With the live edge red elm bar top complete, it was time to make the mobile base. We wanted the base to still make a statement but not take away from the beauty of the live edge top. The design we came up with was a chevron pattern with each board being a different color.  This gave the bar a classy but still kind of rustic feel, making the bar top and the base complement each other. With the design in hand, it was time to start making the base.

Even though we used SketchUp to design the bar, the measurements we used weren’t exact. We more or less just wanted to use SketchUp for the design. We knew the measurements were probably going to change during the building process, so we didn’t want to waste time making the SketchUp drawing an exact replica of the finished project. But we did have some basic measurements that we followed. We targeted an 8-11” overhang on the front edge and 1 ½” overhang on the other three sides. 8-11” overhang isn’t the biggest overhang in the world, but we wanted to make sure the bar wouldn’t tip over from its weight. This helped us determine the width and length of the cabinet box. To find the length, we subtracted 3”, 1 ½” from each side, from the length of the bar top. Finding the width of the cabinet box was a little tricky. We took the width of the narrowest end of the top and subtracted 8” for the front overhang and 1 ½” for the opposite overhang. We also knew we wanted the bar to be overall 42” tall. To find the actual height of the cabinet box, we added the height of the caster wheels and the thickness of the top and then subtracted that from 42”.  This made the rough size of the cabinet box 39 ¾” tall by 69” long by 18 ¾” wide.

Knowing the finished dimensions of the cabinet box, we could figure out the actual size of the components. We like to figure out the exact measurements of the components as we need them. The first thing we wanted to handle was cutting our plywood pieces to width. To find the width, we took the 18 ¾” and subtracted 1 5/8”. This accounts for the 13/16” piece of oak on the front of the cabinet and 13/16” oak face frame. Then, we needed to cut those pieces to length. The two vertical side panels were easy. They were cut to the height of 39 ¾”. The bottom piece for the cabinet box was cut to 69”. This was cut oversized that way we could fit it to the spot later.

From there we made the plywood frames for the front side of the base. The reasons why we made frames was it made the base lighter, used scrap plywood, and cut down on the amount of plywood needed, therefore, cutting down on costs. We ripped the scrap plywood to 3” wide. This gave us enough material to hold the frame rigid and attach the oak to. We also knew that when we made the mitered corner, some of the plywood would also be ripped off, so we wanted to make sure that there would be a fair amount of width left to the plywood. The height of the frames were 39 ¾” tall like the finished dimensions of the cabinet box. We then took the length of the cabinet box, 69”, and divided it by two, 34 ½”. This gave us the overall width of each frame. These pieces were cut to 28 ½” to compensate for the 3” plywood pieces on the vertical part of the frame. We assembled the frames together with pocket screws.

The pattern

At this point, we started to make the chevron pattern. We had the idea that instead of cutting all the angles, we would cut the red oak pieces oversized and then trim them to the size of the frame or side panel. And this idea worked great. We took our oak boards, marked a rough length, chopped to length, jointed an edge, and then ripped to 5” wide. We continued this process until we had all the oak boards cut and ripped to size. Straight line ripped and sanded red oak will also make your life a ton easier in this project.

Then it was time to attach the oak to the plywood frames. We positioned the oak corner to corner on the frame, clamped it in place, and then attached it to the frame with a screw on each end. Pro tip: Make sure to keep your screws to the inside of the frame. That way when the miter is cut, you don’t hit any screws with the table saw. Once the first piece was in place, we used a penny as a spacer to make a consistent gap between all the panels. This gap served a couple different purposes. The first being the appearance the gap gave. We wanted to see a dark line between the oak panels. The gap also made applying the stain much easier. It allowed us to put some sort of physical barrier in the gap so the stains stayed contained in the right areas. We debated staining the oak before attaching them, but we chose to wait. This ended up being a good move because much of the oak got scratched as we were trimming the extra oak off. The gap’s biggest purpose was to allow for wood movement. The gaps will allow for the oak to shrink in the winter months and swell in the summer months. This means the gaps will be bigger/wider in the winter months and smaller/tighter in the summer months. This is also why we only attached the oak with one screw on each end. A single screw held the piece securely enough and would still allow the oak to move in width. 

