My wife's been harboring a fugitive for the last 7 months and is close to releasing him/her (it's a surprise) into the world. Our nursery was starting to come together with all the necessaries like cribs (and cute unnecessaries like wall decals) when we started to realize that we were a little short on space. Where someone might put a changing table, we decided to put a distressed cabinet that was one of the first projects my wife and I did together.
It didn't take long for my wife to think up the brilliant idea of making a collapsing changing table that could hide away in the cabinet. At first I was skeptical of the idea, but after crunching some numbers and finding some heavy duty ball bearing drawer slides, I realized I could make this thing work! I doubt for the first few months - or years - we'll have much of a need to put away the changing table into the cabinet, but that's beside the point. The point is that we can!
...And before we get too carried away: Yes, the cabinet is anchored into two studs.
Step 1: Draw It Out
When I start something that's in the least bit complex, I really like to draw it out and do the majority of or all of the math up front. It really makes the building process so much easier. I absolutely needed to do that with this project because the clearances to get this table to fit inside this cabinet were very tight.
- I started by getting some measurements from the opening in our cabinet. I found that the hole I'd be working with was 17" (L) x 9-5/8" (W) x 15-1/2" (H) and the width from the inside of each door of the cabinet was 35". The changing pad we'd put on our registry is 32" x 16".
- After doing some math, I drew out the plans you see above. I ended up using 2 x 2 pine for the frame of the table and 3/4" birch plywood for the surface and the sides that would hold the mattress in place. Once extended and unfolded, the table would end up being 33" x 17-1/2".
Step 2: Cut the Pieces
Before starting up the saws, I needed to get the drawer slides in place. I used a set of heavy duty slides from Rockler that are rated to hold 220 lbs, fully extended. I know it's overkill, but why not be extra safe when you're suspending your infant in midair? I used six, 1" long wood screws to mount the slides to the interior of the cabinet. With those in place, the real work could start.
- Starting with the table's surface, I drew lines on the 3/4" plywood to follow on the table saw. I freehanded the cuts for the three pieces that make up the surface since my table saw isn't the largest...
- I then took the long scrap from the plywood and ripped it into three sections, each just shy of 2" wide. I used a fence for this so the pieces would be as identical as possible. These will become the sides of the table's surface that hold the changing pad in place.
- You might have a swell table saw fence that is always square, but mine likes to play tricks on me. So I always drop a speed square next to the top and bottom sides of the fence to make sure everything lines up.
- With the 2" strips, I measured out and drew lines for each of the three side pieces that each wing of the table would have. In all, I cut six pieces. To give the table a little flare, I traced the curve of the outside of a paint can onto the ends of the four side pieces that point towards the middle of the table and cut the curve with a scroll saw.
- To keep the curves the same, I cut the first curve and then traced that curve on the remaining three pieces. I think my dad used to call that a preacher, so I guess I took those boards to church.
- Now for the frame. All in all, it's a basic rectangle with an extra piece in the middle. So I cut all of the pieces of the frame with a chop saw, made sure they fit in the cabinet, then glued and screwed them together using 2-1/2" deck screws. After cutting the pieces for the base of the frame, I also cut two supporting members out of the 2 x 2 for each of the wings - more on those when we piece it together.
- I made sure to drill pilot holes and also countersink the screw heads so they'd be flush with the wood's surface when screwing everything together.
- I then passed most of the edges of each of the pieces of the table, including the front and back of the frame, through a router to give them a nice 1/2" bevel.
- Obviously this was only for aesthetics.
- Or was it?
- It was.
- Obviously this was only for aesthetics.
- The last thing I needed to do was cut down a piano hinge to size. Using a hacksaw, I cut two hinges to 17" long. That'd give me a little wiggle room on either side of the hinge when it came time to mount.
Step 3: Piece It Together
I don't know if you caught it, but we did kind of cheat in the last step since I actually already put the frame together - my bad.
