Over the last few years, many of my friends have been acquiring kegerators to have beer on tap in their homes. Not only that, but many of them are even brewing their own beers to share when friends come over. Some of them are even pretty good at it. One thing these taps all had in common was these short, very plain, and boring tap handles. I decided I wanted to do something about that.
At the 2015 CarveWright Conference I included a beer tap rotary jig file in the thumb drive that the attendee’s received. I didn’t do a presentation on it, but just threw it in and hoped to see someone run with it. Then last month, right as football season was beginning, I had someone come in and show me what he was doing with his rotary jig.
He took that file I made, imported some logos and bam, his kegerator was the “coolest thing ever!”. They even featured the teams they were watching that Sunday. This is the kind of thing I had hoped for when I gave that file away, and it got me inspired to do some tap handles myself. I just needed to decide what to do.
I wanted to make something a little more elaborate than just the same old tap handle look. Something that showed off the kind of detail that can be achieved with the rotary jig, and would be really fun. Since I don’t own one of these kegerators myself, I decided to make some for one of my home brew friends. He’s also a big Star Wars fan, so the answer seemed clear. Star Wars beer taps.
After some quick searches through thingiverse.com and myminifactory.com, I came up with some pretty good Star Wars models to work from. I imported the models with the CarveWright STL Importer in the rotary mode and brought them into Project Designer PRO.
I started with the R2-D2 model and used the rectangle and carve region tools to build a Star Warsy looking pedestal for him to sit upon. It started resembling a light saber, so I played that up a bit. I liked that idea, so I went and actually found a model of Darth Vader’s light saber and imported it for Darth’s handle. These are about 11″ tall and around 3.5″ in diameter.
Satisfied with the designs, I uploaded them to my memory card and headed to the shop to prepare my material for carving.
I decided to use MDF (fiber board), since these will end up being painted and sealed. It’s just easy stuff to work with and it’s very inexpensive. I needed to build up two 4″ blocks to carve these on, so I began by ripping a 4″ strip on the table saw and chopping it into 12.25″ pieces. Then I glued these pieces together to create a 4+” block. Next, I squared up the block on the table saw, and cut the corners off to keep the widest dimensions under 4.25″.
Time to load these blocks into the rotary jig and get them carving. For more detailed instructions on preparing material and loading the rotary jig, see the CarveWright Rotary Jig page here.
Right out of the CarveWright machine, they looked great.
After these come out of the CarveWright CNC, the first thing I do, is get several sanding sealer coats on them. I use clear Shellac as my preferred sealer, and I like to use a lot. It really helps to hold the details together during my initial aggressive sanding with my sanding mops.
Before I get too far into the finishing process, however, I need to get some hardware in these so they can thread onto the taps. A quick google search tells me that I’ll need a 3/8”-16 threaded fitting and there are several sources from which to order the hardware. I just went to the hardware store and found some fittings to do the job.
Because these are MDF, I was a little concerned about them holding up to the wear and tear of being pulled on regularly. To give it more strength, I decided to bore them out deep enough to run a long piece of all-thread into them.
I picked up some 3/8″ all-thread and cut them to about 9″ long, 3/8″ threaded couplings, and a couple 3/8″ hex nuts.
Next, I bored out the tap handles to insert the hardware. In order to accommodate the size of the coupling, I started with a 3/4″ forstner bit and drilled down far enough to fit the coupling and nut, then I bored in with a long 3/8″ bit to fit the all-thread. Once the holes are drilled and the hardware fits, I epoxy the hardware into place.
Next, it’s time to get to the finishing stages. I sprayed them with primer, did some sanding with a 240 grit sanding mop, and then went to do some filling. I use Bondo Glazing and Spot Putty as my go-to filler. It’s the ultimate secret weapon for painted projects like this.
Time to move on to paint. I started with a base coat of spray paint to get some quick and even coverage. White for R2 and Black for Darth.
Once the base coats are applied, I did some masking to spray some silver onto R2’s dome and Vader’s saber.
Then on to adding details. To make things easier on myself, I used a blue sharpie marker to add the details on R2 and a black sharpie to clean up some masking edges on Darth. The silver details and touch up I did with a brush.
Once the detailing is finished, I coated them in several coats of clear acrylic for added protection. Then, it was time to go install them at my friends house.
My buddy was completely thrilled with these. He couldn’t believe I could do this kind of thing, and do it all in three days (mostly waiting for paint to dry)! He is now full of ideas of other tap handles he could make, and the huge potential of selling custom tap handles. When I left his house, he was discussing with his wife about buying his own CarveWright. I’m pretty sure he’ll be a fellow CarveWright user soon. She thought they were pretty cool, too.
If anyone else is considering making some beer taps, I’m giving the Dark Vader and R2-Beer2 files along with a couple of other tap handle designs for free. The other two are just some standard type beer taps that you can customize. I encourage you to get adventurous with your designs. There are really endless possibilities with this. I think, I’ll going to go make myself a lightsaber, now.