Wednesday, December 2, 2009

How to Build the Star Wars Cantina in Three Easy Steps!

Here's how!
  1. Collect lumber

  2. Profits!
Okay, not really. It's actually quite a bit more involved than that. First, a little background...

For those in the know, my particular group of friends holds one of the most amazing Halloween parties every year. Our fearless leader Brian has been gracious enough to host it each time. We agree on a theme (Brian has the final say so) and start planning it usually about three months in advance.

This year, since it was our 10th year anniversary for doing the Halloween parties, we decided to go with a Star Wars theme. It was decided that the two primary projects were:

  1. Build a life-sized Jabba the Hutt
  2. Recreate the creature cantina from the original Star Wars

It also didn't hurt that Brian (and Sarah) had a new house with a blank slate basement.

Brian spearheaded Project 1 - Jabba. That won't be discussed here, but they used this blog as a guide.

As for Project 2 - The Cantina, here's what we did...

First things first, we measured out the basement and roughly decided where to put the bar.

With measurements in hand, I dropped them into Adobe Illustrator (man I wish I had a good CAD package) and laid out the basement floor plan. Then, referencing photos of the bar from the internet and assuming standard 4' x 8' plywood, fit the bar into the existing virtual space. I actually had two initial plans: a 13 1/2-foot bar and a 17 1/2-foot bar. Brian decided to go with the 17 1/2-foot one:


(In the lower-left corner, you can see me making sure the curved parts would fit on a 4' x 8' sheet of plywood. Whew!)

At this point I should probably mention that I asked Brian how permanent he wanted it to be, and he said go full bore. As such, I designed it to be more structurally rigid. You might see what I'm talking about here:

After some research (Google), I decided to make the bar height 42". The 24" bar width was determined based on ripping a 4' x 8' sheet of plywood lengthwise.

Armed with those drawings, I was able to put together a preliminary parts list and we went shopping! Pete (my right-hand man) and I decided to precut all the lumber for ease of transportation and assembly. (Shout-out to Pete's in-laws!) You can see we started the process here:

(Mmmm... Sonic Cherry-Lime Slush...)

I don't know if pre-cutting lumber would be a good idea for every project, but it was totally helpful when it came building the straight portions of the bar. They were framed out just like you would a wall in a house - 16" on center - with 1/2" plywood for the top.

(Pete and I testing out the thirst-quenching abilities of the bar.)

After we set one straight-section of the bar in place and put in 2" x 4" support legs, we had Mike (my left-hand man) test out the structural integrity.

In the second picture above, you can see how we decided to handle the PVC drain problem...

While we were working on the straight parts, Dave and his jig-saw (which he and Sears call a scroll-saw) were on hand to cut the difficult curved sections out of 1/2" plywood.

I drew out the curves using trammel points and some spare lumber.

Ushma LOVES power tools. The scarier the better. Dave let her have a go at it (while playing safety captain).

Here you can see we have both straight sections of the bar built and are test fitting the curved sections:

Dave and company also cut out curved headers and footers from 3/4" plywood. We clamped them all together and trued them up with a belt sander. Pete and I then framed those out as well.

Putting two of those in place, we get:

At that point, we trued everything up according to the floor plan and bolted each section together. We attached ribs to the undersides of the curved tops that Dave and Ushma cut out, placed them on top and bolted those in as well.

I wish I had a better picture of that step, so a surprised Jen and Mike throwing up geek signs, will have to do. You can see that we've started tacking in 1/8" hardboard around the curves. Let me tell ya, I LOVE a pneumatic brad nailer!

Here's what the bar looked like after we finished skinning it:

We had a hellova time getting the hardboard to match up nicely on the joists!

Three things to note here:
  1. You can see the transition from 1" x 4" to 1/8" hardboard edging along the bar top
  2. Pete installed fluorescent lighting above the bar. The hardware was generously donated by his father. Thanks Richard!
  3. We finished the top surface of the bar with plain white 12" linoleum floor tiles I found in the discontinued bin.
The next step was to build the middle bar. This was also 12' long and built essentially the same way as the rest of the bar, sans an overhanging top.

