Although I have begun to learn patience, I can’t be the only one who gets to a point in their project where they really begin to wish it was all over. Well that was how I was beginning to feel as the deadline for my gift making was rapidly approaching. Alas “The End is Near”.
About a month ago I asked my daughter Callie if she would be interested in making a drawing for me that I could use on my bottle labels. All of my girls are quite talented at this sort of thing and it was really just a matter of seeing if Callie would be interested. Luckily she was interested and accepted my request. A month later and after she finished her college finals, this is what she came up with for me.
Using the image I worked up a label in Photoshop.
Then added wings to complete the label.
Now all I needed to do was to whip up a neck label and I’ll be mostly there. I started with the Turtlecove logo I had already created for the totes. I added the light green crayon background that Callie used on Santa and added matching holly sprigs to the wings. As an almost invisible final touch, I put a Santa hat on my turtle. Can’t really see it but I know it’s there.
Originally I was going to print these on paper and use milk glue to affix them however for expediency I decided to print them on full-sheet label material and cut them out with scissors. Here is the final product which I saved as a pdf for portability and later printing.
Putting it all Together (finally!)
My final preparation was to lightly sand the totes with a Scotch Brite pad and some soapy water. After drying I them, I followed up with a coat of Johnson’s Paste Wax. The finish was not furniture grade but for tote, I think it suffices. After a couple of hours of quality time cutting out the labels (thank-you Susan!), I was ready to finish my gifts for 2014.
And putting it all together, the big “reveal”
What Happened to the Openers?
I never got around to making the bottle openers which I had hoped to incorporate into the design. I was planning to add a small wooden pocket (tray) on the non-logo end of the tote where I would insert the bottom (handle) of the opener. The top would be held in place by the little magnet I that I was going to inset in the opener “business end”. The magnet would then serve two purposes, its function would serve to hold the loose cap after opening with its other function to hold the opener in position on the tote. For this to work I was going to inset a steel washer into the tote at the proper height. This idea wasn’t the only way to get it done, just one I happened to think might work and was fairly easy to have implemented. But then, I also wanted inlay on the openers….. Sounds like a lot of experimentation and yet another challenge for the Turtlecovebrewer workshop….
God bless you all and happy holidays from the Turtlecovebrewer and Family
Last Saturday I was finally ready to assemble the totes. As you might have presumed, the first tote took the longest as I worked out the mechanics of glue up.
The logical order was to glue and screw the bottom to the sides making sure to insert the dividers (they are not removable). I pulled out my corner clamps but it was immediately obvious that they couldn’t be used in the traditional manner to square the corners as the dividers were in the way. So I improvised a way to hold the work during while I drilled, glued and screwed the bottoms to the sides. The single F clamp was used to make sure the sides didn’t splay outward which would have allowed the dividers to fall out.
As a reminder, I had long since counter bored the screw holes from the bottom using a template and the drill press. After applying glue to the mating surfaces, I used the pre-drilled hole in the bottom to drill through the sides and locked the joint with 1 1/4″ flat head screws.
With the bottoms on I was ready to attach the sides. In order to keep things “professional” I used the sides in my prototype to locate the 1/8″ holes that would be filled with dowel to strengthen the glue joint. I lined up the parts, punched a mark with my awl and drilled them out on the drill press. That part went smoothly. What I wasn’t exactly clear on was how I was going to glue and clamp 4 side pieces, in the correct position all at the same time without aid of my pin nailer, etc. It occurred to me that I could have possibly used a brad through the pre-drilled holes to temporarily line up the sides before clamping. But I came up with a “better” idea.
I needed all four of my hands and had to hold my tongue in the correct orientation to get this thing lined up properly. Even then I was forced to tap a glue joint loose when I realized it was a 1/2″ off the mark. Sigh…. This wasn’t going to work.
On the second tote I decided to try simply gluing and doweling the sides instead of clamping them first. I was hopeful the dowels would add enough structure to hold the pieces firmly enough for the glue to set. I still wish I could have clamped but after assembling the first couple, I was reasonably pleased that the dowels acted similarly as though the joint had been nailed. Things went a lot more smoothly after that. Not far to go but still a couple of tasks remain.
