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Celebrating classic and modern Polynesian Pop

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3vab posted on Wed, Mar 16, 2022 9:35 PM

This bar was an inadvertent quarantine project. Probably would have started it anyway, but finished in under a year since I wasn't doing much else with my time. Some of you might have seen it late last year in the bigger Facebook groups and/or Reddit, but I've deleted the FB account and this feels like a better place to really show off anyway. (It's also been on mytiki.life for a while if you browse around there.)

View of the bar

View of the lounge

This is a video of the portholes in action.


Pirate Bathroom

[ Edited by 3vab on 2022-03-29 09:46:08 ]

Fantastic Stuff! Good to see another Local Tiki enthusiast (I'm in NoVa inside the Beltway)

P.S. Did you go with that Fiber Optic Ceiling Tile for your ceiling? Looks great. I thought about using that.

[ Edited by Hearn on 2022-03-17 06:15:39 ]

Did you go with that Fiber Optic Ceiling Tile for your ceiling?

Nope, this was 384 individual strands. Probably the most tedious part of the entire project. The tiles needed more headroom and wouldn't work without drilling holes in all the joists to run wires through.

Wow. Impressive.

3vab posted on Thu, Mar 17, 2022 7:42 AM

I'll just start making some build posts as time allows. This all started with some daydreaming. I'd previously modeled my house in Sketchup, so at some point I opened that file, pulled out the basement layers, and started modeling the layout.

This process was super helpful, since I'd never done anything like a basement finishing before.

What I decided to do was to build the bar in virtual space, and then repeat each step in the real world. This is some of the Sketchup layers building on each other.

So this is the picture of the framing that I modeled, and then the framing once it was up. If they looked about right, I could be reasonably sure that the next step would work out.

Here's where we started vs the final rendering of the virtual vision for the space looked like this. It was this render that got the wife fully onboard to let me start spending money to make this real.

[ Edited by 3vab on 2022-03-17 08:14:47 ]

3vab posted on Thu, Mar 17, 2022 10:37 AM

Next to the porthole video wall, the starfield is the thing that I get the most comments/questions on, so I'll talk about building that here. This could probably be a whole new post in one of the other forums.

So in my opinion, the ceiling is probably the single most important part of the emotional impact that a themed experience like a tiki bar delivers. It literally ties a room together from wall to wall, and encloses the decorative theme. Skimping on the ceiling is only possible when you've got a really high loft. Then you can just paint it black and create an outdoor effect. Unfortunately, the ceilings in my basement are 7.5 feet high. That means I also can't use hanging lights and other more traditional stuff, except in corners.

So I designed the ceiling to represent three separate environments. This was not an easy task with only 21 linear feet to work with:

  • The "shack" over the bar. Tried to go for a built-from-found-parts vibe with it. Corrugated steel, bamboo, lava rock, etc. Imagined it was built in place, with bamboo fencing barely holding out the jungle.
  • The "lounge", over the other end. I kind of imagined that it was cobbled together from shipwreck lumber and woven mat.
  • Open sky between the two, represented by twinkling stars on a black night sky.

These fiber-optic stars are meant to be installed in a ceiling with attic or crawlspace access. You go into the attic, drill a little hole for each star fiber, poke the star through the hole, and done. Tedious, but easy. That presents a problem in a basement where I'm working directly against 2x8 joists and no possible way to hang the ceiling any lower. You can see what I'm working with here.

The solution to this is the fact that fiber-optic lines can survive some cross-sectional pressure, and can effectively squeeze between the drywall and joists. What they can't survive is putting a screw through them when attaching the drywall to the joist. They also need to lie flat and not overlap where they cross a joist. So what I did was measure and draw where the joists would be once the panel was up. Then I mapped the holes, installed the fiber, and taped it exactly where it needed to be. Since I knew where the lines were taped, I was able to safely screw the panels in place.

The fibers would end up coming together in a single "bus" bundle down that right-side joist channel, where the next set in the grid could be pulled out and installed the same way.

Excellent. First panel up. However we have a new problem. That fat bundle on the right? It needs to drop 4 feet to the sawhorse to install on the next panel. That won't do, because now I don't have long enough fibers for the whole project. So I went off to Harbor Freight, got a drywall hanger, and installed the next panel vertically. Once done, I could just lever it up into place, and not lose all that fiber length.

Second panel up.

Once all the panels are up, we caaaarefuuullllllyyyy mud around the stars to make the new panels seamless. I still managed to break 4 of the strand ends. You'll notice I "primed" them with a shitty Home Depot black paint. Once done, we can plug in and see if this crazy plan is going to be worth all the time and effort. Yes. Yes it was. Holy shit, this works.

