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Cedar Fence Picket Outdoor Bar / Countertop

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Picture of Cedar Fence Picket Outdoor Bar / Countertop
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I love cooking and hanging with friends. I especially love grilling. So I finally decided to design and build an outdoor counter top for all my grilling prep work (someone makes me chop my onions outside)...oh...and I added a bar top as well. Best thing, since I used fence pickets we are talking less than $100. It can be made even cheaper if you use standard painted outdoor screws and don't seal it. Without a sealer cedar will gray naturally and cedar is naturally weather resistant, but I wanted mine to maintain the original color of the wood. Hopefully the sealer I chose will last.

So if you have a free day and need an outdoor prep work / gathering area read on.

As you can see from the pictures and sketches I wanted this bar to be open and appear like a split-rail fence from the front. Mainly I chose this approach to give spiders fewer hiding places. Using less wood has caused one problem. If you are standing on the bar side and pull on the bar top it will tip forward since the base doesn't weigh as much as most bars. I have come up with a few options to remedy this; weight of some sort on the bottom shelf or kickers between the legs and the ground beneath the bar top. Hopefully by the end of this "ible" I will have figured out a solution.

If you chose to take on this project remember you can make it your own. For instance you may rather completely enclose the fronts and sides with paneling, beadboard, or cover with bamboo. Make it your own. If you have an idea but not sure how to apply it let me know and I'll try to help.

Forewarning: I try to explain my instructables so anyone can build them... hopefully. But in doing so I can get long winded. If you are an experienced woodworker you can probably follow the cut list and sketches without the detailed explanations. On the other hand if anyone sees a detail I left out or if you have a question just comment or message me and I'll be glad to help.

DISCLAIMER: Due to a recent comment this instructable recieved I figured I would address it here. This is an outdoor project. Wood exposed to the elements can cup or curl or twist. However, cedar is one of the more resilient woods to resist these effects. But as my new bar weathers if anything needs redesigning or fixing I will address it here in this instructable with updates
 
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chuckyd3 months ago

I believe you are going to have trouble with this. Cupping and curling will be one problem, and racking another.

You need more than one screw per end to prevent cupping. For the narrower boards, two fasteners will do, while the wider ones need three.

To prevent racking you need either wide, solid panels, or cross bracing, in both directions.

mejones (author)  chuckyd3 months ago
While I agree outdoor wood can warp cedar is one of the better woods for resisting this. Also as long as it isn't severe it will just add to the rustic look. Currently as built with the rails instead of cross braces it does not rack. I agree this was my biggest concern when designing and my backup plan was to replace the center rail with 2 rails in the shape of an X. Actually the best solution for racking and my tippy problem would be to install full panels of some sort (plywood etc) on the front and sides but in order to keep its openness and all cedar build these are two compromises I made. I guess you could fill the front and sides with the rails touching each other from top to bottom. If it starts racking as it weathers I will simply install L brackets in the corners between the legs and the bottom of the counter and between the legs and the top of the bottom shelf. The only place I used one screw was in the counter top boards; however, there are 2 brads in each location at the edges of the picket where you find that one screw in the center. If it were to begin to cup I will simply add more screws. If an outdoor project had to stay perfect as built we would just have to stop building them out of wood. Thanks for your comment hopefully it will help someone building this to not make the same mistakes I did.
jonathanwheat3 months ago

This is great, I have a cedar deck, and this will look amazing, thanks for posting. Now I have a weekend project (that will no doubt last for the next few weekends :)

jhawkins143 months ago
This is a fantastic project. I'd like to make one of these now. I smiled when I read your warning. Deciding how much detail to provide in explaining a woodworking project is a challenge. I thought you handled that very well.
mejones (author)  jhawkins143 months ago
Thanks J. Its always hard to know how much to explain. Some knowledge we take for granted and think is common. But most of the time it is a direct reflection of lessons learned growing up. I grew up with a handy dad and granddad so so I was lucky. The reason I like doing these instructables is to share that knowledge with others.