Introduction: Making a Bar-top (From PLYWOOD!)
In this instructable I lay out the general steps I took to make a bar-top from a single 4'x8' piece of plywood.
For more in-depth details (and some silly fun along the way) check out the embedded build video!
Thanks for taking a look.
4'x8' plywood sheet
steel brackets (4)
Step 1: Processing the Plywood Sheet
This whole project starts off with a single sheet of plywood. I went off to Home depot, got the wood and started prepping to cut it into lots of strips.
The idea here is that I want to emphasize the end grain pattern of the plywood instead of the veneer. So to do that I decided to cut the plywood sheet into a bunch of 8ft by 1.5" strips. In the next step those strips will be glued back together (veneer to veneer) so that the end grain becomes the top surface of the bar-top.
I used an off-cut from a piece of OSB to ensure a straight cut from the circular saw. I would mark out the spacing along the edges of the plywood sheet, line up the straightedge of the OSB strip, and clamp the guide in place before making the cut. I repeated this process several times until I had turned the entire plywood sheet into 1.5" wide strips.
Step 2: Gluing the Bar-top Together
The bar-top glue-up process was pretty straight-forward, but a bit time intensive. I took titebond 2 wood glue and painted it on the veneer faces of each side of the strips to be glued together then clamped them together with wood clamps along the entire length.
I repeated this process several times.
Each time I had adequately applied glue to a new strip of plywood I would open up the clamps, add it to the stack, and re-clamp. To get the 18" wide bar-top I was looking for I ended up gluing 24 strips together.
Step 3: Smoothing the Bar-Top
Once the glue had hardened I had some work to do smoothing the bar-top.
I used a belt sander to smooth and level the bar-top until it came to a nice, clean , finish.
It was a lot of work, but I make sanding look good don't I? ;)
Step 4: Trimming the Ends of the Bar-top
With the bar-top smoothed; I brought out the circular saw again. I clamped down a 2x4 as a cut guide and trimmed the edges of the bar-top.
Step 5: Reinforcing the Bar-Top
This actually wasn't originally in the design of the bar-top...but I realized it would be necessary as I was playing with some scraps from the previous step.
As I was holding the scraps and mindlessly playing with them, I ended up snapping one in my hand. The interesting part of the break was that the break occurred in the middle of one of the plies (NOT on one of the bondlines from the glue-up). This got me thinking about the possibility of the plies splitting out from the mounting fasteners or from normal use. So I devised a way to prevent that from happening.
I used my router to cut out grooves in the bottom of the bar-top and then I in-laid mahogany strips into the bar-top. By bonding in the solid wood strips, I essentially was putting a continuous connection between each of the the plies of the bar-top (across the full width). This would spread the load between all plies and prevent them from splitting.
Step 6: Finishing Details
We're approaching the final stages now!
First thing, I wanted to get a round-over on all the edges of the bar-top. I used my router and ran down each of the edges. I used painter's tape (applied to the edges) to prevent the wood from chipping out during the cutting.
Total honesty: I don't think the tape added much to the process. I think in the future I would skip applying the tape.
Anyway, after that It was time to do a quick hand-sanding and then start the finish treatment.
I selected Danish Oil to begin the process. I applied the oil to all the surfaces of the wood as I love the way the oil brings out the contrast in the plywood. Once the oil had cured I applied polyurethane for added protection.
1) Before applying polyurethane over the top of an oil you need to give ample time for the oil to cure. I waited 3 days to ensure the oil had been fully cured.
2) It is important not to mix types of finishes. For the polyurethane to adhere well to the wood, you should use an oil-based polyurethane.
3) Oil-based polyurethane takes time to cure, so you need to apply in thin coats and give plenty of time to let it cure (24 hours). You typically need 3 layers to have enough thickness built up for proper protection.
Step 7: Installation
ANNNND we're at installation.
I started the process by laying out the bar-top at the foot of the wall. I positioned the steel supports I'd be using and then screwed each brace into the hard-wood inlays in preparation for mounting.
To make hanging the bar-top simpler, I screwed a short piece of wood to the wall. I was careful to level out this piece of wood so it could be used as a reference to ensure the bar-top was level on the wall. Further, while I still needed an assistant to hold the bar-top, the strip of wood did a lot to balance and off-set the weight of the bartop as I screwed the supports into the wall.
When attaching the braces to the wall, be sure you are attaching into studs! I had measured out ahead of time and positioned the inlays and braces so that I would be sure the have a solid anchor to the wall. failure to do this would result in the bar top falling off of the wall.
Once the bartop was mounted, I removed the extra piece of wood and tightened all the screws to full secure the bartop to the wall.
The project was officially done and ready for use! Enjoy!