Shelf Day Part 2

It’s not going so hot. In fact, it’s rally rough going so far.  In case anyone doesn’t already know this about me, I’m not a very handy kind of guy.  In my mad dash to prep all of the shelves before the rain on Friday, I discarded the wrong small piece of wood to fill this gap and had to find and then paint the right piece.

Gap filler shelf

Then I forgot to adjust the length of two pieces of wood that were going to meet in a corner and had to re-cut and repaint those pieces.

Next I fall victim to something that, admittedly, I brought on myself. Every time I sit on the ground, one of my dogs decides that it’s lap time. Very hard to work with a boxer sitting on you.

Boxerus interuptus

Always best to let him get it out of his system or he’ll hound me forever.

Now I’m ready to get down to the real task at hand. But, the problems aren’t over yet. I find the studs, mark everything up, and start putting screws in the wall. Standard procedure. But, this is an old house and I’m never quite sure what I’m going to find behind the walls. Could be plain wood, could be concrete, could be a mystery. This time I hit a mystery. The screws are going most of the way in and then breaking off.  Any idea what could be causing this?  It’s got me stumped.

Broken screw

Now I have to start improvising with the hardware I have available. I have anchors, but the screws they come with won’t lay flat (unacceptable for shelving.

Anchors with the wrong type of screws

So, I find some concrete screws that lay flat and fit in the anchors.  Not ideal, but it will work.

The wrong screws for the right job

So, I manged to get 1 filler shelf and 2 regular shelves up today.

Unimpressive start

Not a very impressive start. But, I’m going to keep at it.


Shelf Day Part 1

I need more shelving in my office. Just look at all the room I’ve got after clearing the room of pretty much anything unrelated to work or beer (because, really what else is there in life).  

Room for more shelving 1
Room for more shelving 2
That’s room for a lot of bottles, that is. I need to build some shelves, which requires sanding and sawing and panting. The problem is… It’s spring in Florida. For some crazy reason that means that Monday-Friday, while I’m at work, the skies are clear and the weather is beautiful. However, Saturday and Sunday every week is scheduled to have harsh and heavy rain. So, the combination of a Friday off and clear weather predicted until the afternoon has me on a race for time. I get my wood and tools ready to go.  

Wood and tools to build shelves

That’s a lot of sanding coming my way. And I hate sanding. Oh well. I set my Boxer Buddy on guard duty, because every one works on shelf day. 

Boxer Buddy on guard duty

And I get down to it. I worked from dawn until 3pm or so. Measuring, Sanding, sawing, painting. And I get it all done and cleaned up literally seconds before it starts raining.  

Prepared shelves 1

  I still have a lot to do. But the outdoor part is set and I can work the rest in the evenings and in the rain. Clear sailing from here until I figure out what I miss measured or miss cut. 

You want me to put that where?

Let’s chat about one of the challenges involved with bottle collecting. Displaying all of that “stuff”. I have a lot of bottles and cans. Seriously, there are a metric ass-ton of the things. So, just where am I supposed to put them all? Probably best for me if you don’t answer that the way I think you’re going to answer that.

For a while I got away with using 1 x 4 inch boards and “L” joints to make cheap and plentiful shelving.

Wall shelving

Combine that with putting cans into any nooks and crannies where I can use fun-tak or double sided tape and all was right with the universe for quite a while.

Cans in nooks and crannies

Once all Of that space is taken up, where do you turn?  My goal is… dun, dun, duuuun… the ceiling. Don’t laugh! There’s a lot of space up there. The problem here is that gravity is a petty-ass bitch.  Builders have put a lot of effort through the years into dealing with gravity for displaying things on walls.  Pictures, televisions, shelves.  They all work based on gravity pulling the thing you’re trying to display down the side of the wall. All we’ve really done with ceilings is hang things.  It doesn’t seem like that should be a totally different thing, but it is.  Hanging bottles from the ceiling would make me a ceiling display of a thousand or so round bottle bottoms.  Not at all what I’m looking for.  Try building a ledge on a ceiling and all you will have to show for it is a lot of broken glass on your floor. Unless you find a very different way to counter gravity.  Cans (as usual) are easy.  I’ve managed to get cans to stick to the ceiling.

Cans on the ceiling

The idea from here was to attach magnets to the bottles and let the magnets take hold of the metal “L” brackets you see mounted up there.

Bottles on the ceiling using magnets

Brilliant, right? Well… not so much. Turns out that adhesives and glass aren’t as buddy buddy as I had planned. About an hour after I set this up, I heard the dreaded sound of a bottle smashing to the ground. But (just in case any magnet enthusiasts are crapping their pants in suspense right now) the magnet was still smugly staring at me from the ceiling when I went to investigate. I pulled the rest of the bottles down and sulked the rest of the night because now I’m back to square 1.

In my mind adhesives of any kind are out as a possible solution at this point. Sooner or later they will fail. And then I’m out more bottles. I just can’t take that kind of loss again. For my next trick I found some metal corner bead made for working with stucco.

