Introduction: Transforming Bar Desk

Picture of 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

Picture of Design


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.


  1. 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.
  2. 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

Picture of 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:

  1. Fit the parts together, clamp with trigger clamps if necessary to keep the parts properly aligned and flush.
  2. 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.
  3. Drive the screws in and move on to the next panel.

Step 4: Assembly: Main Desk

Picture of 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!

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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!


mattsshop made it! (author)2017-02-03

Thanks for the project. I just made one and am using it as a second desk in my small office. It will really help when I need extra space for prints and paper and I don't want to clear off the desk I can just flip the top up for a temporary space. Awesome Idea! As far as connecting the plywood I used 7x50 confirmat screws , these are great for edge connecting plywood when you use the correct drill bit.

Andre'B2 (author)2016-08-08

Couldn't get past the Wray & Nephew White Rum... Good stuff

wonderbrett (author)2016-08-04

Hey, this is great work. Do you think this would also work as a standing desk alternative too?

JON-A-TRON (author)wonderbrett2016-08-04

For sure, I use it for that all the time.

JON-A-TRON (author)2016-05-20

Awesome! Please post an IMadeIt so we can see what you're up to!

lmlsuriv (author)2015-10-27

Tuyệt vời. Tôi rất thích nó. Tôi sẽ làm thử. Nhưng tôi muốn góp ý:

JON-A-TRON (author)lmlsuriv2015-10-27

Good observation! The weight of the bar top is balanced about 2/3 on the overhanging edge of the table. If you push down hard on the back side as you're showing here, it will tip back, but it takes a lot of force.

As a safety feature, I added holes on the sides that line up when the table top is down so that you can insert a pin. This makes it impossible to tilt it back. The holes are in the template files if you're planning on making your own.

lmlsuriv (author)JON-A-TRON2015-10-27

Cám ơn rất nhiều <3. Tôi đã thấy cái lỗ ấy

Tiếng anh tôi rất kém. :) Tôi vẫn còn đang cải thiện nó. Khi nào hoàn thành tôi sẽ gửi ảnh lên :D

JON-A-TRON (author)lmlsuriv2015-10-27

I'm sorry, google translate is having a hard time with that last comment.

fraser02 (author)JON-A-TRON2016-03-30

Thank you so much <3. I saw that hole

My English is very bad. :) I'm still improving it. When finished I will send photos to: D

very cool ible, handy desk! the above is what i got from google translate;D

haha whoops sorry i always do this-comment about 5 months + too late:D

JON-A-TRON (author)fraser022016-03-30

Can't wait to see the finished product!

ferobotic (author)2016-03-21

Very cool design for saving space

frito600 (author)2016-03-15


flaccord made it! (author)2015-11-10

Awesome, works perfect and now people is asking me to make one for them.

JON-A-TRON (author)flaccord2016-01-05

Wow! I can't believe I missed this 2 months ago. It's really well done. I see you're having the same problem I had with the legs at the front of the desk. I added a screw through the leg piece into the front gusset on the side, that kept that gap from happening.

Thanks so much for making this and posting it! It's my favorite part of Instructables.

flaccord (author)JON-A-TRON2016-01-05

The issue was that the plywood was warped a bit, and I couldn't chose it.
Thanks for sharing it.

TarekB3 (author)2015-10-14

can u please make dxf file to cut all of the pieces with cnc router??

JON-A-TRON (author)TarekB32015-10-14

Done. Check Step 2 (you may need to clear your cache to see them).

JON-A-TRON (author)JON-A-TRON2015-10-14

Also, post an IMadeIt when you're done!

TarekB3 (author)JON-A-TRON2015-10-14

hahahahah exuse my ignorance, i allways thought the i made it button was to denunce people if they steel your job or ur article kinnd copy right hhhhh. so it is good to publish that i build it using yors plans ?

Tanzer26 (author)TarekB32015-10-18

Patents allow you to make one for your own use only. You must license in order to commercially produce.

JON-A-TRON (author)TarekB32015-10-14

Haha! I can totally see how easy it is to misunderstand that. Yeah, the whole idea is that you make your own project based on mine, then you post the pictures and click the "IMadeIt" button as a way of showing everyone that you made one too.

TarekB3 (author)JON-A-TRON2015-10-14

thanks bro

it was there the hole time hahahaha or u just uploaded it???

