Category Archives: Level 2

Level 2 difficulty

DIY Locker Shelf

Do you need a locker shelf, but can’t stomach paying $15 for a flimsy shelf?  Well it’s back to school time here and my daughter needed a locker shelf, so I did what any Tim Taylor type would do and build one myself.
As I stated in my About – This Blog page, I would have some posts that were non-beer related.  Well this is one of them.
I made one last year for my daughter and it screwed together once inside the locker.  I had assumed that they would take them out of their lockers on the last day of school, but they surprised me and did it the day before and I felt like a jerk, because the teacher didn’t have a screwdriver to take the thing apart.  This year, I decided to go with a design that was tool-less.

Difficulty: level_2

If you are even a novice woodworker, this should be a piece of cake.  Actual work time was probably about 15 minutes.  Gathering materials and your tools will add whatever time it generally takes you.

Supplies Needed:

  • 48″ section of shelving
    • 11″ to 12″ is a typical depth
    • I used a melamine board, because I had it on hand, but any shelving material should do
  • Scrap strip of wood for some supports
    • Again, I had a piece that was 3/4″ x 3/4″, but I’ll let you decide
    • something on the order of 40″-44″ should be close enough
  • Wood or drywall screws
    • They need to be shorter than the stackup of your shelf and wood strip (you’ll see later what I mean)

Tools Needed:

  • Drill
    • I’ve got a Makita drill and driver kit that is used in 95% of any of my projects.  If you don’t have a set, you need to.  Bosch, Makita and DeWalt all make good stuff.  A drill is, well, a drill.  But I love the impact drivers.  They make it effortless to run screws into anything.
  • Tape measure
  • Circular Saw
  • Clamps (for securing the wood to your work surface when cutting)

The Build:

Alright, lets get to it.  Measure twice, cut once.  Right??

You should have the interior dimensions of the locker in hand.  Many schools provide this information on their website.  Ours were 13-1/2″ wide, by 11″ deep.  I went just a bit under on width at 13-3/8″.  You don’t want too much free play however, because if there is too much movement, the shelf could collapse on itself.  You’ll know how sturdy it is when you install it in the locker.  The 11″ standard shelf depth worked out well, but I still had to trim a little off due to the frame of the door.

To help you visualize how this is going to go together, here is what each corner will look like.  You can see that the uprights support the weight of the shelf.  Then the stops that are screwed to the shelf basically prevent the uprights from leaning in.  The interior wall of the locker prevents the uprights from falling out.  Easy right?

locker shelf - shelf - how it works

Cut the top shelf piece to length.

locker shelf - Measurement - width

Then decide how tall you want it.  If you got a 48″ section, you should have enough wood to make something around 16″ tall at the most.  That should be sufficient for most books and notebooks.  Remember your total height will be the length of each upright, plus the thickness of the shelf.  And the underneath height will be the length of the uprights.

Now cut the uprights, just as you did for the top.

Next will be the strips that keep the uprights from moving.  These should be shorter than the depth of the shelf.  They will be fastened to the shelf top with screws.  You’ll need two strips per shelf.  I’m building two shelves here (one for each daughter needing one), hence a total of 4.

Mark out a line approximately 1″ from each end and then eyeballing the center should be good enough.

locker shelf - strips - marked for drilling

Pre-drill vs. Through Hole

You’ll want to drill “through holes” in the strips and “pre-drill” the shelf.

A through hole is just that, it allows the fastener to go through a material without actually gripping it and is larger than the major (or maximum) diameter of the fastener.

A pre-drill is used to reduce the risk of the wood splitting when you drive the screw in.  An appropriate pre-drill size for wood is right at the minor diameter or slightly under.  You can measure these dimensions if you have a pair of calipers, but I’m using my “eyechrometer” for these.

You can see below that the drill bit is slightly larger than the screw.  This is what I will use to drill the through holes in the wood support strips.

locker shelf - holes - predrill size

This next image shows selecting the pre-drill size for the shelf.  Notice that the drill diameter is approximately the same as the root diameter of the screw.

locker shelf - holes - through hole size

This next step is optional.  I used a counter-sink kit to allow the screws to sit flush with the top of the wood when fully secured.  Sometimes in harder woods, you’d end up splitting the wood if you ran the screws hard enough into the wood to make them flush.  They basically create a cone shape for the head of the fastener to sit in.

locker shelf - holes - countersink

See, nice pretty countersunk holes.

locker shelf - holes - countersinks completed

Now we need to pre-drill the shelf to attach the support strips.  You’ll need to measure the thickness of your upright.

locker shelf - measurement - shelf thickness

Then use that measurement to determine the spacing from the edge of the shelf to the location of the support strip.

locker shelf - measurement - stop offset

Mark a line so you know if anything moves when you are drilling the holes.

