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Home Back yard build under the wisteria

home tiki bars


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ITT, I'll post my new bar build and post some lessons learned from this and my previous build, and hopefully bounce questions and ideas off of everybody.

I am starting from a kit this time (available through several retailers). When I saw these ad images for an acacia bar I thought, "Hey, self, I can definitely work with that. And it's the same genus as koa wood, so bonus points!"

bar ad 01.jpgbar ad 02.jpg

Is it just me? Can this small serving bar be turned into a serviceable, tropical bar, let alone a tiki bar?

That's what I aim to find out. And you can come along for the ride to see if this is a good idea or a fool's errand.

I'll start off with the obvious negative: size. It's only about half as long as my old bar and the bar top is about 2/3 deep, so I'll have less working space. And the bar top doesn't extend as far forward from the base as my old one did. But like the old bar, we will bring this out for parties or just lounging on the weekend. Very rarely did guests sit or stand at the old bar, instead swinging by for me to sling a drink or standing at the sides to chat, and then lounging at the tables and couches elsewhere on the lanai or in the back yard.

As for the positives? The shelves, and the bottle storage. Man, I love the little built-in bottle rack and it solves an issue I had with my first bar. It's sturdy and can be disassembled with little work if/when need be. I also really like the base color and am very fond of dark wood contrasted with lighter colored bamboo and lauhala.

As I post this build, there a few things to note. Like my old bar, this will be an outdoor bar that we will keep out for the Summer. My previous bar was big and heavy, but I designed it to be pretty simple to disassemble, fold, and store in our shed if we were having multi-day rainstorms, hurricanes, etc. I guess that later on I may post what spelled doom for that bar (hint: neglected for months in a leaky storage location).

This one, I'll easily move into the garage when we have heavy weather. Except for a few dedicated outdoor decorations (a fountain, some lamps, and one of those Design Toscano Kanaloa tables, everything else is stored inside the house when we're not using the bar.

After receiving this kit, I assembled the bar to check fit and finish, and to identify areas for future modifications.

Then I disassembled it and over the course of a weekend, applied a couple of coats of tung oil to every surface. Then I let it sit and polymerize for a week before applying finish, and waited in vain for my pile of oily rags to spontaneously combust.

As for the basic kit, the whole skeleton I was basing my build off of? I liked it and could have totally used it somewhere inside the house in its basic, raw form.

But how will it look with lauhala and bamboo?

We'll find out.
An early end to the work day, so I'll review what I did during the second week of the build and get into the fun stuff.

The Lauhala - One lesson from my old bar: fight the droop. For this build, I went for smaller pieces instead of the large lauhala rolls. 6 and 7 inch wide lauhala belting was my solution here. The front sections use two vertically overlapping belts, and the sides use 4.5 roughly 7x7" squares I cut from the belting. As it dawned on me too late, the 7" belting had a nice curve to it which I initially took as a challenge and made squares out of, but it might have looked nice to retain that curved edge and ended up with a slightly scalloped or feathered look to the overlapping squares, maybe even evocative of an ahu ula if I had put some thought into it. Next time!

s I found worked fine with my last build, I treated the lauhala with concrobium, and flattened again under weight, and then finished with a low gloss spar varnish. The Kane and the two koruru masks were outside so I could do some some minor touch ups. Plus, they helped set the mood along with Gabby Pahinui playing over my Five Below flaming torch/speaker.

02 mat prep.jpg

What I really liked about working with the belting: it's far, far cheaper than the typical large rolls I worked with in the past. Far less waste, too. It's also much easier to work with and cut to size. The weave was also slightly finer than the large rolls I used in the past. Not only did I find this finer weave took cutting much better without fraying, I also found that the smaller weave had a pleasing look given the smaller dimensions of this bar.

And I'm not sure how to describe it, but the belt edges were all smoothly and cleanly woven from the front to the back. In other words, for the long strips of belting, the edge of the belt that overlaps the other is nice and clean and fairly straight out of the box- less taping and cutting needed and no resulting ragged edges of lauhala to glue down or cover up with bamboo. Where I did cut, I used the trick of applying brown masking tape to the rear and cut with a good pair of scissors.

I debated constructing a separate frame for the lauhala as I did with my old bar - I still think this was a great idea for the old one since it allowed me the flexibility to swap out any individual section that got damaged or rotten (this idea turned out to be unnecessary, despite the warnings that some gave me). This time, I just mounted the belts and squares directly to the bar front with Gorilla Glue double-sided indoor/outdoor strips + some staples. I'll give an update to how well the Gorilla Glue fared in a few months and if they live up to their outdoor/weatherproof claims.

