Knotty Alder Bar

      Is the softness of Knotty Alder a problem in a bar situation where the wood could encounter some abuse? July 28, 2012

I am designing a bar for a customer's game room, made out of knotty alder for a rustic look, and I am running into some issues.

All the bars we have looked at for ideas have either been built out of mahogany or oak, nothing rustic. Because of the characteristics/softness of alder, I am not sure if the bar edge moldering and the butcher block countertop would hold up to the abuse. I am planning on using a 2-part on all the horizontal surfaces, but I am not sure if that would be enough. We're not writing off the possibility that women will be dancing on the bar.

If I was to go with alder, I would use clear alder for all the butcher block and edge molding. Another possibly is to use maple on the main bar top and try to stain it to match the alder (the alder is just getting a clear finish, no stain). Not really liking the idea of mixing species, but I'm open to ideas.

Second issue, the bars we have looked at all have massive pillar looking stiles that were either fluted or had an applied molding. The customer liked the massive look, but I'm not sure how to incorporate it into a rustic knotty wood. I don't think I want to flute knotty wood or do an applied molding, but I need to do something to dress up the stiles. Any ideas?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor J:
If you're using knotty alder, does it really matter if it gets banged or beat up? You want the rustic look. I have seen a bar or two out of rustic alder that was pretty elaborate. As far as the rest of the design goes, I think it is as much what you like as it is what goes well. My supplier has a mid-grade alder. They call it cabinet grade. It is not quite as rustic as the knotty. You might see if that lends itself to your design a little better.

From contributor M:
We use knotty alder in shutters fairly often. We pick out any loose or large knots that cause structural failure in a panel. Of course, what we use has probably been selected for the making of shutter components and would be somewhat more clear than what you may receive from a lumber supplier. I find this to be a very attractive wood.

Click here for higher quality, full size image

From contributor D:
The knots and imperfections become the features, not to be cut out, but used in a way that is very different from the normal lumber that is used. Build the design but select the boards carefully. Alder is soft for the top rail, but for a personal bar and not a business, it may be fine. Maybe a nice opportunity for a contrasting but harder wood.

From contributor H:
Lay it on something firm/hard - lay a chain on it and take a rubber mallet and stamp a design in it.

From contributor A:
I did a knotty alder bar recently. It was stained with traditional cherry and then fluted to create a two toned accent. With an alder bar top it will get dinged and dented, but being rustic, that is part of the character. I used a traditional bar rail for the counter edge and about 6 coats of Waterlox for the countertop finish. I discussed finish options with the client and we agreed that it will get damaged (rowdy bunch) and they liked the fact that we could renew the look of the finish at any time with another coat of Waterlox. After six months the bar still looks great and there are some imprints of the bottom of a beer bottle where someone slammed it down on the bar, but on a rustic bar it adds character.

From contributor F:
You might consider knotty alder on an MDF substrate for the bar top. Solid alder only comes in 8 or 10 foot lengths. The MDF would get banged up less than solid material. Edge with solid stock in whatever profile suits the design. For argument's sake, you could also use this material for applied moulding on flat panels. You can distress the solid stock and glaze the low spots to achieve a rustic appearance. Then let nature take its course.

Would you like to add information to this article?
Interested in writing or submitting an article?
Have a question about this article?

Have you reviewed the related Knowledge Base areas below?
  • KnowledgeBase: Knowledge Base

  • KnowledgeBase: Cabinetmaking

  • KnowledgeBase: Cabinetmaking: General

    Would you like to add information to this article? ... Click Here

    If you have a question regarding a Knowledge Base article, your best chance at uncovering an answer is to search the entire Knowledge Base for related articles or to post your question at the appropriate WOODWEB Forum. Before posting your message, be sure to
    review our Forum Guidelines.

    Questions entered in the Knowledge Base Article comment form will not generate responses! A list of WOODWEB Forums can be found at WOODWEB's Site Map.

    When you post your question at the Forum, be sure to include references to the Knowledge Base article that inspired your question. The more information you provide with your question, the better your chances are of receiving responses.

    Return to beginning of article.

    Refer a Friend || Read This Important Information || Site Map || Privacy Policy || Site User Agreement

    Letters, questions or comments? E-Mail us and let us know what you think. Be sure to review our Frequently Asked Questions page.

    Contact us to discuss advertising or to report problems with this site.

    To report a problem, send an e-mail to our Webmaster

    Copyright © 1996-2020 - WOODWEB ® Inc.
    All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any manner without permission of the Editor.
    Review WOODWEB's Copyright Policy.

    The editors, writers, and staff at WOODWEB try to promote safe practices. What is safe for one woodworker under certain conditions may not be safe for others in different circumstances. Readers should undertake the use of materials and methods discussed at WOODWEB after considerate evaluation, and at their own risk.

    WOODWEB, Inc.
    335 Bedell Road
    Montrose, PA 18801

    Contact WOODWEB

  • WOODWEB - the leading resource for professional woodworkers

      Home » Knowledge Base » Knowledge Base Article