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DIY Basement Bar

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Basement Bar: How

to build a Spalted

Maple Bar on a budget

You could sub pretty much any slab wood 1.5″ or thicker for the spalted maple but this is what we built, so this is what we will type. 

cat footprint hires22 12 1

Spalted Maple, Warm Minwax


I knew that I wanted to build a bar in the speakeasy but I wasn’t exactly sure of the style. My initial thought was to make a walnut topped bar but then I walked into my local millers shop and fell in love with the figure of this spalted maple slab. Let’s be clear, it did not look this way when I bought it but the figure was there. It had natural curves and wasn’t too live edgy.


Spalted maple can have some beautiful lines created by Fungi,  the lines are a result of the nutrient trails of the fungus rotting the wood. The key is to find wood that is rotted enough to look cool but not so much that it causes structural issues. Also, don’t worry this Fungi will not turn you into a flesh eating monster like in the Last of Us, those are Cordyceps…it’s also fictional, for now. Dun dun dunnnnnnnnn

DIY Bar - Spalted Maple

Interested in the whiskey bar, but really interested in the whiskey? Check out my review of Flaviar, the whiskey delivery service – here 

DIY Basement Bar.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
DALL·E 2022-08-17 13.52.13 - _studious bro cat with hat and headphones and Dewalt safety glasses_, _sitting at a workbench with a clipboard_, _scrappy bro cat pointing to the clip

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DIY Basement Bar.


DIY basement bar: The Tail of Two Bars yes the spelling was intentional

This project is broken down into two very distinct parts. The base and the top, each require different skills but neither set is terribly difficult. It just requires the age old rules of taking your time and measuring two or three times. Once you realize that it takes more time to fix sloppy measurements the world becomes a better place.

The key is to build a base that supports a beautiful bar top. Because you crafty cats can be waltzing into this from different alleys, we will break the project up into these two distinct sections.

DIY Basement Bar.

Plans for DIY Basement Bar

Cut List

I am in the process of building a virtual model for your viewing pleasure. For now, below are the final measurements for my bar:

1. Slab Dimensions: 69.5″ x 14.5″ (at the shortest, 18″ at longest)

This was cut to a length of 53″. I split the remaining 16.5″ in half to create the sides. We will get into that later.


2. Base Top: 1″x6″x49″

3. Base Bottom: 1″x6″x49″

4. Slats: A collection of 1×3’s, 1×4’s and other cuts 

5. 2×4 frame 49″ (2) , 27″ (4)


Basement Bar - 3D model and Finished Product, Free DIY instructions - TheCraftyCatsman

DIY Basement Bar.

Tools & Materials

DIY basement bar: The Tail of Two Bars yes the spelling was intentional

1. Circular Saw

2. Drill

3. 3/4″ Wood screws (or nails)

4. Wood screws long enough to go through 2×4’s but not long enough to go through your slab (I am not giving you a length because I don’t know how thick your slab is. 



DIY Basement Bar.

Spalted Maple Bar top

It’s like she’s all that, but with

wood. I think, I never saw the


The beauty is there folks, you just need to see past the surface and highlight the features. Wood grain can be mesmerizing and in my opinion the right spalting for the right project can turn mesmerizing into absolute stunners. Note, I said bringing out the beauty. Our goal is only to bring out the natural figure of the wood. This can be achieved through careful sanding and the right selection of stain and polyurethane.


Maple tends to be a little white, I have a rustic themed speakeasy with dark tones and a corrugated metal ceiling. I felt that maple with a white tone would be too bright. Because of this, I decided to take a risk and try Minwax’s warm polyurethane. I took the risk so that you don’t have to. Below shows a before and after picture of the slab wood, I would say she cleaned up well. Without the Freddie Prinze Jr. Drama. 


Spalted maple Slab Unfinished


BartopStainingProcess scaled

DIY Basement Bar.

Choosing the Right Slab

Not every rough sawn piece of wood is a Laney Boggs. The beauty has to be there for you to bring it out, it’s in the eye of the beholder etc etc. The goal of this small section is to show you (1) That I googled She’s all that and this 90’s RomCom is now the theme for the build and (2) How to spot the Laney Boggs of slab wood


Tip #1

Find a local miller on Facebook marketplace. Almost every town has one. Pay attention to their rating and message them to talk about what you are looking for. A lot of times millers post a few slabs but have many more in the shop. 

