How To Build Your Own Home Bar

In this post I am going to show you step by step how to build your own home bar and show you the tricks the pro’s use in building bars for night clubs and restaurants. I will also show you mine that I finished last year. Now some of you are going to ask how is this farm related and my answer to that it is not. But… if you live way out in the country there aren’t many bars or night clubs to go to so I plan to build one at home so we can have friends and family over and I will not have to drive those country roads at night after drinking where there are lots of critters that like to dash out in front of you. My wife and I have a date night every Friday night and we like to go to  bars that serve food with our cocktails and  we love to get some hot wings or some other bar type grub. We are going to miss that when we live in the country, so I am going to create a pub at our home similar to the bar I built here at our current home. When I did a post about Plan Your Farm one of the steps was to be a DIY kinda person or have a willingness to learn to be and this is a perfect example of that. Living out in the country there aren’t dozens of tradesmen like in the city to help you, so it is best you learn to do these things yourself and most of all it isn’t that hard. It’s all part of the philosophy of being self-reliant and there is nothing like the feeling of a job well done and the satisfaction of doing it yourself. The first step is to plan where your bar is going to be and what shape you want it to be. I went on-line and looked at hundreds of home-built bars to help me decided. I decided to build a dry bar (without a sink) and to make it L shaped.

I used 2x6's to build the frame.

I used 2×6’s to build the frame. The frame is 41” tall by 50″ wide by 73″ long, with the little end wall at the far end only 12″.

The first thing is you have to frame it. I used 2×6’s to frame it out but I think it would be just as good if you used just 2×4’s. The final height of your bar needs to be between 41 to 43 inches tall to fit most bar stools. I built these walls 41 inches tall.

Ehe bar after the oak veener plywood is added.

The bar after the oak veneer plywood is added. I used 1 1/2 ” wood screws to attach the veneer to the frame and I only put screws at the bottom, top, and corners where it would be covered up by the oak trim pieces, so they wouldn’t show.

I used oak veneer plywood on the front but you could use pine veneer or a metal diamond plate or even corrugated metal. It all depends on your budget and the look you want to go with.

Then add trim peices.

Then add trim pieces. I used finish nails and Elmer’s wood glue to attach the trim pieces to the veneer. Pre drill your trim pieces first with the same size drill bit as your nail so you don’t split your oak trim when hammering the nail. Counter sink your nails with a nail set and then use stainable wood putty to fill your holes.

I then added the oak trim pieces, I used a 1×8 on the bottom and 1×4’s to trim it out the rest of the way. The trim gives it detail and depth and hides the seams where the plywood comes together. Pretty simple so far, the next step is to build your bar top, this is where it gets a little more complicated. To give your bar that professional bar look I would go with a Chicago Bar Rail to rest your elbows on when at the bar. It cost about 12 dollars a foot but to me it is worth it. If you decide to build your bar top using a Chicago bar rail this  requires two pieces of  3/4” plywood one on top of each other. I bought regular standard sheet for the bottom and another oak veneer sheet  for the top.home barAs  you can see from the illustration from above how  your bar rail sits on the bar top. Your bottom sheet has to be 1” 9/16” wider then your top sheet where you are going to have your Chicago bar rail. I made sure I cut the bottom sheet so I would have 10  inches of overhang on the bar where people will sit and your bar stools will be. This gives you enough room so your knees don’t hit the front of the bar when you sit on the stool and straddle up to the bar. If you use a foot rail you might go with more of an overhang. You screw the bottom sheet from the top on to the frame. Then you rip your top sheet remembering where the bar rail will have to be 1”  9/16” less then what you cut your bottom sheet. You then screw the top sheet onto the bottom sheet by screwing under the bottom sheet. Use 1 1/4 wood screws so your screws don’t come through the top of the bar. Now you can add your bar rail to your top. You have two options here, you can go with a rounded corners or you can go with mitered corners, or you can do what I did and do one of each. I would suggest you go with mitered corners, because the rounded corner is 125.00 each and is also a more difficult to cut your top to fit on the rounded corner. For a video showing how to cut a mitered corner on the Chicago bar rail (Click Here) Mitering the bar rail is easy, just use a 2×4 and set your bar rail onto the 2×4 where the bar rail sits on the bottom sheet of your bar top. You don’t need a biscuit joiner like in the video, just make sure your screws are long enough to go into the bar rail and short enough so they don’t come through the top of your bar rail.

