To address this need, we designed a small side table with three drawers sized specifically for these items. The table has a traditional style that can fit in a variety of room settings. And it’s proportioned to serve as a lamp table, end table or night stand. It also has the advantage of being quite easy to build. It has a minimum of parts, and its joinery is extremely basic. You should be able to complete it in three or four weekends, and still have time to mow the lawn or take a well-deserved nap. We built our table from solid mahogany and mahogany plywood, but it would look equally attractive in cherry or walnut. It has drawer boxes built of solid maple with slide-in plywood bottoms.
This project was originally published in the November 2000 issue of Popular Mechanics. You can find more great projects at Popular Mechanics DIY Central.
Step 1: Materials
Step 2: Building the Base and Top
Glue and clamp the strips. After 20 minutes, scrape off excess glue, then let the glue cure. Use a plane to trim the edge banding flush to the panel (Photo 1). Next, trim the panels to finished dimension. Rip and crosscut the table legs, and mark their tapered profiles. Use a band saw to cut the legs to shape (Photo 2). Clamp each leg to the workbench, then use a block plane to remove saw marks (Photo 3). Lay out the locations of the joining-plate slots on the sides, back, bottom and legs. Use the plate joiner to cut all the slots except those in the rear legs that receive the case back.
These are cut later. Hold a leg firmly to the workbench, and cut the joining-plate slot (Photo 4). Cut the joining-plate slots in the panel edges and along the bottom edge of the back panel (Photo 5). Apply glue to the joining-plate slots in the legs, the slots in the side panels and the joining plates. Then, clamp together the two subassemblies, each consisting of two legs and a side panel (Photo 6). When the glue has fully cured on the subassemblies, use the plate joiner to cut the slots in the rear legs for the joints with the back panel. Clamp a straight-edge to the assembly to help position the plate joiner when cutting the slots. Note that these plate slots will slightly intersect with the plates that form the side-panel joints.
Next, join the back and bottom panels with joining plates, glue and clamps (Photo 7). Complete the base by joining this subassembly with the side panels and legs (Photo 8). Cut the plywood panel for the table’s top, and prepare the edge banding. Cut miters on the ends of two pieces of edge banding so they correspond to the dimensions of the top, and then glue and clamp these to the top. Cut mitered ends on the remaining edge banding, then glue and clamp these to the top (Photo 9). Gently plane the edge banding flush to the top after the glue has cured, and cut the molding on the edge banding with a router and cove bit. We used a shallow-cutting cove bit (Item No. 387, MLCS, Box 4053/C-24, Rydal, PA 19046; 800-533-9298). Cut joining-plate slots in the bottom of the tabletop, and then glue and clamp the top to the table base using standard plate-joining procedure.
Step 3: Drawer Making
Install the drawer slides on the table’s sides and on the drawer boxes according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Cut drawer faces to size and install them (Photo 12). Install a knob on each drawer face. Install the drawers, and adjust the slides so the drawers have a uniform 1⁄16-in. margin on all sides. Remove the drawers from the table and remove the knobs and slides before finishing. Sand all surfaces with 120-, 150-, 180- and 220-grit sandpaper. Dust off the surfaces completely between grits. Since mahogany is an open-grained wood, the first finishing step is to apply a grain filler. We used Behlen Pore-O-Pac Paste Wood Filler (Item No. 843-812, Woodworker’s Supply, 1108 N. Glenn Rd., Casper, WY 82601; 800-645-9292). To apply the filler, thin it with naphtha to a creamy consistency, then spread it over the surface with a paintbrush. When the filler appears dull, scrub it off with a burlap rag. Let the filler dry overnight, then sand the surface with 320-grit sandpaper.
We stained our table with Behlen Solar-Lux, a non-grain-raising, dye-based stain (Item No. 847-466, Medium Brown Mahogany, Woodworker’s Supply). Although this stain is meant to be applied with a spray gun, it can be brushed on if you add a retarder to it (Item No. 847-585, Woodworker’s Supply). Let the stain dry overnight before applying the first coat of Waterlox Transparent Finish (Item No. 294-001, Woodworker’s Supply). Apply this according to the directions on the container.