Introduction: $9 2x4 Side Table

We made this side table out of 2x4s for less than $9, which we think is pretty dang cool! You can definitely make this with other types of wood and the steps will be easier (2x4s tend to warp and pine is soft), but the cheap material allowed us to experiment with some joinery techniques we’d never done before. We learned a lot and shared lots of little tidbits (and failures!) in the video.

We’ve included free plans that have a cut list and measurements as well. Here’s what you’ll need:

Materials:

Tools:

Step 1: Squaring & the 2x4s

We started by giving our 2x4’s a nice square edge on all sides. The rounded edges they come with make it difficult to get a finished looking end product. We ran the top and bottom of them through the planer. Then we ran the left and right sides through the table saw, and then through the planer.

We did this before cutting them to length because we thought that would make all our boards more consistent, but it was a little unwieldy running 10-ft boards through a table saw. So it might be easier to cut them first (leaving extra length that you can trim off later).

Step 2: Cutting & Making Panels

After squaring them up, we cut the 2x4s to length for our top panel, shelf, and legs on our miter saw. You can find the lengths and cut list in the plans here.

Everything got 10 degree miters: The legs are angled at 10 degrees, which means their ends need a 10 degree cut; and the shelf buts up against the legs so it therefore needs a 10 degree cut too. Technically, you could cut the top panel at 90 degrees but we thought 10 degrees would look nice, so that one is purely aesthetic. Next we glued up the panels for our top piece and our shelf piece. We used Titebond Original wood glue here and Bessey clamps. We also have a little silicone brush that is awesome for applying the glue. We let these set overnight.

Then we ran our two panels through the planer one more time to level out any unevenness from our glue up. Unfortunately, we got some snipe on the ends, which is when your board isn’t in contact with both rollers at the same time and the planer cuts the ends a little deeper. We fixed this by running it through again and again with sacrificial boards in front of and behind it until we got rid of the snipe.

Step 3: Cutting Dados

This part was a little tricky since we’ve never cut dados before. We angled our table saw blade to 10 degrees and raised the blade so it would cut about halfway through the thickness of our boards. There are dados in a few different places: two in the underside of the tabletop for the legs to go into, and one on the inside of each leg for the shelf to sit in.

We started with the tabletop. We measured where the outside of each dado needed to be and made marks at those points. We started our cuts there and worked our way inward.

We thought we’d widen our dado a little bit at a time and test fit the legs with each pass as we got close. We tried to be careful, but we still cut our first dado a hair too big. Womp. We cut new legs for that side and it ended up being fine (you can’t visibly tell a difference in the leg thickness), but we did learn to stop a little early with our cuts. An extra snug fit is ok, and you can use a wood mallet to pound the wood into place if it’s tight. Luckily, our second dado under the tabletop was fine.

Next we cut a dado on the inside of each leg. We actually did all the legs together to make sure the dados were consistent. We again used the method of marking where the dados needed to start and working our way down little by little. To clean up our dados, we used a router with a ½” diameter dovetail bit and a chisel. The bit got the flat surfaces really well, and the chisel helped clean the corners (plus it was super satisfying).

Step 4: Assembly

With our dados cut, it was time to assemble. This table is put together with just wood glue, no screws involved. Unfortunately, when we started to assemble it we realized our shelf panel had warped a little. 2x4s are prone to warping, so if you use nicer wood you hopefully won’t have to worry about this happening as much. Luckily we were able to force it into place during our dry fit assembly.

However, it took us about 15 minutes to pound everything into place with that warped shelf, and our glue (Titebond III) has a set time of 10 minutes, so we literally had to race the clock for this assembly. If you don’t have any warping it won’t be as much of an issue.

All the pieces need to be assembled simultaneously. We applied glue to our dados, roughly put the legs where they need to be in the tabletop dados, sat the shelf in the leg dados, and used a mallet to inch everything into place. We clamped everything together and let the glue dry overnight.

Step 5: Finishing

The next day, we unclamped our piece and gave the whole thing a good sanding using a random orbit sander for the large surfaces and sanding blocks to get into harder to reach spots. Then we used wood filler at each joint to fill in any gaps we couldn’t close before the glue set. We let it dry and sanded it off.

Next we gave it two coats of shellac and sanded lightly with 600 grit sandpaper between coats. If you are too heavy handed with the sanding or use too low of a grit, you’ll sand the shellac right off.

