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A Look Inside Dana Paul’s Custom Tamper Workshop

by Liz Clark

Liz Clark is the Finger Lakes Regional Manager and Trainer for Gimme! Coffee in Ithaca, NY. She loves seeing people getting excited about what they’re drinking and what they’re serving, and connecting people’s passions to coffee. She also creates custom perfumes and finds nothing better than drinking coffee while sailing her sunfish. 

Dana Paul tamper workshop

Competitive barista Lanny Huang and I recently went to visit the shop of Dana Paul, the man who has been custom making Barista Championship tampers over the past few years. Dana is on a quest to create a tools that best fit baristas, eliminating the concessions required for a one-size-fits-all instrument, and allowing baristas to fully immerse themselves in their craft.

When I first got to know Dana, he was absolutely enamored by the precision, focus and passion demonstrated by skilled baristas — not to mention the delicious end product of their work. He already had hours of observational notes regarding how people were tamping, the shape their hand was taking, and their precise motions. He then began combining information to look at how to fit a tamper to a hand combined with personal preferences of each barista.

Dana_woodpile

This is where it starts: the playground. It’s not just fit, form, and function. Dana looks for the sweet spot where the wood reveals it’s unique beauty. Similar to what drives baristas when dialing in a coffee.

Dana_reflective

This is the Jatoba wood that was used to make Lanny’s tamper. When cut at the right angle the wood as a holographic effect, where it fluctuates between a deep burgundy and a warm light brown.

The fitting process starts with a Barista trying out several different tampers for size and shape, looking for a good start on what they like and don’t like. Dana also measures four points on the hand: the length of palm to forefinger, center of palm to pinky, length of palm to end of middle and the space between the two fleshy mounds on the back of the palm. He keeps a record of hand shapes and sizes and hopes to find correlations from palm measurements to tamper design, making long distance custom tamper work more efficiently.

Dana Paul Custom Tampers

Dana has a passion for deciphering the puzzles involved in creating a beautiful, functional piece. It’s not just a clean inlay — it’s the direction of the grain in relation to the rest of the wood. He makes custom tools and jigs for each tamper. One series of inlays had a dizzying number of rotations and cuts that Dana says he couldn’t duplicate if he tried. The end goal: to create a beautiful tool that will be appreciated by someone who brings the same level of passion toward their craft.

Dana_uncut

Comment

3 Comments

Brandon Marshall

These are gorgeous. His inlay work is something to look up to. I love working with wood and am now following his tumbler for inspiration in the future.

Jason

Man, those sure are stunning!!!!

I’d like to request for one? Do you perhaps make these in metal with art work and a gold ring?

Greg Simms

Hey Dana,

I sent you a little, quirky comment months ago (maybe over a year or so) and you responded. I apologize that I did not write something more significant to you. But I do thank you for responding. But anyway, I was just wondering how you were doing and would like to establish at least some form of communication with you again. Even if it is only sparse.

You were very influential in my life and I never really got to tell you. I just wanted to thank you for all your patience and humility for allowing me to play with you and my dad. I really appreciate, too, that you were so willing to partner with him because he loved to sing so very much!

Your talents were inspirational to me; and your personality was both endearing and encouraging (to me and to many others, I’m sure).

But anyway, I just wanted to reach out and respectfully try again. Not that I meant any disrespect in the earlier contact, but just that I may simply try again with more effort. This life is a busy one, for sure.

I miss you sometimes and wonder about stuff. You might have a better understanding of the memories than I do since I was so young and impressionable. But I did appreciate you and I wanted you to know that.

Your friend,
Greg Simms

(I liked it when you used to call me, “cousin.”)

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