After gluing sides off the last tote, enough time had passed that I could start with the first and begin paring the 1/8″ dowels flush to the sides. I started by nipping them close with diagonal pliers and then using a wide chisel to pare flush. Next I cut 1″ pieces of 1/4″ oak dowel (purchased at the home center) and recessed them vertically through the top of each handle tenon. You can barely make them out below but the purpose was to lock the handle in place. For the record, I could have also glued the handles but this would have had to have been done before gluing the bottoms and would have added complexity. I didn’t think it strictly necessary so I didn’t do it. The handles are locked on the inside by the curve of the handle and the other by glued oak pin.
So the above picture looks similar to others I’ve taken previously but the difference is that this is the first time the totes have actually been assembled.
I thought I was finished for the day but when Susan decided to take a walk with our oldest, I popped back downstairs to see about milling the oak dowels that I would use to plug the screw holes on the bottoms. Over the last couple of years I’ve basically learned everything I know from experts and enthusiasts I’ve seen on the Internet. Such is the case with this method of making plugs with a plug cutter. The idea is straightforward, set the depth of your plug cutter so that it does not penetrate completely through your flat stock. Cut as many plugs as you’ll need plus a few spares. Tape completely over the cut side of the plugs with duct tape (this so that when you free the plugs they don’t fly everywhere which could be dangerous). Take your piece to the band saw and slice it in half on edge (resawing) the plugs free.
One more chance for the modified use of corner clamps to hold the totes first while plugs are being glued then later when they are brought flush with a palm router and a straight bit. Originally my plan was to bring the plugs close with the router then pare them down by hand but I decided to dial in the router, skipping the hand step. Git ‘R Done…
Other than some touch up finishing, the totes are at long last completed! The beer is bottled and ready to go. My daughter Callie has been working on a drawing for the labels so my plan is to finish up and get these on to Santa’s Sleigh this week. Hard work this Elf business ;-)
Big Fat Santa and the Turtlecovebrewer have been working hard to bring Christmas joy to his boys and girls
One of the first lessons I learned from building projects in the shop was patience. If “Rome wasn’t built-in a day” than neither shall most of your significant projects. But the lesson once learned is to be repeated in degrees and many times one reaches a point in the build where they are just tired of working on it. You feel like shouting “Enough already, let me just finish this!” I caution you and remind myself that short-cuts taken now will show up in your finished work BUT…. as a matter of practicality and perhaps deadlines we all have to make decisions along the way of when to call it “good”. “Perfect is the enemy of good.” I am very excited about this particular project, designing my own beer tote with a new Turtlecove logo, brewing my own special beer to go with them it has been fun and rewarding. It has also been a tremendous amount of work and now that I’m close, I need to retain focus. Eye on the prize my friends.
Meanwhile back at Turtlecove
So Saturday, Susan and I made a quick trip to Melrose primarily so that I could bottle the beer. I wound up with 9 gallons of Extra Stout which has been sitting on medium toast oak chips and fresh hops for about a month now. Bottling day requires about 3 hours of effort with tasks including preparing bottles (about 50 bottles per 5 gals), measuring and sanitizing the priming sugar and capping. Kegging on the other hand can be accomplished in as little as 30 minutes. One vessel versus 50 makes a huge difference plus there is no priming sugar to fool with, as the beer is force carbonated using bottled CO2. I bottled half the batch and kegged the other half (Santa’s gift to himself). It was a long day of traveling to and from and work in the brewery but Susan and I got it done finally arriving home around 8 PM.
Staining and Poly
I had earlier stained the pieces parts by rubbing on Minwax natural stain with just a bit of golden pecan stain blended into it. Why those colors, because I had them on hand? I was planning to use the pecan only but there was hardly any left, so I grabbed what was on the shelf, natural which appears brown to me, and mixed in the bit of pecan that I had remaining.
After (hopefully) taping off all the areas that will get glue upon assembly I applied a rather awful gooey thick coat of semi-gloss polyurethane and let them dry for a couple of days.
Why didn’t I thin the poly before applying? Pure and simple laziness coupled with a just get it done attitude. And what did I get for my efforts? Numerous thick gobs, runs and orange peeling. Which, I knew would be the case when I applied it. I was simply too lazy to go upstairs and look for a jar to mix up the finish and this resulted in me spending hours of “quality time” yesterday leveling the surface for the next coat.
