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kman42 08-05-2012 06:38 PM

Question about finishing a home bar
We just bought a house and it has a perfect spot for a home bar. I'm a novice woodworker, but pretty patient and good at following directions so I think I can build one using barplan.com (thoughts on those plans? others I should be looking at?).

I'm really uncertain about how to finish it, however. Do people have advice or links to protocols for how to sand, stain, and seal it? Water based? Oil based? Polyurethane seal? I really have no experience at finishing wood, so I need some straightforward advice.

I think I am going to use red oak for the bar. I am thinking of building the entire thing of wood, but have also considered using granite or some other surface instead for the work area (but still using wood on the top bar).


JimL 08-05-2012 08:30 PM

I am an experienced woodworker, but finishing is my least favorite part. I built a walnut bar some years ago, and finished it with polyurethane, two or three coats most place, but five coats where you are concerned about possible water damage. I laminated formica for the top surface and for the lower shelf with the sink.

billybryson54 08-05-2012 08:57 PM


I'm a furniture builder and a carpenter by trade, and I use the same process anytime I am applying a finish to a brand newpiece.

First, I sand the project down, going WITH the grain, with 100 grit sand paper to get rid of any minor imperfections. Follow that with 180 grit sand paper to begin smoothing it all out, and finish with 220 grit. After that, I blow the project off with compressed air and wipe it down with a tack cloth (Found in the stain/polyurethane section of your local home improvement store) that will pick up all the dust left behind that the compressed air did not get. If you are going to stain the project, now is the time to do it. I use Minwax stains that come in the yellow cans, as i have had the best results with it, and why change what works? I generally apply two coats of stain, applied with either a paint brush or an old t-shirt. Let the stain penetrate the wood for about 5-10 minutes, and then wipe off the excess with a separate rag. Once I am happy with the color, I let it dry overnight to ensure uniformity, and then I begin applying polyurethane. I use a rattle-can spray form of Minwax semi-gloss. I do not like brush-on styles, I have found them to leave brush marks behind, and they have a higher chance of running. I spray on one light coat, and let it dry for about an hour. Then, I sand ACROSS the grain very lightly with 220 grit sandpaper. Do not use a power sander like an orbital. What this does is remove the microscopic fibers of wood that tend to "Rise up" after the first coat. That's why it feels a bit bumpy after the first coat of spray. A very light sanding with 220 grit sand paper across the grain will take care of it. Once that's done, wipe down with another tack cloth, and spray on your second coat. These first two need to be light, otherwise they are just going to run and sag, and look awful. Repeat the process for the third and final coat, this coat will be a bit heavier because this is the coat that will be offering the most protection and shine. Do not sand after the third coat. I let that dry overnight and that's all there is to it. It sounds more complex than it really is, but if you take your time and pay attention to details, even your first "Finish" job will look like a masterpiece. One final tip, do NOT use fans to try to make the stain or sealer dry faster. You risk kicking up dust that will get into the finish, and then you will have to start all over. Just be patient and let them dry on their own.

I hope this helps you out. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask! Good luck, and remember: If you rush it, you will regret it.

kman42 08-05-2012 09:21 PM

Thanks for the responses--very helpful. Are three coats of finish enough for a bar top? I imagine a lot of spillage and condensation dripping on the surface. If guess it just needs to be resurfaced periodically?

billybryson54 08-06-2012 01:19 AM


Originally Posted by kman42 (Post 4307199)
Thanks for the responses--very helpful. Are three coats of finish enough for a bar top? I imagine a lot of spillage and condensation dripping on the surface. If guess it just needs to be resurfaced periodically?

3 should be plenty. If you have any doubts, you can always apply another coat or two. Use multiple smaller coats, rather than heavier ones. You can also use a heavier-duty sealer on the top, Like the same type that people use to re-finish hardwood floors. I use this stuff occasionally, in an HVLP gun set up in my air compressor and it works great(As I said before, I despise brushing the finishes on). Still would be a wise idea to use coasters on the bar top, and clean it periodically however...

dkwolf 08-06-2012 05:07 PM

I'm in the middle of remodeling my basement, and once the project is done I'm going to build a small (4-5' wide) freestanding bar/liquor cabinet. Maybe a mirrored back, but shelving for various liquor bottles, and thinking about a small fridge for beer (already have beer in upstairs fridge and dorm fridge in the workroom).

Anyway, my plan for the top is an inlaid layer of various beer bottle caps, set in a layer of pourable polymer (EnviroTex Lite) The rest of the bar will be wood, possibly walnut or maybe cherry.

Genacide 08-06-2012 08:18 PM

I would recommend billy's process with the exception of the top. For my home bar I used Spar Urethane for the top. 3 coats of this on the top and it will prevent any damage. I've had beer, wine, and liquor sit on it all night without any damage.


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