You’ll need screws that are shorter than the thickness of the shelf and the support strips.

locker shelf - holes - evaluating depth

You’ll also want to be careful to not drill all the way through the shelf.  Pointy screws poking out tend to rip books and cut hands!  I’ll sometimes use a short section of masking tape wrapped around the drill bit to mark the proper depth of the drill bit.

locker shelf - holes - drill depth marker

Now take your pre-drill size and use the holes in the support strips as a location guide.

locker shelf - holes - drilling

Once you have everything pre-drilled, it’s time to secure them to the shelf.  Nice and flush!

locker shelf - strips - attached and countersunk

locker shelf - top - with strips attached

Here is the completed shelf sitting up against the screwed together version 1 from last school year.

locker shelf - shelf - assembled and tested

Besides getting it to the locker, you’re DONE!

Getting it into the locker:

  • Set the uprights on the sides of the locker floor
  • Place the shelf on top, ensuring that the support strips fit in between the uprights

Not into brewing, but like to make stuff?  Check out these posts:

Making Belgian Candi Sugar
Rolling Deep Freezer Dolly

Are you curious about making your own beer and would like to learn more?   Try out a beginning brewing kit:

Choosing a Starting Brewing Kit

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Super Easy Tap Handles

Ok, so the big party is two days away and you realize that in your months of planning down to the last detail, you actually forgot one important detail.

Beer…Check

Keezer cart…Check

New faucet system…Check

Method to actuate said faucet system…DOH!!!!

A weekend of brewing followed by 9+ weeks of TLC and lagering of your Oktoberfest beer.  This needed some representation.  A couple pairs of vice-grips were not going to work in this situation.

Difficulty: level_2

Time Required:

Once you have collected all of the supplies, about an hour max.  More if you are also going to paint and design your own labels.

Cost:

Less than $10 for two tap handles

Required:

009-Brass Insert

3/8″-16 Brass threaded inserts

009-Spindle
1x wooden staircase spindle

Tools:

Chop saw or miter saw
Some sort of vice or clamping system
Hand drill and drill bits up to 1/2″

Insertion tool (optional if you plan ahead, not an option if only have days).  Make sure you get the 3/8″-16 version.  As of 5/31/14, the price was $10.99 at Rockler.

Insert_tool

 

Or there are T-handle designs

t-handle_insertion_tool

Alternately, you could use a 3/8″-16 threaded bolt and two corresponding nuts, which I also didn’t have on hand at the time of build.  If you are doing these often, I would get a tool.  If not, maybe make the call yourself on how MacGyver you want to get.

How it’s made:

Cut handles to length

First, you need to cut off the little nubbin on the end of your spindle (if applicable).

009-Spindle nubbin

Then, decide how long you want your tap handles to be and cut each of the fancy ends off of the spindle to your desired length.  Try to cut perpendicular to the spindles axis.  I used a quick clamp to hold it to my miter saw (basically because I had misplaced the super handy integrated clamp that went with the saw).

009-cutting spindle

Drill holes

Using your vice or whatever clamping system you fancy, get your tap handle secured for drilling.  If you are seriously cool and have a lathe or a drill press, go for it.  I tried a hole drilling jig, but the problem is that the spindles do not have nice constant diameter sections, which made squaring up the jig virtually impossible.

Drill progressively larger holes in the bottom end of the tap handle to work your way up to a 1/2″ hole.  If you have the means, I highly suggest you don’t drill off center as I have obviously done in these pictures.

009-drill bits

009-drill 1

009-drill 2

009-drill 3

Install the insert

009-install brass insert 1

009-install brass insert 2

November 2, 2014 update:  You’ll see further down alternate methods to install the insert.  This picture directly below shows my most recent “tool-less” method.  I use a standard 3/8-16 bolt along with a wing nut.  You thread the wing nut onto the bolt as shown, then also thread the brass insert almost fully onto the bolt.  Then tighten the wingnut to the brass insert.  You can then use this assembly to thread the insert into the tap handle.  When the brass insert is fully installed, just undo the wing nut and unthread the bolt.