I did come up with a decent idea though, at least for the work I was doing.
Had I properly applied the previous coat, I could have gotten away with some light hand sanding but such was not the case. I found the random orbital sander was going to be extremely helpful considering how many pieces needed correcting. Holding that beast and getting my hands shaken for several hours was not working well for me so I decided to try mounting it which was infinitely more tolerable. I had turned down the speed on the advice of better control but I found that I actually needed more horsepower in this case so I turned it up just a bit from 1 to 3 which made the work a little quicker.
I also took the time to make some “painters points” by taking my homemade square bench cookies and counter sinking three 1″ 5/8″ drywall screws in the pattern of a triangle. They were pretty pointy so I did take the time to dull the tips on the bench grinder before using them on my tote bottoms. This time there won’t be any newspaper stuck to them. Sorry no pictures of the paint points but they are nothing special. Above are my bottoms, suspended on them while drying.
After level sanding the parts looked, well scuffed. This time I diluted the poly 50:50 with mineral spirits and wiped on the finish. The wood figure sprang back to life, much better.
While applying the homemade wipe on poly I figured I’d try some french-polish techniques for fun. I varied my stroke and used figure eight patterns with light landings and take-offs. I realize this isn’t french-polish but I didn’t think it would hurt to practice the technique and I think it did a great job applying this wipe on.
Fatigue has set in
But I’m getting close to the finish line now. The beer is ready and the totes are very near ready for final assembly. There will be one final surprise if I can get my daughter focused long enough. I’m ready to “Git ‘R Done”.
You have been peeping into Santa’s workshop with the Turtlecovebrewer
Meanwhile back on the bench…
So last time I mentioned my dilemma over the decision to use 1 x 6 stock for the tote base. I was hopeful these totes could be used with pint (16 oz) bottles but with the thicker pine center dividers, the larger bottles were slightly too big to fit. One idea would have been to mill the divider stock into thinner pieces but without thickness planer or sander this would have been challenging. I wasn’t really interested in challenging at this point. So I came up with another idea to use my spindle sander instead. I only needed to modify the center divider as I had already lengthened the bottom to accommodate these larger bottles.
Chopping Mortises for the Handles
Early on in this process I was most intimidated by the prospect of chopping 12 mortises for the handles but I resigned myself that it could (and would) be done if I was careful and simply took my time. I was pleasantly surprised that the operation went fairly smoothly and that I did tend to get more efficient with each new side. My process was to use a Forstner bit to hog out the bulk of the mortise then finish with chisels. Pretty standard stuff. I felt it was important to mark both sides of the piece so that I could work toward the center in both directions. My prototype was helpful but again, it wasn’t perfect so started off cautiously until I had cut a couple of them. The mortises measured 1″ x 3/4″ and on the prototype tote I used an undersized drill bit so that I didn’t cross over the lines. I knew repeating that was going to add a whole lot of extra work at production time so I manned-up and used the 3/4″ Forstner bit for this run. I carefully setup my drill table fence and stop block so that I could run all 12 sides through before moving the stop block to the second position and running the sides through a second time. Two holes in each mortise were all that were required.
I then used my template to mark the mortise edges on both sides, outlined the mortise with my 3/4″ chisel and chopped toward the center from both faces. My technique was not masterful but it was passable and did seem to improve with each successive mortise. Each mortise fit a corresponding handle tenon which was marked. Once a tenon almost fit, I paired it to fit. As I mentioned earlier, I was concerned I might ruin my work or it might take forever but this was not the case. Just get your tools sharp, take your time and follow the basic techniques and I found you can this work reasonably successfully.
Dry Fit and Ready to Pre-finish
Next time in the shop I’ll stain and pre-finish the components before final assembly. It seems many woodworkers feel that stain is a poor substitute for actual wood but in this instance, I just wanted the totes a bit darker and I had a stain on hand. “Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.” I’ll tape off areas that will receive glue before applying finish coats. I’m going to play this by ear but I fear I’ll never be able to access the dividers for finish if I don’t do it prior to assembly.
