Introduction: Concrete and Beach Glass Bar

Picture of Concrete and Beach Glass Bar

This was my second concrete project. First I made some simple rectangular counter-tops for an outdoor barbecue set-up. These can be seen in the second picture. That went pretty well so I felt prepared for something a little more challenging. I wanted to add a bar to the outdoor kitchen, but an inconveniently placed structural pillar meant that I would have to get creative with the shape. I decided on a shape that echoed a "freaky" 1950's Gibson Guitar. This would allow the post to sit in the notch of the V of the table and also the taper of the bar top would allow enough room for people to gather on either side of the bar.

Step 1: Making the Form

Picture of Making the Form

Working from Cheng's brilliant guidebook "Concrete Countertops" I made the form using melamine board. For safety I opted for curved ends, rather than the sharp angles of the Gibson. This initially posed a problem, but I was able to get the curves that I wanted by using different diameters of PVC pipe. I cut this to the correct angle and held it in place with backing blocks of melamine. Then plasticine was used to protect the screw heads from concrete and facilitate dismantling the form. All seams were caulked with black silicone (easier to see than white) and smoothed to the rounded profile that I wanted for the top edges.

Over the years, living on a boat, my wife had accumulated lots of interesting beach glass, which sat unnoticed in a jar in the kitchen. This project would allow us to show it off! I was looking for a look that emulated the shoreline - where beach glass is found - with the sea on one side of the table and sand on the other. Since we live on the water the "sea" side would naturally face the water.

I drew a wavy line to guide the "shoreline" and sprinkled beach glass along the line.

Step 2: Concrete, Fiber Feathers and Colorant

Picture of Concrete, Fiber Feathers and Colorant

Next it was off to the hardware store for supplies. I strongly recommend reading Cheng's book as the formulation of the mix is pretty important and some of the additives needed were not easily found. We were able to buy the colorant online, and a friend in the business hooked us up with fiber and water reducer. All of these products are also available from Cheng's website.

The next decision was where to pour the concrete. I was doing this job solo, working with two different colors of concrete and the job site was down two flights of stairs from where I planned to mix the concrete. These logistics had me concerned that I would not have time to manually mix the needed amount of concrete, so I found a well used mixer on Craigslist for $150. (After the job was finished I later sold it on CL for $160). The finished table would be too heavy for me to move or lift solo, so I set up the form as close to the installation location as possible. I bought a bunch of buckets to transport the concrete mix down the stairs.

Mix components were calculated based on the working capacity of the mixer and colorant in particular had to be carefully measured to ensure each small batch was consistent in color.

Step 3: Mixing and Pouring

Picture of Mixing and Pouring

These pictures show me packing the concrete mix in, trying to fill all the corners of the mold/form while not displacing the rebar mesh. In retrospect I think my mix was a little stiff, and even after an hour or so of vibrating the mold with an orbital sander I was still getting bubbles and had a number of small voids in the finished table. I was able to fill these holes with a skim coat of cement before polishing.

Step 4: Finishing/Polishing

Picture of Finishing/Polishing

My only significant tool investment for this project was a Makita Stone Polisher and diamond polishing pads. The first picture shows the ladder frame that I built to support the bar top with the completed bar top still in the mold in the background. The 6" X 8" posts supporting the bar top are through-bolted to the deck joists below the deck. The next picture shows the bar top straight out of the mold and before any polishing. I installed the bar top before polishing since it would be at the perfect height for working. I gradually worked my way through the progressively finer pads and worked most heavily on the water/sand interface where I revealed the beach glass. Finally I sealed the surface with several coats of sealer.

