I 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.
This 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.
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.
The 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.
Once 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.