Introduction: Bedroom Nightstand With Secret Compartment
Yay! Reclaimed wood furniture from a single pallet! Power for all your stuff! Hidden shelf! Let's go...
Step 1: Tools Needed
Pull Saw (or other hand saw)
Saw Horses (optional)
Also (not pictured) a tape measure, pliers, straight edge or T-square, Sharpie, pencil, sand paper, wood screws, wood filler, wood glue, stain, magnetic clasp, hinges, 2 cable ties w/screw mounts, power strip
Step 2: The Pallet Disassembly
First thing you'll need to do is liberate a pallet from the oppressive regime with which it currently resides. You can usually find these stacked behind big box stores. Do not pay for a pallet as that defeats the entire purpose of using reclaimed wood. Look around and you will find a place that will just give them to you.
You'll need to get as much usable wood as you can salvage from your newly acquired pallet. This is actually a bit harder than it sounds if you've never tried it before. Use the pliers and the claw of your hammer to remove as many as possible.
Step 3: Tips for Better Nail Removal & Undamaged Wood
The middle of the pallet is usually the toughest spot. I found it fairly easy to get the claw of my hammer under the board and with a little leverage the boards will separate. Give the top board a quick whack in the center and you should gain access to most of the buried nails.
Step 4: The Wiggle Method
Another thing I do to help the nails raise above the surface is to rock the board up and down while stepping on another part of the pallet. As long as you don't get overly aggressive with it you should be able to get the nails raise enough to remove them with your hammer without cracking the wood.
Don't get discouraged. Take your time and go slow. I've found cold beer greatly helps me take my time.
Step 5: Building Materials and Scrap Wood
Good, usable wood and a pile of trash. Have another cold beer, the demo is complete.
Step 6: Have a Plan, Start to Sand
I always sketch out my design beforehand, but don't necessarily stick to the plan. If you look at the finished table, I changed a few things, mostly for aesthetic reasons. Still, it's never a bad idea to commit the design in your head to paper before you start cutting.
Speaking of which, I used the circular saw to get these cuts:
A* 4- 24 x 3.5" (the legs, the only cut from the 1.5" boards)
The remaining cuts are from the 3/4" wood that covered the pallet:
B* 5- 17.5 x 3.5" (top shelf)
C* 8- 14.5 x 3.5" (short sides and inner support)
D* 8- 16 x 3.5" (long sides and bottom shelf)
E* 1- 16 x 2" (middle plank bottom shelf)
F* 1- 11.5 x 3.25" (surge protector mount)
I used the pull saw for these cuts:
G* 4 - 2.25 x 4.25" L-shaped inserts 3/4 thick. The inner edges should measure 1.5 x 3.5 (more on these later, these can wait to be cut later in the project)
After you have all your cuts made, get ready for a lot of sanding. Your reclaimed wood is not only dirty as hell, but probably also has splinters and in some cases, spray paint. I used 80 grit for this step. It took forever, but it's worth it.
Step 7: Framing It Out
The legs A* will be slightly longer on one side of the cutaways. The longer side goes up. Also, pre-drill your holes. This is a pain in the ass, but the wood you are using splits very easily. So tap the holes with the appropriate bit first, then attach the boards with screws.
Square up 2 of the legs and attach 2 of the C* to the inside with screws. Make sure to leave a 3/4" gap on the bottom from the cut-outs on the legs. Repeat with the other 2 legs A* and C*.
Square up the newly created front and back and attach 2 C* on one side, 1 C* to the other on the bottom part of the frame (see first picture). Once again make sure and leave the same 3/4" gap on the lower 2 boards. All 3 of these boards should be flush with the front and back sides of the legs.
Attach the 4 D* to the front & back sides of your frame. Hey, it's beginning to look like a table! This is good. You may notice in the second picture that the top has 4 sides, even though you have only attached 3. I cut the 4th board a hair longer do it would fit snug. It isn't attached in any way, so I gave it a bit more sanding after this. The insert on top is also a snug fit and not attached. More sanding here too.
Step 8: The Top and the Power Strip
Time to put the top on. I laid out all 5 B* then used the tape measure to center them. You want the sides that have the 5 B* ends to be your front and back edges, so make sure they hang over the 2 D* sides.
Flip the entire thing over. F* should slip into one of the cavities. This insert will determine the back of your nightstand. This is important as you need to determine which side you want the door for your secret compartment to be located on. My finished table has it's door on the left side if you look at it from the front. This means upside down, the door will actually be ON THE RIGHT. Attach the insert with 4 screws and some wood glue.
I hate the pre-drilled mounts on the bottom of surge strips. They always seem to detach themselves. Instead I use 2 cable ties with mounting holes. Wrap them around the power strip, making sure not to block any holes. Snip the excess and mount. Make sure the mounting holes are on opposite sides of the power strip.
Step 9: Secret Squirrel Stash Spot
The cord from your newly mounted power strip will hang freely on the backside of your nightstand. Time to attach the final side, which is also the door to the secret compartment. The piece of wood C* I chose to use had holes from the nails used to attach it to the pallet. This is a good thing, because after filling the holes, sanding and staining it will appear to be attached to the end table just like the other 3 sides.
