Tuesday, August 17, 2010

More than meets the eye!

Alright, a lot of big steps have been completed and we're down to some of the final touches.  Things are getting very encouraging. 

Mounting the tower was a breeze thanks to KegConnection.com.  Most of the tower was completely assembled.  All I had to do was screw on the taps using the included wrench.  I lined up the tower nice and straight, marked and predrilled the screw holes, and screwed it down.  It came with bolts, but since I have almost 1.5" of plywood I figured screws would work.

The beer lines are fed through the hole in my bar top and freezer lid.  I used hot water to soften the ends to push them onto the Corney Keg quick disconnects then tightened the hose clamps.  You might also see in the above image my new emblem for covering the holes where the old one was broken.

I ordered this Transformers Autobot emblem off eBay for about $7, shipping included.  Cheap plastic as expected, but looks pretty good and will suit its purpose.

The emblem was a simple peel & stick.  Covers the holes nicely and looks great.  I love the chrome, black, and dark wood combination.  It looks like it has always been there and is a great metaphor for what this freezer has been through.

Time to finally make the drip try.  What's in the pictures until now has been just the metal part pictured above.  If you haven't guessed it yet, this is a furnace grate duct cover.  Looked at actual drip trays online and most seemed way to expensive for what looks like something a kid made in shop class.  I settled on using this furnace grate from Home Depot.  Cost about $15.

After pushing little tabs the top metal cover seperated nicely from the plastic sleeve and vent grills.  A few careful cuts and the plastic open/close grills seperated from the sleeve.  Next I cut a piece of wood to fit exactly inside the sleeve to for the basin. Sealed it up with Silicone and painted black to match the sleeve and you would never know it wasn't made that way.  The basin now fits perfectly inside the hole in my bar top and the metal grate covers it all.

I have the option of drilling a hole in my freezer lid and running a hose from the drip tray to a bucket inside the freezer, or since my bar top is thick enough I could route a trough underneath and have the line go to a bucket behind the freezer.  For now the small basin is more than enough to catch the few drips that escape my glass.

This last step is one even many people who buy pre-built kegerators must complete in order to avoid foamy beer.  This is because the beer in the lines in the tower tends to get warmer causing the CO2 to release from the beer much easier.  The solution?  Bring cold air from the bottom of the keezer up into the tower and let it flow back down.

I'm not sure who originally came up with this idea, but it works great.  The picture above is my take on it.  Just a PC fan in a box (ziplock container) and a hose (flexible conduit) to run up into the tower.  Using a 12VDC transformer I found at Value Village for $2.99 to power it.  I run the hose right up to the top of the tower just below where the beer faucets are and the box sits on the bottom of the freezer.  In addition to bringing cold air up into tower to flow down the outside of the beer lines this also helps the overall air circulation within the freezer.

This is wrapping up the Kegerator project nicely.  Not much left except to get the CO2 cylinder in there and start pouring beer!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

No Longer Topless!

Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures as I was attaching the base. There wasn't much too it actually. I'll try my best below to describe the process.

First thing I did was unplug the freezer, then with the help of a friend we tipped it on it's back, then propped up the bottom a few inches. Would have liked to turn it completely upside down, but was worried about compressor oil and refrigerant issues being even worse than usual when tipping a freezer (or fridge).

Then, again with the help of a buddy, we lined up the base with the freezer bottom and tapped it into place. Was much tighter than anticipated, but we got it on with a little "hammer persuasion". Between how tight it fit and gravity I decided not to bother using any screws to hold it on. I was worried about hitting a line with screws anyway.

After any tipping or moving it is extremely important to leave the freezer (or fridge) unplugged for a little while to allow the compressor oil and refrigerant to settle or you can completely ruin your freezer. How long really depends on how far your freezer was tipped/moved and for how long. I left mine unplugged for a couple days to be safe and because I had no immediate need for it.

Before attaching the bar top I taped down a piece of floating floor underlay. I figured this would help even out any imperfections in the freezer lid and make for a nice snug fit.

Next I placed the bar top on the freezer lid and centered it up to allow for about a 1/4" clearance on sides and front. I'd like to say this was tricky, but it turned out some minor imperfections in my freezer lid trim allowed me to place it tight on frint and left side and still got perfect clearance on all sides. This made opening the freezer lid and screwing from the inside much easier as it pretty much stayed in place by itself.

As you can see from this inside pic I used six screws and large fender washers. The acrylic inside of this lid was pretty sturdy and the inside insulation was pretty stiff so there was not too much worry of denting it in. The screws were just long enough to go through the lid and into the bar top without piercing through the top. That's a wadded up garbage plugging the hole temporarily.

