Project: Minibar

Recently I've been feeling this desire to create something tangible, and my ideas have been all over the place. I've considered picking up an old car (something 60's or 70's) and restoring it back to a good working condition. I thought about writing some software that would take the world by storm. But then I thought about making a cabinet to consolidate all my booze, and all the other ideas took a major back seat. Now, one thing to keep in mind while you peruse this is I never intended for the process to end up anywhere. I didn't go into the project with the intentions of putting it on the web, but here I sit typing this none the less. So there is a major lack of images for many of the between steps... I guess I'll have to live with it?

One of the many good things about my father is that he loves to work with wood. He's a contractor, so he knows his way around wood, and he's been doing carvings and building things since way before it was a career. Anyway, that provided me with two things: access to tools that I would not normally have, and, even better than that, a Jedi Master to make me his little Padawan Learner. After drawing up a plan in my dream journal slash Black Hat notebook, I sent it his way to see how it could be improved. And it certainly could!

I never claimed to be an artist...

After I got the much needed insight from a man who does this sort of thing for a living and fun, I was ready to go. I headed to my folks' place out in the middle of nowhere to sit down and make me a minibar!

I arrived in town and after the usual barrage of "how's work", "have a girlfriend yet", and "has the itching stopped? Go see a doctor", (it has, thanks for asking) I was able to shift the conversation over to the minibar. My father, being the professional one of us, asked me what I wanted to make it out of. "Um, wood?" Turns out, there are too many types of wood for me to bother listing, and I don't know the first thing about the differences between them. We settled on Cherry and Walnut, but I have to take him at his word for that... he could have told me it was made out of unicorn horns and I would have believed him.

Day one I was ready and rearing to go. Let's get this banged out by lunch, then we can hit the liquor store, fill it, then spend the rest of the night trying to empty it again! Turns out, this woodworking thing takes a lot of time! By the end of the first day I think we had both sides cut out, the back ready, and the two internal shelves cut to size. It wasn't until the next day that we were able to start routing the grooves for the shelves to sit in, and get the whole thing ready to put together. That in itself took quite a long time, because we had to add wood glue to every surface multiple times (the grain soaks that stuff up like you wouldn't believe) and then clamp the whole thing together once we had it square. After an entire weekend working on the thing, it was time to head home and I didn't even have the whole skeleton of my dream minibar complete!

The bar starts to take shape, two days into work.

A week went by, and I spent a lot of my free time fantasizing about throwing suave cocktail parties, standing next to my mini bar dressed in formal clothes. When the weekend came I made the trek back to my parent's place and got to work. Another two days passed, and I was getting so very close! At this point I now had a cabinet with the stair steps on the top, and all the trim added. I spent a lot of time with the pocket screw bit and the biscuit joiner (both of which are awesome tools, they come highly recommended). I was also able to get the doors created, though they were just rectangles of wood at the moment, without all the cool styles on the edges.

Fast forward another week, and I'm back at it again. The first thing I do is tackle the doors with the router. If you haven't had a chance to play with one of these, they're awesome. The results are fantastic and the work practically happens on its own accord. One thing to note when you're routing, however, is the direction of the grain. If you go against it, the wood will splinter and you won't be a happy camper. This happened to me, but after some fancy work with wood glue and sawdust, I defy anyone to distinguish it from the normal grain of the wood. That's another trick my dad taught me, and it works wonders on hiding small gaps!

The part I was looking forward to the least was the staining. It's slow going and you have to be careful to apply it evenly so the color stays consistent. A few hours and coats later, my beauty was ready to be sealed. I got to use an air powered sprayer to get a good even coat, which was a lot of fun. There are so many coats of sealant on the mini bar, it must have doubled the thickness of each of my shelves. Also, I'm pretty sure I sprayed enough of that stuff that day to open a whole new hole in the ozone layer above my parents' place. Sorry, Mother Nature!

This is my favorite part of the story, I got to bring the mini bar home this weekend! I had picked up some glass panes cut to size from the hardware store, so all I had to do was put them in place and mount all the hardware and I was done. Here it is at this point, looking rather naked:

Naked minibar (nsfw)

If that last part of the process was my favorite, this part was my least favorite. I moved all my booze over to the cabinet and it was looking rather sparse. So I decided to make a run to the liquor store and stock up. After all, there's nothing worse than a sweet looking mini bar that's empty! The end result was... expensive.

Don't look at this picture, mom!

My wallet substantially lighter, I returned home to put my lifetime's supply of booze on the shelves. That in itself took a while, after which I (ironically?) cracked a beer and relaxed. Now I just have to start throwing parties every other night and I'll be out of liquor by the time I retire...

A good looking final result, if I do say so myself!

So that's that! About 40 hours of work and a few hundred dollars in materials/liquor later, I have 5 square feet of my living room decorated. Now if I can just figure out what to do with the rest...