Tip #2

Kiln Dried is a plus, if not, the wood should be air dried for about a year or it will inevitably split. The wood should not have a moisture content that exceeds 12%. If you or the seller aren’t sure, you can pick up a cheap moisture meter on amazon.

Tip #3

The wood should be planed, run your hand along the surface of the wood and feel for any major uneven spots. You want to avoid wood that has significant dips. You can lie the surface of the wood down on the floor and see if it wobbles. You likely do not have a planer capable of fixing a major wobble of a slab of wood this big. If you did, you wouldn’t be on a cat themed Laney Boggs lovin’ website. Keep in mind that a little wobble is okay and can be corrected later in the build. You just want to avoid major wobbles and dips.

Tip #4

Live edge can look cool but visualize what the wood looks like with the bark removed. You will likely need to sand off the loose bark. My slab had some bark on it but I sanded the edge until I got a flow of the wood that wasn’t too live edgy but also had character.

where to buy slab wood, spalted maple slab wood

DIY Basement Bar.

The Makeover

Like what you see above? Well there are a few simple but important steps to achieve a nice finished look for slab wood. We are going to dive into that below.

Step 1: Sanding

Slab wood will come in various states of disarray.

My advice is to start with 80 grit sandpaper and an orbital sander.

To remove rot, I used some flap sanding wheels that I bought off amazon (see the below video).

If you aren’t making progress then you may have to switch to a belt sander. For reference, I used my belt sander on the edge to create a look that flowed. I avoided the belt sander on the main surface because I didn’t want to create and dips or unevenness. If you must use a belt sander then move quickly and evenly across the board. Finish with 120 grit on an orbital sander.

To remove rot, I used some flap sanding wheels that I bought off amazon (see the below video).

Spalted Maple - Sanded

Step 2: Fit and visualize the bar


I stared for a very long time at the slab, I didn’t have plans for the basement bar, so I tried to visualize how to best utilize the slab. I wanted a bar that wrapped on the side but I also wanted the lab to have a natural flow.


To create this look I decided to cut the slab on one side and then split that cut in half. I lined these pieces on the sides of the bar. Once I had the layout exactly the way I wanted it I decided to clamp the pieces down and sand them as if they were a single slab. I created some curves along the sides and across the seams that helped make the pieces flow together. The grain doesn’t line up but the sanding effect makes it hard to notice unless you focus on it. 

This is a cat themed website. I cut the slab wood to fit my bar dimensions.

Step 3: Build the frame

As tempting as it may be to pretty this up with polyurethane, we must pause the beauty pagent and head over to the foundation.


DIY Basement Bar.

Building the Base

We have a stained solid base, a pedestal to the trophy. It’s time to mount that beautiful unfinished slab and finalize your concept.

Basement Bar Core: General Design

We want the bar base to look cool but most importantly it needs to be able to support a potentially heavy piece of slab wood. Because of this, I decided to design a 2×4 core frame, I then built three panels (two sides and a front) and nailed those panels 2×4 core. Pay attention to the video as you will see that I have 2x4s at the top which will serve as the main supports for the Slab.

The panels could be from an old pallet (DIY pallet basement bar) or scraps. One great way to save money is check the purple cart at Home Depot. Almost every home depot has a cart of damaged wood that is 75% off (and sometimes free). Just look for longer pieces that have quality sections in tact. Then cut the damaged parts off (or leave them for character).


This video shows the design before we prettied it all up. I stacked scraps and some new wood of various widths together then glued and nailed from the inside out (making sure that the nails wouldn’t poke through). The vertical boards are held together by a wider 1×6 board. The finished panels are then secured to the 2×4 frame. Click the images below to see the assembly process.


Basement Bar: Staining process

I wanted to give the base a little bit of extra character. To achieve this, I purchased some small cans of different color stains. During the staining process I dabbed some of the brighter colors and rubbed them on to a few boards.

To stain the base of the bar I lightly sanded the entire thing using a 120-grit sandpaper. For easy to access spots I used my orbital sander but then folded some sandpaper up and got the hard to reach spots by hand.

