Night Stands

This is the big one so far! I’m really excited about this project. It’s the most complex piece I’ve made and I learned a lot about what to do and what not to do while building it.

I will start with the materials. This was made out of lumber that you can find at any home store. The legs are just 2×2’s, the sides are 1×6’s and the  drawers and bottom shelf are plywood. There are a few specialized tools that I bought to use for this project, but they’re tools I will be able to use for many projects to come. Now: for the build:

The first thing I did was measure how tall my bed was to see how tall I wanted the night stands to be. There are some standard heights that are out there, but since I was making these for my home I wanted them to fit my room exactly. Once I had them measured, I cut the legs to length. When thinking about your height, keep in mind that, (at least with this design), the top of the table will add a little height too so cut your legs to compensate for that.

Next I cut the sides to go under the table tops and between the legs, called “aprons”. This would also create a box that the drawer would sit in. My original goal was to make this entire project with only joinery and no screws. That may have been a bit ambitious for my first big project. However, to attach the aprons to the legs I created some mortise and tenon joints. In hindsight, I should have cut these tennons longer and put them further into the table legs but this was my first attempt at them. I used a trim router to create the tennon shape as well as the mortise and small chisels to clean it out.

I drilled a hole where I wanted my mortise to start and then used my router to create the rest of the mortise.

I made the mortise and tennons for all the legs and aprons, then glued it together.

After setting the base, I glued up the table top. I don’t have a jointer or planer so I could not join the rounded edges of my table boards flush. There is a small seam down the middle, but for what I need it’s fine.

Check out the glue I use for all of my projects!

I used a Kreg Mini Jig to create pocket holes to attach the top to the base. I did this before I created the box for the drawer to fit in because once the bottom of the table was on it would have been too small of an opening to fit the drill into.

Next I measured and cut the bottom of the table. I had to measure carefully because the 2×2 legs I was using had twisted slightly so it was not exactly even on all four corners. I cut out small squares in each corner for the legs to fit through and the edges of the bottom would stick out a little past the aprons.  I used the flat ledge of the Kreg Jig bit to create a countersink for the screws to hold the bottom on. I considered just flying the bottom on but since I would have to hold the weight of the drawer plus whatever we put in the drawer I felt better about using screws.

Next I made the drawers. These were my first attempt at using dovetail joints and they’re pretty messy. Fine Woodworking has some excellent videos on how to make clean dovetails but I discovered that too late. On the back of the drawers I used simple finger joints. These look a lot cleaner than the dovetails but since I used plywood for the drawer sides and back some of the layers of wood chipped out.  I cut the dovetails in the front of the drawer sides to fit into the drawer front and be hidden when the drawer is closed. I used these cut dovetails to mark the ends of the drawer front before cutting them.  Make sure to account for the length of the dovetails when thinking about the size of the drawers. The tails are hidden inside the front so if you don’t add extra length to the drawer then it’ll be shorter than you plan. Also, be sure to measure that your drawer front and sides are around 1/16″ smaller than the opening for your drawer. Wood will expand and contract with moister in the air so if the fit is too tight you may not be able to open the drawer when it expands.

On the bottom of my drawer I used 1/4″ plywood just cut to fit over the whole bottom. The way I made mine, I glued and stapled the bottom of the drawer onto the bottom of the sides and the front of the drawer bottom butts against the drawer front. I used some blue tape to hold the bottom in place while I was getting my clamps set. A better way to do it would have been to rout, saw, or chisel a 1/4″ dado (small groove) the length of the drawer sides and back where I wanted the drawer to slide into. However, I didn’t yet have the tools to do this accurately and the way I did it, though not as pretty, is functionally the same.

Lastly I put the bottom shelf on the nightstand. I used the same method to measure and cut the shelves that I used on the bottom of the nightstand earlier, with notches cut out around the legs. I used more pocket screws with the Kreg Jig to attach the shelf from the bottom so the screws were not visible.

After everything was assembled, I sanded it all and made sure it fit and the drawers slid smoothly. I also added the pulls to the drawer fronts as part of the check but took them back off before staining.

To stain the night stands, I used a Minwax pre-stain conditioner to open the pores and get the wood ready to accept the stain. Then I finished it with a Minwax chestnut-color stain. The stain took two coats over the night stands and the drawers and covered really evenly with no problem. I sanded both nightstands lightly with 00 steel wool between coats to help even out any rough spots.

I really enjoyed this project and there are a few things I would do differently if I made something like this again. Let me know what you think about the the night stands and if you got value out of this post please consider sharing it.

Thanks for reading!


Author: Sam Adams

I am a musician, educator, and composer based out of Kentucky. I also dabble in wood working.

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