Build your shelves and trim the top and shelves

Build your shelves and then add your trim, I forgot to take pictures of the shelves before I stained them. The shelves are 12″deep.

Next step is to finish off the inside walls of your bar. You can do this with drywall or if you have enough left over pieces of veneer plywood you can do what I did here. I also trimmed out the edge of the bar top using 1” 1/2” pine molding. I put on the  pine molding so it  stuck up 1/8” higher then the bar top. This act as a dam when you apply the two-part epoxy to finish the bar top. You will apply this after you have stained your bar (I will show you later in this post). I then attached the corbels to the bar by drilling and then inserting two 1/4” wooden dowel pins into the corbels and the lining them up on underneath the bar top where I wanted them to go, marking where the pins line up and using a 1/4 bit and drilled the two holes where I had it marked. I then added some Elmer wood glue to the pins on back of each corbel and then added them to the bar.

This is one of the two corbels I added to the bar to give it more interest and detail.

This is one of the two corbels I added to the bar to give it more interest and detail. You can also see in this picture how I attached the bar rail by using wood screws and screwing from under the overhang. My overhang is only 9 inches, I wouldn’t go less then that and not over 12″

I then built my back bar by using another oak veneer piece of plywood with oak 1×4’s on each side of that with and then an oak 1×6 for the bottom shelf where your liquor will sit and then an oak 1×8 on top. I then added some crown molding to finish it off on top and some pine trim to go around the bottom shelf.

attach back bar by screwing it into wall studs so when you put the bar mirror up it will hide screws.

attach back bar by screwing it into wall studs so when you put the bar mirror up it will hide screws.

The next step is to sand and stain your bar. I sanded the entire structure using a medium grit sand paper. I then wiped it down using a damp cloth, the damp cloth raises the grain. You do this because the stain will raise the grain in the wood and this step keeps that from happening. I then sanded the entire bar down again this time using a fine grit sand paper. I then stained the entire bar and back bar. Now your ready for your two-part epoxy finish on the bar top. This is what the pro’s use to protect the bar top from spills. First you must make sure your bar top is clean and dry. For a bar the size of mine, I mixed up about a quart with the two equal parts together. They must be of exact equal parts or it will not harden. I then stirred it slowly so to not create bubbles in the epoxy but stirred it very well before pouring it out over the entire top of bar. Then spread it all over with a plastic scraper or use an old credit card like I did. The epoxy is self leveling. This epoxy just goes on the flat part of the top, you will use polyurethane for the Chicago bar rail and the trim and the rest of the bar. One quart was enough to cover my entire bar top. I then let that dry completely and roughed it up with some sand paper and then put down another quart. You could also put down baseball cards or pictures or other memorabilia on your bar top before you pour out the epoxy to have them embedded in the top to give it more of a personalized touch and could show your hobbies or interest. If you do that you will have to add a second layer, and you do that by letting the first application dry completely, then sand the area using a medium grit sand paper and then do another pour. You can keep doing this step if you want to embed something thicker like bottle caps. Here is a video  showing how to apply the two-part epoxy.

The two-part epoxy gives your bar the glass look and protects your top from spills.

The two-part epoxy gives your bar a glass look and protects your top from spills. My bar top is 82″ long by 18″ wide

This is the other end of the bar top so you can see how it was finished off.

This is the other end of the bar top so you can see how it was finished off.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter your bar top has dried is when you brush on your polyurethane to the Chicago bar rail and the rest of the bar. After the first coat dries, sand it down using 0000# steel wool and then put on another coat.Milligan's Gander Hill FarmMilligan's Gander Hill Farm That’s it, now that you have a little knowledge on how to build a bar you can build your own. It does take some time to do it right but it is worth it. For more ideas for bar tops and to order your two-part epoxy go to DIY Bar Top Epoxy. All the parts for this bar was purchased at my local Home Depot except the Chicago bar rail. I bought the bar stools at an auction where the restaurant was going out of business, they matched perfectly with the stain and style of bar I chose to build. The rest of the bar signs, lights and mirrors I had been collecting for several years. I have also added photos of the rest of my bar down below. I found it easier to build the bar then to write how to build it. If anyone has any questions on how to build a bar you can ask them here on this post, no matter how old this post is. I will be happy to answer them if I can.