Mesh corner bead
Corner bead is cheap

It’s cheap, and I can attach it to the existing brackets to make a kind of basket-like lip that would hold the bottles. There are two problems with this approach. The first is that I would have to cut it to fit my ceiling and it’s a bear to cut through every joint of the mesh.  The second is that the bottom part of the mesh is 3 inches long, which would cover up much of bottle that I’m trying to display.  After playing around with it a bit, I decided that this isn’t really an option that I can make work.

Next up, I managed to find some “U” shaped pieces of thin metal.

“U” shaped metal of mystery
Mystery metal is still cheap

I don’t have any idea what this mystery metal is supposed to be used for. Therefore, I have to assume that someone made it specifically for putting bottles on the ceiling. It’s nearly as cheap as the stucco mesh and has a nice small lip that I can use to hold the bottom of the bottle without blocking the label.  I just wish that whoever designed this specifically for putting bottles on the ceiling would have made the place where the bottom of the bottle goes the right dimensions.  Right now there’s a bit too much space there for my liking.

But it’s the best plan I have so far.  I also think it will look better than the stucco mesh once everything is set up.

So… what do you think?  Am I crazy… stupid… both?  Will this work? Could I be taking an entirely different approach to this?  Let me know and I’ll keep you informed when I finally get around to putting this stuff up and testing it out.

Kerplunk? Kerplooie.

I knew this day was coming. I just thought it would be a little more spectacular and devastating. When I travel for work, I do all I can to bring back new bottles and cans from that place. I have posted before on my Travel Techniques that essentially boil down to wrapping bottles in clothes and putting them into a checked bag (full bottles can’t go in a carry-on bag). Every time I collect my bag at the airport I’m expecting to see it roll out in a big puddle or hear squishing sounds associated with a broken bottle. After my trip to Texas (that I will write about next), I was pleased to find my bag dry and noiseless as usual. But, on the way home I thought I might just be able to smell beer in the car. When I got home and started to unpack I was greeted by the usual “we searched you bag because you have a lot of weird liquids in there” tag from my good friends at the TSA.  

Notice the ugly dark and still wet beer stain on there? It was accompanied by a distinct wet, beer-soaked clothing smell. Fffffffffuuuuuuuuuuuuuudge! Well, I always knew this day was coming. Now the hunt was on to find the smashed bottle without cutting my hand into ribbons. One by one I pull out dry clothes and only slightly damp clothes. Nothing yet.  All of the cans are in tact and in good shape. Every bottle is unbroken and I even start double checking to make sure they are still full. I’m now down to the last bottle packed in the sleeve of my jacket (which is definitely wet wet). I feel the top of the bottle and slowly pull it out. The damn this is unbroken but really really close to empty.  

The best I can figure out is that the cap of the bottle failed and everything game out during the flight. The bottle had a really odd “dented-ish” cap that looked too symmetrical to have been an accident. I just assumed that it was a new kind of cap.  

So, although I lost a beer to the journey, I didn’t get the mass destruction that I thought I would get. What’s more, I can still drink what’s left in the bottle and keep it for the collection. This was certainly the best disaster I could have hoped for. 

To Collect or Not to Collect

I collect beer bottles.  That’s kind of my thing.  But, when you get into the nitty gritty of what that means, what gets collected and what does not?  Do I want to collect only bottles or should I include cans?  Do I only collect beers that I personally drank or should I collect any bottles?  Can a beer be bad enough to skip collecting?  Do home brews have a place in the collection?

In the long run, I can only answer these questions (for myself as much as anyone else) in a way that makes most sense for what I’m trying to accomplish with my collection.  In my collection, I’m telling the story of my life.  That is the driving force behind how I decide what to put in or not put in my collection.  For example, as I have previously mentioned, my collection contains 44 cans from the 1970s that were originally collected by my brother and that I later rescued/stole from the basement.  They are part of the collection because they were (at least indirectly) part of my story. The rest of the beer in my collection are ones that I personally drank because I want to show my story, not simply have a collection of bottles that don’t mean anything to me.

Case in point, I was at a Twin Peaks near the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport and scored a nice metal growler.


The servers offered to all sign the growler (probably looking to score a bigger tip).  My friend Mike tried to talk me out of it, arguing that the growler, in it’s purest form, is what should be in the collection.  At that time, Mike didn’t quite understand the point of the collection.  It isn’t about the value of the bottles.  It’s about telling the story.  This growler is telling the story of when I spent two weeks straight doing research at the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport for work and got to go and hang out with the staff one night.

What about bad/mediocre beers?  The Walmarts of brewing (e.g., Budweiser, Miller, Heineken) are great at putting out different bottles and cans of the same old products.


I could easily overrun the collection with these items.  Rather than avoiding them, I try to add items that are part of the story.  If I get a can or aluminum bottle at an amusement park or concert, it becomes part of the story.  The same thing goes for beer that is downright horrible.


I got these atrocities at a 7-Eleven outside of the Brevard Zoo.  I’m a sucker for new and unique things, so I gave them a shot.  They tasted like watered down kool aid.  But, they are part of the story.  So, they stay in the collection.

