A turner's secret technique revealed

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Project by stefang posted 05-12-2009 03:11 PM 4078 views 21 times favorited 27 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Another old project from 1998. This is my one and only beer tankard. It was a birthday present to my son. It was on display in his kitchen for about 10 years until a recent remodeling, I have temporarily taken it out of retirement for this post. It has been used only once in a successful test for water tightness.

The design is entirely mine, but it is pretty much a generic type of tankard much in use in Norway and I assume many other countries in the past. In Norway you can find many beautifully done historic models both turned and coopered with staves. I think the stave types were probably more commonplace because deep vessels were hard to turn on pole and treadle lathes.

The secret techniue

While turning the piece I had to figure out how to make it water tight so no beer would be wasted. This was a little difficult because it was an end grain piece and I knew if I turned a bottom in it the beer would just run right through it. Using glue also didn’t appeal to me and neither did using some kind of unsightly reinforcement underneath. In the end I turned all the way through the piece creating more of a beer tube than a beer tankard. Next I cut a 1/4” wide and 1/16” deep grove into the inside bottom all the way around. Then I cut a side grain piece about !/4” thick and dried it a little in the microwave oven. After drying, I cut the piece to about the same diameter as the tankard inside bottom diameter. Then I placed the bottom in where the edge matched the location of the groove and taped it it place. After a couple of days (or maybe the next day) the tankard had shrunken in around the bottom piece. Like a coopered barrel, filling the tankard with liquid swells up the bottom area and presto, you have a watertight joint!

For about two minutes, this was a very ego enhancing experience. After thinking it over though I realized that many smarter and more experience woodworkers before me had figured this out a long time ago. But I was happy anyway that I had figured it out on my own. I doubt too many woodworkers have thought of this particular use because there aren’t really many needs for it. I am well aware that chair makers use the very same principle every day using wet seats and dry leg tenons and have done so for centuries. Anyway, I hope some of you will like the idea and find some interesting ways to use it. Thanks for taking the time to look at it.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

27 comments so far

View jockmike2's profile


10635 posts in 4368 days

#1 posted 05-12-2009 03:18 PM

Beautifully done. Just awesome.

-- (You just have to please the man in the Mirror) Mike from Michigan -

View stanley2's profile


346 posts in 3917 days

#2 posted 05-12-2009 03:46 PM

Mike – a terrific tankard and appreciate learning about the technique for beer proofing

-- Phil in British Columbia

View Kindlingmaker's profile


2657 posts in 3648 days

#3 posted 05-12-2009 04:00 PM

A beautiful project and thanks for the secret!

-- Never board, always knotty, lots of growth rings

View PurpLev's profile


8540 posts in 3770 days

#4 posted 05-12-2009 04:27 PM

not wasting beer- now thats a good idea!

and also a pretty cool trick with the bottom! thanks for sharing.

does the bottom ever shrink back or once it swells for the first time it’ll stay watertight in the tankard?

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View Rj's profile


1047 posts in 3753 days

#5 posted 05-12-2009 04:48 PM

Wow Mike you did a great job ! I really like the detail-s you put into this .

Thanks for sharing this with us

-- Rj's Woodworks,San Jose & Weed Ca,

View Don K.'s profile

Don K.

1075 posts in 3448 days

#6 posted 05-12-2009 04:53 PM

Thanks for sharing Mike, great looking piece…and great idea.

-- Don S.E. OK

View a1Jim's profile


117204 posts in 3699 days

#7 posted 05-12-2009 05:00 PM

Hey Mike
This is a speictacular tankard and a great trick,

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View woodworm's profile


14470 posts in 3712 days

#8 posted 05-12-2009 06:41 PM

Hey…very beautiful…..I like the handle’s shape, so cool…!

-- masrol, kuala lumpur, MY.

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3456 days

#9 posted 05-12-2009 08:21 PM

Thanks for all the the kind comments. I’m sure Purplev that the bottom will dry out again, but never enough to fall out since it was very dry when inserted in the tankard which shrank in around it. That was probably the last good idea I ever had! I sure hope someone can use it.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View DaleM's profile


958 posts in 3505 days

#10 posted 05-12-2009 08:59 PM

So what are you saying, the bottom of this cup is going to drink some of my beer before it will swell up? Okay, I guess I’d be willing to share just a little. I really like this mug. I saw a lot of porcelain and pewter mugs and steins when I was in Germany, but no wooden ones. How is the handle attached?

-- Dale Manning, Carthage, NY

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18360 posts in 3797 days

#11 posted 05-12-2009 09:21 PM

Great job. What kind of woods?

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3456 days

#12 posted 05-12-2009 10:35 PM

DaleM are you some kind of quality control expert? Because if your not maybe you should be. I hate to admit it, but I think I used some stainless steel pins and wooden dowels. I should have looked a little closer when I was photographing it at my son’s place. If I were making it today I would just use a shallow mortise and tenon joint and glue it epoxy to keep it waterproof. The wood Topamax is all birch. This was an advantage as it shrinks about 10 or 11% radially (I think) which fit my needs.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View DaleM's profile


958 posts in 3505 days

#13 posted 05-12-2009 10:51 PM

Thanks Mike, I was just wondering because I think I’ve already added this somewhere on my to do list in my mind and wouldn’t want to spill my beer because my handle came off. I guess I would have to switch brands though from Milwaukee’s Best to do the tankard justice. I’m not a good enough turner yet, but someday, maybe. No, not a quality control expert, but my wife says I’m a perfectionist (but the way she says it, it’s a bad thing). :)

-- Dale Manning, Carthage, NY

View Les Hastings's profile

Les Hastings

1305 posts in 3895 days

#14 posted 05-13-2009 12:34 AM

Pretty cool mug, nice work!

-- Les, Wichita, Ks. (I'd rather be covered in saw dust!)

View ND2ELK's profile


13495 posts in 3896 days

#15 posted 05-13-2009 01:17 AM

Beautiful job on the mug. Thanks for posting.

God Bless

-- Mc Bridge Cabinets, Iowa

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