How to Build a Tiki Bar

Build a Real Tiki Bar, from Atomic Magazine Vol. 1, No. 3
Build a Real Tiki Bar, from Atomic Magazine Vol. 1, No. 3
How to Build a Tiki Bar, from Atomic Magazine Vol. 1, No. 3
How to Build a Tiki Bar,
from Atomic Magazine Vol. 1, No. 3

This comes from Atomic Magazine’s Fall 1999 issue — a very tongue-in-cheek set of instructions on how to build a tiki bar, designed to look like a family-friendly (until you read the finer print) construction kit from the 1950s. This was sent to me by Frank Dellario after meeting him at last spring’s Game Developer’s Conference in San Jose. Frank is the fellow pictured here with the pipe and glasses; he pulled together the bamboo information for the article. The other fellow pictured is Paul Jannicola, who is now part of Frank’s machinima team, ILL Clan. Michael Cogliantry photographed the spread, and Jeff Griffith did the layout and captions. This is from pretty early in the revival of interest in tiki (the Book of Tiki didn’t come out until the next year), and it’s neat to see some of the vanguards of modern-day tiki culture in action.

How to Build a Tiki Bar, Step 1, from Atomic Magazine Vol. 1, No. 3
How to Build a Tiki Bar, Step 1, from Atomic Magazine Vol. 1, No. 3
How to Build a Tiki Bar, Step 2, from Atomic Magazine Vol. 1, No. 3
How to Build a Tiki Bar, Step 2, from Atomic Magazine Vol. 1, No. 3
How to Build a Tiki Bar, Step 3, from Atomic Magazine Vol. 1, No. 3
How to Build a Tiki Bar, Step 3, from Atomic Magazine Vol. 1, No. 3
How to Build a Tiki Bar, Step 4, from Atomic Magazine Vol. 1, No. 3
How to Build a Tiki Bar, Step 4, from Atomic Magazine Vol. 1, No. 3
How to Build a Tiki Bar, Step 5, from Atomic Magazine Vol. 1, No. 3
How to Build a Tiki Bar, Step 5, from Atomic Magazine Vol. 1, No. 3
How to Build a Tiki Bar, Step 6, from Atomic Magazine Vol. 1, No. 3
How to Build a Tiki Bar, Step 6, from Atomic Magazine Vol. 1, No. 3
How to Build a Tiki Bar, Step 7, from Atomic Magazine Vol. 1, No. 3
How to Build a Tiki Bar, Step 7, from Atomic Magazine Vol. 1, No. 3
How to Build a Tiki Bar, Step 8, from Atomic Magazine Vol. 1, No. 3
How to Build a Tiki Bar, Step 8, from Atomic Magazine Vol. 1, No. 3
How to Build a Tiki Bar, Step 9, from Atomic Magazine Vol. 1, No. 3
How to Build a Tiki Bar, Step 9, from Atomic Magazine Vol. 1, No. 3

Frank said that they really did build this tiki bar using nothing but bamboo, string, and a few bamboo skewers. I don’t know how well it held up, though… It’s held up well, see the update below!

Atomic Magazine stopped publishing in 2003, but back issues (including this one) are available from the Atomic Magazine website, and editor Leslie Rosenberg now runs RetroRadar.com.

UPDATE: Since this post has turned out to be incredibly popular, and so many people want to actually take a whack at making one of these suckers, here are scans of a couple of useful sidebars from the article. Also, here are instructions for tying a transom knot. I can’t personally vouch for the instructions here — I got my bar from Bamboo Ben.

Tiki bar materials list and tips
Tiki bar materials list and tips

UPDATE 2: Frank reports that the bar has held up just fine, the only adjustment he has made is to add an MDF top, mostly to add some Lose Weight Exercise to it (bamboo & twine is pretty darned lightweight). Here’s his bar today, eight years on it looks better than ever, a testament to the strength of bamboo:

Frank Dellario's tiki bar today
Frank Dellario’s tiki bar today

67 thoughts on “How to Build a Tiki Bar

  1. Pingback: meneame.net
  2. Um, sorry to nitpicks but that mat is not made of bamboo. That’s called a lauhala mat, made from the woven palm fronds of the lauhala tree.