Step 5: Before and After

Picture of Before and After

This view is looking down on the project from the top floor of the house. The first picture shows the original deck just after an old fiberglass spa had been removed from the 25 year old cedar decking. As can be seen I expanded the deck area and replaced the cedar with Ipe decking. The outdoor kitchen counter (three pieces) was my first attempt at concrete work and was left natural color.


jasonsj (author)2015-01-23

Great job! I'd love to learn more about these concrete tops since I need to build my kitchen sink and the stone top is really expensive for me to buy it, plus I need a carpenter to build the whole furniture for the top. so a DIY sink top would be GREAT! I love the glass on on yours and the way the water side let you see the sand through it along the cost. it really looks like the beach!!!

MorelloMonster (author)2016-07-10

woah dude. your posts are the first ive looked at on Instructables - dude. Awesome work. What state do you live in? I love the multi-level living.

KateS52 (author)2015-12-20

Wow! You did a beautiful job. I like your instructions too and the advice.

KateS52 (author)2015-12-20

Wow! You did a beautiful job. I like your instructions too and the advice.

ThingEngineer (author)2015-02-01

I am 100% doing this! Great instructable, thank you so much for the write up and detail.

redrooster (author)2015-01-09

Could you use silicon spheres to make the concrete thinner and lighter? I new a guy who used to use it for decorative concrete projects. Maybe put the whole thing on a washing machine on fast spin cycle to vibrate out the bubbles and voids?

danzo321 (author)redrooster2015-01-24

Silica spheres you mean? = glass. Being very light, they will float to the top when vibrated. A washing machine really won't do it, you might get/borrow a real air-driven vibrator which you clamp or bolt to the mold. Use while the mold is resting on a rubber mat of some kind.

AlanTeed (author)redrooster2015-01-24

Re: Silicone spheres I guess so but have no knowledge on that. I would hesitate before putting a a 400lb plus concrete form on top of a washing machine but it would indeed be an interesting experiment. I suggest you video it for You Tube fame :)

woodNfish (author)2015-01-19

Nice upgrade to your deck! That kitchen you put in looks VERY heavy. I hope you have plenty of reinforcement on the deck joists to carry the weight. Your bar top looks beautiful. Nice job!

AlanTeed (author)woodNfish2015-01-24

Concern noted! Before the kitchen was installed that area supported a fibreglass spa so the area underneath was reinforced to take the weight of spa/water/people. I believe - although I have not calculated - that my kitchen weighs less than this (the stone if veneer not solid).

cybermrc (author)2015-01-12

I love this. Did you put any threaded J-hooks in the bottom of table top for mounting it to your supports? Thanks for the awesome instructable.

AlanTeed (author)cybermrc2015-01-24

No. It is simply glued to the supporting frame with Liquid Nails.

holgerm.murk (author)2014-12-29

I wonder if one could build a guitar body with the same technique?

AlanTeed (author)holgerm.murk2014-12-29

Absolutely you can ! It will be pretty heavy :)

Ferd64 (author)AlanTeed2015-01-08

Use it to play rock music ;-)

ndr1968 (author)Ferd642015-01-09

I have to point out that the guitar style used as a model for this is from circa mid '70's to early '80's. Not the '50's.

AlanTeed (author)ndr19682015-01-24

I appreciate the correction!

then youcould really "rock out"!


omikeo (author)2015-01-08

looks great, holding the ipa too i see, is there a minimum thickness ? i have a wooden kitchen table i'd like to go over as thin as possible, thanks

AlanTeed (author)omikeo2015-01-24

I would get cheng's book as he goes into considerable length about minimum thickness and use of rebar etc.

Quizicat (author)2015-01-08

Nice work. Looks really great! How much did the polisher and pads cost? Have you had any problems with staining on the BBQ surround (fat and such)?

AlanTeed (author)Quizicat2015-01-24

No problems with staining. I sealed the surfaces with an outdoor quality stone sealer which I expect to have to renew every three years.

e-beth (author)2015-01-08

What if you were to put rocks in the concrete? Could you bring those down to be a smooth surface with the concrete? I mean rocks about 2-4 inches.