The original plan called for a curved end to be built on the end to echo the curvature of the outer bar, however we discovered that the kegerator fit perfectly into the end. So we modified the plan by putting the kegerator on a custom dolly and cut a concave curve out of the bar, thus preserving the aesthetic.

Pete already had electrical running to the middle bar to power the kegerator.

I must have rubbed off on Dave as he'd been keeping his eyes on rubbish and recycling piles and spotted the most PERFECT foam for edging the bar! Apparently Steelcase ships their desk tops with a protective bumper. It's U-channel shaped with rounded edges and grey in color. A large Steelcase shipment had come in at work, and they were tossing boxes of the stuff. I'm SO glad Dave kept his eyes peeled!

To install it, we carefully cut off one leg of the U-shape with a razor, affixed it to the bar with 3M™ FoamFast Spray Adhesive, and held it in place with masking tape until set.

Who is that masked Stormtrooper?

Although the foam was perfect, it's condition and quantity was not. We had to splice it together in several places and had some color variance. I was also hoping to put it on the outside AND inside edges of the outer bar, but we didn't have nearly enough.

You can see we also built a shroud around the lights out of scrap hardboard. This focused the light above the bar and left the rest of the area darker. We applied foil to the inside to brighten the light and match the ductwork.

Next up: The Still!

Actually, from what I understand, it's supposed to be more of a chemistry set as Wuher, the bartender, was a master of concocting beverages for the multitudinous alien species that passed through Tatooine.

I probably spent the most time researching, drawing out, planning, and finding pieces for it.

The base is a pine box made from 1" x 4"s and 1" x 6"s. I curved the end to stay with the theme and drilled holes entirely through it for various pieces 1/2" PVC pipe.

In the background, you can see a couple of reconfigured lamp bases, a lettuce container, and yes, even a bucket of cheese balls that became vessels in the still. Other vessels were made from ice buckets, water pitchers, candy dishes, flower pots, miniature garbage cans, and Super Big Gulp cups. Here you can see one of the intermediate stages as I was assembling Jarritos Soda bottles with recessed lighting reflectors:

Once assembled, the various vessels and pipes were spray painted copper, silver, and gold and installed.

Can you find the "Easter Egg" in that picture? (Answer below.)

And now, the completed bar!

Now, compare these two pictures:

That makes me pretty happy!

As far as the rest of the cantina, I built a droid detector from an Xserve box, blue cellophane, and some chasing Christmas lights:

Pete put three bar tables together from wooden spool ends, 12" dia. concrete forms, and the scrap legs we cut off the U-shaped foam.

(More rustic chairs would have been nice.)

Pete wired and lit the tables with fluorescent lights Jen and I found at a Habitat for Humanity Restore.



Things I would like to see to complete the bar sometime down the line:
  1. More of the foam edging to finish the inside edge and around the still base.
  2. A proper cornice above the outer bar. We were planning on doing this with more hardboard and fiber packaging material.


(Answer to the "Easter Egg": the antique "Bowling Trophy" is a nod to Blade Runner as it contains the style of shot glasses Deckard drinks Tsing Tao out of after being pummeled by Leon. Yes, obscure, I know.)


Mio said...

How much did this cost?

czechm8 said...

Hi Mio,

Honestly, I don't remember, particularly since the proud owner footed most of the bill. If I were to guess, I'd say in the $200-$300 range and that's mostly for lumber. The "still" part was mostly found objects and a few trips to thrift stores.

BTW, how did you stumble across this page?


Eddie Henderson said...

Great job! I'm building a full size cantina set in a warehouse for a fan film. I Google'd "How to build a Star Wars cantina" and your blog was 2nd in the search. LOL

Phillip C said...

This is awesome.