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Sep 23, 2016

How to: Make A Custom Rough-Cut Lumber Beer Flight Set

created at: 10/19/2014

Craft beer is growing out here on the West Coast like a wildfire in the wind. While visiting local breweries in the area, I've always been impressed by well made flight sets, so I decided to make my own. This project actually turned into a set for my brother-in-law to celebrate his recent police academy graduation. I had some lumber in my shop from a local sawmill which was perfect for this rugged project. Here's what I used:

  • 3-4 Pieces Rough-cut Lumber (I used my thickness planer to get final thickness, and a table saw for width/length).
  • 1 1/4" hole cut bit (This large forstner-style bit needs a drill press to use safely. Take your time and feed slowly).
  • Multiple Grit Sandpaper (80 - 220 grit sandpaper for a smooth finish).
  • Finish (I used Minwax stain and finish with a secondary rub-on wax finish).
  • 4 oz. Cups (I found mine on Amazon here).

Let's make it!

1. The first step is dimensioning the wood, using a table saw or miter saw. For the thickness, using a planer makes fast work of smoothing and dimensioning rough-cut lumber. If you don't have one at your disposal, break out the sander and get it smooth the hard way. Cut all of the pieces to roughly the same size, large enough to comfortably fit the flight glasses (standard sets have four, but follow your heart if you want your set to have more).

Thickness dimensioning of wood

2. After the wood is cut to size and smooth, lay out the glasses for drilling the holes. I set them out with a ruler used as a spacer behind the glasses to make sure each set had a consistent position so they matched up well. Keep them centered and evenly spaced for a clean look.

Beer Flight Layout Tools

3. After all the centerline of the glasses were marked out on the wood, I set up my drill press to drill the recesses. It's important to use a press on this due to the large holes, so that the wood can be held down securely to the table. Such a large bit takes a huge amount of cutting pressure and a handheld drill is incredibly dangerous to wrists, shins, and anyone else who happens to be in your shop. The bit was matched up to the bottom of the glasses, so it was 1 1/4" for my project. While there are plenty of hole cutting bits, the best type have a perimeter cutting edge, and a horizontal blade to clear out the center for a flat bottom (A forstner style bit, usually about $30-$60). Cut each of the holes about 1/4" -1/2" deep to securely hold the glasses.

Drilling Flight Glass Holes

4. After a considerable amount of hole cutting, head back to sanding the wood to prep for sanding. Sand with the grain to avoid marring the surface because that will stand out when finishing the wood. Sand up to 220 grit, and then wipe down to get all sawdust off of surfaces.

created at: 10/19/2014

5. Finish the wood with a stain layer and let dry for at least 12 hours. Add additional stain until the desired color has been achieved. Let the finish dry for another 12 hours then add a polyurethane or oil rubbed wax layer to protect that surface from years of craft brew abuse.

Minwax Finish

The final product was an exceptional gift that was exceptionally fun to make, and will be easy to duplicate for additional sets (like one for me) in the future. Here's a picture of the final product:

Beer Flight Gift Set

Now get out there and enjoy the shop, or a few craft brews for the weekend. Cheers!

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Russell on May 31, 2017:

I noticed some of the flights have the small pilot hole from the forstner bit and some dont. How did you drill these without that hole?