AlanTeed (author) e-beth2015-01-24

You could but you would probably want to slice the rocks first and put the flat side down on bottom of the mold. Otherwise the rock will be mostly buried in the concrete mix and when you start to expose it (by grinding away the top surface of the concrete) you will only expose the 'peaks' of the rock(s).

danzo321 (author)2015-01-08

I like it! Concrete takes the texture of whatever surface it is cast against (until it starts to erode from weather) so glass gives you glass-smooth.

AlanTeed (author)danzo3212015-01-24

Yes that is so, but in my case, in order to expose the glass I ground the top (and the sides for that matter) with a wet stone polisher - so ultimately the mold surface did not affect the result.

danzo321 (author)2015-01-08

Sounds like you were using superplasticizer - yes? That should let you work with low water content and have a time window when you could slush the crete in and vibrate before it turns back to being too stiff.

AlanTeed (author)danzo3212015-01-24

Yes I used a plasticizer and a water reducer.

ooohlaa (author)2015-01-08

wow, this is just fabulous ... when I lived on the Big Island I had a beach glass fixation and I used to make pavers out of them and sell at craft shows ... but the mixing was so strenuous plus hard to sell to tourists due to the weight. I eventually gave it up but this came out wonderful and is a great outlet for the beachcomber in all of us. I read Cheng's book and studied some of it, he is a Master. Highly recommended.

AmyInNH (author)ooohlaa2015-01-13

I would think selling to a garden center would be easier. People are often looking for something unique for their gardens.

HappyToBeAlive (author)2015-01-12

Cool house.Cooler Bar n BBQ area! VERY cool instructable!

thundrepance (author)2015-01-09

that is beautiful, & so very cool, too! great job, alan!

fixfireleo (author)2015-01-08

you can make beach glass with a tumbler, some glass and sand!

Wild-Bill (author)2015-01-08

I am really impressed with your project. We read the same books. No, I do not think that your mixture was too thick. I think a wetting agent in the form may help remove some of the voids. It would be nice to have no voids. I had the same problem in one of my concrete projects. That is a very cool design and very well implemented.

Dooder7 (author)2015-01-08

Very nice. Huge improvement to the deck! Just lovely

tkjtkj (author)2015-01-08

oh goddess!! whERE do you live?? what a fantastic place, and what a great 'structable! Very imaginative and thoughtfully brings to the present your times together strolling the beaches of your jungle habitat ...

If only I ... Oh never mind! could never happen! but thanks for letting me dream, too!

tkjtkj (author)2015-01-08

oh goddess!! whERE do you live?? what a fantastic place, and what a great 'structable! Very imaginative and thoughtfully brings to the present your times together strolling the beaches of your jungle habitat ...

If only I ... Oh never mind! could never happen! but thanks for letting me dream, too!

rippa700 (author)2015-01-08

Very nice job. I shall look up Cheng and get to work.....well done.

jemcclintock (author)2015-01-08

very cool! Love the use of the beach glass

Basicbear2 (author)2015-01-08


stan.nickel (author)2015-01-08

What an interesting project! I like the earlier comment about playing rock music with a concrete guitar!

carey14 (author)2015-01-08

Very nice design.......

dollarseed (author)2015-01-08

How thick is the overall top? I am thinking of doing something similar, but was worried, that if too thin, it would break right down the middle. Finished weight approximately would be helpful as well :-)

THEFIRSTBDC (author)2014-12-30

Beautiful work!

XaqFixx (author)2014-12-30

Beuatiful work!

hegure_ryu (author)2014-12-29

I really like your framing on the form. I have learned that putting some good work into a good form makes a project go so much smoother, especially if you plan to repeat it.

loony1 (author)2014-12-28

VERY nice project! Thanks for sharing and the ideas that have popped up due to this.

kenbob (author)2014-12-28

Beautiful work, and a great instructable! Thanks so much for sharing both your project and your insights.

ZombTech (author)2014-12-28

This is great ill definitely be building myself one thanks for sharing :)

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