We had some scrap pieces of cherry, hard maple, curly hard maple, birdseye maple, and tigerstripe soft maple laying around. Naturally, we got to thinking of the best way to use this material and decided why not make a project for a giveaway? After an internet search to get inspired, we settled on a beer tote that can carry two growlers.

Determining the Measurements

After we had found a couple different beer totes, we started taking notes. We made sure to include things we liked and kept away from designs we didn’t. Out of all the totes we looked at, we really liked the design of the one pictured below, but we still needed to make modifications. Instead of holding three growlers, we only wanted two. We also only wanted two rails on the outside instead of three. And the last modification was instead of a pipe handle, we wanted a rope handle. We also didn’t want to use any metal fasteners, which means we attached our rails to the sides with mortise and tenon joints. After we had all the design aspects in place, we needed to determine the size of the components. 

The Beer Tote Project

The first thing we needed to know was the diameter and height of a growler. A quick Google search and we found that they average around 5 ¾” wide and 11” tall. We also knew that we wanted all the pieces to be ¾” thick. From here, we calculated how tall the tote needed to be. We added 2 ½” to the height of the growler just for extra handle clearance. That made the height of the sides 13 ½”. Then, we calculated how wide it needed to be. We took 5 ¾” and added ¼”, just so there was enough room for the growlers to fit nicely. We took that 6” and added 1 ½” to compensate for the ¾” rails on each side. That made the side panels 7 ½” wide.

The next thing we needed to do was find the size of the side rails. For the width, we went with 2” with a 2” gap between both rails. To find the length, we took 6” (size of growler plus ¼”) and multiplied that by 2. This gave us the measurement for two growlers. Then we added that 12” and 2 ¼” (two ¾” sides and one ¾” center divider) to get 14 ¼” which is the overall length of the tote. But to find the actual length of the side rails and bottom we needed a few more calculations. We needed to determine what the distance would be between both sides. This is the overall length, 14 ¼”, minus the thickness of both sides, 1 ½” (3/4” for each). This made the inside length 12 ¾”.

The last thing we needed to do was add the extra length for the tenon. We used a ½” tenon on each end so we added 1” to the 12 ¾”, and found that the length of the side rails and bottom were 13 ¾”. At this point we had enough measurements to start machining the pieces.

Manufacturing

We first started by machining the side rails. The side rails were made out of our hard maple, curly hard maple, birdseye maple, and tigerstripe soft maple. The first thing we did was rip these about ¼” oversized. We only have a 6” jointer, so ripping the pieces allowed us to pass a face over the jointer. After we jointed one face, we planed the pieces to ¾”.  We went back to the jointer to joint an edge and then ripped the rails to 2” making sure the jointed edge was riding along the fence. We also machined a piece of cherry at 3 ½” wide for the bottom of the tote.

While we were at the table saw, we ripped the cherry to the size of the side panels, 7 ¼”. Then we trimmed one edge clean and cut the cherry to length, 13 ½”, on the crosscut sled. We reset the stop block, trimmed an end on the side rails and bottom, and cut them to length at 13 ¾”.  

From there, it was time to make the mortise and tenon joints. First, we cut the tenons that way we could use the tenon to mark the placement for the mortise. As mentioned before, the tenons were ½” long. We made the tenons 3/8” thick because we also have a 3/8” bit for the mortiser. After the tenons were cut we marked the placement of the mortises. We wanted the rails to sit flush to the bottom and edge of the sides. We placed the rails where we wanted them to sit and transferred the tenons onto the sides.

Since the gap between the rails was 2”, we just used another rail as a spacer. We also found the center and marked the placement for the bottom. We did raise the bottom so it wasn’t flush to the bottom of the sides. This gave the joint for the bottom a little more thickness to hold onto.

With the placement for the mortises marked, we set up the mortiser and started machining. After the mortises were cut, we cut the dado/groove that would receive the center divider. We did this by setting up a few stop blocks on the crosscut sled and took several passes over the table saw blade. We cut the groove ¾” wide because that will be the thickness of the divider. Then we filed/sanded the inside of the groove so it was flat (if you used a flat tooth blade, you could skip this step).

Completed Joinery

After most of the material was removed from the groove, we dry fit the tote together so we could measure how wide and tall we needed the center divider to be. We ripped a piece of cherry slightly oversized so we could cut it to size later. Then we planed the piece to thickness, but we were very careful at this step. We wanted to center divider to be a friction fit because gluing this joint would be a mess and very difficult to do. That said, we were always checking the fit between the thickness of the divider and the groove on the side rail.

It’s worth noting: Remember that a very small amount of thickness will be removed when the piece is finish sanded. It’s a very small amount, but that amount will affect the fit. After it was planed to thickness, we chopped it to rough length and carefully ripped to final width. 

We were finally to the last bit of joinery. We machined a large groove in the divider so it could fit around the bottom of the tote. Lastly, we cut an angle on the top corners of the sides. We did this just by eye. We struck an angle that we like and cut that angle on the chop saw and drilled a 5/8” hole for the rope handle. 

Assembly and Finishing

With all of the pieces machined, we sanded the pieces to 400 grit and glued the tote together. Once the clamps came off, we cleaned up any squeeze out and sanded the cherry flush to the maple side rails. 

It was finally time for finish. For this project we decided to keep it simple. We used a butcher block conditioner which is a mixture of mineral oil and beeswax. Simply wipe it on, wait 15-20 minutes, and wipe off. We applied about 4 coats and buffed the final coat by hand. We also went the extra mile and applied some wax. After the finish was dry, we added the rope handle and the project was complete. 

Until March 17, 2020, you can enter to win this growler tote over on our website. Enter today!

Materials Used

Fine Craftsman Lumber Mixed Specie Pack

5/8” x 1 1/5” Rope

Howard’s Butcher Block Conditioner

Howard’s Feed and Wax

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