Home > Brewing > Wooden Beer Totes – Build Phase Part 4

Wooden Beer Totes – Build Phase Part 4

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.

Gluing the Bottoms

Modified use of corner clamps to hold the tote while attaching bottoms.

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.

Gluing and Doweling Sides

Rube Goldberg comes to mind.

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.

A Sensible Approach

A more sensible approach to gluing the sides.

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.

Looks Similar

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.

Making Plugs

Plugs stick to the duct tape leaving you with these waste pieces.

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…

Flushing up the oak plugs.

Flushing up the oak plugs.

At Last

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

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