Compact Home Bar




About: I help people turn ideas into working prototypes

This bar features a small cabinet, pull-out speed rail, prep surface and extended bar front. This is the first project I designed and built by myself so please excuse the haphazardness of construction. Perfect for a dorm room or cramped college apartment (like mine).

Step 1: Bill of Materials

Here was my shopping list (spent 120 at the local hardware store) and some scraps I had laying around that I used.

2: 8' 2"x4"
2: 4'x8' sheets of BC grade plywood, 1/4" thick
1: 4'x18" sheet of laminate shelving
1: 8'x4' sheet of laminate shelving
2: 8' strips of
6: hinges
3: chrome handles
2: 8' strip of outside corner (there's a better name I'm sure, but you'll see it in the pics)
18" slide
minwax poly and stain in one

scraps of 1"x2" (about 5 ft)
scraps of 1'x4" (about 5 ft)
lots of oval nails
lots of brads
paint brush

Step 2: Build the Frame

I started by cutting the 2'x4's to make the frame for the bar. I wanted a base of 36" wide and 18" deep. The side with the cabinet and speed rail (henceforth known as the 'back') will be 44" and the side people walk up to (the 'front') will be 48", so we'll need to cut the 2"x4" accordingly. It worked best keep the upright pieces true to size and fit the other pieces in between. Then cut I the sides and front out of plywood and nail them on. A few oval nails on each side did trick.

Step 3: Speed Rail

A speed rail is a bartender's dream. Put your often used liquors down there and it makes life real easy when all your friends what rum and cokes, jack and cokes, vodka tonics, ect... The rail should come out about 6" (leaves a little extra space to make it a little more versatile). I wanted to leave clearance for 15" from the bottom of the rail I went for an 18" rail to ensure it was supported on the back 2"x4" because, well, bottles of liquor tend to be heavy. Follwing the instructions that came in the bag I put the rail on. Rhe top half of the rail had to be cut short to fit how long I wanted to speed rail to be. I used scraps to form the four outsides and then cut the plywood to form the bottom and then cut the front from plywood to make sit flush with the frame. Also, I added a strip of plywood about 2" high to place across the face of the bar so the speed rail and cabinet doors sat flush.

Step 4: Cabinet Shelving

Here I used my scraps again. Cut two strips that will be the supports for the shelf. I chose to set it about 5" off the bottom for glassware and extra bottle storage. Level off the supports and nail them down. Then cut a piece of your shelving to fit right on top. Mine isn't quite the full 18" deep to allow more access to the bottom. Also add a few inch strip of plywood on the bottom (just as between underneath the rail) so the doors sit flush.

Step 5: Cabinet Doors

The doors were cut from plywood. They were made a bit smaller than the full width (about 2 inches on each side). Be sure whatever size you choose they are symmetric. I attached the hinges as per included instructions.

Step 6: Prep Area

I cut the shelving to fit prep area. An extra inch was left on the front side and notch the back to fit with the back side 2"x4". I nailed on the shelving in the back and glue it in the front. No need for extra nails in the front to get in the way when working behind the bar.

Step 7: Staining

Before putting on the last piece of shelving I decided to stain for little reason other than my being tired. I used some stain-and-polyurethane-in-one stuff and it turned worked out real well. Only one coat was necessary. I didn't bother with staining the inside. Don't forget to leave the brush in turpentine to wash it off when you're done.

Step 8: Top Shelf

The final piece of shelving. I decided to leave a little over 1" on each side, and 3" on both the back and front. Symmetry is what's important here. I only nailed it on the sides and that seems plenty sturdy for people to lean up against.

Step 9: Finishing Touches

I added a lock on the cabinet and handles on the cabinet and speed rail to finish off the project. Follow instructions that come with your lock and cabinet if you choose to do so. To finish it off I added the outside cornering to round off the edges and cover up some shoddy woodsmanship. It was only nailed on the side because it was only for looks. Some glue would have worked too, I'm sure.

Step 10: Finished Product

And it's done!

It took a few hours of planning getting the specs I wanted, about 6 hours of work the first day and 1 on the second (with my father's construction help and expertise)

I feel like this could scale up pretty well to be a more permanent bar. It can also stand for a cabinet of sorts when not in use as another way to save some space.

For additions it would be nice to try and work in some sort of ice bin that sits nicely in the back of the prep area. It would be pretty simple to bend some sheet metal into a small cube, seal it at the corners and have a little drain out to the side to drip the melted ice into a buck. Maybe someone has idea for this?

I've also got a wall mount beer bottle opener and small towel rack on order that I'll put on the side when they arrive.

Step 11: Update

Over the course of a year this bar has taken a fair bit of abuse and it's time for version 2.0. Anyone have suggestions for what to add? I'm going to try and find a better rail system, certianly. I'm also looking into a way to add an ice chest. I'm open to any and all suggestions or comments.



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    12 Discussions


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Check out this portable bar that's on ebay for ideas:


    9 years ago on Introduction

    id suggest you put a mini fridge in the bottom with a wine rack next to it and your hard licker where your speed rail is then put a glass hanger and some place to hang mugs up top 


    9 years ago on Step 11

    Nice job on the description, but please rotate the pics before you upload them. TRBrew


    10 years ago on Step 11

    seams to me like you could use a small stainless steel sink that would drain to a bucket inside the bar.. you can hold you ice in there in a bag or use it to wash your glasses or blender in between drinks.


    12 years ago

    if you seal both the sides and the edges of the doors with paint, shellac, whatevah you should not have problems with warping.


    12 years ago

    I always have trouble with ply warping when it isnt sealed properly. Especially things like the two doors on the bottom of the unit. How did you get around that? or do you live in an extremely dry climate? thanks

    4 replies

    Reply 12 years ago

    The warping was a problem. For the larger pieces having the 2"x4" to brace helped a bunch. I don't know of any tricks to get around the warping problem other than to be very selective about the wood you choose and try to keep your pieces of plywood small whenever possible, I just put it together yesterday so I haven't noticed any warping in the doors yet. If that becomes it would be easy enough to reinforce it on the back side with some wood scraps.


    Reply 12 years ago

    I would at least seal the inside of the doors, as they don't have bracing to keep them from warping, and any warpage of them will be extremely obvious. If any of the sides warp, it won't be as noticeable.


    Reply 12 years ago

    I just saw you're from Madison, WI. Me too! Currently located in Milwaukee for college.


    Reply 12 years ago

    You might experience some minor warping in the bigger pieces. If you look at my bar project, you'll notice I used ply wood with paneling over the top, and the doors have warped a tiny bit. It didnt start to warp until 4 months or so after it was built. Although, it looks like your doors are about half the size of mine, so I wouldnt worry about it too much.