    Like

  3. where are the actual step-by-step instructions… its awesome, and i want to know the dimensions, as well as materials list, and detailed cut lengths etc…

    Like

  4. Justin (and anyone else who wants to try this as a project): I’ve added scans of a couple of useful sidebars to the end of the post, including a materials list. I also tracked down a site that shows how to make a transom knot. Have fun with the wife!

    Wahine: Yeah, I don’t know why they called it a bamboo mat (perhaps that’s what the store they bought it at was calling it?), but it doesn’t necessarily look like lauhala to me, it looks more like a grass mat. Any lightweight woven organic-materials mat should do the trick.

    Juan: I fear that Babelfish has failed me again. On the off chance that the translation I got was accurate: I think good care was taken to not eat any spirals, but I’d have to check with Frank to be sure. And you’re right, it looks like a dot-shaking good time.

    Rikomatic: That Frankyboy sure is a doll, ain’t he?

    Glad you’re all getting a kick out of it, and welcome to all the new Humu Kon Tiki readers!

    Like

  5. Just one question…

    Why in hell would anyone WANT to build a tiki (or tacky) bar?

    Having lived through the era when such a thing was “in”, I just shudder.

    Like

  6. Bamboo, alchohol, cigarettes, drunken retro-hussies? I’m sure it is wonderful, until your swank digs flame into non-existence.

    Cause of fire? Bad taste.

    Like

  7. Pingback: Anonymous
  8. In answer to why someone would want one of these things… it’s true, it’s not for everyone. If you truly ask out of curiosity, this article, from American Heritage Magazine, may shed some light on why some people cherish this period in American history:

    Tiki, from American Heritage Magazine, Vol. 57, Issue 4 (Aug/Sep 2006)

    Re: fire hazard, today there are excellent fireproofing methods available, which should be used with any use of thatch or bamboo in decorating. Personally, I don’t use fire in my home tiki bar, but many folks do, and use the appropriate care. I have yet to see or hear of anyone having a fire in their home tiki bar (one friend had a fire in their home, and their home bar was smoke-damaged, but did not burn), with or without the presence of any pesky “retro-hussies.”

    Just got an update from Frank, and there’s now a picture at the end of his post of how the bar is looking today — it’s held up great!

    Like

  9. Frank here. Glad to hear everyone liked the article, must tip hat to Jeff Griffith who was the art director on the mag and worked on that text with me as well. And thanks to the ever gorgeous humu humu for posting it.

    That transom knot is correct, but I also used what’s called a transom lashing, can’t find an image online but here’s a link to one I scanned from The Ashely Book of Knots, http://www.yehoodi.com/images/news_photos/1467.jpg.

    You basically just keep looping the line up over under, up over under, so it’s one big ring of line that happens to have two bamboo poles through it, one on top of the other, then you lash it tight by looping the line around the middle line in a circle, cinchs it tight that way. If you looked at it from the side, it would look like a U shape of line, with a horizontal circle of line (the cinching part). Hard to discribe so hope that helps.

    Like

  10. Hey Gang,
    The famous Michael Cogliantry (who took these hysterical pics) just forwarded me this blog. HOW COOL that the story not only lives on years after we created this piece in ATOMIC, but that it’s still giving helpful tips in 2006. Was one of my favorite pieces from the mag. We actually received letters from our fighting men overseas who used the instructions to build their own on bases in the Middle East. Big thanks Franky Boy for the shoutout. Much appreciated -Jeff Griffith

    Like

  11. I am building a tiki bar. My bambo is spliting and I need to know what to do. Should i treat it with somthing ? I have 2 – 10 foot poles, 5in. diam. Please hurry with reply. I don’t want 10 foot toothpicks.

    Like

  12. I’ve actually been trying to think of a project to use up some spare bamboo I came across recently. How on Earth could I not have thought of this?

    After I crank one of these out, I’d really like to hand-carve my own tiki totem from a length of palm tree. Cheers, friends. Pictures to follow when all is done…

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s