JON-A-TRON (author)TarekB32015-10-14

No, before it was just PDFs and a DWG with everything in it. I added the DXFs as separate files because I know not everyone has Autocad. What kind of CNC are you using?

AmyCat59 (author)2015-09-23

Amazingly cool and cleverly designed! Someone shared this on a Tiny House site:

...and I agree with several of the other commenters there: I don't need a bar, but this might work well for a combined sewing desk/cutting table or similar craft/maker space furniture. The bar level is a good height for standing up and cutting out fabric, though a bit narrow. I 'd probably mount a cutting mat (for use with rotary cutters) on the "bar" surface, and maybe even invest in one of those "make any table an ironing board" heat-proof mats to lay on top of it, too, for iron-and-cut with freshly-laundered fabric. Only one concern: I'm not sure if there'd be clearance to leave a sewing machine on the desk surface when the "bar" was deployed. Sewing machines usually stand a bit taller than the average laptop!

I think a lot of Tiny House denizens will try this, too, as a combination "breakfast bar" and work-desk.

JON-A-TRON (author)AmyCat592015-09-24

Yeah, I honestly haven't used it as a bar since the photo shoot. It makes a great standing desk when I'm working from home. It's the perfect height for a work table too. If you wanted to make the bar top deeper, you could just make it longer on the back end (the part that's closest to the floor when it's in the sitting desk position). That way you would have some extra space on the table top and it wouldn't affect the stability much. You would definitely need to add some cotter pins to the sides of the desk for that one though- put any pressure on a longer back end and the thing will tip!

Dvda2108 (author)2015-09-22

great idea! nicely done.

JON-A-TRON (author)Dvda21082015-09-22

Thank you!

JayS44 (author)2015-09-19

will you be selling these kits? I am a college kid that does not have access to this kind of machinery, but could benefit greatly from this piece of furniture.

JON-A-TRON (author)JayS442015-09-19

I'm sure you could! I'm selling them on my website, take a look:

sickdog74 (author)2015-09-18

This is the greatest thing I've ever seen.

JON-A-TRON (author)sickdog742015-09-18

Wow man, that's a serious compliment! Thank you.

alcurb (author)2015-09-15

It's a very clever design and is most appropriate for the "man cave". Awesome work!

JON-A-TRON (author)alcurb2015-09-16

That's right!

kbbaktha (author)2015-09-15

WOW. great innovative design and a lucid instructables. Thanks for sharing.

JON-A-TRON (author)kbbaktha2015-09-16

Thank you!

TarekB3 (author)2015-09-13

you said that The PDF templates provided in this step can be printed at full scale, how to do that i downloaded the pdf files but it is not at full size scale??? am i supossed to use another software to convert these pdf files to full size scale??? please help, i just purchased the pro user because of this project. thanks

JON-A-TRON (author)TarekB32015-09-13

Hey Tarek B3,

There is a difference between the "Download PDF" button that's part of the instructables interface (which you need a pro membership for) and the templates I've attached in "Step 2: Fabrication". The "Template" PDF files in that step are the ones you need if you're going to print them and make this project by hand.

Hopefully you're already looking at my Digital Fabrication by Hand instructable, because it has very detailed instructions on how to do this.

The sizes of the templates are 96"X48" (there are two at that size), 56"X36", and 24"X36". These are the actual sizes of the PDF files. You should be able to give these files to any professional print shop and tell them you want them printed at "Full size, no scaling". That part is really important!

The other thing you need to be sure about before you buy materials is that the material thickness is also VERY IMPORTANT. This project was designed for 3/4" plywood, which actually measures at .73" (18.5mm) for the main parts of the desk, and .5" (13mm) thick plywood for the drawers. Be sure to get an accurate measurement of the wood you're going to cut, because if it's a lot thicker than .73", you're going to have to compensate for that when you cut. In other words, if the material is actually .75" thick, you'll have to cut over the edge of the lines, basically making the piece slightly smaller, in order for everything to fit together.

I hope this helps-

TarekB3 (author)JON-A-TRON2015-09-13

i just check the pdf files u mentioned in step 2, and THEY ARE NOT AT FULL SIZE SCALE, so please remove that from this reference (full size scaled means u just need to print, and once printed u just have to glue togather the printed pages to form the FULL SIZE OBJECT.) what u realy did is just put the measurements so we can MAKE THE FULL SIZE SCALE BASED IN THESE MESUREMENTS.

am i right or there is somthing i am not catching???


