This is a set of instructions on how to make a simple but very useful home bar top to be mounted on top of a boring existing peice of furniture. (in our case an old product display case from my buddy's co-op)
Step 1: Human Factors Test-Fitting (Sizing)
Grab some cheap bar stools off of craigslist (got 2 for $10) and put them next to your piece of furniture you want to put the bar top on. Then get a test bar top (in this case a vinyl card table) and some risers (if you need them, we used cans) and sit at the bar with a drink. Is it a good hieght? Want it to be larger, smaller? Record your favorite dimensions.
Step 2: Get Materials
Our materials list:
-1x board of plywood (3/4") cut to the dimensions you will use from step 1. We used what was called "patch board" plywood that was almost the right size when we bought it (you don't need a HUGE board, look around Home Depot, you will find thick smaller peices)
-2x 2x4's, pick the nicest looking ones, we used them for our frame under the bar top to raise it up. Cut them to size to make a simple frame to be attached to the top of the peice of furniture
-2x 1" Trim (looks like fake wood, extruded foam maybe?) to put around the edges, real cheap like couple bucks a peice
-Minwax wood stain can, we used "Red Chestnut" and it looks swell
-Minwax urethane clear coat can
-Bunch of paintbrushes, the urethane will dry in between coats and if you dont clean the brushes you will have to throw them away
Step 3: Staining Step / First Clearcoat
By now you should have cut your 2x4's to make a frame that fits on top of your furniture you are using. Also you should have the bar top cut and test fitted everything loosely in its final position to assure fitment.
NOTE: SAND everything well with an electric sander, make sure to get all of the edges and corners, and wipe the sawdust off with an old T-Shirt before staining
Apply Minwax wood stain to the waiting wood peices and let them dry outside! But not in an area that has excessive wind kicking up dust. We used some extra 2x4 as a stand to hold our peices up. Note the wood stain/natural split pic. Night and DAY difference. We only needed one coat of stain on everything to get the look we wanted.
Apply one coat of the urethane to everything and let it dry outdoors fully before the next step.
Step 4: Assembly
We attached the 2x4's to our display case by using 90-degree angle brackets and screws from home depot. Three on each long side, one on each short side of the frame. They are internal to the frame, and wont be seen with the top on, thus not seen here. (Sorry forgot to take that picture)
Once the frame is on and fastened down, put the plywood board on, and finish nail it (with big finish nails) into the frame wherever the frame is under the board. Keep the finish nails within one inch from the edge, they will be covered by the siding later anyways.
We also put some larger angle brackets under the top as you can see in the picture just for safety's sake. Yes we did over-engineer this a little but for good reason.
Then glue the trim peices down all around the edges of the bar. Our ends were cut to 45-degree angles so they fit together nicely.
Once finished gluing down the trim, put all of your textbooks to their first good use by using them as weights. If you don't have textbooks, I've heard encyclopedia britannica's work well too.
Step 5: Multiple Clearcoats
We painted on 5 total coats of urethane on the bar top, allowing each to dry fully before applying the next. On the final coat of urethane, use a brand new paintbrush to get the smoothest finish. Brush the urethane into the trim edges too to fill them and prevent spilled drinks from getting into the cracks. We also put a second coat of clearcoat on the trim during this.
Step 6: Finished Product
After all of the clearcoats dry, it should be ready to use. Hope i put enough pictures to help you see the result!
Good luck and have fun!
DISCLAIMER: I'm not liable for bar-break-in party hangover the next day...