Reclaimed Wood Bartop




Introduction: Reclaimed Wood Bartop

Disclaimer: This is my first ever instructable and I am NOT a carpenter, so don't be surprised if you see flaws in the methods, design, and/or documentation of the instructable. However, I was quite pleased with the result and when I saw the title of the "Reclaimed Wood" contest I felt obligated to go back and try to document the steps I recently took to make this beauty. Sorry ahead of time if there are missing pictures or explanations. Feel free to ask me any questions and thanks for reading this!

Summary: I was tearing out a wall in my 80yr old foursquare colonial home so that I could expand the bathroom. This created a pile of semi-rough-cut heart pine 2x4s and one 4x6. Much to my wife's chagrin I refused to toss them so they sat out in the weather all winter. Finally a few months ago I decided to stack them on top of the base cabinets of the covered outdoor kitchen I have been slowly constructing. At that moment, an idea was born... (see picture in the next step). Being undecided on what I was going to use for my outdoor countertop I figured why not give the reclaimed wood bartop a shot. Since the countertop would be shielded from the rain and snow by a large covered porch roof, the biggest concern I had with using wood outside was the large changes in humidity and the resulting expansion and shrinkage of the wood across the seasons. I spoke with some friends who are professional carpenters and they seemed fairly unconcerned about that factor, so I decided to take a chance and give it a try. You'll see that I went to extra lengths to provide plenty of structural support so that any potential warping, shrinkage, or expansion should be minimal. The following is how I approached it.

Below are the MATERIALS I used (but feel free to substitute where you see fit).

  • Reclaimed 2x4s (ripped down to 2x2s)
  • Reclaimed 4x6 (a 4x4 would work fine as well)
  • (3) 24in+ lengths of threaded rod (I think I used 3/8in thickness of rods)
  • (6) matching nuts, (6) wide flat washers & (6) lock washers
  • Plenty of 2 1/2in screws (I used galvanized decking screws since it's an outdoor project, however 99% of the screws will be buried within the bartop so galvanized may not be necessary)
  • Finishing nails (to nail next to the flat spots on the nuts to keep them from rotating)
  • Wood glue (Titebond II)
  • Wood filler (I used black wood filler, it's harder to find but I like this better than the natural color filler)
  • Wood stain (I used "mosquito" red...)
  • Indoor / Outdoor polyurethane

Below are the TOOLS I used (but feel free to substitute where you see fit).

  • 1/2in drill bit (for drilling holes for the threaded rods)
  • 1in+ paddle bit (...or other appropriate size, for creating a snug pocket for the nuts to fit into)
  • Multiple grits of sandpaper (I primarily used 60, 80, 200+ since that's what I had available)
  • Large 24in+ clamps (for squeezing the boards together after glued, clamps would be ideal)
  • Table saw (this was helpful for ripping my 2x4s into 2x2s, and for squaring up the sides)
  • Chop saw or Skill saw (to cut the boards to the correct length)
  • Drill / power screwdriver
  • Orbital sander
  • Router with 1/2in Roundover Bit (This was for rounding out the edges of the sink cutout)

Step 1: Rip, Drill, Glue It, Screw It, Bolt It, Clamp It.

I had a few challenges to overcome.

  1. Not all of my boards were long enough for the 90" countertop length.
  2. I wanted to make efficient use of the wood since I have a coffee table project I want to try as well.
  3. Some of the boards had developed a slight warp-age. -possibly due to the rain and snow of winter :-)
  4. Due to other factors, the base cabinets were already sitting approx 4inches higher than a normal cabinet/countertop would sit. If I was to make a 4" thick countertop then it would be over 6+ inches higher than the standard height. I wanted to avoid this if possible.
  5. I was convinced that I wanted threaded rods going through it for strength and stability but I wasn't sure that I wanted the ends of the rods to be visible along the front edge.

So here is how I addressed these issues.

  1. Since I knew I would be cutting out a section for the sink I realized I could use some of my short boards in the middle of the countertop by simply pre-cutting them and sliding them down to the end.
  2. I carefully measured and laid out both projects ahead of time to make sure that there would sufficient materials for both, this is when I decided to incorporate one newer (but still old) 2x4 I had salvaged from a previous project. You'll notice two strips that have a slighty lighter coloring than the rest. I kind of liked the idea of adding this variation anyway.
  3. A lot of trial and error with dry fitting the boards next to each other so that their slight warps would complement each other. I ended up numbering the boards in sequence once I had them in the desired position and order.
  4. I decided to rip the 2x4s into 2x2s to keep my countertop height closer to standard. This also helped me stretch the availability of my materials. But in a final twist, I still wanted the countertop to appear to be 3-4" thick on it's visible edge. For the edge piece I chose to use the 4x6 and cut it into an "L" shape.
  5. I decided to have the threaded rods go only through the 2x2s. The nut/bolts on the end could then be covered by an inside pocket drilled into the 4x6.

Step #1 - ripped the 2x4s down the middle to make them 2x2s. Note: Since I had the tablesaw out for this step anyway, I SHOULD have gone the extra mile and also trimmed/squared up the sides of these boards as well. This would have made them much closer to a perfect "square" shape. Since I did not, the boards remained slightly out-of-square at times which technically made them parralellograms or trapezoids. This fact was not obvious at first, but after I began glueing & screwing them together these slightly out-of-square shapes created unnecessary gaps/seams and a very slight bow to the surface. Bottom line: if I could do it over again I would definitely square up the sides at the outset.

