A Sign for the Balvenie Craft Bar

scottish distillery

The Balvenie Distillery, Dufftown, Scotland

The distilling of whisky has always been a craft, but The Balvenie claims the title of the most handcrafted of all Scottish whiskys. Everything from the farming of the barley to the making of the barrels is done by hand, in the traditional way. Perhaps that’s reason enough for hosting an event dedicated to craft-work. Earlier this month, six skilled artisans and a select group of whisky aficionados converged for ‘The Balvenie Craft Bar’. It was held at Zenith Interiors, in Melbourne.

We have a natural affinity with artisans who still ply their trade as they have done for decades. We’re extremely excited to be working with these craftspeople who share the same values as The Balvenie.

– Sam ‘Dr Whisky’ Simmons, The Balvenie Global Brand Ambassador


Craft Bar invitation

The official invitation to the event

Of course, an event like this needed a handcrafted sign as well. Andrew Shannon, from The Balvenie contacted us and asked for a sign that was made of wood, traditional in design, and most importantly, was hand-crafted.

Below are a few images of the sign being made.

New Guinea Rosewood Sign Panel

We started by making a panel from two pieces of New Guinea Rosewood, source from our local lumberyard.

sandblasted sign

After applying a rubberised mask, the sign was sandblasted.

sandblasted sign detail

Originally, we had planned to follow-up the sandblasting by texturing the background areas with gouges. After seeing the how beautiful the grain turned out, however, we discussed the options with Andrew Shannon and decided to leave the raw sandblasted texture. The woodgrain had textured so beautifully, it would be a shame to gouge it away!

tablesaw sign

The sign panel was then cut down to size.

sign panel jointer edges

We smoothed the edges with the jointer

bandsaw sign inverse corners

and cut the inverse corners with the band-saw

belt sander sign edges

Geordie finished the edges on the belt sander, to remove any remaining saw marks.

sandblasted sign mask peeling

Next, he peeled back the sandblast mask, revealing the smooth areas beneath.

sanding a sign

A good once-over with a sanding block took care of any small splinters or dents on the raised areas of the sign.

cove edge wood sign

Next, a cove edge was cut into the front.

wood sign chamfer edge

And a chamfer (bevel) into the back edge of the sign

Now that the machining was finished, we embarked on the next step – staining the sign. In keeping with Australian pioneer tradition, we decided to use the natural colour of grass tree resin to give the panel a warm, deep-brown hue.

grass tree northern nsw

Being in rural New South Wales, it didn’t take long to find a grass tree on the property.

grass tree resin

Look on the ground next to any grass tree and you will almost certainly find chunks of resin that have fallen off the trunk. Here is one such piece.

resin in a jar

We collected a few pieces of resin in a jar.

home-made grass tree stain

Next, we added a few drams of pure Balvenie scotch. Just kidding, it was actually isopropyl alcohol.

home-made stain

Immediately, the resin started working its magic.

home-made stain

A good shake helped to accelerate the process.

stain filter

Next, the stain was filtered.


…and applied.

sign stain

Nice & thick!

wiping stain off sign

Finally, we wiped away the excess stain.

wood sign for The Balvenie Craft Bar

And the sign was finished!

We shipped the sign to Melbourne to take its place at the Balvenie Craft Bar. Here are a few photos of the event:

wood sign in melbourne window

Wooden Sign for the Balvenie Craft Bar in Melbourne

(image courtesy of Whisky & Alement)

melbourne whisky bar

(image courtesy of The World Loves Melbourne)

Guitar Parts

Some of Tim Kill‘s craft work

A display of handcrafted guitars

And the finished products in use!

artisan cheese in Melbourne

Homemade Cheese by Nick Haddow (image courtesy of Milk Bar Mag)

Blavenie Craft Bar

(image courtesy of Milk Bar Mag)

The Balvenie Craft Bar

(image courtesy of Whisky & Alement)

Sandblasted Wooden Sign in Melbourne

The sign stands in the window of Zenith Interiors (image courtesy of Milk Bar Mag)

Sandblasted Wood Sign

3 thoughts on “A Sign for the Balvenie Craft Bar

  1. Another wonderful handcrafted work of art, Don. When I was a boy my father used to install and maintain pipework in the distilleries around Speyside. One summer school holidays he took me with him on a trip to the north of Scotland to accompany him doing this work. It was a tradition at the end of the day that the distillery would provide him with a generous dram. I was only about 10 then, so missed out on the dram. Wish I could go back now. lol

  2. My new personal favorite is Caribbean Cask. Very smooth! My next favorite is Doublewood. Love Balvenie.

  3. Great story, Fred! You might have to wait for another ‘craft bar’ event on this side of the world. Thanks for the feedback, Carnis.

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