The final 2 steps were to spray the finishing coats, and then to snip all the stars flush. My final finish is Black 3.0, to help make the effect look much deeper. Because Black 3 is both expensive and a very fragile coat, I did not spray until the other parts of the ceiling were in place.

And because the whole thing is relatively fragile, I waited until a lot more of the work was done before snipping them all off. However, this is what it looked like right after that snip was done.

What a great job from design to build and all the neat details!



3vab posted on Sun, Apr 3, 2022 2:23 PM

So the portholes. I originally took the idea from the portholes at Pagan Idol in San Francisco. I'm not entirely sure how they're running them, but it didn't seem too hard, except for the minimal space. However, one of the things I really wanted to do was to make them into a single cohesive scene, rather than separate videos for each. A little research lead me to PiWall, and then it was just the process of mounting them.

So back into SketchUp, I just built framing as if it was a standard window. video_wall_compare1

Once that was built, I designed a box with portholes in front, monitors in back, and a couple inches clearance. It was mostly a measuring game.


The monitors are mounted with standard vesa 100mm mounts, and the portholes are attached with 25mm bolts from boltdepot.com.

Porthole Mounts

Monitor Mounts

I attached the back-side of the box with hinges so I can get the monitors in and out if I ever need to. Once the box was built, it was just a matter of sliding it into the frame. Had to shave about 1/8 from the framing on one side, but otherwise, it went right in.

Video Wall

And hey, it looks like the design!


When I installed the monitors, I bundled the cables inside, and ran them out a hole in the back. From there, I attached all the Raspberry Pi nodes with all the networking they need to go, plugged it all in. One Pi per monitor, one "master", and a network switch.

PiWall nodes

A couple hours of nerd stuff on a Linux command-line, and it's time to test! (Click the below pic to see a video of the first test run.)

Porthole Demo

[ Edited by 3vab on 2022-04-03 14:44:50 ]

3vab posted on Mon, Apr 4, 2022 9:47 AM

This is going to be a longer one. Magical electronic pieces aside, the centerpiece of any bar is the bar, right? Here's the build.

I knew from the start I wanted a concrete bartop at a standard ~42" height, and a modular underbar using commercial components. The design had it almost exactly 8 feet long, which means that the top was going to be very heavy. (Ended up being about 350lb of concrete.)

The typical custom home-bar is basically a kitchen island with a countertop. That wouldn't fly for what I needed, so I started looking at how commercial bars built out their systems, and then went back into Sketchup. This is the skeleton of my bar. It's probably significantly overbuilt, but better too strong than not enough.

bar frame

And this is that frame built-up.


After several more rounds of design, this ended up as the bartop with the glass rail.


I liked the design, but I realized that the "easier" method of pouring the bartop and carrying it in wasn't going to work. I needed a pour-in-place solution for a few reasons:

  • Concerns about anyone leaning or sitting too heavily on it
  • I wanted a curved section that would be hard to get right
  • The shape was a bit complex, since I have an embedded glass-rail on the rear side.

So after hours of Google University, I ended up going with the expensive plan that was mostly bolt-in. This was the bar top mold with the concrete reinforcement:

Bar top mold

And then we poured it in, and a couple hours after the final steel-trowel work:


Before sealing it, the concrete needed to cure for at least 72 hours. I gave it 2 weeks, during which time I did some router work and learned how to kerf-bend some trim. You can also see that the edges came out with a cool lava-rock look to them.


Also did the stain, trimmed up the front sheathing, and got the outlets installed.

trimmed bar

And finally, sealed it with like 6 coats of a water-based countertop epoxy, got out the auto polish gear, and shined it up with a nice coat of wax.


Ready for the first mai-tai.



Absolutely incredible job. Congrats!

Such great work on everything. Wow!

Hearn posted on Fri, Apr 15, 2022 8:31 AM

Well done! I really like your use of (I presume fake) greenery. Where did you source that from?

Bar top looks great (as well as the rest of the bar)! Strong work

My head asplode. Excellent work.

3vab posted on Sat, Apr 16, 2022 8:01 AM

Thanks everyone! I'm quite pleased with myself all around.

@Hearn Ikea, believe it or not. We got a few of the flowers from Michaels and some Etsy stores, but Ikea's got tropical-style greenery cheaper than anywhere.

Nice job on the curved bar trim... I know how hard that can be - looks great

Nice job on the curved bar trim... I know how hard that can be - looks great

Thanks. I went through like 10 tries on scrap before getting it to work and still have enough meat left for the router design.

Nicely executed! Love the night sky touch!!! I think I have a couple of those same type of crates out on my "dock"!

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