Make a Hand-Crafted Beer Sign
The Best Anniversary Gift I've Ever Made Him
I used to make birthday, Christmas and anniversary gifts for my husband - some cool stuff (and some not so cool stuff), but that's for another web page - though it's been awhile. Earlier this year, inspiration struck as I was cleaning up the metal caps from beer bottles and tossing them into the recycle bin.
There are so many great designs and logos on bottle caps and I've always wanted to do something with them, but didn't know what. Then, I thought... I can make my husband a sign with collage of the beer caps from all of his favorite microbrewed beers. I wanted the sign to have a shelf where he could put glassware near his homebrew taps. So my gears started turning, coming up with a design I would be able to accomplish with limited woodworking skills and tools.
This is the story of the best anniversary gift I've ever made him. All photos on this page are my own.
Beer Crafts and Craft Beer
I don't own this book, but I want to and my husband would love it if my crafts took a certain "beer-y" turn. This book is chock-full of projects to recycle and reuse all parts of your beer - caps, cans, coasters, labels - into cool, creative, and (sometimes) absurd projects. Click on the link, look inside the book at the table of contents, and you'll want it too. Maybe my husband will buy it for me for our anniversary...
There are so many outstanding beers produced around the world and the market has exploded with microbrews, imports, and craft beers that make the beer lover's mouth water just to think about it. This highly-rated book breaks it down for you - categorizing the best beers, making recommendations for tasting and food pairing, and much more. I highly recommend it!
Do you like to make and/or receive handmade gifts?
Do you like to make and/or receive handmade gifts?
Handmade Beer Bottle Cap Sign
As I said, I used to make gifts for my husband for every event and holiday. I was excited with this idea and started collecting caps right away. Just a few weeks ago, he was talking with a friend on the phone about a bottle cap collage his friend had seen and how cool it was and how they both wanted one.
I was of course happy because that meant my idea was spot on, and he would think it was really special to have the sign I was planning to make, but my happiness quickly turned sour when I heard them start plotting how they might go about making signs themselves.
When he got off the phone, I slyly mentioned how busy he was with work and the projects he was already planning around the house... He told me, "No, I'll make the time. It will be so cool!" I was forced to tell him not to do it because I already had plans. We had a good laugh, and with this project, I'll still surprise him with how well it turned out.
Read on to find out how I did it!
Materials Needed for the Base
- 1/4-inch plywood - 2.5 x 3 feet
- Pine molding - 2-36.5" lengths and 2-30.5" lengths
- Wood glue
- Ruler, pencil
- Spray paint for wood surfaces in the color of your choice - I chose high-gloss brown.
A Few Product Recommendations for this Project
I like this product a lot! I wanted something that would be strong and this one boasts that it "bonds stronger than wood." It was easy to use, dried quickly (30 minutes with clamps), and was set firmly overnight. A good, basic product.
I used what I had one hand, but I wished I would have had two sets like this so I could clamp the molding to the edges of the wood all the way around. Clamps like this (mine were a variety of sizes) hold firmly but are easy to move and maneuver as needed.
I used two cans of this spray paint and probably 3-4 coats on my project for a high-gloss brown finish, and I was very satisfied with the results. It was quick and easy and dried to handle within 1 hour (completely withing 24 hours).
Assembling the Base
I planned the plywood sheet to be tall enough to accommodate the bottle cap design I wanted, plus the shelf supported by brackets - 2.5-feet wide by 3-feet tall. I wanted to use a picture frame, but didn't want to spend a lot of money, so I settled on molding that you might put around a window. I planned the molding to be 1/4-inch wider than the plywood all the way around so you wouldn't be able to see the plywood edge, even from the side.
If I were making this sign for myself, I would go to a thrift shop and purchase a funky picture frame. But as it was, I didn't have time to go shopping out of town (we don't have any thrift shops where I live), and I chose molding with a little bit of shape and design to it that was 2-1/4 inches wide. Since I didn't have the right tools or skills for cutting the plywood or doing the miter cuts on the molding strips, I asked my local hardware store to do the cutting for me. It saved me a ton of time, gave me molding that matched nicely at the corners, and only cost me $.50 per cut. I love my local hardware store!!!
