Introduction: Transforming Bar Desk
Living in a small apartment means having to make a choice: desk or bar? You can have both with the Transforming Bar / Desk!
The design includes a cork-backed wall at the back of the desk that pivots on wooden dowel posts on the sides of the desk. Simply pull the desk away from the wall, fold down the back wall, and it becomes a bar with seating for 3 at stools. A trough at the back of the desk (hidden by the bar top when it's down) has room for 20+ bottles, a shelf for bar wear, and a recessed nook for an ice bucket or cutting board.
Step 1: Design
THE BIG IDEA
I'm always looking for ways to live a high-end lifestyle in a small space. Living in the Bay Area, owning a home is out of the question for me, and the best apartment I can afford is 700 Sq. Ft. Watching Mad Men makes me pine for the days of Mid-Century Modernism, when people actually had room for all the awesome furniture they wanted.
I love to entertain friends, and a home bar is a great way to get people over for pre-dinner cocktails. With all the available space in my apartment filled, I needed to replace something essential to be able to fit a bar. Since my furniture selection is already about as minimal as it gets, I needed to combine it with something else- my desk.
I went through a lot of design iterations, but the one I finished with was as simple as possible. I wanted the transformation to happen in one quick movement, and for gravity to keep the bar top in place when it was folded down for bar mode, and folded up for desk mode.
After multiple tries, I found a pivot point on the side of the desk that would allow gravity to keep the bar top in place while making sure the bar was 42" high when in bar mode. This is important because it's the standard height for a bar. If there's one thing I've learned in my years of designing furniture, it's this: DON'T MESS WITH STANDARD DIMENSIONS! The amount of play when it comes to familiar ergonomic relationships (size of a chair, height of a table, etc.) has very little room for play. You've really only got about 1/2" of maximum deviation from the norm if you want your products to be comfortable and usable.
I designed this piece (and almost every other project for the past year) in Fusion 360. It's free indefinitely with a "startup" license, so be sure to install it and play around with the "Odom_Transforming-Bar-Desk.f3d" model I've provided in this step. In Fusion, you can make mechanical assemblies, which made my life A LOT easier for this project. I was able to test out multiple pivoting configurations to be sure my project would work as I'd hoped.
Fusion 360 is free for students and hobbyists, and there's a ton of educational support on it. If you want to learn to 3D model the kind of work I do, I think this is the best choice on the market. Click the links below to sign up:
A few details I included in the design are as follows:
- Nut + bolt pockets for mounting a second monitor
- A large drawer with storage on each side
- A shelf for barware
- A recessed nook for ice bucket or cutting board storage
I really think this is a good design, and in the interest of avoiding any future legal battles over the non-commercial license in this instructable, I've applied for a provisional patent. This protects my design for one year, after which time I can apply for a full patent with 20 year protection.
As always, please remake, remix, and re-think the product for your own personal purposes!
Step 2: Fabrication
I'm not going to go into fabrication details with this instructable. Suffice it to say I cut everything on a Shopbot CNC Router and cleaned up the radiused corners with a file by hand. There are PDF templates of all the parts provided in this step, as well as a DWG file you can use for CNC routing, laser cutting, or any other kind of digital fabrication.
DXF FILES: Attached in this step if you want to CNC cut your own.
These drawer slides from McMaster Carr fit PERFECTLY! I'm pretty proud of this. Fitting drawer slides with plywood parts has always been really intimidating to me. But if you use my templates, these drawer slides will give you a perfect fit with a 1/8" gap all around, concealing the drawer slides.
HERE ARE TWO SUGGESTIONS ON HOW TO DO IT WITHOUT A CNC MACHINE:
- Check out my Digital Fabrication by Hand instructable for complete instructions on how to make the whole project with a hand drill, jigsaw, and circular saw. The PDF templates provided in this step can be printed at full scale, spray-glued to plywood sheets, and cut out by following the printed lines with hand tools.
- Do it with a handheld router and templates. The process is described in detail in my Technique: Multiple Copies with Router and Templates instructable.
Step 3: Assembly Method
The panels fit together with series of tabs, slots, and cutouts. There are many 1/8" Ø holes in the templates and CAD file. These are pilot holes for the countersunk screws that hold everything together. Here's how it's done:
- Fit the parts together, clamp with trigger clamps if necessary to keep the parts properly aligned and flush.
