Custom Tap Handle Alternative

Do you brew your own beer? Do you brew more than one style? Do you, therefore, occasionally rotate different styles in and out of your kegerator? Do you take enough pride in your beer to actually come up with names and labels for your delicious creations? Well, then we have a lot in common already. We should get together and share a pint sometime.

I often find myself looking for custom tap handles that I can have painted up with my beer names and labels on them. And I haven’t found a lot of options that appeal to me. Mostly what I find are cool handles with a square at the top where you slide a printed piece of paper into a plastic sleeve for your “custom” tap handle. Or another popular one is the one with a small black square chalkboard at the top where you write your beer name in chalk. Yawn. No, I want something a little more customized. Well, not finding what I wanted, I improvised. Now I’m going to show you what I did.

What I have right now is a temporary wall I erected to run my tap faucets through until I convert my garage into a full-on bar like I did at my last house. Once this is complete, I will have my keg fridge in the brew room, right up against the wall. Directly on the other side of this wall will be my main bar area, with my dart alley and bar table, et cetera. So I’ll be running the taps through that wall between the rooms. I’m going to have an indention so you actually reach into the wall to pull the tap, and there will on the bottom be a rubber drip mat. With that said, I went ahead and bought the piece of wood I will use for the backing of that wall. I’ll just be moving this square of wood to the wall when it’s built. Got it? Got it. So here’s what you’ll end up with:

Here’s a quick list of what you need:

  • your labels printed in hi-res color and cut out nicely
  • a package of ceramic craft magnets (Hobby Lobby – $8)
  • a bottle of decoupage liquid (Hobby Lobby – $10)
  • a project board: 3″ × 48″ × ¼” (Lowe’s – $6)
  • tools: a ¾” paddle bit, a saw, an old toothbrush, a glue gun
  • total cost: right around $25

Now, if you have tap faucets sticking directly out the front (or side) of your fridge, and you want to use my idea, this will be even easier for you. So let’s start from the top. You’ve already designed your labels. If you need a bit of help with that, or you’re not that creative on your own but you still want a handsome label, head on over to Labeley and start a beer label. I would recommend creating an account there first. It’s free, and it will come in handy later. I actually use Labeley to start all my labels, and then I pull them into my favorite image editor and add my own graphics and whatnot. Now you have your labels ready. Right?

Print them out on a color laser printer in about 3″×2″ or so. If you don’t have immediate access to a color laser, throw your images on a thumb drive and run up to Korky’s Copies and Koffee and they’ll be happy to print them for you for a small fee. Then come home, get out your favorite pair of safety scissors and meticulously cut out each of the labels leaving nothing but colored paper. This takes longer than the whole rest of the project. You may want to have several copies of each label printed out for when you screw one up. Unless you’re a scrapbooking master. Here you also see my board. One side is already finished smooth. Very nice. Of course, if you only have four or five labels and never plan to add more, you may get a shorter board. They have two- and three-foot ones as well as the four-foot.

Step two, go ahead and mark off four-inch lengths on your project board with a sharp pencil. Then cut your board into four-inch sections. You can make these a little narrower if you like, but I wanted a fair amount of wood to show on each side of my label, because it’s handsome. Make sure you sand the edges real nice so there’s no splintering or rough edges.

So take your decoupage gel and scrub some of it onto the smooth side of the wood block using the old toothbrush. Then place your label carefully into the juice. Then scrub over the top of the label with more of it until you have a nice even coat. I then wiped some of the lines away with a paper towel. Not sure if that’s necessary though. You don’t want to use clear-coat sealer or paint stuff because it will ruin your label paper. This decoupage stuff is made to seal paper to wood. It says so on that yellow circle on the front. And it works. Also, the toothbrush part is absolutely necessary. I tried a paper towel and had less spectacular adherence results.

Another thing I found fascinating was that immediately it started making the colors sort of bleed and I thought it was going to ruin my paper. So I only did two. You can see this in the picture above, on the edges of the Brown-Eyed Girl label, where it’s dark. And right between the lady’s eyes too. Well, when it dries, your paper is magically restored back to awesomeness. Once I had all my labels affixed to the boards, I took them outside on a platter and let them sit in the sun for about twenty minutes. It dried pretty quickly.

While that’s happening, take your paddle bit and run a hole in your backboard. Of course, if your taps are just sticking out of your fridge, you can skip this part because you’ll just snap your blocks onto the fridge wherever you want. In my case, my wooden backboard was not magnetic, so I ran a neat little hole above each of the taps. I went a little deeper than the thickness of the magnet to accommodate the glue, but was careful not to punch through the back of the board. Drop some glue in the hole and stick the magnet in there. It’s important that you make them all face the same way! If you put one of them with negative polarity facing out, and the others with positive… Well, you can see what would happen.

So with that done, now go back and start gluing magnets to the backs of your placards. You want them all uniform, obviously, and probably as close to the middle of the board as possible. I put mine on the bottoms, to give me more space beneath the placards, above the tap handles. Feel it out a little before you affix them and see what works best for you. Again, if you’re putting these directly on a fridge, it becomes a moot point.

Once that’s done, dude, you’re done! Stick them puppies up there and enjoy! Here’s the final product for me. It might be hard to tell what’s going on here, but the board is mounted on a table about a foot from the fridge, which is the big orange thing on the left here. You can also see all my other labels that are not currently on tap. What I may do with those ones it mount them on the front of the fridge right next to a bottle cap stuck to a magnet. So basically when I have homebrew bottles in the fridge, I put different colors of bottle caps on them all to distinguish the beers. So if the Brown-Eyed Girl has a blue cap on it, I mount the Brown-Eyed Girl placard to the front of the fridge next to a blue bottle cap, telling people what’s in the blue caps. Rinse, repeat for the other beers.

I hope this helps you if you’re stuck in the same looking-for-cool-custom-tap-handles rut I was in. If you decide to use my idea, shoot me an email with a picture of your final product! I’d love to see how it turned out for you.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Phil Mabe

    Hey those look pretty good man. Great idea, Space.

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