Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Tiki build-along, pt. 6

So, last update I'd completed the frame of my back bar and attached the bar top. Next up: Bamboo tambour panels. I realized early on that my tiki bar build, being outside, would attract all manner of dust, dirt, insects and assorted debris. This necessitated serious attention to ease of cleaning and materials that wouldn't collect the crap so readily. I'd originally intended to line the walls with bamboo fence wainscotting, but the more I thought on this the more I realized that would just provide harbor for all sorts of spider webs, wasps and random gunk to hang out in. Then I came across this thing known as tambour panels. I'm still not clear on the origins of the name, but essentially these are rolls of flat bamboo slats attached to a cloth backing. Think of it as flexible wood paneling. The price was right, it appeared easy to work with and it came in a variety of aesthetic styles. I chose tortoiseshell bamboo, which I felt matched the look of the bamboo culms I'd harvested and torched on my own (more on that later).

Here's a closer look at the pattern. The bright sunlight washed out much of the color, but it really is an attractive bamboo. I coated both sides of the panel with weather protectant because, again, while they'll be sheltered from direct exposure to the elements, humidity still varies wildly and my experience with the outdoor speakers showed that reflected UV was a significant issue. I learned during this process that many weather sealants are penetrative, that they depend on being absorbed by the wood surface to work internally. Bamboo doesn't like to absorb such things, so surface treatments are most effective. Live and learn.

Around this time, I decided the back bar should match the wall. I knew I wouldn't use a palm thatch front like on the existing tiki bar. I thought I'd go with bamboo, but that thinking changed to using the tambour panels for the back bar as well. That would unify the look of the back bar and the wall. Being easier to work with was no small factor in the decision as well. The first step was to remove the three cabinet doors from the back bar so I could cut the tambour to size and attach it. Below is the largest door, the one covering the water spigot and propane connection. Since we use that spigot regularly for washing down the patio, adding water to the pool and watering plants, I needed to include storage for the water hose. I attached a hose rack to the door, because this kept the hose out of the way of other things that need to utilize that cabinet space.

The downside of having the hose rack on the door is that the bolt heads stick through the front. I'm sure there are other solutions, but I couldn't come up with any during the build, so this is what I'm working with. A surface that's not smooth. I applied a goodly amount of Titebond III to the edges, corners and space around the bolt heads. As I've written elsewhere, Titebond III is relatively expensive, but close to the strongest wood glue you can buy.

I filled in the remaining space with Titebond II, which is a pretty strong glue in its own right, then used a folded scrap of paper to spread it all evenly across the door.

After that, I applied the cut bamboo tambour panel to the door and wiped away excess glue oozing between the slats before I clamped it down. There was lots of glue, and the last thing I wanted was the boards I was using to clamp the tambour down getting glued to the door as well. So I laid wax paper across the tambour, then laid down scrap boards and finally clamped everything down for 24 hours.

I'd used magnetic clasps to keep the doors closed on the back bar, and earlier had learned they weren't easy to open with my bare hands. They needed handles. Fortunately, I had a lot of moderate-sized bamboo culms drying in my garage I'd harvested back in December and January. I'd torched most of it, so there were some attractive pieces to work with. I picked out three bamboo joints that were roughly 1.75" thick and 6"-7" long to serve as handles. Here's where things got dicey: I didn't know how I'd make them into handles. I had a vague notion, but I didn't know if I could make it work, or if the bamboo would even tolerate my abuse. I marked the bamboo where I wanted the support bolts to go, and drilled that out. Unfortunately, despite knocking out the solid piece in the bamboo nodes, there was not enough leeway to get the 2" long screw and washer into place. So I drilled the hole out at an angle from the inside, going through the node (below).

This made things much easier. I could slip the bolt directly into the hole through the node now, but since the drill hold was much larger, I worried the bolt head would tear through the bamboo when tightened/stressed. So I added a washer to the bolt. Now the bolt wouldn't fit through the node opening, so I ended up slipping the washer in first, then fishing around inside the bamboo with the end of the bolt until I speared the washer, then sliding the combo through the hole. Repeat this six times.

Everything after that was amazingly easy, which is to say, not at all the way my projects usually turn out. I marked the locations of the handle bolts on the cabinet doors and drilled holes through the doors. I found a slender length of bamboo I'd torched and cut half-inch segments with which to sheath the bolts for aesthetics. Then I slipped the assembly through the door holes and tightened them on with a nut and washer combo. I tightened then enough so that the washer inside the handle bent into a U shape. They're locked in pretty solid. I don't think they're coming loose any time soon.

The end result is pretty sweet-looking, I think. The beauty of it is that if it ever starts coming loose, I can simply re-tighten the nut on the door and not worry about the screw head. It's pretty immobile. The only blemish is the open nodes on the handles. I intend to close these up at some point, otherwise the cavities will attract mud daubers, spiders and the like. I'll likely use an almond-colored silicone sealant, because in my experience with the tiki bar, basic wood putty cracks under stress. There may be a better option out there, and since I'm in no rush to finish off that portion of the build, I may well try something entirely different once all is said and done. But still, progress!

Now Playing: Dire Straits On the Night
Chicken Ranch Central


  1. Nice! A wider angle shot of the doors in situ would be nice to see.

    1. Will get one eventually. These are all the images I have available at the moment.