- With the parts securely in place, use a countersink drill bit, and drill through the pilot hole. This will leave a countersunk pocket in the face of the plywood for the screw, and create a pilot hole into the grain of the panel perpendicular to it- this will mitigate splitting and expansion in the plywood. THIS IS NOT THE BEST WAY TO JOIN PLYWOOD because the grain is not designed to be reied upon this way for structure, but this being a prototype, I did it this way in lieu of more robust and time consuming ways to join panels at right angles.
- Drive the screws in and move on to the next panel.
Step 4: Assembly: Main Desk
The desk is made up of 27 separate plywood panels. All the panels fit together with pre-drilled pilot holes for countersunk screws. To assemble the piece, I followed thew instructions laid out here. The order of assembly is pretty important, so read carefully!
- First, I made the two "leg panels". This involves gluing the surfaces that go together, lining up the 1/4" holes in the two panels, hammering in joining dowels to keep the panels aligned, and clamping them together overnight.
- With the leg panels finished, I moved on to assembling the main desk components. The instruction images describe these steps in detail, but basically I laid one of the leg panels on its side, then attached the horizontal panels one-at-a-time. These panels all fit in place with a rubber mallet and screws.
- Next, I added the opposite leg, and screwed both of the legs into the horizontal panels using the pilot holes already cut by the CNC.
- With the legs securely in place, I added the under-desk beam panels, followed by the desktop, followed by the two gussets that fasten to the front.
Having carefully designed the pieces to fit together properly according to the material thickness, these steps worked without any major surprises. This part only took a couple of hours.
Step 5: Assembly: Shelf and Nook
The shelf and storage nook consist of three parts. The shelf fits snugly into the cavity in the back panel, with it's top flush against the upper part of the opening. The panel that closes the nook fits into two cutouts- one in the shelf edge and one in the lower bar shelf edge. With both of these panels screwed in place, a dowel post fits into holes in the upper and lower shelves, making everything secure.
Step 6: Assembly: Folding Bar Top
The bar top is made up of 5 pieces. First, I attached the two joists to on of the hinge panels, then I attached the bar top to those three panels.
Leaving the second hinge panel off, I placed the bar top onto the main desk so that the hole in the hinge aligned with the dowel post on the leg panel. Finally, I added the second hinge panel and screwed it in place.
Screwing the hinge panels into the sides of the bar top keeps the bar top in place and allows a safe, smooth hinge action.
Step 7: Assembly: Drawer
The drawer is the only part made of 1/2" plywood. This assembly is pretty simple because it's small, and I designed the pieces so that it can only fit together one way. With all of the side panels and dividers screwed together, I inserted the floor of the drawer into the recessed pocket on the bottom.
I decided to use wood glue and a nail gun for the drawer, since there would be no need to disassemble it later.
With the drawer assembled, I attached the inner rails of the draw slides by lining them up with the holes that were pre-drilled in the panel sides.
Next, I lined up the holes in the outer rails of the drawer slides with the pre-drilled ones in the desktop beams. \
Lastly, I followed the instructions that came with the drawer slides, and inserted the inner rails on the drawer with the outer rails on the desk. The drawer slides worked perfectly with just the right amount of clearance.
Step 8: Work Hard, Play Hard
I'm seriously happy with this piece! All the pics fit together perfectly. The bar top is well balanced, so it rested easily in place in both the up and down positions. The motion of the bar top when rotating is smooth and even.
The only improvements I've got in mind are a more Ikea-style joinery system. The embedded nuts they use to make assembly quick and simple would be ideal.
It's a really versatile piece of furniture. I made the largest area of the drawer slightly bigger than my M Audio Axiom 49 keyboard controller so I can play the piano when I'm not working or drinking with friends, and the bar top also makes a great standing desk.
The trough built into the back end of the desk is the perfect size for a power strip, and it has holes drilled in either side to allow for cables to discreetly route to outlets. The bar overhangs the edge of the desktop by over 12", which makes for comfortable bar stool seating.
Want to buy one? Go to my online store, Roundhead Design and put in an order!