I then used the same hole saw to drill down through the lid using the bar top's hole as a guide. Getting through the freezer lid's metal skin was tough using the wood hole saw but since it was thin it didn't damage the bit very much. As soon as the center guide bit pierced the inside acrylic I stopped and drilled up from the inside so as to make a cleaner cut on the inside. This trick is a good idea when drilling any material with a hole saw.

It was about this time that my kegerator kit arrived from KegConnection.com. I must say again these guys are great. As much as possible was already connected and put together saving much work on my end.

Since my freezer had now been sitting for a couple days I was immediately able to plug it into the Freezer to Fridge thermostat thingy (bottom left of above pic) and get the temperature dialed in. I used a thermometer in a glass of water in the freezer to compare to the thermostat setting. The glass of water is necessary to get a true reading since the air temperature can vary too much with opening of the lid. Got her dialed in to 38F (3.3C) within a day with only a 1 degree variance between the thermostat and my thermometer.

That's all for now. Next time I'll show the mounting of the tower, the CO2 Tank, and the force carbonating of my first batch of home brew.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I'm on top!

Wow I can't believe how long it's been since my last post. I will try to make it up with this extra long post detailing the construction and finishing of the kegerator's bar top.

I explored many options including using ceramic tile, vinyl tile, hardwood flooring, epoxying bottle caps, paint, and counter tops just to name a few. Ended up going with the following design due to weight, budget, durability, and ease of installation and future repair.

My design called for increasing the height of the bar top by about 1 1/2" to allow for a drip tray reservoir, to bring the overall kegerator height up to that of a standard bar, 42", and to provide a sturdy backing for the trim that will hide the freezer lid. To do this I started by gluing and screwing two sheets of 3/4" plywood together then gluing a sheet of 1/8" hardboard to that for a smooth flat finish.

Then I drilled the hole for the beer tower lines and cooling fan and cut the rectangle hole for the drip tray reservoir.

I settled on Krylon's Make It Stone! for the finish. Picked it up at Canadian Tire for about $8.

This stuff worked great and after just the first coat I was very impressed.

After two it looked almost like a professional job. A little prickly so once it dried I lightly scrubbed it with a damp cloth to smooth out the sharper bits.

Test fitted the bar top to make sure it was slightly larger than the freezer lid. Also needed to make sure there would be clearance for the trim to overlap the freezer body.

Cut, glued, and nailed the trim to the bar top. My air finishing nailer made this a breeze. Countersunk the nails and filled with a stain-able wood filler. The bar-top is looking a little dull, but a lot of that is dust from sanding the trim. I cleaned that off before final clear-coating.

I used a narrower piece of trim for the back to allow for the lid to swing open and cut notches for the hinges. The bar top also overlaps the back about an inch more to also allow for the top to open easier. I was quite impressed with how this turned out, nice and tight and still allows it to open perfectly.

Stained the trim. This was tricky trying to get as little stain as possible on the bar top. What little I did get on it wiped off easily.

Applied three or four coats of clear-coat in total. It really evened up and darkened the bar top nicely and brought a shine to the trim. I should probably add a couple more coats for protection. That's it for now. Next post I will show how I attached this bar top to the freezer top, and attaching the wheeled base. Thanks for reading.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Get me some wheels baby!

Here is the kit I ordered from Keg Connection. I decided on their premium two tap tower kit. I'm not one that needs to have a huge variety at any one time, but it will be nice to have at least two choices for guests to choose from.

I did order this kit without the CO
2 Cylinder. Two reasons for this. First I wasn't sure about filling an American tank in Canada. Secondly I was able to rent a 20 lb tank locally for only $40/year and the 5 lb tank that's standard in this kit would have cost almost as much to fill.

I must say, the people at Keg Connection were GREAT and extremely patient! I had three VISA Gift Cards that my employer gave me that I wanted to use. They took all three, then the remaining balance from my PayPal account. This saved me a bundle.

This is the Freezer to Fridge Temperature controller I ordered at the same time. Basically this controller plugs into the wall, the freezer plugs into it, and the probe goes in the freezer. When the freezer begins to dip below the set temperature on the controller it cuts the power to the freezer. It works great and is holding my freezer at a steady 38 F.

With my Kegerator kit ordered it was time to begin the wheeled base. I want to be able to easily move my kegerator around, at the very least to pull away from the wall to open the lid to add and remove kegs. I bought four 3" swivel castors and a couple of 2x4's. Some good measurements (leaving clearance for trim), mitre cuts, and some toe-nail screws and I was set.

I would normally have preferred more screws for strength, but with the caster crossing the joint, the weight of the freezer from above, and the eventual trim I figure it's not going anywhere.

