Lighting for Wood Cabinets in My Jack Daniel's Bar

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Blog entry by WoodshopTherapy posted 04-10-2021 03:40 PM 669 reads 1 time favorited 0 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Cabinet lighting for wood cabinets can be challenging, especially when there are wood shelves. See how to light up a cabinet with wood shelves to provide a nice glow. I also give a tour of my Jack Daniel’s themed bar, which might give you ideas for building your own bar.

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The existing cabinet lighting in my bar display cabinets have failed so I’m replacing them. About 15 years ago I installed LED rope lights, which were a new product at the time. The colour on the lights is a cold, green-ish type of light. There weren’t colour options back then like there are today. I chose warm white LED rope lights to replace the old ones to provide a warm glow in these oak cabinets.

A common solution for cabinet lighting is to install light pucks in the top of the cabinet. The problem with wood shelves is they prevent the light from cascading below the shelves. I’ve added rope lights to the front, inside corner of the cabinet around the sides and top to provide a nice glow of light.

Why not use tape lights? When I used tape lights on the Halloween Candy Slide I built, the light was very one directional. There was a strong beam perpendicular to the light but it was weak on the sides. The look I want is a glow effect, so rope lights are a better option as the light radiates evenly around the rope lights.

To install rope lights like this, you need to notch the shelves. The wood shelves in my cabinet are removable so when I originally installed the accent lighting, I notched the shelves to fit.

The rope lights are plugged in to an outlet that is connected to the switch for the rest of the bar lighting. The first step is to remove the old lighting. I remove the narrow gable installed to hide the lights. This was installed with hot glue so I could service the lights. I then unscrewed the three metal clips at the top of the cabinet and peeled off the lights where I had used hot glue tack them in place. I fished out the old lights through a hole in the side of the cabinet.

To install the new lights, I simply reinstalled them by fishing in the new string, securing the metal clips, applying some hot glue, and reinstalling the gables. I only have gables in one side of the cabinets. The gables prevent you from looking directly at the lights when looking at the cabinets from a side angle. Once it was all put back together, I plugged in the lights and the dark cabinets came to life with a warm, soft glow.
The design of this bar was inspired by the end of a Jack Daniel’s barrel end that hangs on the wall under a spot light. There’s other Jack Daniel’s paraphernalia that decorates the bar such as a Jack Daniel’s light switch plate and a metal Jack Daniel’s sign. The oak I used to build the bar is stained and finished to look similar to the oak barrel end.

I built the bar with 3/4 inch oak plywood and solid wood. The base of the bar is an L-shape using two pieces of plywood screwed together. Then applied frames and panel mould to give the bar a frame and panel look. At the corners, I used solid oak instead of plywood so the metered corners would stand up to wear over time. I used “old farm” oak baseboard to visually ground the bar where it meets the floor.

Behind the bar I built a cabinet with a counter top for the bar sink. I decided to build in storage drawers for the miscellaneous items you use in a bar. The large bottom drawer is where we store snacks and I show some uniquely Canadian chips – Ketchup flavour and All Dressed flavour.

The bar top of this Jack Daniel’s bar is made of two layers of 3/4 inch plywood with overlapping joints at the metered corner for optimal strength. It’s trimmed with traditional bar rail on the front and routed trim on the inside of the bar.

The cabinets provide storage and disguise the electrical panel for our home. I build the doors and made sure I aligned the book matched veneer in the center of the doors to feature the grain cathedrals.

The top of the bar is a valance with ground moulding and 1/2 round trim. This design element helps ground the bar in the room so it doesn’t look like a bar was just set in the corner of a room. By installing recessed lighting in the valence, it also has a purpose of providing the lighting for the bar.

The final touch to my Jack Daniel’s bar is loading up the display shelves. I have a special Jack Daniel’s bottle that was signed by the Distiller in 2004. It sits on a top shelf in the warm glow of the cabinet lighting.

-- Scott Bennett - sharing woodworking knowledge

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