Name your bar after getting it done.

Name your bar after getting it done.

To get your own personalized bar sign for go here. No bar is complete without a pay phone.

Some hard apple cider and blueberry wine I have made

Some hard apple cider and blueberry wine I have made

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This great little bar was built by Jake, one of my readers

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This is how Jake did his shelving, this is exactly how I did mine.

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I love Jakes idea of putting lights under his bar top.

 

 

This is a picture of a bar one of my readers, Adam Urbach built after reading my post

This is a picture of a bar one of my readers, Adam Urbach built after reading my post. Nice job Adam

Milligan's Gander Hill Farm

This nice bar was built by one of my readers Cy Kollar.

This nice bar was built by one of my readers Cy Kollar

Cy did a nice job on the shelves

Cy did a good job on the shelves

This bar was done by Matt Hines who likes to brew is own home brew.

This bar was done by Matt Hines who likes to brew is own home brew.

Matt built a keggerator into his shelves.

Matt built a place for his keggerator into his shelves.

I really like what Matt did for the back bar.

I really like what Matt did for the back bar. I am just waiting now for my invite to try some of the home brew.

Bar by Matt Hines

This great little bar comes from Aberdeenshire Scotland and was built by David Batty

This great little bar comes from Aberdeenshire Scotland and was built by David Batty

David used 2x2's to frame his bar with veneer plywood over that. That works out great, its the plywood that gives the frame its strength.

David used 2×2’s to frame his bar with veneer plywood over that. This works out great, its the plywood that gives the frame its strength.

Here's what David had to say about his project. "I made mine with oak veneer MDF to  > save on cost, I got the solid oak corbels on eBay for a song. I  > couldn't get the bar rail locally in Scotland so I used solid oak  > moulding made by my local joiner. The detail is solid oak skirting  > board. And the resin top turned out fantastic - that was a great idea, thanks. I have really enjoyed doing it. >  > The wine rack and sofa and extras are all made from reclaimed wooden  > pallets that I got for free. > It was officially opened New Year's Eve... Magic!" >

Here’s what David had to say about his project.
“I made mine with oak veneer MDF to save on cost, I got the solid oak corbels on eBay for a song. I couldn’t get the bar rail locally in Scotland so I used solid oak
 molding made by my local joiner. The detail is solid oak skirting
 board. And the resin top turned out fantastic – that was a great idea, thanks. I have really enjoyed doing it.
>
 The wine rack and sofa and extras are all made from reclaimed wooden pallets that I got for free. It was officially opened New Year’s Eve… Magic!”

Here's  the best part, this was all done in this man shed in David's backyard. What a great idea.

Here’s the best part, this was all done in this man shed in David’s backyard. What a great idea.

These next four bar pictures are from Frank Chenette. I like his better than my own. Great job Frank

These next four bar pictures are from Frank Chenette. I like his better than my own. Great job Frank

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2014-08-24 10.11.45

2014-08-24 10.12.31

This great looking bar comes all the way from the UK. It was built by Mike Grady and I really like the stain color and the arch he built into the bar top. Way to go Mike

This great looking bar comes all the way from the UK. It was built by Mike Grady and I really like the stain color and the arch he built into the bar top. Way to go Mike

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This bar fits in real well with the brick work

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In all my wildest dreams, I didn’t think this post would help this many people build their own bar. Keep the pictures coming in, I love how tis post keeps growing.

This great looking bar was built by Denise and her hubby Gene. I like the look and corbels on this one, nice job on the back bar too.


This nice bar was built by Dwayne Jones. I like what he did here using total different materials than what I did on my bar and I love it. Like I said in the post this is just a guide and you can add your own materials and ideas.

This nice bar was built by Dwayne Jones. I like what he did here using total different materials than what I did on my bar and I love it. Like I said in the post this is just a guide and you can add your own materials and ideas.

