Getting into the holiday spirits
For the 2018 festive season I started what I hoped would become a tradition of making Christmas gifts for my friends and family, by making eight wall-mounted bottle openers. I’d had the idea some time in late Autumn 2018, but it was early December before I started, and with everything else I had going on, that didn’t leave much time to do as good a job as I had wanted.
🎵 Last Christmas, I gave you my heart
In my mind I’d imagined elaborate bottle-shaped designs, with either magnets embedded in them or a little box under the opener, to catch the cap, but what I actually produced was less… good.
Amounting to little more than a cheap bottle opener mounted on a piece of pine, with a bit of chalkboard paint complimented with some chalk-based art by Lucy, and a coat of varnish, it’s hardly my best work. They didn’t even have a way of to attach them to the wall. Still, combined with the hampers Lucy and I made for everyone, I don’t think anyone was too disappointed. Except me.
Anyone who isn’t embarrassed of who they were last year probably isn’t learning enough.Alain de Botton
This year I had a loftier ambition, and with a brand new workshop ready for use and a far longer lead time, I was going to continue the theme of alcoholic beverages by making everyone beer flight paddles.
🍻 Don’t worry, be hoppy
This was inspired by our holiday to Cyprus in May this year, where we partook in Beer Quest, an ale and cider tasting experience hosted by Aphrodite’s Rock Microbrewery. For just £45 you got transport from the hotel, a flight of home brewed beers or ciders, a huge platter of BBQ food, a tour of the brewery, and (most importantly) an open bar, before being transported back to the hotel again.
There’s a reason it’s listed at the top of things to do in Paphos.
Needless to say, there was very little activity from either Lucy or myself for the rest of that day, as we both opted for an early night.
🎅 Believe in your ‘elf
Fast forward four months, to early August, and I’d made some decisions about the paddles:
- I wanted to use a wood other than pine
- I wanted to use a finish other than paint or varnish
- I wanted each paddle to be different
So, armed with little more than some inspiration from Pinterest, I ventured to Homebase and picked up the largest solid oak hobbyboard they did, and a handful of assorted cabinet handles, then popped next door to Homesense and picked up five sets of glasses, ranging in size from shot to pint.
When I got them home, I laid the board on my workbench, and after matching the handles I wanted to use for each set, I sat them on the board and placed them in different positions to find the best arrangement for each set with the most efficient use of the wood available.
Once I was happy with the layout, I used my table saw to chop the board down, then used a pencil and ruler to work out the exact positions of the holes for the glasses.
⛳ Hole in one
Now that I knew where I wanted the holes, I needed to find a way of making the holes. With one exception, none of the paddles were to have holes going all the way though, instead they were to be hollowed down to about half the thickness of the wood, which meant I’d not be able to use a holesaw, but something like a forstner bit should work well.
People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole.Theodore Levitt
And it’s here that my ambition bit off just a little more than I could chew, as each of the glass sets were different sizes, with each requiring a hole larger than any of the forstner bits I already had. I solved this problem by putting my hand in my pocket and spending £55 buying four sets of bits from Amazon, ranging in size from 10mm right up to 90mm in diameter.
I knew that I’d not be able to use any of the larger bits in my hand drill, so had planned on using the drill press at Cheltenham Hackspace, but because the largest forstner bit had a shaft thicker than the chuck at the space could accommodate (oohh-eerrr), Andy from the space very generously let me use his personal drill press, and gave me some tips on how best to get the best results.
So while Lucy did some shopping at the Cheltenham retail parks, I got to work cutting the rest of the holes.
This went mostly OK, but as I started with the smallest holes, and gradually increased the sizes, I didn’t reduce the RPM on the drill as I increased, resulting in a little bit of burning on one of the flights, which I corrected for the next one. I also slipped a couple of times, resulting in some gouges in the wood, but nothing a bit of sanding can’t fix.
I also made the mistake of trying to go all the way though in one direction, thinking a sacrificial board underneath would help prevent tear-out. It didn’t. So for the other three holes needed for that paddle, I drilled a small hole in the centrer of each so I’d know where to start on the other side, then hollowed out half thickness on one side, then flipped it over and hollowed out the other half.
Two hours later, after having cut all the holes, and using the bandsaw to cut the paddle handle, I rescued Lucy from the rain.
💸 Money talks… but all mine ever says is good-bye
Now, I’m very happy being a member of the Cheltenham Hackspace – I’ve met some really nice people there, and in addition to the tools I’ve got access to, the expertise of the other members, and willingness to share it, is second to none.
But Cheltenham is 40 minutes down the M5, which isn’t exactly accessible, and means that when you find a mistake you’ve made after returning home, you can’t exactly just pop back to fix it.
The mistake in this instance was the size of the holes on two of the flights. After some experiments with the placement of the glasses I decided the holes for the skull glasses weren’t deep enough, and that the holes for the wobble glasses needed to not only go all the way through, but also needed to be slightly wider.
Now, despite it still being August at this point, with plenty of opportunity to get back to the space before Christmas to correct these issues, I’m an impatient person, and knew that waiting wasn’t going to scratch the itch I had.
It’s at this point I decided to buy my own pillar drill, and while I was spending money I might as well buy the tools from Aldi I’d had my eye on as well. Fast forward an amount money which was just a tad more than I could really afford, and I was soon the proud own of a bandsaw, belt and disk sander, a paint gun, a nailgun, and of course, a pillar drill.
🙋🏼♂️ Professional sawdust maker
With my new tools in tow, increasing the size of the holes was a doddle (and the new sander made it easy to smooth out the curves on the paddle), letting me move onto the next step of rounding over the edges with my router. My router table (also from Aldi, are you noticing a trend here?) is a bit fiddly to set to the correct depth, so it was important to use a piece of scrap wood to test it, but once this was dialled in, I made quick work of it, replacing all the sharp edges with a nice rounded ones.
More tricky was drilling holes for the handles, which needed precision of placement for any with more than a single screw. I also needed to shorten the screws (which were designed to be attached to far thicker things than my 18mm boards), which I did using a Dremel.
The penultimate step was to sand everything. I started with my random orbit sander for the main surfaces of each board, using 180 grit initially before moving to 240 grit. I was able to use a Rotary Flap Wheel Sander (attached to new pillar drill) to sand the inside of any holes which went all the way through, but in inside of any any partial holes needed regular sandpaper and elbow grease.
⚖ Oil be the judge of that
All that remained was to apply the finish, for which I’d opted to use Danish Oil. Applying three coats of oil, wiping off the excess after 5 minutes, and waiting 24 hours between coats, really brought out the natural beauty of the wood. Apparently it isn’t as protective as Lacquer or Varnish, but I think it should be more than suitable for the flights.
Once dried, I attached the handles, placed the glasses, and took these action shots:
In the time between when I originally wrote this post in late August, and Christmas day when it was published, I locked myself in the workshop and decided to put the remaining wood to good use, producing these additional pieces as gifts:
Oh, and I couldn’t go thought all that without at least making one bottle opener that I could be proud of:
I’m really happy with the way these have turned out, and am ever-so lightly jealous that I have to give them away, but happy to do so – I just hope they bring joy to their recipients – and then when I see them next, they’ll offer me a drink of something nice from them.