You'll need to attach the hinges and front plate of the magnetic clasp to the door before mounting. The plate is pretty straight forward: just center it and screw it to the door. The hinges are recessed, so you will need to use your Dremel or similar rotary tool to rout out slots. The first thing I did was hold the board in the open position against the table, and mark where the center of the hinge should be based on the legs. Square up and center the hinges on the door, then trace around them. Set your Dremel to the depth of the hinge (the rounded edge) and remove the wood from the door. Square the hinges to the door and mount them with the provided screws.
To mount the door to table, the first thing you'll need to do is put the door in place and make sure it is still flush after you added the hinges. Take a pencil and outline the bottom of the hinges. I had the table on it's side as I did this for stability. After you have the hinges marked, remove the door and open both hinges 90 degrees. Line the door back up to the out lines you just drew on the bottom of the hinges and with the pencil mark the holes for the hinges on the table. After this step sand the the guidelines away then screw in the hinges.
Flip the table upside down and mount the magnetic clasp to the underside of the table. Just make sure the door is closed and attach it to the plate you mounted on the door earlier. It should be fairly easy to attach as the magnet will hold it in place for you.
Step 10: Sometimes You Have to Improvise
So originally I was going to use balsa wood or something else that was 1/4" for the shelf, but my local big box hardware store didn't have any sheets for sale that were under 4' x 8'. So as a replacement, I went to the school supply section of my local drugstore and purchased a legal sized wooden clipboard. Because this clipboard is a bit longer than a standard size board it works perfect for the shelf. Trim one of the sides to fit under the inner supports of your table. As far as length is concerned, you want to line up the side opposite so it isn't flush with the back wall. If you do this it will be visible from the side of the table. Instead you want it mounted right when it reaches the back inner wall (you can see the slightest of gaps if you look close at the second picture). The front side depends on how fat or skinny your fingers are. You'll need to leave a gap as this is the only way you'll be able to open the secret door without attaching a handle...which would defeat the entire purpose. I believe I left a 1.5" gap on mine. Wood glue the sides and mount the shelf with several wood screws. I used 5 per side.
Step 11: Bottom Shelf and Corner Pieces
Before I attached the bottom shelf, I filled the screw holes on the top shelf with wood filler and sanded them. I started with 80 grit but moved to 120 grit once most of the excess filler was removed. I sanded the entire surface with the 120 grit, not just the areas with wood filler (picture 1)
Ok, on to the bottom shelf. You will need to notch 2 of the 4 D* boards as they need to fit around the legs. The cut away is 4.25" x 2.25". I used my pull saw to make these cuts so as to not split the wood.
*Quick note on the pull saw. These are also known as Japanese saws, and the teeth are designed so they cut when you pull them towards you, as opposed to the traditional western style hand saw that cuts when you push it away from your body. I've found I can make more accurate cuts with minimal to no damage on the wood I'm cutting. I no longer own a traditional handsaw as I find a pull saw is much better suited for cuts the circular saw would be too aggressive with.
The 2 notched D* boards should fit into place without problems. If they are too snug? Well, that's why God invented sandpaper. You should now see the reason you mounted the inner frame and outer sides with a 3/4" gap from the cutaway. The bottom self should sit level with the lowest point of the cutaway and be aesthetically pleasing. Place the other 2 D* boards down with the F* in the middle. I needed to do a bit of trimming and sanding as one of my boards were slightly warped. No big deal, it will still end up looking great. I used my Dremel to take down about 1/8" off of different areas on all 3 of the middle boards, then sanded them all again with 80 grit. Remember to pre-drill your screw holes.
As for the corner pieces (G*), I used the scrap wood I had to make these, and not the 2 pieces I had from the cutaways on the D* boards. The reason is twofold: The cutaway pieces will no longer fit exact as you removed at least a 1/16" when you cut them (this explains the sawdust). The second reason is there really isn't anyway to clamp the smaller pieces down so you can minimize the vibrations when you cut. These L-shape inserts G* are fragile and can split easy so go slow when you cut them. They should have a thickness of 3/4" to match up with the lower sides of the table. After you have cut and sanded them, make sure they fit flush with the D* boards they are attaching next to. Wood glue these to the corners and allow time to dry. This means cold beer, and you are done for the moment.
Step 12: Woodfill, More Sanding, Staining
Now that the glue has dried on the 4 F* corners, it's time for wood filler. I filled pretty much every hole on the table, including ones that weren't made by me. As for the F* corners, I filled the cracks between the D* pieces and the F* corners, but left the cracks between the shelf and the legs alone. So give it time to set, and prepare for a lot of sanding and dust. Start with the 80 grit to remove any and all excess wood filler, then sand the entire table with 120 grit. Once this is done you are ready for stain.
I twisted the cord from the power strip and plugged it into itself before I started staining just to get it out of the way. I used MINWAX Golden Oak 210B for my stain because I wanted my nightstand to be lighter in color. I did not use any polyurethane as I wanted the aged, distressed look. Start by flipping the table upside down and staining the underside of everything first (you can remove the power strip if you don't want to get stain on it then reattach it later). Flip it back right side up and make sure you stain everything. I only used one coat, but was very liberal in it's application.
Step 13: Finished Nightstand
Boom! Finished nightstand! Looks good, has power for all of your gadgets, and a secret spot for your secret bedroom stuff. Now I need to build a matching one for the other side of my bed...and maybe a headboard too.
*Han Solo in Carbonite mini fridge not included.