Once the wood was ready to stain I got out my rag and gloves and started to wipe the stain on to the entire base. To add some variety I peppered in some brightly colored stains on some of the boards. I only dabbed a few sections then rubbed them over with the main stain to get a little depth. I wiped the stain off immediately with a different rag and repeated the process a second time (after it dried). Click between the below two videos to see the base before and after.

Note: In the picture below there is a gap between the front and side panel. This was because I considered using some offcuts of slab wood to give the sides some extra character. I decided that this idea drew unnecessary attention. In the end, I capped the gaps with 1×3 wood.

Basement Bar: Shelving

At this point, the frame and main part of the bar was built. I decided to use the 2×4’s as posts to build some basic shelving. I intend to build them out a little more but given the DIY 80% rule, who knows.

To make the shelves, I used a jigsaw to cut some scrap plywood that fit around the 2x4s. I secured the plywood using pre-drilled scrab 2×4 blocks. I even traced an ice bucket and then cut a hole for the ice bucket to rest in. So, one shelf actually has the ability to hold a bucket of ice and beer (considering the rest of the bar is for whisky 🙂 ).

DIY Basement Bar.

Dryfitting the Slab

We have a stained solid base, a pedestal to the trophy. It’s time to mount that beautiful unfinished slab and finalize your concept.

Basement Bar: Finishing the Flow

Pay attention to the video. You will see that the sides are rigid and don’t exactly line up with the main slab.

I had a lot of fun with this step. Get the main slab where you want it. I secured the slab to the base by drilling a few wood screws through the supporting 2×4’s and into the slab. If I am not being clear let me emphasize, DO NOT drill screws through the top of the slab into the 2×4’s. Instead, drill from the bottom up, always making sure that your screw is long enough to go through the 2×4 and into the slab but not so long that it pokes out through the top of your pretty wood.

Once the main slab is secured, work on fitting the sides. When things look right (but rigid) secure the sides using wood screws in the same manner that you did for the main slab.

You should now have a secured bar top, capable of handling some pushing around but certainly not finished or completely sturdy. We will use more screws and wood glue later on, for now the goal is to keep the slab pieces secure enough to handle some more sanding.

The goal of this step is to create a final flow of your bar. Using a belt sander (or orbital sander) it is time to treat the three separate pieces as one. For starters, the inside portion of the bar should have some curve to it. The boxy corners should be rounded off through some good old fashion sanding power.

I swept my belt sander along the corners back and forth until the sweeping motion felt smooth and natural. At first this will be difficult, the corners right angle poses a bit of a challenge but it’s nothing that you can’t handle. Just remember, you can’t put the wood back, take your time and don’t sand too much in one shot. Sand, step back, evaluate and hop back in.

I suggest starting with the inside because your mistakes can be forgiven. You are going to want to do the same thing to the outside but need to be careful not to sand too close to your support 2x4s.

Stick with this until it you are completely satisfied. We are entering the point of no (easy) return. It is much easier to obsess here then it would be to try to come back to this step later on. 


DIY Basement Bar.

Finishing the Slab

Let’s get this girl to the prom, forget we were doing that? I didn’t.

Basement Bar: Applying Polyurethane

I have an entire page dedicated to helping you apply polyurethane like a pro. If you have never applied polyurethane then I suggest you scroll down, click the button and brush up on my tips and tricks.

This project was the first time that I ever used a “tinted” polyurethane. For the background’s sake – polyurethane traditionally comes clear. People apply polyurethane as a protective coating to protect projects from scratches. Polyurethane also helps resist water damage.

Polyurethane comes in four different types of finishes: matte, satin, semi-gloss, and high-gloss. While color tones are typically left for stains, some brands of polyurethane have also tinted their mixtures to add subtle highlights. 

Traditionally, my goal is to have the polyurethane act like a bullet proof barrier between my project and the world that is trying to hurt it. I prefer a good satin, not over applied and no plastic look.

When you think of a bullet proof barrier I am sure that you imagine it to be clear with an intent to blend in. I think bullet proof glass with a stencil of Freddy Prinze Jrs. face would be a little off putting, don’t you?

That being said, I decided to risk my beautiful slab to what I would have otherwise considered a blasphemous choice for two reasons (1) It’s sold a Lowe’s and I am a Home Depot Guy (put me through college) and (2) It is a warm toned polyurethane. Minwax Oil based Warm Satin to be exact.

