The Grotto

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Category Archives: The Bar

Pool Table

When I first saw the basement in this house, even though I wasn’t quite sure where the theater would go, I had a good idea that a pool table could fit in this spot. I’ve wanted one since we built our first house over twenty years ago—a small 1,100 foot ranch in the suburbs of Denver that had a large unfinished basement that I had planned to make a sports bar. Sadly, we were transferred to Florida less than a year after moving into that house. And houses in Florida do not have basements, so my dreams of sports, bar, and pool table were put on hold.

In our last house, I was thinking I might be able to fit a table into that basement, but as I drew out plans, I couldn’t find any space that would work, as an eight foot table needs a rather large room, and the widest I could get any room was twelve feet, which couldn’t even fit a seven foot table.

As a substitute, I was tempted to put a foosball table in, but that bar game always needs at least two people, and I didn’t think that either Mary nor Dobry would stay interested in it enough to justify the cost.

With a pool table, I don’t need an opponent, but can shoot a few games by myself, so if Mary or Dobry’s interest wanes, I’ve still got the ability to enjoy it.

We had been looking at used tables at some local games rooms stores, but most of the used tables seemed overpriced for home-use tables. And while we found some very nice new tables, I couldn’t justify spending several thousand dollars (the one I really wanted was $7k) on something that at best, I could expect to sell for maybe a grand if I ever wanted to get rid of it.

At a recent party, one of our guests mentioned that he has friends who were downsizing, and had a pool table that they might be selling. A photo was texted a couple of days later of an older table that I recognized as a Brunswick Monticello II, a very high-quality table made in the mid 70s using the same frame, but different legs, as Brunswick’s top-of-the-line Gold Crown, a table that’s used in professional tournaments around the world. After looking at it in person, we struck a very happy deal.

Category Archives: The Bar


floor01I‘ve got 800 square feet of ½” bamboo flooring to install. Mary has been a bit impatient with it, as it took two weeks from the time we ordered it until it was delivered, then another two weeks for it to sit in the house, acclimating. The place from where we bought it delivered it to the garage; Mary carried most of it to the ground floor* one box at a time as this stuff is heavy. Seriously—800 square feet was over 1,000 kilos.


floor02The bamboo is being laid in the tavern room, the billiard room, and on the riser in the theater. I’ll also have enough left over (I hope) for the future bathroom. On the main level in the theater, I’m framing the room with three courses of the bamboo, with carpeting in the center.




floor04After getting the bamboo up to the bar, I took a vacation day to get the rest knocked out in the tavern and billiard room. It took the entire day to get that last bit done, and another full day to get the riser done in the theater, which included milling custom bullnose trim.









* We’ve decided to call this floor our ground floor instead of a basement, as the floor is two feet above grade in the back of the house, is flooded with natural light, and has a ceiling height that is taller than the top floor of our house, with the exception of our master bedroom. Pretentious? Maybe.

Category Archives: The Bar

My Bar ≠ A Kitchen

primer07I don’t like home bars that look like a kitchen. Oh, I understand the appeal of that type to a builder or a contractor—the construction is familiar, the materials are common, and it’s trivial to install some base cabinets along a half wall, top them with a granite countertop, then put another slab of granite atop the half wall, and call it a home bar.

But I’ve never been in a pub with a bar that looks like that. I don’t want trivial or common. I want a familiar, comfortable place where I can sit with a drink and watch a game or converse with friends and family. Sitting in a kitchen makes me want to dice carrots, not shake a cocktail.

barwoodroughThis bar is starting with a half-wall, but that’s where the similarities to most contractor-built home bars end. For this almost-fifteen-foot bar, I bought 110 board feet of rough #1 common 4/4 walnut from a local lumber yard. Many commercial custom cabinet makers shy away from the common grades as it’s difficult to get a uniform appearance in cabinets and doors due to it’s lower yield, knots, holes, sapwood, flame, and burl. And in a large custom kitchen with custom cabinets, a uniform appearance is rather important.

barwoodmatchBut I’m not making a kitchen; I’m building a bar.

In addition to being quite a bit less expensive than firsts and seconds, a number of these slabs were hewn from the same part of the same tree, which means that with some careful planning, I can bookmatch some of the panels, putting the imperfections and irregularities to my advantage, including some of the wood that’s highly figured crotch burl. Box columns will separate the panels.









barwoodmakeThe raised panels are made up of two matched pieces glued together to make a twenty-inch wide panel that are then cut to length (33 ⅜”) and milled on my shaper with an ogee raised panel bit. The stiles and rails are milled with a similar ogee stile and rail bit that reverses to cut the matching copes on the ends of the stiles.

The stiles, rails and panels are dry assembled, no glue, so the panels will be able to move as the weather/humidity changes, and so small adjustments can be made as the whole bar is assembled. The rails are screwed from behind to the half-wall framing, with the stiles and panels able to float freely. The columns hold everything in place. No screws or nails are used from the front of the bar, so there are no patches, plugs, or filler.

barwoodallpanelsOnce the bar front and sides are fully assembled and poly’d, I’ll be able to install the flooring. The bases of the columns will go over the top of the flooring. I’ll be making shallow cabinets for under the bar that will also go on top of the finished floor. The bar back will be built as two pieces of free-standing furniture that’ll go on either side of the white column behind the bar.

barwoodfacesideA TV will be mounted on the column, which has reinforced framing to hold the weight. Five in-ceiling speakers will be placed in the room, with a 10-inch subwoofer handling the lows.

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