One quick note, we didn’t countersink and plug any of the screws. This means you can see every screw head. We didn’t mind this because we didn’t care about the sight of the screws on the inside of the cabinet. If you do, just countersink the screws and plug all the holes. This will give you a more finished off or polished look in the inside of the cabinet.

With all the oak attached to the two plywood frames, it was time to trim the oak to the same size of the frame. There are a couple different ways to go about this. The first idea we had, but never actually used, was to trim the oak as closely as possible to the frame and then clean the rest up with a flush trim router bit. We didn’t do this because we were afraid of getting an extreme amount of chip out. Red oak and end grain are notorious for chip out. The second option we thought of was what you see demonstrated in the video. Trim the oak with a circular saw or band saw and sand it flush to the frame. This plan of attack worked, but was very time consuming. The third idea was to trim the oak close to the frame and then apply painters tape to the front panel (plywood frame and oak assembly) and to a straight edge. Then apply super glue to the tape and attach the straight edge to the front panel. The tape allows the pieces to come apart but still hold everything secure enough while machining. Make sure the straight edge is attached parallel to the frame. Then cut the oak flush at the table saw. This worked well and we had little chip out. It was fairly quick as well. The other option we thought of after the process is similar to the last process. You can trim the oak exactly square to the frame with the initially trim of the access oak. This will act as your straight edge. Then you can trim all the oak flush to the frame at the table saw. Ultimately, there are all kinds of ways to accomplish this task. You just need to get creative and figure out the best process for the tools you have. 

After we trimmed the oak to the same size of the frame, we cut a 45° angle on the outside edge where the front panel would meet the side panels. This made the chevron pattern look continuous from the front to the sides. 

Sanding and staining

It was time to sand and stain the oak. This could have been pushed off until later, but there was no big reason to wait. So we sanded the red oak to 220 grit. Whenever you stain something, you want to make sure you do a fantastic job sanding. Stain will show any scratches you missed while sanding. It’ll also show any swirls your sander might have put into the wood.  Just make sure your keeping the surface and sand paper clean from sawdust. Once everything was sanded, we figured out what we wanted for the color pattern. We marked the end of the boards, or any spot that won’t be seen after assembly, with what color we wanted the board to be. Then, we slid painter’s tape in the space between each oak board (any physical divider would work here, paper, cardboard, etc.). We carefully stained each piece of oak the proper color, making sure not to get it on any other pieces. 

Then it was time to attach the oak to the side panels. We completed the front panels first for a couple reasons. The first was we didn’t know how the whole process was actually going to work. Waiting to complete this step allowed us to modify the process so it was easier and more efficient. The other big reason was we wanted the angle to be the same on the front and the sides, and because of the process we used to complete the past steps, we really didn’t know what the angle was. So the completed front panel is what we used to figure out this angle. Now you could just measure this angle, but angles can be confusing and we didn’t want to mess around with that. We chose to measure the width of the oak flush to the edge of the frame, 7”, and translated that measurement to the side panel. Then we positioned the piece of oak on the side panel to match the same reveal of 7”, therefore, when the oak is trimmed, the width of the oak on both the side and the front panels would both be 7” and all the miters would line up. You could also find the slope of the pieces on the front panels and match that slope on the side panels. We followed the same process for attaching the oak to the plywood as we did before when attaching the oak to the frames. Again, the process was pretty simple once the first piece was put in place. And after the oak was attached, we trimmed the oak to the size of the panel using the same methods mentioned before. And then the 45° angle was cut on the edge that would fit with the angled front.

Next, we figured out the measurements of the two additional vertical dividers. The height was 39”, the height of 39 ¾” minus ¾” for the thickness of the bottom of the cabinet. To find the width, we measured inside width of the side panel (the plywood side), 16 ¼”.  

