Pimp My System: Mike's Tap Handles
I own a small business called Yellow Dog Woodworks where I make duck calls, which are made out of wood. At least the barrels are. The inserts are made from acrylic, and they make the "quack." I turn and tune each call by hand. The process is time consuming, but I think its well worth it. I have a few friends that are homebrewers who happen to have taps at their house, so I started to explore turning some tap handles for them. The first one I made was reclaimed cypress taken from an old barn in south Louisiana. The wood was headed for the dump before I rescued it. I loved the character from the old nail holes and carpenter bee damage. The cypress tap handle is now on my old keg fridge that I gave to a buddy that brews. Her name is Fast Betty (the fridge). She was originally in a great live music venue in Destin, Florida which unfortunately had to shut its doors after the BP oil spill. The owners are friends of mine and they let me have her in trade for helping them close the bar. Another handle I made out of two South American hardwood species laminated together, Purpleheart and Yellowheart. I really don't remember how many tap handles I've made, but I would guess around 20.
Tap Handle Construction:
Making these handles is very simple. First, I cut the lumber to size. That depends on what you like, and the size of the wood you are starting with. I try to stay 3" in diameter and around 12" in length, give or take a few. Next, I find the center of the wood on the ends, drill small pilot holes, and mount the wood on the lathe. After that, it's kind of up to the wood to determine the design. Once the turning is complete, I sand, seal, finish and add hardware. I spent around $1200 for the tool set up I have, that includes the lathe, a small chop saw, drill press and a few carving tools. I use several different chisels and knives designed for turning wood to create each design. Nothing is set in stone. If you see an interesting piece of wood, grab it, start turning it and see what happens. I'm hoping to get a few of these in front some breweries and bars around here, I would love to take this from a hobby to a business! I'm not a homebrewer yet, but I'm learning from a neighbor and I hope to start by this fall!
Small chop Saw
Chisels and knives to carve
Hardware to attach to tap
Wood pieces about 12 inches long and 3 inches in diameter.