Before I glued anything down,
I placed the molding strips around the edge, right where I wanted them. I clamped them down, then traced the inside of the molding strips with a pencil as a guide for when I was ready to glue them into place. Since I planned to paint the whole thing, pencil marks wouldn't show later on.
After gluing, I clamped the molding on the sides, the corners, and anywhere it seemed to not be meeting flush with the plywood. (pictured above)
Painting the Base
Make sure you sand down jagged surfaces before you spray. I had some rough spots from the cuts made to the board that will be my shelf. A little sandpaper knocked those right down and it was ready for spraying too. The shelf and the base will match. Just wait... you'll see at the assembly phase further down the page.
There's not much else to say about this step except... be safe!
* Read and follow the instructions on the spray can.
* Do your spray painting outside.
* Keep the wind at your back.
Preparing the Bottle Caps
Fixing Bent Caps
When you remove a bottle cap from a beer bottle, the caps frequently get bent. If you drink beer, you already know this. There were a few caps I really wanted to use, because I only had one or they were all bent, so I needed to "fix" them. So I developed a strategy for (nearly) returning the tops to the smooth, flat finish, they had while they were still on the bottle.
To re-flatten bottle caps you need:
* 7/8-inch hardwood dowel
* An old rag
* A scrap block of wood
Photo Tutorial - Flattening Your CapsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Arranging the Design
I thought through a lot of options for what kind of picture I wanted to create. I ruled most of them out for one reason or another until one felt right, but I want to share them all with you to help give you ideas for things you might do.
1. I had a lot of plain gold caps, so I thought a lot about writing a word in caps and surrounding it with other more colorful caps. I love the idea, but didn't have as many colorful caps as I wanted to make it look as good as I wanted.
2. I thought long and hard about just creating a design, like a starburst or something. Again, the colors weren't working out to my liking and the designs I was coming up with didn't seem like they would be meaningful to my husband.
3. What I finally settled on was to choose one of each cap that I had. I started a border around the inside of the frame, leaving a lot of space inside. It looks terribly unfinished, and it is. I really liked this idea, because my husband and I have many years of taste-testing ahead of us. We'll fill it in as we go (much like our marriage... is that cheesy?)!
To glue on the caps, I put a good-sized dollop of hot glue in the center of the back of the cap, ran a little up the sides in two spots, and pressed it into place on the sign. This allowed the hot glue to drip down connecting the cap to the wood, but still kept the glue hidden.
The key in planning your design...
... is that a used bottle cap is approximately 1-inch in diameter. You can plan to line them up side by side (like squares in a checkerboard) or diagonal to one another (like diamonds in an argyle pattern). Either way, you'll have to plan your space accordingly.
I recommend cutting a piece of cardboard to the size of the space you plan to fill and laying out your caps the way you want them. Take a photo of the design you're happy with so if you bump it or your cat tries to help, you remember wh
Get Your Hot Glue Supplies Here for Less - on Amazon
You don't have to spend a lot to get a high-quality hot glue gun that you can use for about a million different kinds of projects. I like the Surebonder brand! It's reliable and easy to use!
Adding the Shelf
I Love This Drill!!!
I'll do my best to fit all of the good things I have to say about this drill in a small space. It's affordable! It's compact enough to fit my hand and light enough for me to be able to use it for hours without getting tired. The battery stays charged for a long time - whether it's in constant use or just sitting. It makes it so easy to control the speeds that I've used it for really tiny detailed projects and for big projects that need more torque. My husband and I bought this tool because of a great review we saw in Popular Science magazine and we're so glad we did. Even the guy who recently fixed our furnace said he bought one, and liked it so much he bought a second for back-up. This is the best drill out there right now for big and small jobs!!
Mounting the Shelf
At first, I wasn't sure if I should mount the bracket to the sign or the shelf first. People who work with wood all the time probably know exactly the right order to do things in, but I had to think it through. I wanted to make sure the back of the shelf was perfectly flush with the sign, but also needed to make sure the brackets were exactly even so they could provide the best support to the shelf.
