Our new design involves a pass through bar area between the kitchen and the livingroom. We got rid of the doorway in that wall, opened it up, and replaced it with a half wall. The goal was to cut down on the walk through area in the kitchen workspace while still creating open sight lines. You can cook while still socializing into other parts of the house. This meant picking not only kitchen countertops but also a counter for the bar top separating the two rooms. That choice proved to be difficult for us. Pretty early on we knew we wanted butcher block in the kitchen. One of the downsides about butcher block is that it’s soaked in oil. That means any stacks of paper or fabric you leave on the counter over night can be stained. We could have finished it with a sealant, but I was hesitant about that because it being so close to the kitchen. Basically, you don’t want to have raw food interacting with polyurethane if you can help it. We set about finding some other material for the bar top. Emily doesn’t like most solid surface counters. No granite, marble, no stone, etc. On the other hand, I don’t like formica or other laminates. I’m also not so fond of ceramic tops. All of which puts us in a pickle since we’ve now crossed off most options.
This conundrum led Em to investigate metal tops. She looked at stainless steel, zinc, copper, and a few other options. Some of these turned out to be really cool, but really expensive. Then Em hit on this idea she saw in a blog. I believe this was the original entry she read about it in. The basic idea is you take a two part epoxy, the kind used to seal traditional bar tops or those really shiny car showroom floors, and use it to immerse pretty much any cool array of objects. For our project, I built a frame out of poplar and a double sheet of three quarter ply. The trim I stained to match our kitchen counters. The inside of the frame I painted black and then sealed with silicone. The whole thing is set on some pretty beefy brackets and screwed into the pony wall between the kitchen and living room. Next, Em took 35 bucks in pennies and laid them out in the frame in a pretty cool geometric pattern. I got to cut a few bits of pennies using an angle grinder. That was awesome. Then we poured about a gallon of mixed epoxy over the whole thing and spread it out with a plastic spreader. Some heat gunning and finishing nails took care of most of the bubbles and we left the thing to set up over night. By the next day, the epoxy had hardened and the counter top was done. It’s really neat. I suspect we’ll add another layer of epoxy in a few months. It doesn’t quite fill to the lip of the counter and a little bit ran out of an unsealed crack in one corner. But on the whole it came out spectacularly. Now we just need to finish up that wall area, paint the livingroom, and most of the 1st floor is on to little finishing work.