My last build was the (martini) side table for my seating area.


After I finished that it was time to replace the clunky and ugly side table next to the boy's stylish chair.

He had one request, namely that it had a drawer.

I had one idea, it had to have EL wire.

I had an old piece of damaged plywood from a temporary table. It was doing nothing but taking up space. I was determined to turn that into his table, somehow.

I decided an ellipse would make a nice table top, as it would visually look smaller than a rectangle shape having the same, usable surface area. Plus, I like curves more than 90 degree angles, all organic-looking and stuff.

Follow me in my spontaneous build...!

Step 1: Making an Ellipse

One easy and fun way to make a pretty accurate ellipse is to use 3 points: 2 of which are tacks(or finishing nails for more accuracy, but then the puncture hole is larger) the third being your writing utensil. You want the three points to resemble a point as much as possible, or the ellipse will distort slightly. The formula for figuring is above.

1. Decide the length and width of ellipse you would like.

2. Find 1/2 of the length and square that. Next find half of the width and square that. Now subtract the width from the length.

3. Find the square root of that number and multiply it by 2. This gives you the distance between the two pins.

4. Push pins into wood.

5. We need to find the string length, after tied, to draw our ellipse. Find the mid-point between the two pins in the wood. Mark if you'd like, note value.

6. Add to that number half of the length of ellipse.

7. This is the length of the loop you need to create. Just double that number and add a couple of inches for tying. Tie loosely until it is adjusted to pretty exact. One end of the loop should be around the pin, the other end of the loop should be around the pencil, resting on the line that marks one edge of your ellipse.


If you have a large piece of paper the size of your intended ellipse, it is smarter to pin this on top of the wood and draw your ellipse on the paper, then fold the ellipse in half and half again to check for symmetry. Cut this out and use as template. It is also best to use a non-flexible string. Yarn can stretch as pulled but the blue showed up nicely in the photos so it was good for illustration purposes.

Step 2: Draw!

This is fun to do and watch, as you create a variety of triangles with your string.

(the second picture shows the yarn migrating up the pencil. This will create an error so avoid letting that happen. Best to create a utensil jig to keep the string level.)

Do the best job you can cutting out the ellipse, with a jig saw or band saw, using the appropriate tooth size for cutting whichever size curve you are.

Sand, sand, sand until it isn't fun anymore. Then stop immediately.

: D

Step 3: Cut Groove

I am embedding EL wire into the table top for an extra cool factor. ( another 'ibler suggested this awesome idea - thanks Dennis!)

My Dewalt router bits are too large for the small groove to contain the EL wire snugly and my Dremel doesn't have a router bit, so I am attempting what one should not unless they want a good challenge and are okay with the occasional wayward motion of the tool - I am using a small drill bit extended just past the collar mount/cutting guide thingy. It's possible if you turn the speed up very high it will travel more to your will. I first tested a bit on a thin scrap piece of plywood.

The EL wire is 2.5 meters, so I cut a piece of yarn 2 meters and played with shapes until I could come up with nothing better. (I wanted some extra EL wire left over to house into the drawer. I ended up with a few inches extra beyond that, hence the curly Q antenna.. : D..)

I then penciled where the yarn was.

Step 4: Groovy!

Have at it. It's a wild ride and you have to stay focused to keep it steady. I certainly tried. I made a couple of boo boos. If they bother me that much, well I know where the coasters will be placed....

Keep a vacuum handy and suck up the sawdust every several inches. It will create a LOT, and stay housed in the collar as you drag it along, flush with the plywood.

I then inserted a little sanding bit and traveled through the groove. You don't want to linger in a spot too long or it'll burn the wood.

I drilled a hole where it made sense to feed the wire up and then down through, then closed off the loop.

The fun part was pushing the EL wire in. Miraculously it went in easy and stayed put. Well I'll be...

All lit up... Cool!!

Step 5: The Drawer

The boy needs a drawer to put his trinkets into.

I cut out two rectangles from the scrap part of the plywood for the side walls.

I then traced around the front of the ellipse for a matching profile for my drawer fronts. Just some junk pine in my wood scraps.

I gave that a depth of about 3 inches and cut the shape out on my band saw.

Using that as a template I cut out two more.

They came out pretty even!

