Tyler Morris Woodworking Blog

Flight Paddle Evolution story


What makes our flight paddles unique are the acrylic, shallow cups that we adhere into the bottom of the drilled wood holes.  This feature allows us to add a burst of color into the wood board.  But, most importantly, allows for easy clean up of the holes or "reservoirs."  And like all of our wood products, they are expertly sanded to perfection.

The Back Story

In 2010, a local brewery came to us because the reservoirs in their wood beer flight paddles had turned nasty and black due to mold.  They asked us to come up with a better alternative to cure their mold problem.  At the start, we concluded, based upon our collective woodworking experience, that whenever beer sits in a wood reservoir for an inevitable, extended time, it will break down any wood finish.  So, we set out to design a sampler tray in which the beer glass does not sit in a wooden reservoir.  We decided to make a couple prototypes in which each had a piece of wood with a hole drilled all the way through it so that residual beer does not collect and sit in a wood hole.  Admittedly, we desired to re-design a couple existing product designs that were available on the market. 

The first prototype was simply a flight paddle with through holes.  When on a table, the glasses- they have to be tapered- sit on the table's surface.  When one needs to carry the glasses, he or she lifts the paddle and it will hug the tapered glasses about mid-glass.  We concluded that this design is inherently non-ergonomic and cannot be improved upon. 

The second prototype was a four part assembly that had a top piece containing the through holes.  The glasses slid through the holes and stood upon the bottom piece.  This design provides the most "security" for the glasses, however it is a rather complex design and therefore more expensive.  Also, a brewery representative told me that the top piece of wood is a "visual distraction upon the full tasting experience." So, again we concluded that this design could not be improved upon.

So, the next day back in 2010, I told the brewery that we cannot make a durable, ergonomic, cost effective flight paddle. I then boldly expressed that they should have their current wood design produced in black acrylic.  They were unhappy with me and insisted that they wanted them out of wood and would seek help from another company.  On a further note: I visited the brewery six months later and all their flight paddles were made of black acrylic.

Fast Forward to 2016

In the Spring of 2016, New Belgium Brewing, in my hometown of Fort Collins, Colorado, asked us to design and make them 150 flight paddles out of wood.  We were their go-to-guys for production woodworking, so I didn't want to give them an immediate "no."  And that's when it finally occurred to me; we need to marry the two materials, acrylic and wood!  We now have the ability to create any size acrylic cup in just about any color.  Plus, we can laser engrave an image into the handle.


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