This is the gorgeous nightstand that I made for my wife.
Four years ago, I designed and built a fairly unique double-decker nightstand for myself. At the time, my wife was not interested in one for herself. I know, nightstands are supposed to come in pairs, but we actually like having an eclectic mix of furniture in the house.
Still, when the time came to make another one, we both agreed that we wanted it to be at least "similar" to the first one, though not identical. Building it out of Padauk and Maple was mandatory!
I considered several different designs, before settling on the one shown here.
(ps: this is a sort-of companion to my Instructable on the Drawer Lock Joint. In that article, I built the drawers, demonstrating a technique for drawer construction. In this article, I build the rest of the nightstand. So there is nothing in here about making drawers.)
Step 1: Plans + Dimensions
If this project interests you, I have provided here the dimensions of the piece as I built it.
At least, I think I've got all of the critical dimensions noted on the plans! (I tend to treat plans more like "guidelines" than actual rules for most of my projects. For one thing, I think I ended up making the top 26" wide...)
Step 2: Dimensioning Stock for Legs and Rails
I started with some 8/4 (eight-quarter) hard maple for the legs, jointing and planing it down and cutting them to 1-1/2" square. I also jointed and planed more maple for the rails and stiles, and also resawed a few wide panels in half to make floating panels for the two sides.
I made the rails to be 1-1/2" wide also, just like the legs. This looks nice and consistent, but I discovered that this does not leave a lot of room for the joinery. After plowing a 3/8" dado in a test piece for the floating panel, I realized the problem. I was able to work around this by changing to a shallower 3/16-1/4" deep dado for the panels. It was still a bit on the small side!
The nightstand is mostly a square shaped cabinet, but I still designed in a taper at the bottom of the legs. I think that this helps it to look a bit less boxy. As well, the other nightstand also had tapered legs and I want them to be design "cousins" at least.
Step 3: Side Panels
The floating panels were bookmatched, which is a detail that probably only I will ever notice, but it was still important to me.
The panels sit in stopped dado in the legs, and matching dados in the top and bottom rails and the center stile. The center stile was also given a stub tenon so that it could also fit into the dado in the top and bottom rails.
Step 4: Drawer Runners and Carcass Assembly
With the two side assemblies built, the next step was to build the drawer frames... I'm not even sure if that is the proper name or not. These are the wood frames that the drawers ride on, and also act as the divider between the drawer fronts. These were also made of maple stock, doweled together, and then mounted to the sides using dowels.
The carcass was now complete.
Step 5: Drawer Fronts
The drawer boxes are maple boxes, with a plywood bottom. I used a small drawer lock joint for the joinery.
I also designed the drawers to have a padauk front. Now, exotic hardwood is expensive. If you make a mistake while building with it, it can be a costly error. Instead, I made the drawers bodies out of inexpensive domestic maple lumber. I then resawed some paduak and planed it down to panels of 1/4" thick. (This is still quite thick, I could have gone thinner to 1/8".) These thin panels were then laminated to the fronts of the drawer boxes. The bottom drawer is quite large, so I first had to glue up a wider panel of these thin veneers, which is shown in the next photo.
Step 6: The Top
For some strange reason I don't have any photos or video of gluing up the panel for the nightstand top. Oh well. Here is a photo of trimming it to size.
While I love the colour of Paduak, the dust is very fine and gets everywhere. Dust collection is mandatory. I find that the wood can also splinter if you are not careful.
I ran a 45-degree chamfer along the front and sides of the nightstand top. This gives the edge a little thinner look.
I attached the top to the carcass with some screws through the top frame of the cabinet. The holes were elongated a bit, to allow some seasonal expansion and contraction of the top.
Step 7: Final Steps
Time to apply the finish.
It really is kind of wrong to compress all of this down to one photo, as it is a large part of the process. I first work through 2 or 3 different sanding grits with sanding the parts. I vacuum off the dust, and inspect everything carefully looking for glue squeeze-out or rough spots. Then there is each coat of finish followed by light sanding, more vacuuming or dusting, more inspecting, and then the next coat... But it's not very exciting to watch. Hence, just one photo is shown here.
This time I am trying a new finish, as recommended by my brother. This is Minwax oil-modifed waterbased polyurethane. I don't know how it can be both waterbased (with water cleanup) and still have oil, but I'm no chemist. I first tried it on some test pieces and was quite pleased with the result. I think it looks really nice on the finished piece. It wiped on very easily, and levelled quickly. I am used to dealing with a LOT more bubbles when finishing, and this time I had hardly any. As well, waterbased finish is known for being totally transparent -- which can come across as a cold and lifeless finish. I would guess that the oil in this one helps with a bit of amber/warming tone, and the results were very nice.
Last step of the process is to drill a hole in the center of each drawer and attach a knob.
Step 8: Lets' Talk About Colour Changes
After I first published this project, there was a lot of chatter on various woodworking forums about how Padauk change colour, what can you do about it, and so on. So I quickly made this video to share what knowledge I have about colour changing. In it I show the new nightstand right beside a similar five-years-older nightstand so you can see for yourself how African Padauk's colour changes over time.
I also show off a few other projects that I have made over the years that contain Padauk, as well as moving on to show some Jatoba, some Purpleheart, and some Yellowheart. Yellowheart is the only one of those that does NOT change colour. Yes you can try and slow down the colour changing process in Padauk by using a UV-resistant finish, and by keeping the piece out of sunlight. But it still WILL change gradually over time. My advice is to enjoy it while you have it, and also try to see how it still looks nice even as the colour changes.