009-alternate install method

Here is the “proper” method below:

Insert_tool

My initial MacGuyver method:

I don’t know how this worked out, but I needed something that would fit in the slot and help me screw the insert in.  I ended up using a cheapie wrench that came with some sort of put-it-together-yourself furniture.

These are hard to get started straight, so do your best. Usually they pull themselves straight after the first full thread or two. If not, you may want to back it out and start again.

009-install brass insert 3

NOTE: This is NOT the proper way to do this.  I just made do with what I had.  If you plan ahead, get an insertion tool or use the bolt method I mentioned above.

Getting the insert flush with the bottom takes a little extra “ingenuity”.

009-install brass insert 4

Finishing

Alright, so it’s functional at this point and you could go ahead and use it.  If you want to make it a little more presentable, you could sand and paint it and add labels.  For painting, I just used a 3/8″-16 bolt I had and used it as a handle while I spray painted.  You can also stain as I did on some other tap handles.  Before you apply your labels, I would suggest threading the tap handles onto the faucets and determine which orientation is best for not looking crooked.  If you drilled the holes by hand this is imperative.  If you drilled using a method that is guaranteed straight, proceed at will.

009-Ready to paint

The first year, I designed some labels and my crafty wife stained the handles, did the burned edge treatment on the labels and sealed them with some mod podge.

 

009-Stained tap handle

These are my painted versions for my Dunkel and Rye PA.

009-painted tap handles

There you have it folks.  Super easy tap handles.

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Belgian Candi Sugar and Silicone Baking Mats

DIY Candi Sugar Made Easy

Difficulty: level_2

Time Required:

one to two hours, depending on how dark you plan to make your candi sugar

Background:

If you are planning on making a potent Belgian beer such as a Dubbel, Tripel or a Home Run (just kidding!), you are going to need Belgian Candi Sugar. If you have already purchased some, you know that it can make the cost of your batch of beer skyrocket. It typically runs about $6/lb! My Tripel recipe uses a modest 3 lb. You can however make your own Belgian Candi Sugar at home with just a few simple things, some time and some regular table sugar that you can get for about $2.50/4 lb. bag ($0.63/lb).  As I write this Christmas season is just around the corner and thus the reason I’m preparing some candi sugar.  I’m preparing to brew one of my favorite and most interesting beers I’ve ever had.  It is based on a Northern Brewer recipe Saison de Noel.  Mine is identical, but I use homemade dark candi sugar instead of the candi syrup.  If you want the quick instructions, just read the headings.

Oh, and this recipe could be used to create windows for a gingerbread house too!

Equipment / Ingredients Required:

  • Table Sugar (1 lb. sugar yields approximately 1 lb. candi sugar)
  • Lemon Juice (addition of approximately 1 tsp. / lb.)
    • Used to “invert” the sugar
  • Candy thermometer
    • This one had the best reviews.  They indicated that the temperature markings would come off of others
    • I like the coded indicators for different crack temperatures
    • These are good, because they keep the bulb off of the bottom of the pot, which will help to prevent false readings
  • Silicone baking mat (Trust me, this is the best way to do it)
    • Less expensive that actual Silpat brand
    • Fit our inventory of baking pans better
    • We’ve had ours for almost a year now and they get used often.  Still no staining or degradation in the material.
    • My wife is a great baker, so this was an easy sell on why we “needed” them
  • SRM color chart (for consistency)

Why I recommend the silicone mats?  Past fails…

  • Non-stick baking pan
    • Yes, they are non-stick, as long as it isn’t Candi Sugar you are making on them
    • You can warp the baking sheet to pop it off, but quite a bit still sticks.
  • Wax paper
    • Stuck to the hardened Candi Sugar
    • I ended up with bits of wax paper floating in the boil
    • I did catch it with a colander when I poured into my fermenter, but just a pain
  • Foil
    • Still no luck
  • Just learn from my mistakes and buy some silicone mats!

Procedure:

 

002-Candi Sugar - lemon juice

Get your lemon juice ready

As I mentioned before, you need about 1 tsp. per pound of sugar.  I love using syringes for liquid measurement.  We have 3 kids, and so we’ve got about a bunch of these from all the prescriptions they’ve needed.  I just used lemon juice.  Fresh squeezed or the pre-bottled stuff will work.