I plan to use wedges to “pin” the handles in place so I’ll need to make them and fit them of course but I’m well on the way to completion. I’m looking forward to seeing them assembled.
You have been reading an excerpt from the shop journal of the Turtlecovebrewer.
“It’s just as easy to build six as it is to build one, right?” “I don’t think so Tim….”
I’m a bit behind on my shop journal entries but this is typical of what happens when I’m actually busy in the shop. Since my last post I’ve had bits of 5 days in the shop and I will continue to work hard until I see the end in sight.
Production Phase – The Long Veteran’s Day Weekend
So I left off at the end of my last post having built Proto Tote #1 in cypress, then up-sized it with Proto Tote #2 in pine. I never finished Proto #2 having run out of stock on hand and also knowing that I would be using the bits as templates there actually was no need to build it other than a dry fit to make sure it was all going to work. In preparation for the build I made my trip to Lowes to pick out the best “select pine” boards I could find. It was then that I found out Lowes does not carry pine in 1/4″ dimensions rather it is 3/8″. I had already decided that I wasn’t going to mill my own thin stock and I didn’t want to mix and match wood species (could have purchased poplar for example) so I went with the 3/8″ pine. The only issue with this thicker stock was that my tote bottom was going to be too narrow for the tote to handle 16 oz bottles with the thicker stock. See I already knew this from building my prototypes but I opted to stick with the 1×6″ stock being both economical and frugal with the World’s wood resource. I’ll show you what I came up with later.
The following weekend I had five days off in row and although I wasn’t in the shop the entire time, I did get significant work completed on the production run. I was happy with Proto #2 true enough, but it wasn’t perfect so assuming I was going to use it to build multiple copies, I was hoping to finesse the design. I somewhat simplified the hard edges of the sides top (what would be the bottles lid) and widened the radius so that I could fit my smallest sanding spindle in there. After all it just makes good sense to fit your design to your tools if you can. I also decided to use a 1/2″ round over on the face edges but not the inside edges, those would be relieved by sanding.
It is definitely NOT as easy to make six as it is to make one BUT there are economies of scale such as setting up the jig and/or bit once and cutting many and I did find that after trying two or three I usually came up with what I would call the best method. So in that way practice made better. Everything component but the bottom and the handle came in quantities of two or more so I found myself needing to maintain my concentration on the twelfth cut or the twenty-fourth route, etc. That too was good practice.
The strips used for the tote sides are ripped from 4″ thin stock. I set my table saw to make the larger strip 2″ wide and the thinner strip was whatever was left which ended up being about 1 1/4″ (if think). I beveled the face edges on the router table and came up with this device which I named “The Finger Saver”.
As you can see, I didn’t over-engineer it. Simply a couple of Harbor Freight horizontal clamps on a piece of scrap. I didn’t even cut the scrap I mean why, the length just gave me more of a handle so I used as-is. For the thinner pieces of the two, I inserted a spacer strip to steady everything.
I made the slots for the dividers using two different methods. At first I though it would be easy to route the slots on the router table. I mean once I got the fence set I should be able to run all the tabs through, then raise the bit, run them, raise the bit, repeat until I am all the way through. Sounds reasonable but in practice many things made this a poor method. First I always have trouble setting my router fence square to the table. Second I always seem to be off just a bit, never being able to find an exact center of the board. Third it is a stopped dado and thus the router must be turned off and allowed to spin down completely before removing the work piece. Failure to do this will mar you work, in some way it will get messed up trust me no matter how careful you are removing the piece from a spinning bit is a bad idea. So I had twelve of these to do before resetting and then doing another twelve cuts on the long dividers. Oh, and remember you still have to hand chisel the end of the slot if you want it to be square as the router bit leaves it round. Madness I say!
After doing a bunch of these I decided enough was enough so I took the long pieces over to band saw and using my miter gauge, rip fence and a steady hand knocked out the rest of these in no time at all. These turned out clean, square and with a far better fit. Lesson learned.
Next came shaping the curved handles. I never did get the prototype handles just right so I know I had a challenge ahead making six keepers for the production totes. On the protos I cut them out then took them to the belt sander but that didn’t really work. Without a perfect template, it’s hard to cut out a “perfect” handle so I got as close as I could cutting them on the band saw and decided to try shaping them with rasps. Crappy as I’m sure they are my HF rasp set allowed me to fairly efficiently shave the band saw marks off and finish the shape. I’m definitely sold on rasps and would like to actually buy a few in the coming years, especially if and when I ever start building guitar necks.