Once that step was complete, we needed to drill holes for the shelf pins. Since the vertical dividers and side panels are different heights, we marked the top off all the pieces. We did this because once the cabinet box is assembled, the tops of these pieces will all be parallel. When marking the placement between each shelf pins, reference the top edge. This will keep all the shelf pin holes parallel.  We marked where we wanted the front row and back row of pins to sit. Then we marked the height of the pins with a scrap piece of plywood. Once again, make sure to work from the top edge to the bottom edge. The scrap piece made for consistency throughout all the measurements. If you have a shelf pin hole jig, this would be the place to use it. We don’t, so we made do with what we had. A jig will give you more accurate results from piece to piece. We headed over to our drill press and drilled all the way through the two vertical dividers and drilled just deep enough for shelf pins to sit flush on the two side panels. The plywood really liked to chip out during this process. One possible way to help avoid this would be to apply painters tape in the areas you’ll be drilling. We sanded and stained the oak on the side panels with the same process and pattern as the front panel. 

This is the point where we trimmed the bottom of the cabinet to size. We laid out the front panels to find the length, measured from the inside of the 45° angles, and also ripped it to 16 ¼” like the two vertical dividers. Then we drilled a ton of pocket screws on the bottom side of it on both ends and sides. This is how everything was going to be assembled. Make sure to drill more than what you think. Because this is a mobile bar, all the weight will be carried on the caster wheels. The plywood will rip through the screw if not enough screws are used. Remember, this is a heavy bar. There is 60 bf of red oak in this project. That’s 210 lbs. of just red oak.

Assembly of the bar base

Then it was time for the assembly. Everything was sanded to 220 grit before being assembled. The first thing we did was attach the bottom to the front panels. Start from one end and work to the other. This will allow you to work out any warp that might be in the plywood. Then we attached the side panels to the bottom. Now this was tricky. It took a lot of time and patience, but we finally got the job done. The next thing we did was attach the vertical dividers in place. We just screwed directly through the bottom to do this. The key here is to make sure everything stays square. Now that all the pieces are secured from the bottom, we need to secure the pieces at the top of the cabinet. We did this by using scrap plywood and ripped it to about 3” wide. The pieces were chopped to size to fit the spot they were going in. We drilled pocket holes on both ends and one edge. We made sure all pieces were in the proper spot and everything was square and secured everything in place.

The next thing that we did was make the face frame. Our face frame was 13/16” thick and 1 7/8” wide. Then we cut all the face frame pieces to size. The best way to do this is to place the face frame on the cabinet box, mark it, cut it, then sneak up on the length until it fits perfectly. Then we attached the face frame together with some pocket screws. We did this to make sure the front side of the face frame is flush. Finally we put a bead of glue on the cabinet box, set the face frame in place, and screwed the face frame to the box with pocket screws. 

While the glue was curing on the face frame we attached the caster wheels to the base. We added a small piece of plywood just for some extra support. We drilled a couple holes and attached the casters with some nuts, bolts, and washers. 

The next step of the process was to make to shelves. We measured the space for the shelves and cut plywood to fit that space. Then we cut a small rip of maple to use as edge banding along the front edge of the shelves. We glued the edge banding to the plywood and “clamped” it in place with some painter’s tape.

The last big manufacturing step was making the cabinet doors. We found the size of the doors by measuring the size of the hole and added a 1 ¼” in width and height. We cut a groove in the styles and rails. Then we cut a tenon on the rails to fit that groove. We used ½” red oak plywood for the panel of the door. We cut the panel to size sanded everything to 220 grit and assembled the doors.

With everything made and assembled, it was time for finishing. We used the same finish on the base as what we used for the bar top, wipe on polyurethane. It’s about 50% mineral spirits to 50% oil based polyurethane. We make our own mixture so we can control how thick or thin the finish is. We applied three coats with a foam brush and scuffed between coats with 400 grit.

After the finish was cured, it was time for the last finishing touches. We added the hinges to the cabinet doors and attached the doors to the base. Then we had to attach the top to the base. We made six slots for the bolt to slide through. This will allow the top to expand and contract through the seasons. We made the slots by drilling a couple holes and then expanding those holes by working the drill back and forth. Then we made everything smooth with a file. This isn’t the prettiest, but it gets the job done. You can also do this with a router bit. Then we placed the top on the base and marked where the slots were. We took the top off and drilled holes and inserted the threaded inserts. Be careful during this step! The last thing you want to do is drill a hole in your top. We put the top back on the base and attached it to the base with some bolts. 

The finished project

And with that, the bar was complete!

Did you miss how we made the bar top? You can find those details here: Live Edge Red Elm Bar Top Build – The Craftsman’s Notes

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