H-CENTRAL COAST

Nov 2, 2012 7:38 PM by Jeanette Trompeter

Local Machinist gets a handle on success of Firestone Walker Brewery

A local machinist is tapping into Firestone Walker Brewing Company's quest to "keep it local". He's making custom hand-milled aluminum tap handles for the popular "805" beer.

Jacob Gagnon of Central Machine & Tool crafts each aluminum "805" tap handle by hand in the family-owned machine shop tucked into a small industrial building near downtown Paso Robles.

To date, Gagnon has made nearly 1,000 custom handles for "805," a blonde ale that is now available at bars and restaurants across the 805 area code in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. Gagnon says that it takes two or more weeks to produce just 50 tap handles. The handles are manually milled one piece at a time. These are the first tap handles that Gagnon has ever produced.

To create each handle, Gagnon begins with raw aluminum and personally machines each piece with a manual "knee mill." The aluminum is then anodized, giving it a crisp protective sheen. Once the pieces are finished, Gagnon sends them down to Gary Wemple Silkscreening in San Luis Obispo, where the 805 logo is silk-screened onto each panel.

Central Machine & Tool was established by Gagnon's father and mother, Lee and Marcia Gagnon, in 1980. Gagnon grew up in the family business, and by the age of 15 he was helping produce parts for missile guidance systems. Today, Central Machine & Tool remains a small family operation with Gagnon doing nearly all of the work. His specialties include sanitary fittings for winery equipment and custom parts for hot rods.

"Making these tap handles has been a cool experience for me," he says. "Most of my creations are hidden away in a winery or under the hood of a hot rod. So it's different for me to go out and see my work displayed in so many public places. My friends up and down the coast take photos at bars and send them to me. It's a lot of fun."

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