After the shellac, we gave it a coat of Briwax, which we then buffed off by placing a microfiber rag between our random orbit sander and the table. The finish came out reeeeally nice. It’s got some shine but isn’t overly shiny, and it feels super smooth.

Step 6: Enjoy!

We love how this side table turned out! Like we said earlier, this build would probably be easier with nicer, more expensive wood, but this was a great challenge and the cheap material really allowed us to experiment with some new techniques. Please let us know if you have any questions about this build. Thanks!

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Comments

author
SirCooksalot (author)2017-08-17

Hi, love the table! Quick question, just to double check- For the shelf, cut the edges at 10 degrees, and then to cut the dado on the legs I'd set the table saw to 10 degrees as well? Thanks so much for the help

author

That's correct! It's 10 degrees for both. It helped us to draw it out on the legs first and line them up with the shelf to make sure we were doing it right

author
thefrenchmaker (author)2017-06-05

Great Instructable! It inspires me! thank you!

author

So happy to hear that!! Thanks for stopping by to check out our project :)

author
cltcgroome (author)2017-06-01

Evan and Katelyn your photo is too cute! you win the couple photo contest.

This project is great! I loved that little table and thought of about 5 different projects that is perfect for. The title says $9 2x4 side table. And yes two 2x4's are likely that. Then you look at your actual materials. The equipment alone is $1,752.23 and that does not include the cost of the non-2x4 materials(glue, varnish ect.) At least you used all tabletop portable equipment that you do not need an entire garage to house. Still if you add those together you end up with a $1800.00 side table for the first one. But after that you can make so many cool things. I really love the table and want to make one myself. Your instructable was very well done too. Thank You for the hard work you put into this for everybody. This was a great middle ground project. Less than the two car garage filled with $30,000 of equipment and greater than a palette and circular saw.

author

Thank you! Yes, if you had to buy all the tools/additional materials for this build you'd be set back a lot more than $9. Since it is a more middle ground project, we assumed that someone tackling it might already have some of the tools, but we do think you could do it with a more limited tool set if you didn't. With a circular saw, straight edge, sandpaper, and glue (maybe a chisel too) you could create something with a similar look. The legs and shelf would have to be at 90 degrees but I think it would still look really cool. The circular saw can be used to cut everything to length, then rip the edges, then cut the dados. With the right blade (flat cutting edge) and a straight edge to guide the cuts the dados should be good enough but a chisel would help. Sanding could take the place of a planer if you have enough patience, or you could leave the surface a little more rustic.

author
sheripres (author)2017-06-01

I loved your video! I like that you showed that you had problems and didn't make it a "perfect" video. You both are lots of fun and made it more fun to watch. I will have to check out your channel.

author
evanandkatelyn (author)sheripres2017-06-03

Thank you!! We'd rather show the things that went wrong so people can learn from our mistakes - plus I feel like it's less intimidating to tackle when you can see that we messed up and it still turned out ok in the end! Please do check out our channel, we'd really appreciate it. We're still pretty new to YouTube and the more views/subscribers we get, the more videos we can make :D

author
Captain Tight-Pants (author)2017-05-31

SUPER nice ible'!!! Hope to make some day as I have a new jointer sitting in a box :D

author

Thank you!!! Oh man we are jealous - would love to get our hands on a jointer!

author
oliveira.igorm (author)2017-05-28

Nice build! But dude keep your fingers away from the blade, use some sticks. take care!

author

Actually got a microjig grr-ripper part way through this for the rest since yes, that was an uncomfortable process. WAY more comfortable with it. My push sticks weren't a good fit since it was so long. I actually plan to get one more

author
rayp1511 (author)2017-05-28

That came out really nice! Well written too.

author
evanandkatelyn (author)rayp15112017-05-28

Thanks so much!! Appreciate you stopping by and leaving a nice comment :)

author

The tables are beautiful!!! I'd love to have them outside actually. What would I have to do to make this outdoor worthy/weather proof? I'd want it to survive rain and sun!

author

Thanks! Rockler actually has a good article on it here:

http://www.rockler.com/how-to/outdoor-woodworking-...

If you really want it to last for a while it seems like epoxy on the end grain and then exterior quality paint is the most durable option. Sealing it with oil is good if you want the wood to show through but you have to re-apply yearly.

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Bio: A husband and wife team who want to DIY ALL THE THINGS. Amateur makers. Expert high fivers. New video every week (or so).
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