Mondrain Bar

Projects, Stuff and Things

I am not a woodworker. Any close examination of this construction will reveal this. But I am learning and this is my greatest creation to date. I learned a lot about the materials involved and I’ll try to share those with you.

Birch Plywood

Most of the construction is 2×4 pine but it is ‘wrapped’ in a layer of 3/4 inch birch plywood. I think this is how professionals make cabinets… but I’m just guessing here. This is normally $44ish per sheet, I was lucky enough to find a ‘Special Buy’ at Home Depot and got it for $24 per sheet. I think if you’re cautious with the cuts you could use only 3 sheets with this design. I actually really like the grain pattern that I was able to get in the top of the bar and for the price you can’t beat it. Which brings me to my next point

Staining Birch Plywood

This is where I spent the most time on this bar, not actually cutting wood or painting anything. But stressing over what color and how to stain the plywood. I had been told that it was nealy impossible to stain plywood without blotching problems. So on the recommendation of a couple woodworking forums I bought some pretreater. It was a little bit of an expensive experiment at $26 for a 20oz bottle. But it works miracles. Here’s a picture of the wood with and without pretreatment, same number of coats of stain.
Birch plywood is hard to stain. I knew this going in, but I got a great deal on the wood and I couldn’t afford any better counter top anyway.

Pine Trim Wood

I guess this is something that you just have to learn when you start building things with wood, but pine pretty much sucks for staining. The pretreater that worked miracles on the plywood was no match for the smooth sanded finish of the pine. The only way to make pine stainable would be to sand every visible edge with a rough grit sandpaper to ‘open it up’. They call it ‘select’ and you pay a little more, but I think what they do the make it straight is just run it through the sander an extra time. But besides the staining
it all seemed pretty standard to work with.

Epoxy Bar Top

This stuff is awesome and terrible at the same time. The secret is in the planning and design. If you’re going to cover something and dam the edges I would say go for it. If you think you’re going to flow it over the edges and have it look perfect like the tables at your local Thai restaurant I would prepare to be disappointed. Well, that may be a bit rough. What you’re going to have to to is be prepared for a huge mess. I almost did it right, I laid down plenty of plastic and leveled the bar perfectly. But on the first coat on the top I didn’t mix up enough to fully cover the surface so I was forced to squeegee it over the edge and it got this rippled effect in the process. I poured a second coat and was able to build up the top layer so that you didn’t notice, but the front edge stayed rippled. Another problem was that one edge of the bar didn’t have a lip for the epoxy to drip off of and I was so worried about the front edge that I forgot to smooth out all the drips. I could probably sand them off and try to put poly over them to keep the shine. But sometimes you have to cut your losses and go with what you’ve got.


They leak! Maybe I should have made sure that the basement was watertight in that corner, because the first big rain the whole area under the bar got wet. It turns out it was a downspout pipe that had come loose so the water was being directed against the foundation. I fixed that and everything seems fine now.

Lessons Learned

  • No matter what they say on the label, wood glues and wood putty are not stainable.
  • The pretreater required that you pretreat-sand-pretreat. Do Not Skip the sanding.
  • With a complex design like the front, I should have stained the wood first before I glued it on.
  • Leave room for the drill when mounting the Tap close to the bartop.
  • Predrill holes for wires and lights.
  • Foot rests are expensive.
  • To get the trim to stain I had to let the stain basically dry, then use a rag to wipe some of it off so that you could see the grain. This probably wouldn’t work with lighter stain.



Composition with grey and light brown - 1918 *This is rotated 90 degrees


2 thoughts on “Mondrain Bar

  1. Couldn’t you have gone with a darker stain rather than do four coats? Glue’s always a problem. I’m always careful to keep that price sticker on the wood to a non exposed part.

  2. The stain was pretty much black. Called Jacobean from Minwax. I’ve heard that if you use a higher quality stain you don’t have to use so many coats, but I’m ‘frugal’

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