No cliffhangers here, I love my decision and the warmth of the polyurethane is the subtle kick that my maple needed to fit in with my design.

To properly apply the polyurethane is to properly prepare the polyurethane. I scrubbed the slab with shop towels and mineral spirits. You want every single spec of dust to flee the board faster than Laney did when Taylor humiliated her at the party. Temperature and humidity play an important role here. Typically I do this work in the garage but it was a cold wet time of year and I didn’t want to risk uneven drying. I wound up doing this in our basement with some windows open and a fan going. Be sure to ventilate your space, it will stink up (and it’s dangerous).

Once the slab is completely clean apply your first thin layer of minwax warm polyurethane. I stress the word thin, you can add multiple coats but a thick goopy layer of polyurethane will take hours to correct. Here we will use the feathering technique that’s gentler than Zack and Laney’s first kiss. Apply a thin layer of polyurethane, when the slab is properly coated take your brush and go end to end with just the tip of the brush feathering across the board. This helps eliminates bubbles and also helps get rid of excess drip around the edges. Do this across the entire board with the goal of making as few brush strokes as possible (try to start under and end under on the other side). I wiped excess polyurethane on the underside of the slabs, you will not see it anyway.

In total, I applied three coats, the more coats the warmer the look. Keep in mind that while polyurethane dries in a few hours it actually takes a full 30 days to cure. This means you can work on and even use the bar after a few days but treat it like Laney just dropped her books and be easy. You don’t want to mess up your work.

DIY Basement Bar.

Winning Prom Queen

You made it this far and stuck with me the same way we stuck to the metaphor.

Basement Bar: Putting it all together

You made it to the big day, the moods electric and everyone’s watching. Today is the day we put it all together. Truth is, the hard parts over and you just need to seal the deal.

To do this, put a healthy dose of wood glue on your 2×4 support beams. Meticulously line up your pieces until everything fits just right. Then through clamps, heavy (soft or wrapped in a towel) objects weigh the bar top down. Make sure that everything looks right then drive screws from the bottom upward to secure the slab. Bar tops should really only experience downward pressure so these screws and glue are meant to maintain order.

As mentioned above polyurethane takes a full 30 days to cure but you can carefully enjoy a drink. Congratulations at the start of this article I thought his name was Freddy Prince Jr., I hope you learned something from this article as well.

If so, support the site by joining me on ig @thecraftycatsman. Send over your finished pictures and you may be featured here! 

TheCraftyCatsman - Speakeasy Arcade

Click here to see the rest of the Speakeasy Arcade Build

I’m going to Level with you….


Like woodworking, I am learning how to design this website design as I go. One thing that helps a website gain attention is posting “short and sweet” articles, fun fact – humans are also inclined to look at lists first (that’s one reason why you see “Top ten TVs” or “Five must see living room makeovers”). If you have made it this far then you are a trend bucker, you also have realized that I don’t do short and sweet. That ish is for the birds, and you know what cats do to birds….

I support you and all of your dreams, however, if this page gets any longer those human brain picking robots may shove this super cool article so far down in the rankings that people like you never get to see it (go tell some friends, thanks).

For this reason, I think it is a logical place to end this part of the DIY Hidden Doorway Bookcase build.

Part 2 focuses on something that almost every other hidden bookcase builder neglects – THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DOOR.

That’s right. Believe it or not, the hidden doorway bookcase has a back that people will inevitably see. Typically, these backs lack wow factor and are forced to listen to people compliment how cool the other side is, while they sit hidden away.

NOT TODAY Click above to access Part 2 of the Hidden Bookcase Door build – I will show you how a Facebook marketplace treasure find resulted in the completion of what might be my favorite part of the Arcade Bar (named BarKode, you were paying attention above – right?)







Next Up.

Hand Hewn Barn Beam Light

We built a bar, let’s light that bar up.

Next Up: Hiding the AC Duct

Rustic barn beam light, corrugated metal in the background,

Click the picture above to learn how I built a bar light from a scrap piece of a barn beam. 

Click below to see all of my DIY Arcade Bar Projects.

TheCraftyCatsman - Speakeasy Arcade

A collection of projects explaining how I built my arcade bar for less than a contractor wanted to charge to put up studs. All free for my feline loving friends. 

cropped TheCraftyCatsman 1


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