Trash to Treasure: A Fluted Bar Cart DIY Makeover

Do you love entertaining? Me too! I’ve always wanted a bar cart in my living room to hold glasses and drink supplies, but I wanted it to be unique. I found a designer bar cart I LOVED, but not enough to pay full price for it. Well, I was snooping around someone’s trash pile, and I found a broken bar cart that I decided would be perfect for my next trash to treasure project! Follow along and see how I created this gorgeous fluted bar cart for very little money! 

It’s wonderful what you can do with a little bit of time and effort, isn’t it? I knew that creating the fluted look I wanted for this cart would take some time, but I knew it would be worth it in the end and that helped me push through. I can’t wait to show you everything I did to get the stylish bar cart of my dreams. The best part is that I barely had to purchase anything to make it happen! Let’s get started.

A styled diy bar cart with fluted sides

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Building Materials Needed For Your DIY Bar Cart

  • Bar cart (the cheaper you can get it, the better! It doesn’t even have to be in good shape, as you will see) 
  • Loctite Super Glue Ultra Gel Control
  • Plywood 
  • Edge banding
  • Stain (your choice of color)
  • Hinges
  • Two pieces of 1×4 for the legs

Tools Needed

Step 1: Find Your Bar Cart

bar cart ready for a DIY makeover

The cheapest way to make this bar cart is to find a discarded one in the trash like I did! But obviously, that was pretty lucky and cannot be expected. Because the real transformation here is making a simple cart into something high-end looking, you will still save money if you buy your own bar cart on Amazon, Walmart or even at IKEA. After all, we all love a good IKEA hack, right? Check Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace too before you buy new! If you go this route, rest assured that you are still saving a lot of money by doing the fluting on your own DIY bar cart yourself. 

Step 2: Fix Your Bar Cart Frame

This step will vary based on what kind of shape your bar cart is in to begin with! Mine had several issues with the frame pieces that I had to deal with:

  • I had to remove the handles 
  • I had to build a top for the cart, since the shelf it came with was missing
  • It had a broken wheel, so I had to figure out how to make it level and usable again

The good news is that none of it was difficult to fix, and just required a bit of thought and creativity. Here’s what I came up with!

Frame Shape

removing the handles from the old bar cart

First, I didn’t want the handles on the side of my bar cart because I wanted a flat top. So, I used my jigsaw to cut them off! A few bar cart frame cuts gave me the exact shape I wanted, and it was super simple and easy to do. If you need to do this as a step in your own DIY bar cart makeover, don’t worry about fixing the cut ends because we are going to build a top and sides that will cover them!


This step will also depend on the final look you are going for. My bar cart was gold, but I wanted it to be black. So, I spray painted it! If you are going to spray paint make sure to prep your metal! I learned the hard way… your metal needs to be clean, and I recommend scuffing it up with some sandpaper, otherwise your spray paint may easily peel off.

DIY Bar Cart Top

cutting out and sanding the plywood top

The top of my bar cart was missing the shelf, so I cut a new one out of plywood. I used my jigsaw so that I could make it into an oval shape smoothly and easily. 

Then, I applied edge banding to the cut edges to make it look finished and professional. You know all about edge banding by now I am sure (a thin strip of rolled up wood with an adhesive backing), but I will just give a quick refresher on how to use it:

  • Iron it in place on the edge of your plywood (the backing contains glue that the heat from the iron activates)
  • Take your edging tool and trim the excess from the top and bottom edges so that the edge banding is flush with both of them. Sandpaper works too if you don’t have an edging tool.
adding the edgebanding to the top

 This sturdy, simple design for a top is going to make the end result a functional bar cart as well as a really pretty one! I set this top aside until I was ready to start putting everything together. 

Step 3: Create Your Fluted Look

I am really loving the modern fluted look so much right now! I also made this stylish modern round coffee table with fluted sides. So I knew I wanted to do a fluted look for the bar cart as well.

I used my table saw to cut thin plywood into wooden boards of the right width. I cut them all at the same time for maximum efficiency. You could also use precut strips of wood for this, but I couldn’t find any that were thin enough. 

strips are cut out of plywood for the fluted sides

Of course, if you want a rustic bar cart, you could use a more rough grade of wood than the plywood I chose. Old wood cut into a wide board would really change the feel of this piece! Anything that can be cut into strips is fine.

Once my strips were cut, I sanded the edges and the side that would face outward with my orbital sander to make them look finished and smooth, and also to prepare them for stain. Don’t worry about the top or bottom side of your strips, since they won’t show.  Pro tip: clamp a bunch of these together with the edge facing up when you sand them instead of doing a single board at a time. This will save you so much time and also many swear words! I’m all about using efficient practices to make less work for myself. Anytime you can do something as a batch for these DIY projects, you should.

sanding the sides of the plywood strips.

Then, I stained the strips. This is totally personal preference! Choosing a color that was almost natural wood in a semi-gloss finish gave me the look I was going for. I stained them all at once, and I also stained the bar cart top at this point as well. I wanted the top, edge banding, and sides to all match. 

Once all the stain was dry, it was time to put it all together! This is where my old friend Loctite glue came in handy. This time I used the Loctite Super Glue Ultra Gel Control, and it was the absolute perfect product for the job. 

Adding the strips to plywood to create a door on the DIY bar cart.

I started by building the door. I used my Loctite glue to attach the plywood strips vertically to a horizontal piece of wood. Measurements will vary based on what size your cart is. I recommend using a spacer so that all your strips will be exactly the same distance apart. I used one of the plywood strips turned sideways so I could use the narrow edge. 

Equally spacing the wood strips to create fluted sides

Then, I attached the top of my DIY bar cart to the frame using my Loctite glue. Make sure you do a dry fit first to make sure it really is the right size before you glue yours in place. 

Now, it was time for all the fluting to really come together! I love Loctite gel because it doesn’t drip or run, so it was easy to attach the strips of plywood to the metal frame vertically with no issues. The easy side-squeeze bottle design also made it possible to apply the glue with pinpoint accuracy. I used the same technique I did for the door: glue one strip, use another strip as a spacer (narrow edge), and then glue the next strip, all the way around. This DIY project is not that complicated, but it IS time-consuming. 

Attaching the hinge on the bar cart door.

I even attached the hinges for the door to the metal frame using the Loctite gel! This stuff works, you guys. 

Step 4: Custom Legs

This step might not be necessary for you, but my cart was missing a wheel and therefore part of my DIY bar cart adventure involved building legs. I decided not to bother with new caster wheels since I did not plan to move my cart around, and instead, kept the legs very simple to go with the clean, modern look of my cart. I used two 1x4s to create two boxes as legs, spray painted black to match the frame of my bar cart, and then glued in place using the Loctite glue.

And that’s it! Didn’t this cart come a long ways from where we started? I love that I created this functional piece of furniture from a garbage cart in someone’s trash pile. I placed it against the wall in my dining room and styled out the top shelf of the bar cart out with a removable serving tray, a faux plant, some glasses and water pitcher, and a cute sign. You could use vintage glassware and some fresh flowers to really change the look too!

Bar cart with DIY wood fluted sides

The best thing about this bar cart is that the bottom of the frame still contains a wine rack and place to hang wine glasses even though I had to make so many alterations to the frame! I now have a beautiful modern bar cart with plenty of storage to serve my guests from. And because I picked such a neutral color scheme for the fluting and frame, It will be a long time before I feel like I have to update it. 

I’m so happy I don’t have to just pile everything onto my coffee table like I used to do! Have you DIY’d a bar cart to make it fit your needs? Tag me @designingparkside, I would love to see it.


A fluted bar cart DIY makeover

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