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How to build a ‘Pallet and Scaffolding’ Bar

Last updated on 12th July, 2020

Back in March 2018, my wife and I got married. For the wedding we wanted to have an open bar so our friends and family could really enjoy the night. We finally found a wedding venue that had no corkage fee (check out our wedding venue directory site and back story).

Hire bar prices were too expensive for us so we took a trip over the channel and loaded up the car on cheap wine! Now we had the booze sorted, we just needed some way to serve it – a pallet and scaffolding bar!

The original idea was to just have a table and a mini fridge 🤔. So obviously, I decided this was no good and set out to build an rustic looking pallet and scaffolding bar. Actually I decided on galvanised hand rail rather than scaffolding but we’ll go into that later.

The Initial Design Spec

  1. Have a place to store approximately 100 wine bottles
  2. Ideally, incorporate space for a mini fridge
  3. Easy to assemble on site and flat-pack into a van
  4. Have a rustic or ‘hipster’ feel so all my mates with beards have somewhere to hang out
  5. Cost as little as possible

Modular Design

Of course, being an engineer with a manufacturing background, I was keen to make sure that what I built worked as a modular unit and utilised all materials. That’s why the designs I came up are such precise sizes.

For example, the depth and width fits a standard EU pallet and all the scaffold lengths are multiples of each other (usually the lovely rule of 3rds). This helps by making sure there is no waste, less cuts and makes assembly a doddle!

Basic Design

Here is the basic layout and dimensions:

Overview of the steel frame

As you’ll see from the photos below, I got a little creative with a thin full height section (making room for the beer engines) and a low middle section leaving room for some ice boxes. Using the modular tube lengths and handrail system (see the next section), it’s very easy to customise your bar!

The Frame

I decided that using scaffolding wasn’t the best solution for me. The reason for this is that I needed something quick, precut and “clean” – it was for a wedding after all. So instead, I opted for the fantastic handrail products out there. If you haven’t come across this stuff yet I suggest you have a search – check out names such as Kwik Clamp, Kee Klamp and Interclamp. Basically, it’s a handrail system designed to be completely adaptable to your application. There are loads of fixtures and fittings making joins and modifications really simple. Best of all, since it’s produced in such large volumes, the costs are really competitive. Basically lego for MechApes…

I decided to order my handrail from the guys over at The Metal Store because they had great prices, free delivery for this size order, and had a free cutting service.

There are 5 sizes of tubing to choose from. The smallest, size A, has an outside diameter of 26.9mm and the largest, size E, has an outside diameter of 60.3mm. Obviously, as the size increases, so does the weight and the cost – including the cost of the mating tube fittings. On the flip-side, the smaller tubing can look a little “lost” against pallets, scaffoldboad and suchlike. Therefore I settled on size B with an outside diameter of 33.7mm.

The tube itself can be ordered in various lengths and you’d think that the longer the length, the cheaper the price per meter – but this is not the case! All the tube lengths (greater than 1m) work out at exactly the same price: £3.29/meter at the time of writing. Incredibly cheap in my eyes!

As I mentioned earlier, I planned out the dimensions to minimise waste and cutting. So you’ll be glad to know that the above single bar unit can be entirely made from 2 lengths of 6m tube and falls well within the 10 free cuts per length.

Here’s a copy of the order and cutting info for a basic bar unit in the CAD images above:

A copy of my order for the basic unit above

The Bar Top & Shelf

The bar top was a simple job with just a bit of TLC. I used two “medium weight Euro” pallets. All you need to do is carefully remove the long lengths and set these aside. Then you should be left with 3 cross members with some stubborn wooden blocks. Remove the blocks as best you can without damaging the cross members (no worries if you do though!).

Next, lay out all of the long lengths side by side on a flat(ish) floor. Use the cross members and some tacks, or 16mm M3 Screws, to secure the long lengths together. Your aiming for your bar top to be a rectangle of 1200 x 600mm minimum that should look something like this:

Pallet Bar Top

The final step is to flip it over and get to work with the sander. I used a powered belt sander with a 40 grit paper to start, and then finished with a 180 grit. Add some nice rounded corners and seal it off with a bit of wax or varnish.

The shelf can be made in very much the same way, or like I did, just use a scaffolding board to go straight across.

Assembly

Once you have your components, it’s time to assemble. This is where that precut handrail system really comes into its own. I used my battery powered impact wrench with an allen key adaptor. This made light work of the handrail fittings and quickly helps to get the frame up. The best technique I found was to assemble the sides as a complete unit, flat on the floor. Once you have the sides made up, these can be joined together using the longer width pieces. A handy mate helps here but it can be done by one person.

Now that the frame is up, it’s time to secure your bar top. There are several options for this but the simplest I found was to screw in a piece of wood on the underside of the bartop to clamp around the handrail. This maybe a temporary join, but it is a pop up bar after all!

The final step is to jazz it up a bit! If you made yourself a pallet wine rack, then this is the time to add it. Maybe run a scaffolding board across the top for a high up optics shelf. Or maybe add some hessian material to the front and sides to give it that true barn look!

Full Bill of Materials (BOM) and Costs

So like I said earlier, I decided against scaffolding and this was at the detriment of cost. Still, the whole project worked out cheaper than hiring a bar for a wedding.

The metalwork order above came out to a total of £65.75. Assuming you can pick up a few pallets for £5 each, your still looking at a pretty cool bar unit for £75 and a days work. And since its flat pack and modular, you can reuse it as a workbench, set of shelving or even an industrial breakfast bar!

The Pallet Wine Rack

I took this project one step further and built a wine rack from some old pallets that I had lying around. I don’t intend on going into the details since I built it around an old mini fridge. But the process is very much the same as making the bar top: remove the pallet lengths, remove the cross members and the blocks. The only difference here is that you will need to make some cuts and utilise the blocks – which are almost a perfect wine bottle height!

The Finished Bar

Final Thoughts

Hopefully I’ve given you enough info and ideas to have a go at this one yourself. I was really happy how it turned out in the end and it was a fantastic feature at our wedding. And best of all, I’m now the proud owner of a pop up bar!

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to comment below or drop me a message via the contact me page.

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