I honestly wasn't sure how the belts and squares would look when finally up, but I figured if it's perfectly fine (and works) at La Mariana, it's perfectly fine for me.

la mariana reference 2.jpg

I think they came out pretty darn well. Even the wife and kids who kind of looked unconvinced as I started to attach the squares liked the end result once everything was flat and the vertical edges covered by the bamboo trim. For the front, I think that people's eyes will be drawn to the masks and not the vertical line.

front panels and masks.jpg

After the lauhala was up, I mounted my lighting under the bar top to illuminate the front and sides. This is one of the cheapo LED strips available everywhere, and has a handful of really nice slow-transition settings between colors. I will run the light strip from my old bar on the inside to give my shelves a subdued, but constant glow to make it easier to use the shelves in the dark. Plus, I hope it gives me a bit of a glow when I'm standing behind the bar.

03 light.jpg

Next up, I'll discuss bamboo.
Lol. Im glad its not always me. I managed to stuff a 17x3 foot roll of bamboo into a canopy above a bar. Once I got it up there, I let the natural bow take over and just left it as it was. It ended up looking great, but I had my doubts until the end. lol. Heres a link to what I did to hide 2x4s with bamboo. Dont know if you will see any ideas you could use, but check out all 5 parts. It was quite an adventure. Heres the one on bamboo. https://tikiforum.com/threads/the-howlie-hut-pt-3.131/
Yes! I scanned through your threads before I signed up here, but hadn't read through #3 and your rope discussion. Very, very impressive space you're building out. And I love the contrasting bamboo.

So, hot glue works well with the ropes?
Ive had no issues and it can get hot in my garage during the summer at times. I do know that the holding power of some hot melt can be compromised by excessive heat, like you would find in Arizona or Nevada desert. For light weight decorative purposes though, it seems to hold up well to warm temps. Ill update at the end of the summer. lol.
Onto the bamboo.

I used three roughly 1" diameter, 6' long bamboo poles which I batoned with my trusty golok. Now to cut to size... and probably make more experienced bamboo workers cringe. Well, my coping saw blades and miter box went AWOL and I was tired of driving to/from the hardware store. I also don't have a proper saw or work bench. But I have a deck overhang I can c-clamp lumber to, and I have a fine cutting handsaw, a pencil and ruler, a Dremel, and a lot of sandpaper... so full speed ahead with totally bubba-fied bamboo work!

After cutting to length and fitting each piece as well as I could with the Dremel and some sanding, here we have the nearly complete product.


Yes, the joints in the bamboo frames look like bubbafied crap. So any ideas are welcome!

I will fill the gaps with wood putty or something similar this weekend.

Then I'm thinking about using rope or some other cordage to make faux lashing at each corner.

Based on Johnny Tsunami's thread and post, I'm thinking hot glue to fix the rope to the bamboo. 3 or 5 strands flanking each corner and a few strands covering up each corner.

But I could use some advice on (1) types of cordage to use, (2) types of cordage to absolutely avoid, (3) methods to whip or seal the cut ends of each strand, and (4) methods to coat or seal the faux lashing (if even necessary). Varnish? Shellac?
Your bar is looking great! I have not had to cut any bamboo as of yet, so I will be interested to hear if there is an easier/better method out there. As for the lashing/rope, I added some rope I picked up at our local home depot. I hot glued the starting and end points, then I used just a few pin nails to make it permanent. This is a support beam in the pic.

