Hello there so 2020 wasn’t what any of us expected, the whole world went into LOCKDOWN and everything came to a standstill, with home working and home schooling becoming the norm, so after several discussions with the CFO (Wife), we decided to make some changes to the garden by introducing something different  “Our very own BAR”.

So I thought I’d share some notes on how we took on this project and how we achieved and opened “The Drunken Monkey”.


Here goes the list of what we believe the requirements were with the one constraint when we started this project.

  • Seating Area
  • Electric, this is a must
  • Lots of Lighting
  • Lots of Empty bottles (we have Teenagers in the House)
  • Professional finish
  • Watertight roof
  • Waterproof the wood so it lasts
  • Cost is the main constraint – The words “Alan don’t go mental buying everything brand new”


The Beginning

As with any project or IT solution I have to start with a stretch of what we want to achieve, so back to the drawing board I went and below are the original drawings that were agreed by the family and signed off by the CFO. (Although I didn’t quite put a price to the design fully).

The Design

So lets get onto the above drawing and the design research, I used one tool to get the design we needed Pinterest, there are various design on there and lots of images of how others have built their own garden bars, We wanted to keep the costs low, so I started to inquire about pallets, a few of my friends have their own businesses and when asked about pallets they were happy to offload them on me. So, this was the 1st Design requirement to keep the cost low covered, I opted to build the base and the bar walls from pallets to keep the costs low and the Mrs happy.

Step 1 – Sorting the pallets

This was one of the things that delayed the project by about 3 weeks, while making sure that I had the right size pallets I managed to Sprain my back and render myself useless for 3 weeks, barely able to walk. 1st Lesson learned and now with a back brace I sorted the pallets, based on the sketch/ Design I needed 4 pallets for the base and a further 4 pallets for the bar sides, 8 Pallets in total, good job I managed to obtain about 20 Pallets from my friends and neighbors before the LOCKDOWN stared.

Step 2 – Create the base from Pallets

I started by removing the grass and leveled out the ground for the pallets to sit upon, once I had the ground level I placed a damp proof membrane down to prevent the weeds from growing, the next step was to sort out 4 x heavy duty pallets, these were going to be the foundations for the bar to sit upon.

Connecting the pallets together was pretty simple with 100mm screws and additional lengths of wood to make them secure and stable, I then painted the bottom of the pallets with some left over fence paint to add some additional protection before I wrapped the membrane over the pallets and secured it into place with staples.

That’s the base done now let’s see what was the 1st design change but also the most important piece to the design, DECKING BOARDS.

Step 3 – Decking the base

So once I had the base secure I then went online to find a place that had and would deliver Decking boards, I was very fortunate that my local wood yard had stock, my luck was in so I went ahead and ordered enough decking to cover the base in complete lengths, I selected 25 x 3m lengths, to complete the decking base including the sides.

Step 4 – Building the Bar – Initial Step

Based on the design I needed a further 4 pallets for the bar sides this was easy to put together as the measurements for the bar all stacked up, I cut one pallet based on the measurements and proceeded to connect the the pallets together with 70mm & 100mm screws, this was easy and didn’t take long at all but gave me the 2nd biggest decision for the project. What am I going to use to clad the bar with, Initially I was going to make it all out of pallets but after putting the decking onto the base I now had a design change to make………. which I knew was going to cost.

At this point I obtained a pallet breaker from a friend, this is a great device, I’ve never seen or used one before and after spending hours with a normal crowbar and circular saw (dismantling 4 pallets) I proceeded to dismantle a further 10 pallets in record time, this provided what I believed was enough full length board to clad the bar, HOW WRONG I WAS…..

Time to make that Design change, so after contemplating our options we decided to use the left over decking to clad the bar, from the original decking order. that provided nearly enough boards to complete the front cladding, this gave the effect that we were looking for and provided the clean lines and professional finish that we wanted, so after another call and a bit of a delay, I ordered another wood delivery to complete the project mainly from decking boards including the bar top but also included in this order we opted for 6″ x 6 feet fencing panels for the roof, that’s the 2nd wood order sorted and the wait was on. As explained were in LOCKDOWN so obtaining wood took longer than expected but eventually the delivery arrived and it was time to get Back to the joinery and IT was on Hold.

