Friday, July 24, 2015

Beer Box

Ed note: updated 3-23-18. See note.

After posting the Beer Tubes post, a couple readers asked if I had attempted something similar for bottles, so here we go.

The bottle box was a much more complicated affair. First of all, what size do you make it, because there are so many beer bottles out there in different sizes? I modeled our box to fit a Killian's Irish Red which is the same height as a Yuengling. If your favorite beer is shorter or fatter, you may need to use a different size dryer duct. Second of all, bottles are too tall to efficiently store them upright so the only conclusion was to lay them on their sides and roll them up. Good in theory, tougher in practice.

I used the same 4" dryer duct tubes to form the box. It requires three of them, and they need to be laid flat out and the corrugated end cut off. One piece will form the front of the box, the width of the panel is almost exactly the length of a long-neck beer bottle, and the other two will be bent to form the sides and back. Here's the specific directions. (I apologize in advance for some of the blurry pics. The macro setting on my camera seems to have gone on the fritz).

Flatten out the first tube. Measure the depth of your fridge that you want the box to be. Cut on that line. Cut all three panels in the same way.

Choose the panel that will be the front of your box. Slide one of the other two panels into the locking grooves.

 Bend that panel at right angles using first your hands and then a ball peen hammer to sharpen up the corner. Remove that panel and repeat with the other side panel.

Mark each panel because you will be taking them off and putting them back on during the test fit process.
At this point yo should have something that looks like this.
Measure for the next fold. This measurement will be the diameter of your beer bottle plus a smidge. You need to allow room for the straps to move as well as the bottle to roll without hinderance.
Use a table edge or a yardstick to form the next bend, using hands first for the rough bend and then the hammer again for the crisp edge.
This should be what you have next.
This is a closeup of what the corner should look like where you slide the two pieces together.

At this point you should have something like this.
 Tape the loose edges together with painter's tape, just to temporarily hold them together. Measure the width and match it exactly to the width of the front piece so the box is square.
At this point you should be able to see the two locking channels available to you. Well, at least hopefully you can see better than this blurry pic. The channel you will use to join the back is the one on the top in this picture.

This is the correct channel to use. the panel to the left in this picture will be cut so that it fits into the groove on the panel to the right of the picture. Mark the left hand panel with a Sharpie and cut it. Be sure to cut carefully and in a perfectly straight line so that it fits into the groove on the right panel.
 Slide the one back panel into the locking channel on the other back panel and tape it with Gorilla Tape. As with the Beer Tubes, don't skimp on this. Regular duct tape will succumb to the moisture always present in boat fridges.

Tape all of the joints at the locking channels with Gorilla Tape.
Cut two pieces of ribbon or webbing that are at least 1" wide, and 2-1/2 times the length of the box. Lay them as pictured and run a length of Gorilla Tape over them from side to side.

 Run the webbing down into the box, across the bottom and back up the other side. Use one of your patiently waiting beer bottles to hold the webbing down.

Cut a piece of dowel rod the width of the box. Cut the webbing so that it is long enough to go around the rod and have an inch and a half to tape to itself.

I found the box was not stiff enough so I had to add a piece of 1/4x1-1/2 trim to the front edge to stiffen it up. I just taped it on and taped around the edge.

Lay your  bottles in like this. I alternated mine facing every other direction and they seem to roll a bit better.

Here's the video demonstration. It's completely functional, but not near as elegant as the Beer Tubes. But hey, at least you can get a beer without removing everything else from the fridge. The energy savings alone should pay for a six pack before long. Enjoy!

Note: I have since changed the design a little. I removed the straps and added a piece of Phifertex. I taped it along the top edge, made it long enough to go to the bottom and back up the other side and rolled out around a piece of wooden dowel to use as a handle. The bottles tended to fall out of the straps and the Phifertex makes a nice cradle for them to sit in.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Beer Tubes

(Ed note: updated 8-8-16 - see end note)

One of the most frustrating things about living on a boat (especially for my husband) is dealing with a top-loading refrigerator. Every once in awhile you'll even see the cartoons about someone falling in while trying to reach something on the bottom.

