Tutorial: How to Craft a Unique Map from Pallet Wood and Beer Caps
Looking to design something creative with all those craft beer caps and scrap pieces of pallet wood you’ve been saving? How about a map of the good ole USA!
By now you may have figured out I’m a craft beer junkie. I have a growing collection of craft beer bottle caps I’ve been squirreling away for a few years now in order to use in various creative projects. For this project, I wanted to display the various craft breweries from around the United States in a unique way and in the same time create something I could hang in my house, eventually in that bar area I’m going to make some day!
My rules for this pallet project are simple. I can only place bottle caps from breweries from which I have tasted their beer. So as much as I’d love to add to the map with all those caps from you or your cousin’s husband’s brother’s step-dad’s neice’s fiancee’s craft beer bottle cap collection, I’m afraid I can only allow myself to place the ones I’ve tried for myself. And of course there are a few large commercial brewery caps on mine, and a couple of ciders too.
What you’ll need:
- Pallet Wood
- Sandpaper and/or Sander
- Wood Screws
- Paint or Stain
- Craft Beer Bottle Caps
- 3/4″ Dowel Rod or Old Broomstick
- Miter Saw
- Glue Gun with Glue Sticks
- Poster Putty
Step 1: Prep and assemble your pallet wood
Grab a pallet from any nearby dumpster, factory or construction site (making sure you are not stealing!) and begin breaking it apart. This is a time-consuming process if you are trying to keep the wood intact. There are a few ways to do this using saws and other tools, but I did mine with a good ole pry bar and hammer. Give them a good sanding with some course sandpaper to smooth out the rough edges and splinters. Once you have your wood broken down into separate pieces, you can place them side by side in order to connect them with two or three support pieces using appropriate length wood screws for your wood. (I used 5/8″ screws, but your pallet wood may be thinner or thicker.)
Step 2: Draw and paint your map
If you have an overhead projector and a way to create a transparency for projecting, you can easily trace a map of the USA onto your assembled pallet wood. However, if you are like me and can’t track down a projector, you can use a pencil to sketch out the map by looking at another map or a picture on the internet. I borrowed the map from my daughter’s room to look at and emulate. You can tell my map is not extremely accurate, and also not to scale. But it makes for a unique spin and honestly it’s close enough!
Once you’ve sketched the outline of the map, you can paint in the lines using any color paint or stain you choose. I used black latex paint I had leftover from my office shelves. But you can use oil or acrylic paint; even stain.
Step 3: Add craft beer bottle caps
Once the paint or stain is dry, you can begin adding bottle caps. The best way I found to “glue” the beer caps to the map was to adhere them to circular pieces of wood. There was not a great way to glue the beer caps directly to the wood without a large surface area, and the wood gives the map more depth. I used my miter saw to cut an old broomstick into pieces that were roughly 3/8″ to 1/2″ thick. (I don’t think I have any exactly the same thickness, but this actually provides some randomness in the depth of the beer caps among others.
I first tried to use a glue gun directly on both the cap and the wood. But the coating on the bottom of the cap does NOT stick to the glue! So I used a thin layer of poster putty to adhere the cap to the piece of circular wood. You can see this in the inset images here, as well as how the pieces of dowel come out after sawing them into parts.
I then glued the caps to the painted map with the glue gun. I of course “mapped out” where I was going to place the caps before I applied the hot glue. I used Google and Google Maps to learn which city (and where that city resides in the state) in order to know where to put the caps. I guess you can use poster putty on the opposite side of the dowel piece as well to place the caps, but oh what fun to use the glue gun.
Step 4: Write a craft beer blog article and show off to all your friends and family!
Just kidding… you can simply hang or display your very own craft beer bottle cap map of the USA anywhere you’d like. The cool part about this project is that it’s always a work in progress. You can continue to add caps as you get them. And the fun part is that you get to constantly try new craft beers from around the country! (You’ll notice I have one lone cap down there from Hawaii. I didn’t take that into account when painting. And my parents recently went to Alaska and brought an unopened bottle back for me—with cap—so I need to figure out that one as well.)
I started this project with around 60 craft beer bottle caps. I now have over 100 and typically collect around 8-10 before adding another round. You can see my latest map below, and maybe by the time you are reading this I will have added more!
Have you created a DIY craft beer cap pallet map?
I’ve shown you mine, I’d love to see yours! Tell me in the comments below. I’m thinking about doing one of these for only the state of North Carolina too. I have several leftover bottle caps and I’m determined to find more. I feel I could get more accurate placement on a map created out of just one state. But then again, I have struggled to find craft beers with custom bottle caps due to the expense for small craft breweries as well as the abundance of canned beers. Hmm… what can I create from recycled craft beer cans?