The oscillating spindle sander was efficient at cleaning up the rasp scratches and the handles were dressed at the router table with 1/2″ round over bit on all 4 sides.
Santa’s workshop is a very busy place this time of year. Here is a rare shot of one of Santa’s Helper Elves working on a project for her Mom. Not wanting to waste time, Santa’s Elf works very quickly wanting to constantly move to the next step. Unlike Santa, his elf hasn’t yet learned the gift of patience. The project is a sign that says “Susan” on it.
To be continued on the following weekend…… stay tuned….
You have been building Christmas toys with the Turtlecovebrewer and Santa’s Elf Alexandra
I love listening to pod-casts while on my daily commute and one thing I hear fairly often from brother Marc Spagnolo is that with each project woodworkers should consider challenging themselves by trying something new. For me darn near everything is new so this means getting better at the things I’ve tried before while incrementally adding new things. As a brewer and “beer ambassador” this idea of making a wooden six pack holder seems to be, well obvious. Looking around the web, I have seen many variations of the beer tote and some I like very much and others seem a bit utilitarian. In the spirit of challenging myself, I thought it time to design a tote of my own. If building projects in the shop taught me something about patience, designing the projects as I go has forged patience into my work habit. Perhaps a bit dramatic and overstated, I just wanted to convey that designing as you go can be time consuming and one shouldn’t be surprised if the project gets built a few times before the production run…..
First the logo
I’m still seeking a logo for “Turtlecove Brewing”. I have ideas about what I want but I’m not particularly good at free hand drawing so progress has been lingering. I have been seeking a freshwater turtle that can be (easily?) drawn in silhouette such that it can be used as part of a logo AND inlaid in wooden projects such as a guitar head stocks, etc. Google Images has helped but I just wasn’t typing in the correct search criterion. Logo, tattoo and pictures didn’t yield what I was looking for but “silhouette turtle” was fruitful. One of the problems I have is I don’t want a cartoon and I’m not interested in sea turtles. There is a huge sea turtle following BTW, no problem finding something in that style.
I finally found something I liked on a lady’s back (of all places). I don’t think this is the end to this story but at least it is a beginning to it. This is what I came up with.
I brought the captured image in to Photoshop and spent a little time cleaning it up. The image is pretty complex and a bit tiny for inlay work but for this project, it will do.
I also had an idea about the Turtlecove signature so I went through all the fonts I had loaded on Photoshop and went to work. I landed on Segoe Print for “Turtlecove” and Segoe Script for “Brewing”. Both are arched but in separate layers.
Not bad, I think I can work with this…..
To me, the key to making this design “my own” was going to be in shaping the sides. The most common and albeit easier to mass produce sides where simply angled at the top. I felt I needed to complicate things by coming up with a more interesting shape. My idea, I wanted the sides to be “bottle-shaped”. So again I looked to Google images in search of the right bottle. A wine bottle style was too narrow at the top to be practical and besides, this is a beer tote. Growlers are stocky but typically have roundish bottoms and again this wasn’t as practical to construct. I settled on a jug shape a bit of a cross between an old milk bottle and a carboy. Looking over perhaps a hundred shapes, I found one that liked. Captured it and in to Photoshop for “fixing”. Here is the result.
Again, I’m pretty happy with the idea.
Building a Prototype – Saturday
So this is where it gets interesting, I spent Saturday building a prototype which would also be used as the part templates for the production run. I knew it would take longer to design and build then to just build from a plan but I’d estimate it took me about 3 times longer. Not only that but instead of setting up and running all the parts through the process. I had to move from setup to setup basically to test and fit a single part. So this is not news to anyone with experience and it isn’t even shocking to me. It’s just that I figured by the end of the weekend I would have all my templates made and be ready to rock for next weekend. But this was not exactly what happened……
On Friday after work, I made a quick trip to the lumber yard to pick up some cypress. Cypress is local, wet resistant, fairly light and relatively inexpensive. I build my prototype out of cypress and in the end found it to be unsuitable for this project. Never-the-less I was able to work out the kinks during this first build.