I did not varnish or coat my rope, but it is not being used outside, so I dont know how the weather in your area would affect the rope. To seal the ends, I just used some of the brown, hot melt. After cutting, I wound and tightened the end as compact as I could get it, then put a drop of brown hot melt on the end, as it cooled, right before it set up, I pressed down on the drop of hot melt to flatten the end. Once cooled the hot melt will hold the strands in place.
The ends of my rope were for the most part, hidden, so you didnt see them unless you were really looking, but for the most part, it looked fine, for what I was doing.
Since I started my project, Ive gone by the mantra that "tiki isint perfect". Exact corners, cuts, seams, just dont exist in a non exact world, which tiki definitely is. Unless the imperfection is glaring, just embrace it, and move on. It is what it is, and if you look around at most, great, tiki bars, you will find many imperfections. Learn to love them and their uniqueness.
Most people wont notice, and the rest wont care after their second Mai Tai.
One thing you will want to try, is hiding hardware and adhesives, by building from the inside out.
I fixed my half round poles to the 2x4s with hot melt. The rope is placed over the bead of hot melt to hid it from view. The contrasting bamboo slats are screwed into the sides of the 2x4s, to hide the hot melt for the rope. The lashing is then placed over the screw holes, in the bamboo slats, to hide the hardware. When done, the only thing visible is the bamboo and the rope, everything else is hidden by the previous item.
Ultimately my goal is to hide anything non tiki, like screws, glue, tape, ect, and leave only natural wood, or bamboo, visible.
Thanks, everybody, for the great advice.

And Kahikina, the photo you posted gave me a great idea for a secondary project - a way to display mugs. In the house, I have them in a display case, but I have about 54 linear feet of yakisugi planks from my old bar I could repurpose to build a portable mug display for outdoor use.
A minor update. As I mentioned, while the bar lives mostly outside during the Summer, we only put out the decor for parties. So the masks pictured above are not permanently mounted. Both came with mounting holes on the back, so I hammered in two small-headed DecoNails into the bar front so I can place them whenever I want and keep them in storage when not in use. Along similar lines, I found the bar side panel the perfect spot to highlight a Hawaiian sword I picked up from Lost Island Traders a long time ago before they moved to Etsy.


Also squared away my bar top for now, featuring a couple of Fijian tapa cloths, protected under a heavy clear PVC table protector. Cheap solution that actually looks pretty decent.


Still thinking about a long-term bar top replacement and I saw a few ideas I may borrow from while looking at Bamboo Ben's instagram feed. But for now, it'll do and I can sling drinks on it and keep the tapa clean.
As I mentioned, my bar is a temporary kind of thing we set up for parties or to provide a little escapist atmosphere while hanging out on the lanai on the weekends. I've been toying with an idea of creating a temporary thatched "roof" that I could mount on the arbor above the bar, but wasn't convinced it would look all that great. While killing time at the Polynesian Resort, the idea hit me. Why not do a very scaled down riff on the Polynesian lobby's chandeliers:


So I sketched out an idea, cut some bamboo to size, recruited some bamboo tomato stakes that I wasn't using, and came up with my best attempt at a ceiling hanging that would look appropriately haphazard.

bamboo thing 1.jpeg

Secured the big lengths of poles with screws to keep it stable. These are on what will be the top of the chandelier, out of sight.

bamboo thing 2.jpeg

Then a little torching (a little too much in places) to accentuate the nodes, and then lashed on the small poles, coating the top of the lashing with wood glue. This is the bottom that will face guests:

bamboo thing 3.jpeg

I will lash the 8 joints of the bigger poles with rope to finish it off. But the rope is still drying after I stained it.

It ended up much more squared off than I intended, but it'll still work.

I plan to hang this over the bar, hanging a couple of Japanese fishing floats and a pufferfish lamp. I will play around to see if a fishing net looks good draped on / off it it.

As with everything else with my build, I hope it gives people ideas, especially if they are dealing with small spaces or, like me, want to be able to build out a temporary / storable / moveable tiki bar space.
We're a few weeks from hosting a proper tiki party, but have gotten some use out of it as a place to enjoy our homemade Dole Whips.

Thirsty tikis watching over the Dole Whip machine:

dole whip 1.jpg

Perfect atmosphere for enjoying our Dole Whips:

dole whip 2.jpg
@kanaloa any new pics of your roof/light project? I have been following this thread.

Not yet.

The main lashing and loops up top that will help suspend it are now done. We hosted a small group earlier this week for a few impromptu rounds of drinks and afterwards played around with positioning the bamboo chandelier thing. I'm still playing with the eventual rigging and height I need to suspend it from the overhead arbor.

Bad planning on my part as in my zeal to build it, I didn't account for heads bumping into the pufferfish I planned to hang off of it! I have a few things in mind that I hope I'll have time to work with over the weekend. I'll post an update when I figure it out.

Also, while searching YT for DIY bamboo ideas, I found out that I'm not the only person who decided to build a small version of the Polynesian's chandeliers:

Also watching his other videos, I realized I walked past this guy a ton of times that afternoon. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, footage of me standing at the walk-up terrace bar with my teenage son didn't end up in his video.