I decided to mount the brackets to the shelf first, which would ensure they were even. Then, I mounted the shelf and brackets to the sign. I'm glad I did it this way, because it made it a lot easier to center and level the shelf.
I added the cup hooks after all the other parts were put together, which allowed me to see better how they would fit on the bottom of the shelf. This step was pretty easy. Phew!
Decorative Brackets to Support the Shelf - from Amazon
I chose the first bracket shown here to support my shelf. I liked it because it's simple yet adds a little old-timey bar appeal. It fit my needs perfectly! But you'll want to choose one that fits with your collage.
Just remember, a 6-inch bracket is a good size to support an 8-inch wide shelf.
Cup Hooks - from Amazon
Find just the right kind of cup hooks to hang your mugs from the bottom or front of your shelf. I went with basic brass hooks, but I like some of these enough that I might upgrade the hooks someday.
Do you think you would try a project like this?
Do you think you would try a project like this?
Preparing the Sign for Hanging
Mounting the Sign for Hanging
I thought long and hard about the benefits of picture wire vs. hanging my sign by chains. Either would have worked well.
With Picture Wire - With picture wire, you need small brackets for the back of the picture, the screws or nails to hold them in place and the picture wire itself. It hangs from one or two nails or hooks mounted to the wall. Sometimes, heavier pictures (depending on the placement of the brackets and the length of the wire) can hang at an angle from the wall. Since I planned to be able to put glassware on the shelf, I wanted it as level as possible. I ruled out the picture wire.
With Chains - With chains, you need small brackets mounted at the top of the picture (I mounted mine to the back because my design made both the frame and the plywood edge too weak to bear the weight of the whole sign), the chains themselves and hooks for the ceiling (screwed into ceiling joists). With the placement of the floor joists that make up my basement ceiling, it would be easy for me to get the hooks in and hang the sign from those hooks. I decided to go with chains and liked the look of them anyway.
My only concern with the chains was that the bottom could possibly swing out if a mug caught on one of the hooks or something. I bought "super magnets" to hold the bottom in place against the wall - hidden protection against possible accidents.
Picture Hanging Materials
Over the years, my husband and I have found it's worthwhile to keep an assorted picture hanging kit on hand at all times. Every time we move or get a new picture, we dig out our kit and see what supplies we have on hand to get the job done. It makes it so much more convenient than just trying to pick up hangers a piece at a time.
This was the type of bracket I used. It's a closed loop so it's strong. It also meant I had to find chain I could attach to it to hold my heavy sign.
The Final Product
Here's the final product as I gave it to my husband (the photo at the top is the most updated version with added caps). It's not perfect, but I'm really proud of it!
All told, I spent less than $100 to make this sign. I would have save even a few more dollars if I had purchased a pre-made frame that I liked at a thrift shop then had the plywood cut to fit (but that will be a project for another time).
Bottle Cap Projects - Here are a few of my favorites!
- Art from Bottle Tops from Inspiration Green
There are tons of really creative bottle cap art projects on this page, each one more visually appealing than the next. Everything from walls to floors to furnitre and more...
- Recycled Flowers
Check out this tutorial to make upcycled flowers from the junk you would normally recycle. Who wouldn't love a whole garden of these flowers that never fade?
- Wind Chimes from Trina is Artsy Fartsy
I love wind chimes! This one is no exception. Trina posted a tutorial for how to make these. They look like they would take a bit of time and patience, but the end result it worth it.
- John T. Unger Sculptures
John T. Unger actually shares a bit about his process in creating bottle cap mosaics. Thanks for sharing John! I love his mosaic fish!
- Cuff Bracelet Contest Winners from Olive Bites
There's not shortage of jewelry out there, but these cuff bracelets are hands-down my favorites. Check out the pieces on this page for professional jewelry craftsmanship with bottle caps!
Link Party Connections
Here are parties and blog hops this page is linked to. Click on any of them to find hundreds more ideas, recipes, crafts, and much more!