How to Build a Club Bar Part 4 of 5 Install the Bar Top

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Owning your own in-house bar makes a statement about you. For some, it might say “I have arrived and this is my space!”


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Owning your own in-house bar makes a statement about you. For some, it might say “I have arrived and this is my space!” While for others a bar might say “Welcome, friends, our home is your home.” And for others, well, let’s just say the possibilities are fairly wide-ranging. But whatever story your bar tells—be it one of quiet aperitifs before dining, casual afternoons watching the big game, or raucous evenings of wild revelry—building your bar yourself personalizes the tale and adds a feature to your home that will have a direct impact on how well you enjoy your home life.
The bar shown here is sleekly styled and smartly laid out for the efficient barkeeper. A small refrigerator gives you access to cold drinks and ice while convenient cabinets create excellent storage spots for party favors.
While this is a “dry bar” (no plumbing), the design could be modified in any number of ways to add running water if you wish. All you need to get the party started is a GFCI electrical outlet and the proper floor space.
This compact corner bar design features glossy black MDF aprons with decorative cherry appliqués forming a horizontal grid pattern on the aprons. A cherry plywood bartop sits atop a 2 x 6 L-shaped kneewall, harboring some practical amenities on the bartender side. A flip-up lift gate in the bartop on one end provides pass-through access and can even function as a wait station if you want to get really fancy in your hosting
The key components—base cabinets, a laminate countertop, the fridge, and the wood for a sleek Asian-inspired style trim-out—set the stage for your next gathering. Let’s party.

Cutting List
11⁄2 x 5 1⁄2 x 68"
2 x 6

11⁄2 x 5 1⁄2 x 38"
2 x 6

3⁄4 x 16 1⁄2 x 80"
Cherry plywood

Bar substrate
3⁄4 x 16 1⁄2 x 80"

Bar substrate
3⁄4 x 16 1⁄2 x 65 1⁄4"

Lift gate
3⁄4 x 16 1⁄2 x 22 1⁄4"
Cherry plywood

Bartop trim
3⁄4 x 1 1⁄2" x cut to fit

End cap
3⁄4 x 7 3⁄4 x 41"

Trim stiles
3⁄4 x 1 1⁄2 x 41"

Trim rails
3⁄4 x 1 1⁄2 x cut to fit

Countertop cleat
1 1⁄2 x 1 1⁄2 x 22"
2 x 2

Lift gate stop block
3⁄4 x 1 1⁄2 x 18"

1⁄2 x 40 1⁄2 x 68 3⁄4"

1⁄2 x 40 1⁄2 x 68 3⁄4"

From: Complete Guide to Custom Shelves & Built-Ins, 978-1-58923-303-4

What You'll Need


Miter saw
Table saw
Circular saw
Stud finder
Pull saw
Flat bar
Pneumatic nailer/compressor
Combination square


(10) 2 x 6" x 8 ft. SPF
(1) 3/4 x 4 x 8 cherry plywood for bartop
(1) 3/4 x 4 x 8 particleboard
(2) 6 ft. strips 1/2 x 16" cement board
20 sq. ft. 4 x 4 wall tile
Thinset and grout
3/4" thick cherry- 2 @8 x 42" (actual)
3/4 x 1 1/2" cherry approx 80 lineal ft.
(2) 1/2" x 4 x 8 ft. MDF
36" base cabinet- corner (12" wide doors)
24" base cabinet
Refrigerator (19w 22d 32-3/4" h)
Postform countertop
(mitered, 6 ft. each leg)
16d common nails
Panel adhesive
11/2" wallboard screws
Finish nails (4d, 6d)
Finishing materials
Piano hinge


Step 1

Install the Bartop

The bartop installed here is made of a particleboard subbase that's thoroughly bonded and screwed to the top plates of the kneewall. A cherry plywood top layer then is attached to the narrow particleboard subbase. The subbase is laid out with a butt joint at the corner for ease and for strength, but for a more refined appearance the plywood top is mitered at the corner. When 3/4"-thick cherry edging is added on all sides, the bartop grows to a finished width of 18" (a normal countertop, such as the bartender’s countertop on the cabinets below, is 25" wide).

Step 2

Attach the Particleboard

Rip the particleboard to 16 1/2" wide and then crosscut it to length (one piece is longer so they can be butted together). Attach the strips to the top plates of the kneewalls using panel adhesive and countersunk deck screws. Make sure to align the subbase strips carefully. They should overhang the kneewalls by roughly 6" in front and 4" in back.

Step 3

Secure the Subbase to the Walls

Once you have both subbase parts arranged perfectly, drive 2" deck screws through the subbase and into the bar wall. Be very generous here. If you can’t get the screw heads to seat beneath the surface of the subbase, drill counter-sunk pilot holes.

Step 4

Miter Cut the Bartop Top Layer

Cut the cherry plywood sheet into 16 1/2" wide strips, then cut mating miter joints at the ends. Take care here: most hardwood plywood has one side that is much nicer, so be sure the cuts are made so the correct faces will be facing up when the bartop is installed. A circular saw with a sharp panel-cutting blade and a straightedge guide may be used to make these cuts.

Step 5

Laminate the Top Layer of Cherry Plywood to the Subbase

Attach the top layer of cherry plywood to the subbase with panel adhesive and 11/4" wallboard screws driven up through the subbase and into the underside of the plywood layer. Make sure the mitered corner fits together correctly before applying any adhesive or cutting the plywood strips to length (Tip: Wait until the plywood layer is attached to the subbase to cut the strip on the free end to length. That way, you can cut it and the subbase at the same time and ensure that they are exactly flush).

Step 6

Cut and Attach Roundover Profile to the Bartop

Check to make sure the edges of the glued-up bartop are smooth and flat, and sand with a belt sander if they are out of alignment or there is a lot of glue squeeze-out (use fine grit sandpaper to help prevent any splintering of the veneer layer). Mount a 1/2" to 3/4" roundover bit in a router or router table and cut roundover profiles along one edge of the 1 x 2 stock you dressed to use for bartop edging. Attach the edging strips to the countertop with glue, 4d finish nails driven into pilot holes, and plenty of pipe clamps or bar clamps. Make sure the tops of the edging boards are flush with or slightly higher than the plywood surface. If necessary, sand the edging until it is flush after you remove the clamps. At the open countertop end, extend the edging 3/4" past the end of the glued-up layers.

Step 7

Edging, Sanding & Varnishing the Bartop

Cut a piece of 1 x 2 edging to fit between the ends of the edging on the open end of the countertop and attach it with glue and finish nails. Sand all wood surfaces. Apply multiple coats of very durable, glossy polyurethane varnish to achieve a protective built-up finish. Also paint the underside of the bartop black where it is visible. Build the lift gate section of the countertop as well and finish it the same way, except make it from two layers of cherry plywood and apply a clear finish to both faces.



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