Jo and I are getting ready for our annual chili cook-off party this weekend, and all our friends have been asking us to serve some Butterbeer at the event. Everyone is so intrigued by our cold Butterbeer recipe and hot Butterbeer recipe that we’ll answer their pleas and serve up plenty of the tasty drinks at the party.
We knew Jo’s giant plastic Creativeware beverage dispenser would be perfect for serving up the cold Butterbeer, but it’s so boring and ordinary that we decided to make a cover for it. Since Butterbeer is traditionally served from a barrel, we wanted to disguise the dispenser to make it look like a barrel.
We weren’t sure we could even do it at first. It turns out that we could, and the result is so awesome that I almost don’t even believe it! I’m going to show you how to make your own Butterbeer dispenser barrel, and you’ll see that, with a few adjustments, this technique can be used on just about any size of container.
To start, get a piece of foam core board that’s at least an inch or two taller and wider than your dispenser. Use a ruler and marker to draw a straight line down the middle.
(By the way, you may notice that I said to use foam core board but those pictures show a sheet of Styrofoam. Well, we started out with Styrofoam but realized it wasn’t going to work… you’ll see the difference later. Make sure you use foam core!)
Lay your dispenser down on its back, centering it on the line you drew. Make sure the bottom of the dispenser lines up exactly with the bottom of the foam core board.
Use your marker to mark the height of the dispenser at the top of your board — we’ll call this the “top dot”. Then mark the width (on one side only) at the bottom – we’ll call this the “bottom dot”. In both cases, make sure you hold the marker straight up so that you get a proper measurement. (You’ll notice that we used a skein of yarn to help prop the dispenser up and keep it from rolling.)
Remove the dispenser and get ready for the tricky geometry part. I’m sorry to make you do this, but it’s necessary. Use a ruler to find the point on your center line that is exactly the same distance from the “top dot” as it is from the “bottom dot”. To do this, just use your left index finger to mark a spot on the center line and measure how far it is from the two dots. If it’s not the same, adjust until you find the magic spot.
When you’ve got it, mark it with the marker so you don’t lose it. We’ll call this mark the “center dot”.
Now take a piece of string or yarn and tie it to your marker. Line the marker up with the “top dot”, pull the string tight, and hold the other end on the “center dot”. Keeping the end of the string on the “center dot” and the string pulled tight, move the marker to draw a giant circle. The marker should end up right on the “bottom dot” and you’ll have a big half-circle drawn on the board.
Grab a craft knife and cut along the line to cut out the half circle. Take the piece you cut away and flip it over and line it up on the other side of your center line. Trace it and cut it out. This will ensure that both halves of your circle match.
Hold the cut circle in front of the dispenser and make sure it’s tall enough and wide enough to cover it completely. Don’t be alarmed that it’s not actually a whole circle and that the bottom is flat — you actually need it to be this way in order for the bottom of the dispenser to fit in it.
Hold the circle in front of the dispenser’s spigot, lining it up in the center, and use your marker to draw a rectangle indicating where you need to cut the board for the spigot to fit through. Cut it out and test the fit to make sure the spigot is usable through the hole.
Did you happen to notice that in the two pictures above, the board magically changed from thick Styrofoam to thin foam core? I hinted earlier that this was going to happen. See, we started out with Styrofoam, thinking it would work, but realized during our test fit that it was way too thick. The spout on the dispenser wasn’t long enough to work through the hole, so we switched to foam core. We just traced our Styrofoam circle onto the foam core and cut it out. The 1/4″ foam core worked MUCH better. We didn’t feel like taking all new photos, though, and thought this was a good opportunity to show you how sometimes you need to adjust on the fly anyway!
Once you’re happy with the fit of the front of your barrel, trace it onto another piece of foam core board and cut out a second circle, which will be the back of the barrel. Don’t cut the spout hole in this one, though. While you’re at it, go ahead and cut a few strips of foam core that are about 2″ wide.
Next is the fun part. Paint your two barrel pieces with tan acrylic paint. Then use a slightly darker brown to draw in the wooden planks (horizontal lines) and add some wood grain. The wood grain is easier than you think to do. Just quickly sketch in some oval swirls and some wiggles with the paint brush, and you’ve got it. Then to take it over the top, I hand-painted our Butterbeer logo on the front of the barrel.
FYI, this is the point where Jo left me alone in her craft room to finish up while she took Little Jo to gymnastics class. If you are doing this project with a friend, I highly recommend you not let her leave, because some of it gets really tricky to do with only two hands!
You’re going to need two or three pieces of brown poster board for the sides of your barrel, depending on how big the barrel is. Grab those 2″ strips of foam core you cut earlier and cut them 1/2″ shorter than your poster board is wide (assuming you used 1/4″ foam core). Use duct tape to carefully attach the strips to the front and back of your barrel, creating a structure. Use as many strips as you feel are necessary. (I used four.)
Next take the brown poster boards and tape them together into a long strip. Using some dark brown paint, add more wood texture lines and grain so that it looks like it’s made of a series of planks.
Use a hot glue gun to glue the giant piece of poster board to the ends of the barrel, taking care to line it up carefully.
While doing this, you may wish to mumble under your breath at your friend for leaving you while you try to glue this and take pictures at the same time. Ahem. Or maybe that’s just me?
The barrel is coming along now, but could use some metal bands to really finish it off. Of course I didn’t want to use real metal, so I had to improvise. Take some 3″ wide strips of poster board (any dark color) and spray paint them with alternating blasts of leather brown and metallic gold spray paint. This will give you a really nice effect with just enough luster to look like metal. Fold the strips in half lengthwise.
Take some scissors and snip one side of the folded strip every inch or so, creating little tabs. This will help curve the band around the ends of the barrel.
Use hot glue to attach the uncut side of a strip to one end of the barrel, letting the cut side hang loose over the end. Then glue each tab down individually, allowing them to overlap as necessary to follow the curve.
Do the same on the other end of the barrel, and then add an unfolded band around the center of the barrel to finish the look.
Now all you have to do to use it is slip the barrel over the dispenser and pull the spigot through the hole in the front.
The finished barrel looks amazing with a couple of mugs of our cold Butterbeer next to it. We are so excited to use this this weekend!