As it turns out, I was quit happy with the shape of the sides and I also liked the arched handle with through tenons. If you are planning on banging out of a lot of they bad boys, I would not recommend this design! Hand shaping the arched handle and hand chopped mortises are not convenient. If I really wanted a challenge I would also dove tail the sides to the bottom but I think for now I use screws and plug them. I do need to finish this project by the end of this year and I have already added many challenging new design elements to keep me busy.
What didn’t work on this prototype? The cypress was too soft and kept splitting on me. Both mortises have cracks at the top. I would also end up re-sawing thin stock for the sides and divider elements and not only would milling these pieces take time but the unpredictable thickness that resulted would make dadoes for the dividers a nightmare. I didn’t want to use plywood for the dividers, I felt it clashed with the cypress and I didn’t have a plywood bit for the router, etc.
Building Prototype Type 2 – Sunday
I never finished the build on Saturday but I almost did. I was hoping to have all the pieces cut and dry fitted by day’s end but this was not to happen. I did get all the pieces cut but alas, I realized the tote dimensions were too small. DOH!
First Susan noticed upon visiting that although my handle was curved, you would have to reach you fingers between the bottles to get a proper grasp. It was workable but certainly not optimal. I needed to make the sides taller. Next after milling and cutting the dividers I had a slight problem, the bottles in the center section didn’t fit. DOH! Forming the dividers from 1/8″ stock would have solved this problem but at this point, I was already committed to another prototype so I might as well make the tote longer as well. At this point I have opted not to make it wider and decided to stick with 1″x 6″ stock.
Sunday, I decided to go with pine. So armed with boards on hand and some new dimensions, I went back to the drawing board; and the miter saw and the band saw and table saw and spindle sander, etc..
So by the end of the day I had most of Proto 2 cut.
- 1″ taller so easier to grasp handle and no split outs on the mortises
- 1″ longer to accommodate stockier bottles
- Pine is mostly free of knots and easier to work with
- Really took my time on the mortises and they are the best I’ve ever chopped
- I have a 3/8″ straight router bit so I can precisely cut the diver dado to fit the store bought stock (Yes!)
- Can’t really see it but there are 45° bevels on the side pieces
- I ran out of thin stock so I haven’t sized the center divider yet
- I’m not through shaping the handle. I’d like to perfect it before using it as a template.
- I need to sand the bottle sides, these are how they came off the band saw
To sum up the project, things are not going to happen as quickly as I first imaged however I do think that once I have a working model for templates, it won’t take nearly as long as I was beginning to fear. Many days to be sure. I’ll batch out ends and sides, then shape handles, then (ugh) mortises until …… well until it’s finished.
But what about the logo? The jury is out on this, I wish I had a branding iron……
You have been designing with the Turtlecovebrewer…
Although I haven’t written in a couple of weeks it isn’t because I haven’t been busy. On the contrary I have been busy working on home spun Christmas gifts. I don’t know if people really believe it when they say that home made gifts are the best but if the old saw, “it’s the thought that counts” is true then hand crafted might hold merit on this point alone. To be be perfectly honest, I am a child of the retail Christmas. My Dad loved the season and the way he showed his love was to save all year and make his boys dream’s come true. I received so many dreams that I can’t even remember the disappointments and there were occasionally a few, but damn few. So few that I can’t even cite one.
For almost 50 years, I celebrated Christmas morning at my parents house opening presents and eating a traditional (for us) Christmas breakfast with my family after. We’ve celebrated the last three Christmases without Dad and Mom isn’t getting around much anymore. My niece and nephew have moved away and even my brother and sis-in-law have relocated to North Florida. Everyone (save Mom) is doing well and I am happy for them and it would seem a perfect time for new Christmas traditions to form. Mine will involve more time in the shop and less time in the Malls. Bakers love to bake, and cooks love to entertain and we woodworkers head to our shops.
I’m a bit conflicted on how much to information to disclose although it is highly doubtful that any of my three loyal readers would spill the beans on my project ideas ;-) Fear not “all shall be revealed at the appointed hour!”
You have been remembering and celebrating with the Turtlecovebrewer