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About Gordon Milligan

I am a conductor for a commuter railroad in Chicago IL, I have bought a 40 acre farm in South Central Iowa that I plan to retire to in 3 yrs. I want to raise and grow most of my own food using sustainible and organic methods. I have a blog that journals my journey to becoming a farmer.
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179 Responses to How To Build Your Own Home Bar

  1. kevin says:

    Gordon,

    Great looking bar! Want to thank for taking your time and helping everyone out. I’ll be starting my project in about two weeks. I believe you said the overhang on the front of your bar was 10 inches. What is the overhang behind your bar. Thanks again and great work.

  2. George Hill says:

    I really like the look of what you’ve done…however, I’m clue less re., the dimensions. Could you provide further details. I don’t wanna screw this up. Thx…George

    • Hi George, thanks for stopping by my blog. I have the dimensions in the post with the picture and in the comments section. There have been so many comments on this post that it is now on two pages. Please look through the comments to get the dimensions. If you still have some questions after reading the comments then let me know and I will be happy to help.

  3. Christopher Nathman says:

    About how long did it take to complete your bar? I’m thinking of doing custom “man cave” bars for people in my home town. Including college logos on them, custom paint etc.

  4. Yes the old adage of measure twice cut once is a good tip and take your time and do it right. Don’t work on it if you are tired because you could make a mistake, only work until you get tired and then quite for the day. Good luck and let us know how it turns out.

  5. Josh says:

    whats the approximate price to build one of these if I already have all the tools necessary?

  6. Joe says:

    Thanks Gordon, I am buying my first home and this is what I am going to do downstairs. Do you believe it is possible to build one for cheaper. If you don’t mind me asking what was the most expensive parts? How much are the corbals and where do you find them?

    • Joe says:

      I am just curious if you think it is possible to maybe do something like this for around $500?

      • Yes you can do it for that. You don’t have to use oak veneer plywood which is the most expensive part of this build. They are about 56.00 dollars a sheet. You could use corrugated metal or a pine veneer. You can use dry wall on the inside of the bar instead of oak veneer like I did where the shelves are. You also don’t have to buy the Chicago bar rail. Look what the guy did from Scotland to his bar for a bar rail. There is lots of different material you could use to cut cost. Just let this design guide you in your own build. Good luck and don’t forget to send pictures when your done.

        I almost forgot, I got the corbels for 5.00 at a garage sell and that is how I decided the stain color for my bar.

      • Joe says:

        Thanks a lot! It will be a probably 2 months or so but I will send! I love the bar and can’t wait to build it. My space is very similar to your area in which you built yours so it will be perfect

  7. Troy says:

    I’m currently living in an apartment and constantly dream of my future home and basement bar. Whenever I need to stop by the hardware store for something I walk down the other aisles just to check out materials I plan on buying for my future bar. I’ve bought some vintage signs, posters, and breweriana at local flea markets and just keep it in my closet until I can decorate with it all. I don’t know much about wood working, but this site is super inspirational to me. I’ve got the plan in my mind, and the decorations in my closet, now I just need the home to build my home bar!

    • Hi Troy, you sound like me before I was able to build my bar. I always dreamed of what I wanted and then started collecting signs and lights long before I started to build. I went to garage sales, estate sales, Ebay, and craigslist. Like the payphone I got on Ebay for 100.00 bucks. Just keep collecting a little at a time and before you know you will have your place to build one. Good luck to you and this site will always be here to help you out when you are ready.

  8. Cecilia A. Sparks says:

    Hi there! I’ve been building a bar from large pallets , once used to protect and box zero-turn lawnmowers. So far I’ve only spent money on screws, a new blade for my circular saw, and electrical energy. The frame is complete, but now I’m wondering what height I should set my preparation level of the bar. Any suggestions?

    • It sounds like a cool idea with the material you are using. I love to recycle and build things that don’t cost much money to build. You want your final bar height to be from 40 to 43 inches. At that height you will feel most comfortably when sitting at the bar. Good luck on your project and I would love to see the final product.

  9. Dee Nice says:

    Hi Gordon, Thanks for sharing your instructions. My husband and I have been trying to get a bar built for months so when I saw your posting I said what the heck we’ll build our own bar. So we’ve started building our bar. But I have a few questions, is the bar top cut as one piece? And if so is there any overhang on the back edge? Do you have any instructions on how to build the shelving?