Step 5 – Adding the uprights and cross beams

In order to fit the required roof we had to design the uprights and supports to make sure that the roof would be square, this was achieved by screwing together 3″ x 2″ lengths to provide the required supports for the roof, fitting these were easy and didn’t take long with a level.

Step 6 – Cladding and bar

To Clad the bar I wanted a design that was clean and crisp, after several measurements and decisions based on board placement and cuts, I settled on placing a decking board horizontal on the top and bottom of the bar with vertical boards between these board, this gave us the best design and also meant I could re-use the off-cuts from the original decking delivery (Result – Cost Savings).

For attaching the boards I originally bought some ring shank nails however I’m not a fan of nails so opted for decking screws to attach the boards to the pallets, adding any additional supports needed to make the boards secure, I needed a mix of screws to complete this task ranging from 40, 50 and 70mm screws, I also needed the screws to be placed in certain locations on the boards so that the bar had a look of professionalism so out came the trusty “sliding Squares” and off cuts to make sure that every screw was placed in the right location, keeping the levels accurate to the eye providing symmetry. (I know it’s a pin but if you want that professional look take pride in your work).

Step 7 – Building the Back of the bar

At this point I had the base the uprights and some supports to keep the uprights secure and square, the next challenge was to build the back of the bar in a manner that provided shelves for the bottles but also provided a nice design for the neighbors as the back of the bar was protruding higher than the fence. To achieve this a friend dropped off 4 pallets that were connected by 3″x 2″ runners, this gave me the idea to use this as the back of the bar and fit this in one sheet, (we have to remember this is a solo mans effort at a bar were still in LOCKDOWN).

After measuring the back and cutting the new pallets to size I fitted these together on the ground, then I proceeded to attach the stripped pallets to provide a ripple effect to the back of the bar for a nice cosmetic look, making sure to cover any irregularities by selecting the best board available, this didn’t take long to achieve at all and again was done without a single NAIL (Nails are BAD).

Now fitting this back panel gave some challenges A) it was heavy B) is was built to just say fit between the uprights but I had a good idea how this was going to be attached, I had to change the back brace of the uprights as adding the additional board made the back protrude 2″ into the bar. After altering the crossbar, I quickly lifted the back of the bar into place and secured it with some decking screws, RESULT.

Now onto the next challenge the roof, this had always been a discussion point in the house with what we wanted to use as the roof cosmetically but the main driver was to make the roof water tight and secure, good job we bought those 6″ fencing boards.

Step 8 – Building the roof (6″ Fencing Boards)

I started this task by laying some 3″x 2″ lengths on the patio and placing the boards on top making sure that they butted up against each board,so that they also kept square and the distance from the ends to the 3″ x 2″ lengths are equal, now lets get these screwed together, again decking screws were used to secure the board to the length of wood with a string line to follow the lengths of wood underneath.

Step 9 – Fitting the roof (Modifications)

As I’ve said previously this is a one man build so now I had to get the roof from the floor onto the uprights and make sure the wood is square and secure, not an easy task I hear, you’re not wrong.

To achieve this I cut a few off cuts of timber and made a stepping lift so that at each stage the weight of the roof was supported (hence saving my bad back from the strain), once the wood was on the roof I proceeded to secure it with more screws, this was easy but then after a days sun, Yes, we do get sun up North the boards started to show gaps between the boards, This calls for Design change #3

Design Change #3, to make the roof waterproof I grabbed some of the left-over damp-proof membrane and proceeded to secure this to the roof, this time I used a staple gun to make it secure. This wasn’t the look we were after so after looking at what we had left from the deliveries we opted to add a 2nd skin to the roof, sandwiching the damp-proof between two layers of boards, this was completed from on top of the roof and has been a blessing, and were really happy with the final look.