Step 6: Joining Them Together

I thought that some glue and dowel pins would hold the drawer fronts to the walls nicely.

I drilled initial, smaller holes into the fronts and the rectangle edges.

I used a bit of tape to control the hole depth.

Three centered holes to space out the front slats.

I was afraid that if I drilled a much larger hole into the plywood that the integrity of the hole wouldn't be so good, so I cut up my own dowel pins instead of using the pre-fab 1/4" dowel pins. I used round chop sticks which were a little thinner.

Don't use the parts with the notched rings. If you hammer them in with a slightly angled whack, they probably will crack.

Step 7: Lots of Glue

Squeeze the glue into the holes and all surfaces that will touch each other.

I hammered it all together, using a vice as a lock and to keep everything square-ish.

I originally was going to glue the three drawer fronts flush together and then attach some sort of knob. Doing that wouldn't give the drawer height that he requested, so spacing them apart gave that height, plus, provided two additional bonuses of eliminating a need for a drawer pull, and gives the whole thing an art deco/space-agey look.


That is why I like letting the design process take shape along the way, sometimes dictated by limited availability, married with a flexibility in style.

Step 8: Curvy Legs

I envisioned the sides to have a space-agey curve to them. I had to plan carefully from the last bit of plywood I had left. One of the edges had some screw holes in them. If they didn't get covered by the braces then I could always use wood filler.

I drew a curve then cut that off with the jig saw, and used that edge to create the other side.

I used the final piece as a template for the other leg and cut that out on my band saw.

I then needed to create the leg side braces. I wanted something more substantial than the plywood so I found another pine (crappy)scrap in the pile.

Using the width of one of the leg sides as a guide, I cut out a rectangle, then divided that into four narrow pieces.

And then drilled a hole at each end to attach to the underside of the table top.

Step 9: Finishing Up the Drawer

A small, strong piece of pine for the back would help to ensure some strength to the plywood, thick enough to accept #10 screws.

I clamped everything for a helping hand, to keep all planes lined up.

I then traced the inside of the drawer box onto a junk scrap(noticing a theme here...?) of HDF.

I nestled that in, put a large weight(my welding case) on top to make sure everything was square and level, then drilled holes in, and screwed in the fasteners.

(Why am I using annoying, flat head screws? Because the boy has a room full of them in every size imaginable. I think he got them at some discount store closing.)

Step 10: Leg Placement

Now that the drawer is done I can determine where the leg sides and accompanying braces will go.

Tracing everything down helped a lot.

I couldn't go too deep into the plywood ellipse so lots of glue and testing before the final screw-in to the table top.

The leg sides would act as a guide for the drawer, and the braces also serve as a second function of adding some usable height to the inside of the drawer.

Step 11: Platforms

The drawer needed a platform to slide on. Something that would add to the stability of the table. HDF would fit that task nicely.

I used a book as a spacer for drilling the holes.

Yay, more flat heads!

A final platform for the bottom as a shelf, but more importantly for stability and ensured squareness.

Can't forget the drawer stop in the back.

I added an additional piece of HDF to the drawer slide platform for maximum slide-out. I rounded out the front to keep it still hidden. I attached with dowel pins, but also a straight brace.

Some sleds for the feet(yup, those are rulers.. perfect!)

And feet.... for the feet.

Step 12: Time to Paint!

This was so exciting! Being able to uniformly cover up all that ugly scrap wood, with pencil marks, former paint, etc. Leftover paint from the kitchen, Kingsport Grey also picked up the grey houndstooth on his recliner fabric.

I LOVE this table.

It serves his purpose, is actually quite compact-looking, and has the added punch of nighttime glow. The EL wire can be easily taken out and replaced with another color.

Oh, and the boy really likes it.


I have entered this into a contest or two. If you think this is a fun, original project, turning a bunch of crap into something useful, I'd really appreciate a vote!

~ Cynthia

<p>Very nice, EL wire is a nice touch! ?</p>
<p>Thanks for the idea...I make mine with the X-fighter engraved and then with pyrograph i will make basic lines and shadows....I will add the e wire for the laser beams! voted</p>
<p>Sounds cool! Post pic if you make. Thanks for the vote!</p>
<p>Amazing table! I'm glad you found another use of the Rocket Mass Heater book.</p>

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