- Since the frame is already together, I needed to get the inside of the drawer slides mounted to it. After doubling up a slice of cardboard box, I slide it into the cabinet's cavity and placed the frame on top. This lifted the frame just off the surface of the cabinet and just slightly over the edge of the drawer slide. I marked where the bottom of the slides hit the table's frame and then used a framer's square to follow that line down the edge of the frame.
- Using some clamps I lined up the slide to the front edge of the frame and along the line that I just drew. Then with an awl, I marked the center of each of the slide's holes onto the frame and then removed the slide. I then drilled pilot holes at each of the awl marks, clamped the slide back to the frame, and attached it using 1-1/4" screws.
- Anytime I'm drilling something where I really don't want the drill bit to walk, I use an awl to get the bit started.
- After the slides were attached, I threw the frame into the cabinet and it glided like a champ.
- Next I needed to attach the middle of the table's surface to the frame. After centering (horizontally), gluing, and clamping the board to the frame, I drilled pilot holes and countersunk nine 1-3/4" wood screws through the plywood and into the frame. The plywood is flush with the backside of the frame, leaving about a 1/2" overhang on the front.
- Again, I realize nine screws with glue is probably overkill, but remember: infant in midair.
- With the middle piece of the table (extra) firmly secured to the frame, I added the piano hinges to each side of the the plywood with 1-1/4" wood screws. Not surprisingly, I marked and drilled pilot holes for each of the screws. The backside of the hinges are flush with the backside of the plywood and frame.
- Attaching all of the hardware to this base really makes it look like a beefy contraption!
- I had a little difficulty with this next part, and there's probably a better way to do it, but when adding the table's wings, I flipped one wing 180 degrees around the hinge, lined the plywood's edges up, marked and drilled pilot holes, and added screws. Then I folded that wing out to its resting position and attached the other side in the same fashion.
- I used some folded cardboard to help hold the plywood level while screwing it in place.
- This step is probably one of the most important parts to keeping this table from collapsing under the weight of a dirty-diapered-squirming-baby. The two 2 x 2's I cut for bracing, one for each wing, is what gives support to the underside of the wings while the table's folded out. For this step, I put a towel over my table saw and flipped the entire changing table onto its surface. Using a speed square, I lined up the brace with center member of the frame and squeezed it next to the drawer slide that's attached to the frame. After gluing and clamping it in place, I marked and drilled pilot holes for three 2" wood screws. Then repeated this process for the other wing.
- The table's officially taken shape at this point and now I only need to add the side pieces. I don't have a picture of this part of the build - don't hate - but all I did was run a bead of wood glue down the each side piece, clamp it, then nail it in place with an 18 ga. brad nailer.
- BOOM. Collapsing table.
- Done and done.
At this point I became a little (incredibly) nervous. The table's built and looks good folding and unfolding on top of the table saw, but I didn't know if it was going to fit in the cabinet. So I carried it inside and slide it into place with only a little bit of physical persuasion. Luckily, it ended up sliding and unfolding just like it was supposed too. I will say that it was a lot tighter than I was expecting though, because the space between the top of the folded table and the cabinet shelf above it is only about 1/16 of an inch. I'd rather be lucky than good any day.
Step 4: Stain and Poly
Not too much to talk about here. Once I was sure the table fit inside the cabinet and worked like it was intended to, I gave it a good sanding with 220 grit sandpaper, and then slathered some natural colored stain on top of it with a foam brush. My wife and I wanted to keep the wood color light, so I only hit it with a single coat. After letting that dry for a day, I gave it three coats of Minwax Polycrylic, sanding between each coat, and let that dry for a day.
- I'm a big fan of the polycrylic product because it gives a nice smooth finish that I've had a hard time achieving with other polyurethane products.
- If there's a Minwax rep reading this, I'm totally open to endorsement opportunities.
Step 5: Change Some Diapers
Slide the table into its final resting spot and enjoy!