Step #2 - carefully pre-drilled holes for the threaded rods at the EXACT same position on each board. Since the boards had slight variations in height, I also measured to the top (exposed) side of the board, figuring that if the underside of the countertop was uneven - who cares.

Step #3 - Removed material from the underside of the 4x6 to make it into an "L" shape. In the end I also had to remove some from the bottom lip as well since it was hitting the top of the drawer face on the cabinet. This made it closer to a 3" thickness on the front face. (see picture)

Step #4 - Created small snug pockets on the inside edge of the 4x6 for the nuts/bolts end to fit in. I also wanted to be able to tighten the nuts/rods (from the other end) so it was important to me that the nuts would not spin inside the pockets. I ended up securing the nuts into the pockets first with small nails hammered into the flat spots around the nuts. (see picture - these were before the nails were hammered into place) Once the nuts felt reasonably secure I moved on to the next step.

Step #5 - Threaded the lock washers, flat washers, and rods into the pockets nuts.

Step #6 - Began dropping the numbered boards onto the threaded rods one at a time and gluing and screwing them to the board below it making sure to keep the top edge as even as possible so that I would have to do minimal sanding to the finished top. (see picture) The picture shows the underside of a dry fit I did just before I began step #5. Finish it off with the final flat washers, lock washers and nuts.

Step #7 - Set the countertop on the cabinets, clamped it tight, and then tightened it further with the threaded rods & washers. I knew this was working because I could see glue being squeezed out of the joints. After it was sufficiently tightened I went back and cut off the excess threaded rod that was sticking out the back.

Step #8 - Let the glue dry. Drink a beer or two.

Step 2: Sand It, But Not Too Much

I really liked the imperfections in the rough countertop and I wanted some of that character to remain. However I knew that some sanding had to be done to smooth it out. So I tried to strike a balance. I used the rough-cut saw marks as my guide. I tried to stop before I sanded them away completely. In the end, they didn't show up as much as I thought they would due to some subsequent steps but I still think it was a good barometer for me at this stage. The one thing I didn't want to do was sand them so much that they looked like new lumber in the end. (See pics)

Step 3: Fill It, Sand It, Stain It.

Unfortunately, I don't have any real pics of this process. But here is where some major transformation took place. A friend had some black wood filler. We started out filling small nail holes and cracks but that quickly grew to where we were essentially covering the entire top with the black filler. This comprehensive approach allowed us to fill in the old nail holes, the natural cracks in the wood, the seams, and the low spots in the wood. This also meant that we had to sand the excess black wood filler back off. We lost a little bit of the character in this second sanding step (e.g. saw marks) but it really brought out some other character that would not have been as obvious without this step.

Personally, I love the contrast that the black filler provides verses the more subtle natural color filler, but to each his own.

After everything was filled and sanded to our satisfaction it was finally time to stain it. I went with a color called "Mosquito" red. My goal was to have it match as close as possible to the red brick of our home. The picture is after we did 2 coats of stain.

Step 4: Cut Out the Sink, Router the Edges, Slap Down Some Poly!

This step I should have done prior to the staining and polyurethane. Don't make my mistake. Since the countertop still had some inherent unevenness on the top I ended up with a less-than-perfect router-ed edge. Oh well... I did a lot of touch up sanding at this stage. The bottom line: the more even / flat your top is, the better this part will go.

I also spent time at this stage meticulously filling in any holes / cracks at the ends (end grain) of the boards. This is critical to keep water from seeping into nooks and crannies and creating future problems.

I also had to even out the underside edge of the wood so that the under-mount sink would sit semi-flush against it. The unevenness of the countertop came into play again and required some extra work...

After this I did some final staining and put a few more coats of poly down at this point.

Look at those glorious tiger stripes in the wood!

Step 5: Install the Sink, Inspect Your Work, Drink Some Beers and Start Looking for Mini-fridges!

After the final coats of poly were dry I installed the undermount sink with brackets and a thick bead of silicone. The silicone is important to make sure that no water makes it into any cracks between the sink and bartop. It also disguised some of the remaining unevenness. I also filled in any remaining tiny holes / cracks on the end grain with silicone.

In the end, I think it turned out great but it does have some craftsman-related imperfections. Nevertheless, it was a lot of fun and less challenging then I would have expected. I plan on doing this again someday. Give it a try, and thanks for reading!

Reclaimed Wood Contest 2016

Participated in the
Reclaimed Wood Contest 2016

First Time Author Contest 2016

Participated in the
First Time Author Contest 2016

Outdoor Structures Contest

Participated in the
Outdoor Structures Contest

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    8 Discussions


    4 years ago

    looks good, well done.


    4 years ago

    Thanks everyone, you are all very kind!


    4 years ago

    It looks amazing! I love that it was made from reclaimed wood that would have been tossed out or burned. You'll get many more years of use out of it this way in addition to being able to say, "I made this!"


    4 years ago

    Way to go! Looks great!


    4 years ago

    Way to go on your first ible!! Great explanations and your bar turned out great.


    4 years ago

    This looks great! I love the stain color, and the way the dramatic grain stands out.

    Very nice work, and a pretty darn good first instructable, too! :)