October 18, 2013

Yards Tap Handle Throwdown: Behind the Scenes

Dennis O'Donnell

For the past few months here in Philadelphia, a lot of talented designers, makers, and artists went head-to-head in the Yards Tap Handle Throwdown at NextFab Studio. This was a great idea by NextFab and Yards: the goal was to conceptualize and create a real-life prototype of a new tap handle for Philadelphia’s local brewery, Yards. The winning design gets a whole bunch of beer-related prizes, but best of all, the tap handle actually gets manufactured and used in bars around the city.

Why are we writing about it? Like an over-zealous and boastful parent, we are absolutely thrilled to say that Clear-Coat’s own Industrial Designer, John Combs, took home the gold in this city-wide contest! John put a lot of great work into this, and was generous enough to share his entire creative process here on the blog. Enjoy!

The Inspiration

Here are the elements John saw around Philadelphia and at Yards Brewery that inspired his design concept:

Yards Logo

An obvious starting point – the Yards logo!

William Penn

The statue on top of Philadelphia’s City Hall – William Penn

City Hall

Philadelphia’s City Hall, located in the middle of Philly

Beer Barrel

The rustic, old-world look of a beer barrel

The Concept

Putting these elements together, you can see his sketches and ideas start to gel into a cohesive idea:

Yards Barrel

Sketch of the “Yards Barrel”

Penn Barrel

William Penn is added to the Yards Barrel

Yards Rendering

All three elements are put together in Adobe Illustrator

Final Yards Concept

The Tap Handle concept is finalized in Illustrator, with a “knock out” in City Hall for Yards beer labeling

Fabrication Process

The concept was completed, so now John had to choose materials and a process to create the tap handle. In the end, he selected salvaged wood and aluminum as his materials. The handle was fabricated by John using a combination of Water Jet cutting, Laser Cutting and Engraving, as well as a whole lot of manual work.

Laser Aluminum

The basic shape was cut out of solid sheet aluminum using a Flow Mach4C 3020 Water Jet

Laser Wood

The wood shape was cut using a Trotec CO2 laser.

Laser Engrave

The wood and metal components were sandwiched together, and the aluminum was engraved using Trotec’s Speedy 300 Flexx Fiber Laser

Tap Handle Construction

The William Penn/Barrel combo was laser etched into the wood using the Trotec again

Final Handle

The components were all brought together into the final prototype

Final Product and Hero Shots

Here are the final pictures of the completed, winning prototype. One really cool design detail to check out are the burned edges of the wood – these are a natural side effect of cutting with a laser, and John left these burnt edges as-is for a rustic look. If you live in the area, look for John’s tap handle at a bar near you!

Yards Tap Handle Throwdown

“Willadelphia” by John Combs

Yards Tap Handle

“Willadelphia” by John Combs

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