is not too much else to tell you.  I like the piece and look forward to doing some other handles to keep the suds flowing.

One for the Bench

The voices in my head may not be real, but they sometimes have some really good ideas!

‘Til Next time…Keep Makin’ Chips!