Last, but definitely not least, there are home brews.  I have had people share home brews with me and loved the beer.  Make no mistake, I am astoundingly grateful to those people and would like to keep receiving those beers.  However, the bottles were totally without labels and do not tell much of a story.  Therefore, they have not made it into the collection.  In contrast, my friend Billy makes home brews that are fantastic beer and he goes out of his way to create wonderful labels to go with them.


Billy, his family, and his beers are all a big part of my story.  Therefore, the beer has a prominent place in the collection.  If I receive more home brews that have descent looking labels, they would also become part of the collection.

I hope this sheds some light on how and why I collect bottles.  Did I miss anything?  If you have any questions on what I do or do not want to collect, ask in the comments section.  I’d be more than happy to answer any questions.

Leaving on a Jet Plane

Let’s start to discuss the challenges involved with collecting bottles.  One of the great joys of my job is that I get to do a reasonable amount of travel.  This allows me to gather beer from around the country (and rarely around the globe).  When I do this, I want to maximize the amount of bottles I can collect (because, let’s face it, I have a hording issue that just can’t be stopped).  I typically fly (rather than drive) when I’m on work travel, so I had to figure out ways to get bottles and cans back home considering they will be subjected to travel on a plane.  I’m going to spell out very specifically the process that I use.

Disclaimer:  Every time I travel with full beer bottles or cans I do so at risk of dealing with broken bottles.  I understand and accept this risk.  I am not recommending that other people follow this procedure.  If you try the same methods I use and you wind up with broken bottles, I take no responsibility as you are now accepting the same risk that I have already accepted.

Step 1.  Any beer I drink while on-site can travel in my carry on luggage.  If I am going to be somewhere for, let’s say, 3 nights and I manage to get to a store on my first day.  I can plan to drink 2 beers per night while I am there and get 6 bottles or cans in my carry on luggage.  This let’s me buy more than just what I plan to get packed into my checked bag.

Step 2.  Cans travel far better full than empty.  Cans are smaller than bottles and have been brilliantly engineered to sustain all sorts of pressure and impacts when full.  This means I can fit more cans than bottles in my checked luggage.  However, once the cans are empty, all bets are off.  I’ve tried every method I can think of to wrap and protect empty cans in my carry on bags.  None of them work.  Without pressure inside, it’s like trying to protect a tube of paper.  They are going to get crinkled at best.

Step 3.  I bring the right sized luggage.  Let’s look at my travel bags.

Empty travel bags

The checked bag is only 24 inches tall.  I once tried a giant sized carry on bag and found that it went over weight really, really fast.  When packed properly, my 24 inch bag will come in just under the 50 lb (23 kg) weight maximum allowed by most airlines.

Step 4.  I pack light on the way there.  I will take a checked bag and a descent sized gym bag and pack them half full with clothes for the trip.

Bags packed to allow room for beer
Bag with lots of room

This allows plenty of room for the bottles on the way back.  Having the half full gym bag as a carry on also makes for a more enjoyable flying experience (for example, airlines don’t force people to check bags this small when the overhead bins start to fill up).

Step 4. I pack any empty beer bottles/cans in the carry on bag.

Step 5. I use clothing as packing materials for the checked bag.  On my trip back from The Netherlands, I managed to pack 21 full bottles in my checked bag.  Let’s take a look at how I can get that many in there and still somewhat protect the bottles.  I start with the shoes.  They are great protection and hold a bottle each.

Bottle packed in shoe

With pants I start with one bottle, wrap the pants around it and still have plenty of pants left to get a second bottle wrapped up.

Single bottle wrapped in pants
Second bottle wrapped in pants

With shoes and 3 pair of pants, we’re already at 8 bottles in the bag.

8 bottles packed

Now I can use shirts to wrap 1 bottle each.

Bottle wrapped in shirt

This brings us to 10 bottles for the bottom layer of the bag.

10 bottle packed in bag

To use socks, I put a bottle inside a sock, fold the sock over and then put that inside the second sock of the pair.  So, 1 pair of socks will wrap 1 bottle or can.

Bottle in first layer of first sock
Bottle in second layer of first sock
Bottle in pair of socks

I keep doing this across the top layer of the bag and I am now at 21 beers.

Bag packed with 21 bottles

Coming back from The Netherlands, this bag weighed 22 kg.  This put me in quite a panic for a minute as everything at Schiphol airport was automated and I was too tired and stressed out to calculate how many pounds that was in my head.  Fortunately, I noticed a plaque that indicated the maximum was 23 kg.  I got to the airport quite early, so I imagine my bag was low down in the stack of luggage that got put on the plane.  As you can see in the picture below, I think the stacks of luggage were pretty high.

Plane being packed with cargo

I don’t use any more padding than wrapping the bottles and cans in clothing.  I don’t put additional layers of clothing on the top or bottom of the bag.  I simply wrap bottles up in clothes.  I cannot begin to grok how this system works and why I have yet to return to a beer soaked piece of luggage.  I think that, like many occupations, we often give airline baggage handlers a harsher rap than they deserve.

OK.  This was a long post, but I get asked about this a lot.  In addition, it is a critical challenge in collecting bottles.  I’m interested to hear if there are other people out there doing the same thing and what their solutions might be.  Let me know.