TarekB3 (author)TarekB32015-09-16

I went tô all grafics in the city and there is no printer capable of print in one peice. The biggest one can print the 96 by54 inches in 2 parts. could it work in tow parts the i glue them togather on the plywood surface ??

TarekB3 (author)TarekB32015-09-16

I went tô all grafics in the city and there is no printer capable of print in one peice. The biggest one can print the 96 by54 inches in 2 parts. could it work in tow parts the i glue them togather on the plywood surface ??

JON-A-TRON (author)TarekB32015-09-13

Hi TarekB3,

I think we're having a misunderstand around printing nomenclature. The dimensions of these documents are the numbers listed in the title of each file; 48X96 means the file is 48"X96" or 4'X8' for example.The pages are this size because the layout of the pieces is optimized for the standard plywood sheet size in the US.

What you're talking about here is "tiling"; taking this 48X96 sheet and tiling it to fit within multiple small sheets you can print on a desktop printer (8.5"X11" in the US).

I don't advise this method for a number of reasons.

1. There is a much bigger margin of geometrical error when you're taking single small sheets and matching them up by hand to create your templates. Precision is VERY IMPORTANT in this design.

2. Tiling means the pages either have to overlap or leave very small gaps between them. This can be very problematic when you're trying to run a jigsaw over the template- the saw fence will catch on the pages, rip them up, cause skipping, etc. With a single large sheet, this process goes much smoother. Believe me, I've done it both ways.

3. It takes far less time to use a single large sheet in this already time consuming process.

If you don't have access to a professional print shop (these prints shouldn't cost more than about $10 per sheet in my experience), you can still tile the pages. This URL has instruction on how to print a tiled version of a large format file like the ones I've provided:

TarekB3 (author)JON-A-TRON2015-09-13

Now i understood. Thanks

TarekB3 (author)JON-A-TRON2015-09-13

Thanks for answering
I am already a pro membros, and i am used to print pdf files, these usualy ar already in full size and u need just to configure the printer Tô zero edges and just print, i do alot of wood working and i have to print them. These files u said what software do i need tô download tô be abre tô open them and print them. I could do that scaling using the big print software, but it is very time consuming and if u said the file is already full size scale it is just to know how to do it, this is the tip i am needing.

Hack42Mack (author)2015-09-12

I love multiplex as building material for furniture. It's sturdy, cheap, and very predictable to work with.

FlorinJ (author)Hack42Mack2015-09-13

It's also a lot heavier than pine/fir wood and less resistant to humidity. And at least around here more expensive than plain softwood boards.

I do use plywood myself (I made the desk I'm sitting at right now from plywood), just saying, though.

Hack42Mack (author)FlorinJ2015-09-14

Ok. I don't know the versions of plywood you can get, but I got 4'x8' marine pywood plates for ~€60.- What should a softwood equivalent cost?

JON-A-TRON (author)Hack42Mack2015-09-14

€60 seems high to me for marine grade plywood, but I'm not sure what's common in Europe. A softwood equivalent would cost considerably less, but it would take a lot more time to make, A LOT more time. In order to recreate the design, you would have to edge glue boards to make panels, make splines of clever joints to join the boards, plane down the wood to the right thickness and so on. In my opinion, you're much better off going with plywood.

FlorinJ (author)JON-A-TRON2015-09-15

There's some board made of three softwood layers about 3/16" thick available around here. You can use it the same way you'd use plywood. It's stronger and more dimensionally stable than regular boards, but has the same look, except for the edges. The only bad thing: it's way more expensive than ready-made edge-glued boards.

ALso, when you work with plain planks instead of engineered materials, you usually do your design so that it takes this into account. Looking at the convertible desk/bar above, I'd trust myself to build it from plain planks with very little overhead, compared to playwood. The only part which requires slightly more work is building the two rotating side panels and their supporting elements. You could easily make those from thinner softwood planks glued on their faces so that the fibers of adjacent planks are perpendicular to each other, and using thicker shafts (some 1/2" screws inside short pieces of brass pipe would do, I think). But I don't know if it would help with looks in this particular case - plywood, with its more uniform surface, showing less of the fibers, seems to me most visually appropriate for this design.

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm a full-time Designer at the Instructables Design Studio (best job ever). My background is in residential architecture, film set design, film animatronics, media ... More »
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