For my husband, the big frustration was in getting a can of Coke or beer out. They always seem to migrate to the bottom of the fridge and getting one involved removing almost everything. We tried various racks designed for regular upright fridges but they just didn't work. After seeing that a good friend of ours had the same issue with his fridge,  I decided to create a solution.

I once had a friend that stored his grill propane tanks in a piece of PVC pipe attached to his bimini rail. It had a slot in the side so he could push the tanks up and out the top as he needed them. I thought something similar might work in the fridge, only the slot idea wasn't going to fly because the fridge is usually packed and it would be impossible to access it. I then began to think about using a ribbon or piece of webbing to lift out the cans. Several trips to the hardware stores changed the plan as the smallest diameter PVC tube is 3" and it's just a bit too big for the cans and takes unnecessary space in the fridge. The wall thickness was too big also, which would mean longer cooling times for the cans.

I spent an hour just walking around Lowes looking at stuff and happened on the aluminum dryer duct pieces - the ones that come in a flat sheet and you curve them into a tube and lock the edges together (not the flexible hoses). The smallest one they had was 4" diameter, but I figured I could cut it down and it would work fine.  I did, and it did. So here's the directions:

Materials required
1 piece of 4" dryer aluminum dryer duct extension for each tube. Mine was a 2' section
1 piece of heavy grosgrain ribbon or webbing that is 2-1/2 times the length of your finished tube
Gorilla tape - don't skimp on this.
Good pair of tin snips

If you're using the 4" duct extension, examine the locking mechanism so you cut off the right edge. You need the slot edge to remain because once you cut off the other side, you will insert the cut edge in to the slot before you tape it so that fingers and the cans won't get cut on the sharp edge.

Once you determine which edge to cut, mark 3-3/4" from the edge in several places with a permanent marker and draw a line to cut. This aluminum is very sharp so watch your fingers. Cut very carefully because you need a perfectly straight edge to insert into the slot.

Carefully wrap the sheet into a cylinder shape and working from one end to the other, insert the cut edge into the slot on the other edge. It takes some wiggling to get it to go in the whole length.

Cut a piece of Gorilla tape the length of the tube and place it evenly over the seam.

Cut the tube to the length that will fit in your fridge, allowing about 1/2 of space between the top of the tube and the underside of your fridge lid.
File or sand the top and bottom edges of the tube to remove any burrs.

Lay your ribbon or webbing about 2" from the top of the tube and tape all the way around the tube top, fastening the webbing under the tape.

Run the webbing over the edge, down in to the tube and up over the opposite edge making a dip in the webbing. Place a beverage can on the webbing and continue to lower the can into the tube, adding more cans as you go.

Here's the video of the final product in action:

Some miscellaneous notes:

I fastened my tubes to a wood divider that we have in our fridge so they wouldn't topple over if the fridge was not full. I did that with another piece of webbing that I screwed into the wood, around the tubes, and back into the wood.

Also, I did notice through trial and error, that it appears you can't fasten the webbing onto the tube directly over the seam. For some reason it changes the shape of the tube when you pull and makes the cans stick. Fasten the webbing 1/4 way around from the seam.

We have styrofoam board on the bottom of our fridge on top of a teak grate for insulation, and I actually "screwed" the tube into the foam a bit to hold it in place.

If you have any other ideas for modification or improvement, leave them in the comments!

Update 8-8-2016

After using these now for over a year, a few issues have come to light. Were I to make new ones, I would make them just slightly larger. As the tubes wear, the top edges bend a bit making it harder to slide the cans out, making the webbing strap push off to one side or the other. I might also consider using the PVC the next time. All in all, these tubes have been a lifesaver on our boat!