Step 10 – Building the bar counters

As previously stated once we started with decking it was hard to move onto any other wood so as part of the 2nd wood delivery we made sure that we had enough decking boards to build the bar counters, this was done in the same fashion as the roof, I measured and built these on the ground and fitted based on some bespoke engineering aspects. By this I mean we wanted to have an overhanging bar, so that bar stools can be positioned underneath the bar counter, obviously decking boards are only 120 mm in depth, therefore to achieve this I had to fit together 3 lengths of decking to make the front counter and make these secure enough so they would not move when anyone leaned on the bar, as you can see from the pictures below this was achieved by cutting slots and securing lengths of wood to counter to balance the weight as it overhung, the final piece of this puzzle was to add additional sturdiness to the design was to cut some lengths of wood @45 degrees to provide a nice visual effect plus some additional support, these were cut to allow for the lights to pass behind easily, I must say we are really pleased with the end result.

Step 11 – Finishing touches

Inside the bar I used up some decking planks for the remainder of the shelves to hide any sign of the pallets, to provide the bar some additional storage with the final touches being to add some additional wood to the side of the bar and some end caps to provide that professional look.

That’s all the Joinery complete at this stage, stand back and admire your work, you done it …!!!

Step 12 – Adding the bottle lights

The Bottle lights were a requirement by the Mrs, so how are we going to achieve a look where the lights are only visible through the bottles especially when we wanted to use one continuous set of lights to light up the bar. This was achieved by doing the following.

How am I going to hide the lights and have them come through the bottom of the bottles?

the 1st task was to ask fiends for empty Spirit bottles, in 14 weeks we haven’t drank all this GIN by ourselves, but between friends and family we obtained quite a selection of bottles that we could use in the design, over to amazon we go and I find some cheap glass saws the bonus to this is you get a whole set of different sizes, on next day delivery. Result!!!!

That bit sorted then, now onto hiding the lights and drilling the bottles, which I must say was quite simple, I had some left over fence panels, these were the no1 choice for the shelves, we then cut out holes in the middle shelf and fit the lights all around the bar pulling the lights through the 22mm drill holes in the middle shelf, that’s the lights up and them also hidden as per the design requirements.

Were onto a winner, now its time to drill 22 bottles to put on the middle shelf, to do this select the bottles, obtain the wife’s approval, then grab yourself a empty plastic pop bottle, fill it with water and grab a nail, place the nail into the bottle about 3″ from the bottom, the water starts to come out, place bottle on its back to stop the water escaping.

Grab your drill and a 22mm wood bit plus a scrap piece of wood, drill the wood, now this is going to be your guide for the glass saw, the glass saws don’t have a center drill so they will spin off the bottles, were going to use the scrap piece of wood to keep the glass saw in position while we drill the bottom of the bottles.

Change the Drill bit to the 22 mm glass saw, grab a bottle and place it into position to cut, get hold of the pop bottle, to cut glass you need water to make the saw cut easier, this is where the magic starts. Place the pop bottle above the glass bottle and put the wood guide over the bottle, open the cap on the plastic bottle a little and you can direct the water onto the piece of wood, now start cutting the bottle rocking the glass saw from back to front, Hey presto you have a hole in the base of the bottle. At this point I want to make sure you know you’ll break a few bottles so test with the ones you have plenty off. This took less than an hour for all the bottles and I was well impressed with myself.

Place the bottles on the middle shelf pulling the lights through into the bottles and that’s the lighting completed, these bottles can now be moved around and changed at any time, wait for it to go dark turn on the lights and hey presto you have a wonderful designed bar, the only thing missing is a sound system and Beer pumps, the sound system was easy as I have a Unify WiFi deployed in the house and it easily reaches the bar without any issues, so we just took the Sonos outside and BOOM we have sound…..

The Beer pumps are the next stage of this project if approved by the CFO.

I hope you found this interesting if you have any questions let me know I’m happy to share my findings but were well happy with the final results.

The Drunken Monkey is open ……….


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