Sunday, October 27, 2013

My Plan for Decanters

Does anyone else do their woodworking thinking sessions at night while not sleeping? I think I get this from my mother. She lays awake at night worrying that there isn't anything to worry about.

I'm not quite that bad, but I often will be thinking of projects at work, thinking about an issue at home or with my music, or any number of other things. While my mind is churning away, there is no hope of sleep. When I find myself in this situation, before I get up to give my wife a chance to at least get some sleep, I will try changing the subject in my head to woodworking.

The problem is, if I strike a brilliant idea, I get super excited and charged up about my discovery that any hope of more sleep is gone. This happened the other night.

So there I was, minding my own business, trying to sleep. I started thinking about some of the issues of my upcoming tantalus build. One of the main issues that I haven't quite figured out yet is the lock, because of the front opening doors that need to lock to a hinged lid.

I still haven't come up with a brilliant idea for that one. I'll just have to keep thinking.

Another problem I have had with this project is the decanters. I think I want everything on this project to be new, otherwise I feel I am just doing a renovation. Used decanters, therefore, are not ideal.

Many of you have had some great ideas. I especially liked JMAW Works' idea of perfume bottles. This is sort of a small tantalus, the original only being 6 3/4" wide. With this measurement, these four decanters should be about the size of pop cans. This is a great idea since I have yet to find a decanter for sale in the 12 to 16 oz range, which is what I think I want.

Other ideas are glass bottles, or any other manner of container.

The problem with this, is that I really want something nice. In the movies you see rich people pouring scotch from beautiful crystal decanters. I think there is probably no benefit in decanting liquor, other than the fact that it is just cool. Therefore these decanters and the accompanying box need to be super freaking cool.

Surfing around the internet, decanters in the "super freaking cool" category tend to start at around $100 US. I wouldn't mind spending $100 on a decanter for this project, but I need four of them. Now we are talking real money. I have yet to find crystal decanters in the sizes I want, and I haven't figured out the rest of the project, which may require a custom lock which could cost $300 or more. I want to drink whiskey in style, but I'm not about to spend that kind of money on a commercially manufactured product when I'm just as happy drinking brewskies from the can.

What to do?

This is about where I was the other night in my attempt to distract myself so I could drift off to sleep. Unfortunately, to the destruction of the rest of the night's potential peaceful sleep, I came up with the solution: my cousin Cindy.

The great part about being from a big family, is pretty much wherever you want to travel, there is invariably an aunt, uncle, or cousin that you can impose yourself upon for a free place to stay. The other great thing, is that whenever you need something, perhaps you have a relative in the business.

My cousin Cindy is a professional potter. She left the teaching field in the early nineties to set up her own studio. She has been making pots, dishes, and other containers ever since. I'm proud to say she has always been good at this, and seems to get better with every passing year. Indeed, our house has quite a few examples of her work. In fact, whenever I impose myself upon on of the abovementioned, unspspecting aunts, uncles, or cousins, I invariably see much of her work there, too. I think we all get the same "relative" discount, which she jokes is twice what anyone else would have to pay.

A fine example of Cindy's work from my collection.
 Check out her website:

I have no idea why it didn't occur to me earlier, but the thought struck me that she would be able to make exactly what I'm looking for. That is, once I opened my mind to porcelain rather than crystal. If these decanters are going to cost me, I would feel much more comfortable getting them from her, exactly the shape I want, rather than compromising with something commercial.

I sent her an email the other day with my idea, and happily she agreed! She though it would be a kick to cooperate on a project like this. I gave her dimensions that I needed, and left the design up to her. That is, with the caveat that they look super freaking cool. The great news is she won't be able to get to them until early next year, which of course I won't be able to start this until then, anyway.

Also, with any luck, I might be able to talk her into guest blog about making these vessels. At least someone should blog about their activity in the shop!

photo courtesy
Now to find a relative who can make me a custom lock!


  1. While I was reading this, I had a thought on the locking problem. The issue is that the lock needs to hold both doors AND the lid, right?

    Here's a possibility: Build the lid so that it closes first, and the doors hold it shut. That should be fairly simple: a groove across the front of the lid and a mating runner across the insides of the two doors would do it. Then, just put the lock on the doors, to lock them shut. It's just as secure, but doesn't require a custom lock.

    You could also, if you were feeling ambitious, do a custom latch out of wood, with concealed catches. I'm thinking an inlay of squares around the top, with two of them actually catches attached to the doors: press down, and the lid can lift and the doors can open. That would be a lot harder to make, though.

    1. Hi Andy, what a great idea! I was thinking of some mechanism to latch the doors tight so the lid could be closed, but the lock on the lid is still not something that is commonly available, unless one is happy with an upside-down key. Your idea is much better, and can use a commonly available lock!

      Your idea about the wooden latch is good, too. Until this point, that was the direction I was going. I like your approach!

    2. Another idea along the same lines would be to have the two doors overlap in some manner so that the one that locks to the lid also prevents the second door from opening. To center the lock it might work visually to have the doors not meet in a straight line, but rather have mating profiles.

      can't wait to see what you come up with.

    3. Good idea, Jeremy. I hadn't thought of varying the profiles to allow the lock to be in the center. I might just have to work with that thought...

  2. What a fabulous idea to get some home made decanters.
    Maybe you should suggest her to make a fifth spare one while she is at it. Just in case someone accidentally drops one of the pieces, and she can't get the same type of "paint" or stain etc. like the first batch she made.
    I am looking forward to seeing her describe the process.

    1. Thanks for the advice. I have yet to break any of her stuff. It is all pretty stout. However, the nature of the tantalus holding adult beverages... Who knows?

  3. Thanks for the shout out! I love the idea of ceramic decanters. I also frequently use project planning to drift off to, though there have been 3am mornings where I'm scribbling in graph paper, and a few lost brilliant ideas I can't seem to recal in the morning. Also you might want to be careful if you end up going the crystal route to be careful about lead if your planning on storing your hooch in leaded glass, you might want to reconsider, of course if it won't be in there long (for whatever reason) then leaded crystal is fine.

    1. Thanks, Jeremy. I'm glad I'm not the only one who does that.

      I'm glad you mentioned the leaded crystal thing. I've done a lot of research lately on some of the whiskey forums trying to find out what decanters really need to achieve. The consensus seems to be that the original bottle is the safest place for your booze, as long as it is kept out of direct light. A decanter was probably originally used to store your booze when you obtained it from a barrel. I guess it used to commonly be sold that way. A decanter is OK if you enjoy the style of it, but storing whiskey in them can cause problems if they are exposed to direct light, and especially if an airtight seal on the cap is not possible: the alcohol can evaporate.

      Learning this, I have decided that these ceramic decanters will function just as good as anything else, as long as we use something like a cork stopper.

  4. I couldn't find any picture on internet but in nearly every souvenir shop in Portugal they are selling nice little flask (with a rectangular base) in blue faience. I was tempted to buy one but the suitcase wheight is restricted on some airlines...
    Your cousin is doing fine work

    1. Thanks, Sylvain. I'll take a look on the internet and see if I can find what you were looking at.

  5. Very likely not of interest to you, but I just received a link to this in my email:

  6. I loved seeing Cindy and her pottery studio and her pottery vase on here! So cool. I hope Cindy posts some of how she does it, too, like you are. Thanks!