  10. Glad to hear you are taking on your own bar project, it isn’t that hard and you and your husband will have fun doing it. To answer your questions the bar top was done in two piece’s and there is a 4 inch overhang on the back of the bar. If you go to the older comments which is below the last comment on this page… I described how to build the shelves in answering a question there. You just have read all the comments until you find it. If you read all the comments and don’t find an answer to a question you have, don’t be afraid to ask me here, good luck on your project.

    • Dee Nice says:

      Hi Gordon. LOL! Thank you for your reply. Yes I happened to see the “Older Comments” link after submitting my question. The bar is coming along well very. We’ve completed the framing(for bar and shelves) and added the trim. So we’re now ready to add the bar top. I was wondering if you had any advice on how to cut angles or mitered corners for the bar top joints instead of straight intersecting joints?

      • Ok I didn’t miter the bar top but butted the two peace’s together, but I made sure the wood grain all ran the same way. The first peace was a long rectangle that gave me 10 inches of over hang at both ends of the bar and I cut it wide enough to give me about 2 inches of over hang at the end of the little 12 in wall at the end of the bar. I then used a jig saw to cut around the back part of the bar top to give me 4 inches of over hang on the back.

  11. Chris says:

    Awesome looking bar! I’m curious, if sealing baseball cards into the bar top, why do a layer of epoxy first, then cards, then another layer of epoxy? Why not glue the cards to the bar top and then epoxy over them?

  12. Gem says:

    Hi Gordon. I know it’s has been said previously but I am so pleased I found this blog! I’ve been scouring the net for days looking for a home bar that I can tackle, and actually has some real detail to it, it’s perfect! (Hubby will help naturally, but I tend to do the planning of our DIY projects) I so can’t wait to get started on the frame as soon as I sell the furniture that is in the way currently.
    I don’t have a vast amount of room to play with as such so am looking have a few cheeky ideas up my sleeve! Thanks again for the initial post!

    • Gem thank you so much, I am glad I was some help. I know how it was when a I was looking for information on how to build a bar, there was a lot sites that claimed that they would show how but never really did. Its nice help people without trying to sell them something.

  13. Bryan Broussard says:

    Sweet bar. When you used the epoxy, did you let it drip off the rear edge, or did you use some type of dam to hold it in?

  14. Bryan Broussard says:

    Thanks Gordon,
    I am almost at that stage and trying to plan ahead. Wasn’t sure what to do, the wife wants to put some stuff in it , but im also using Pecky Cypress so I will have to put a base coat down first to cover up all the voids, then put stuff in and the final coat. Thanks for the help.

  15. Doug says:

    Gordon,
    Love the bar. I plan on doing a slightly less permanent option. Similar to Jake’s above with a kegerator installed underneath. Excluding the kegerator, How much time/money am I looking at?

  16. If you do it just like Jakes and use oak veneer and oak trim and Chicago bar rail, his is similar to mine. I spent around 700.00 not counting the back bar where my mirroir is hanging. You can plan on spending about 40 hours to build, sand and stain your bar. Now you can do it for much less by using different materials. Hope that helps.

  17. Mike says:

    Gordon,
    What is the best away to post some bar pics to you?

  18. Ok Mike, my email is gordonmilligan56@gmail.com looking forward to seeing them.

  19. adieurbs says:

    Wow! I just came back upon purchase of a new laptop to check out what’s been going on and what a great response. All the bars look awesome! Is there any way we can market this across borders and become bar building consultants?

  20. Hi Adam, glad to see you still stop by now and then. You was the first to send me pictures of your bar after I wrote the post and you have helped out in the comments, so you are already a bar building consultant.

    • adieurbs says:

      Hey Gordon, I think on your recommendation I may begin marketing myself as such a consultant…I will start with family and work from there. You will always get some credit though. The most recent addition to my bar was a dart board. I may send you a picture if I get a chance. Hope you had a great Summer.