002-Candi Sugar - Just Sugar

Pour the sugar into a pot

With candi sugar, you put in a pound of sugar, you pretty much end up with a pound of candi sugar.  I recommend putting in a little extra to account for some sticking to the pot when you pour it and some of it ending up in your mouth when you are done.  It’s so good it tastes like candy!  Oh wait..

002-Candi Sugar - warming up

Add just enough water to saturate the sugar

If you add more water than necessary, it won’t ruin it.  You’ll just be waiting longer for the water to boil off.  You’ll be surprised at how little water you need.

002-Candi Sugar - maintaining temperature

Add lemon juice and warm up to temperature (260-275 degF)

Pour in your lemon juice and you want to warm to between 260-275 degF.  This is right between “Hard Ball” and “Soft Crack”.  It will take a bit of time to get the sugar dissolved and boil the water off.

Maintain temperature for about 20 minutes

Once you get the mixture into the temperature range, you want to dial back the heat on your cooktop.  I took it down to about 4/10 and was able to maintain with just 2 large spoonfuls of room temperature water at a time.  This is just like a boiling kettle, in that if you walk away, you could come back to a mixture that has overheated and made a mess or cooled too much.  I fluctuated through the range, but was averaging about 270 degF throughout the initial 20 minutes and on into the darkening period.

After 20 minutes, keep at temperature and decide how dark you want it to get

Take a sample small spoonful and drop it onto a piece of wax paper to do a color check with your handy dandy SRM chart.  Yes, I know I said not to use wax paper, but it is semi-transparent and if you also put a piece of white paper under it, you will be able to better judge the color.  Now SRM is officially taken through 1 cm of beer and my spoonfuls ended up at about 0.1″ (2.5 mm).  You aren’t measuring an exact SRM, but you are at least establishing a reference for the next time you make the candi sugar that will lead you down the path of repeatability.  The longer you keep at temperature, the darker the candi sugar will be.  Scroll to the bottom to see the results of my experiment of sugar color versus time.

Once you are happy with the color, raise to 300 degF (Hard Crack)

Raise to 300 degF… All you need to do is raise the temperature of the mixture to 300 degF then pour onto your silicone pad lined baking pan.

002-Candi Sugar - ready for sugar

Pour Some Sugar on Me!

Make sure you have a hot pad under the pan or you might do something unintentional with your countertop.  Also, be very careful when pouring.  300 degrees is HOT and you don’t want to burn yourself or splash any all over your nice kitchen.  It is a pain to clean up.

002-Candi Sugar - finished

Let cool

I was making dark candi sugar this time, so it is much darker than you would want in a Tripel.  It also adds some burnt caramel, smokey flavors to your beer.

Clean your equipment immediately

Just like your brewing equipment, it is much much easier to clean right after you are done with it than it is when it has been sitting around for a while.  The candi sugar will harden on everything and be much more difficult to clean off.  You can soak in hot water, but don’t wait for that water to cool.

Break into pieces

Once the candi sugar has cooled completely, simply peel the silicone mat off of the back of the candi sugar sheet.  You can also bend the sheet to help break the candi sugar into smaller pieces.  I typically just break into small enough chunks that it will fit into a gallon plastic storage bag.  Then I just chuck it in the freezer until brew day.

Nerd Alert!level_5

As I was letting the sugar darken, I took a tablespoon every 3-4 minutes in the beginning, then 5 then 10 minutes apart until I got to where I wanted it so that I could come up with some guess on time required for a certain darkness.  I dropped these samples onto a sheet of wax paper laid on top of a plain white sheet of paper on a cooking sheet.  YES, I know I told you not to use wax paper, but these samples were not going to be used for anything but color measurement.  Technically SRM is measured with a specific wavelength of light through 1 cm (0.4″) sample.  I measured the thickness my hardened samples and they measured 0.008″ to 0.012″.

 

002-Candi Sugar - different levels

There might be some equations out there to scale one thickness sample to the equivalent for SRM measurement.  So my measurements, although not actual SRM, are good enough for me to be able to repeat a certain darkness based on time or spot checking the value to my SRM color chart.  Below is a chart of “SRM” versus total cook time at 270 degF of my samples.

Plot of “SRM’ versus time (Your times may vary)

002-Candi Sugar - SRM vs Time

Source Data

002-Candi Sugar - SRM vs Time source data

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