The view from underneath showing the swivel casters crossing the joints. The wheels will also swivel completely within the profile of the base just in case I want the trim to come down to act as a skirt as well.

Just to test I lifted the freezer up onto the base. Fits great! I'll remove it to add the trim, stain and clear coat.

Next step is the begin the "counter-top" I struggled with various ideas and options for some time. I was unsure about the option I ended up going with at first, but the end result has be extremely pleased.

Stay tuned for more after the break...

Monday, April 12, 2010

I'm Batman...

OK, not actually Batman, but the Kegerator in progress has been MASKED. I decided to mask around the lid and seal since I won't be painting the inside. This way there will be a nice clean line and the lid won't get stuck shut.

It turned out that small indicator on the front, bottom left of the freezer was some sort of wired light to indicate when the compressor was running I guess. Decided it was best to pull it out slightly and mask it. The old emblem left two holes on the front, upper left. I ordered a new somewhat fitting emblem to cover these holes to be revealed on a future post.

First coast of good ol' Tremclad Glossy Black rust paint. Looking pretty good so far especially considering this was brush painted. Still needs a second coat at least, especially the plastic lid trim and edges. Even though I plan to cover the lid with a counter-top and trim I thought it was best to paint it all thoroughly for protection from further rusting.

Final touch ups have been completed. The masking of the lid seal and indicator light are still in place until the paint dries.

Here she is after a few more minor touch-ups and the masking removed. The nasty looking white seal around the lid was unavoidable. This is part of the reason I planned on adding trim to my lid. This trim should overhang and hide the seal, but still allow the opening and closing of the freezer lid.

Around this point I was pretty set and secure that the project was on track so I also ordered my Kegerator parts. Since this was going to be the bulk of the expense I wanted to make sure the freezer was working out.

More to follow soon.

Friday, April 9, 2010

It's so big!

This good old freezer is bigger than most newer ones I looked at. The important dimension being front to back. This one is 18" front to back which is important if I want to put in a commercial Sanke keg that are 16.25" in diameter. Every freezer at Home Depot, Canadian Tire, and Wal-Mart I've looked at are only 15" front to back. Click here for a great list of keg dimensions.

In the pic above you can see the "hump" that makes room for the compressor, but takes precious space out of the internal dimensions of the freezer. For the record, the full internal dimensions of this freezer are 18" front to back x 40" wide x 30" deep with the hump on the bottom left that is 10" wide x 10" tall. Some people raise the freezer lid with the addition of a collar to add height allowing for additional kegs on the hump. Since I figure I can store five Corny Kegs plus the CO2 cylinder (or one Sanke, one Corny and the CO2 cylinder) without using the hump space I'm opting for no collar.

So, the freezer has been cleaned out and measured, next I thoroughly cleaned and sanded the outside to prepare for painting. Even the sides without rust I sanded to rough them up to allow the paint to hold better.

Next steps are masking and painting.

In the mean time a brief word about freezer internal dimensions. Hardly any manufacturers list them! No retail websites list them! The best you will find are external dimensions, and sometimes only the external dimensions of the shipping box which are both useless. A useful forum database of common freezers has been started here. If you don't find the dimensions of the freezer, or fridge, you are thinking about purchasing to convert to a kegerator the only thing you can do for sure is go into the store with a tape measure (or borrow one from the tool section) and measure the internal dimensions yourself. Make sure to measure the "hump" while you're at it and post your findings to help others.

Thanks for listening.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Deja vu?

Where have I seen this before? Yeah yeah, I know, the internet! I apologize if you've seen this before. The first few posts here are going to be a bit of a history lesson and repeat story. I completed my "Kegerator Project" and have posted pics, etc. on the usual forums a couple months ago.

Then I thought, "Hey! I want to blog about m
y continuing kegging adventures!"

So here it is, stating with a complete run down of my Kegerator (or Keezer) build from day one to present day homebrew draft drinking bliss.

I hope to create a bit of a "how-to" or "for dummies" with as much information as I can provide to help any DIY'ers out there that may be thinking of starting their own Kegerator project. I will also list many of the resources I found helpful along the way. If anyone finds this useful I will be pleased would like to see your pics and stories as well.

I'm planning to post almost daily until I get the full com
pleted project outlined from start to finish. For now I'll will leave you with the "before" picture of what I started with.

This was an old "hand-me-down" freezer from my Aunt and Uncle about six years ago. Since we bought our house about five years ago it's hardly been used. Most of the food that was in it was badly freezer burned. Still keeping good and cold at least.

I will be cleaning it up and painting it. Then adding a wheeled base, homemade counter-top and trim and finally the temperature controller, draft tower, taps, tower cooling fan, CO2 tank and kegs.

Stay tuned, more to follow soon...