  21. Louis Williams says:

    Can you please explain the mitering without the biscuit joiner? Im not sure of the purpose of the 2×4. Shouldnt I be able to cut my 45, connect, glue and ail the corner? 2.does applying two coats of epoxy make that much of a difference? Thank you for your help.

  22. Theresa Tyminski says:

    Hi can you please tell me if you nailed the bar into the floor or is it free standing?

  23. Matt says:

    Great site and info, Gordon. Any idea what colors/methods Frank Chenette used to stain/finish his bar? I really like that kind of rustic look he achieved.

  24. castironman says:

    Thanks for the idea..Nice bar! I almost have my project finished and would love to share photos of my project.. Anyway to send you pictures? Thanks..

  25. dannie says:

    hi gordon i am in the process of starting to build my bar but am a little stumped. i have a kegarator with 4 taps on it that i want to put under it so it looks like a actual bar. what do you think is the best way to do this im ok with wood but not the best any help would be awesome thank you dannie

  26. jesse says:

    Hey i love your guide, i recently just started building my own bar. i got the entire frame built, all i need to do now is select the type of wood i want for the side walls and counter top. the only question i have, because i cant seem to find it in your guide, is how you get the counter top to stay? because obviously i wouldnt want to nail it or screw it in, because the heads will show, so what is the best method as far as keeping it sturdy and solid? Thanks again for the guide though! love it!

    • It is in the post you just have to look for it. If you are using two pieces of plywood like mine the first piece is screwed from the plywood down into the frame. The heads don’t show because the next piece of plywood goes on to of that. The next piece is screwed from underneath into your last piece of plywood. Just make sure your screws are not too log where they come out the top of the bar. If you are just using one piece of plywood screw from underneath the frame into your top. This is where you rally need the 2×6 frame instead of 2×4 frame.

      • jesse says:

        thanks for your reply! much appreciate! im glad i went with the 2×6 framing then. So since the first layer of plywood is hidden, it wont matter what i use, correct? I just want to make sure before i buy 2 types of wood for my counter top haha. Would you recommend using wood glue or PL premium when applying the 2nd layer on top of the first layer? Im just trying to think of ways to make it as sturdy as possible since its free standing and not bolted or screwed to the ground. Because right now it shakes a tiny bit, im just wondering if it will continue to do so once i throw my panels and stuff on.

  27. Yes you don’t want to buy a oak veneer piece of plywood for the bottom, you would just be wasting money. I didn’t use any glue to put the top together just screws. I did use wooden dowels and glue to put on the corbels. Your frame will be very sturdy once everything is on it if done exactly like mine. I hope that helps and good luck with your project Jesse.

  28. Nic says:

    Any idea what Adam Urbach used for materials on his bar? Also would like to know how he painted it. I want to paint my bar black as well and wanted an idea of what paint he used. The end product looks sweet!

  29. adieurbs says:

    Hey Nic, Thanks! I think the bar looks sweet as well. It is in constant use. Anyhow, I used standard 2×4’s for the frame. I just happen to have parents who are in the re-store almost every day and they found me 2 oak veneered headboards that became the top of my bar. I used particle board underneath those that I found in the scrap bin, so free, at Home Depot. This meant I had money for the authentic Oak Bar Rail and it is awesome! I got it from a trim and moulding store in the area. It really finished it off nicely. The sides of my bar are actually made of mdf panel board. I found one that had a nice inset design and went with it. Also made it easy to finish. I used standard trim and moulding for all other finishing on the bar. As far as the paint goes, it is a furniture paint for the base and trim with killz primer underneath. It has a high gloss finish which is what I wanted for the base. I can send you details via email if you like, just let me know. The top is a water based stain over the oak top and rail, and I used a food grade water-based high-gloss varnish over that. I decided on that when in Rona buying the paint and got talking with the sales lady. She recommended those products based on the usage and timeline I was on. I can send the details in email as well. I have the cans still and can take pictures. Hope that helps.

  30. Nic says:

    Adam, thanks for the quick reply. I would really appreciate any and all advice you can give me. That would be awesome if you could send me some pics of any and all materials used. Again thanks for the reply. Bought some lumber today, and plan on getting some work on it this weekend. Hopefully have it framed by Sunday night. You can send me pics at nicdahl31@gmail.com

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