Below is a series of pictures that document the process of creating a tall side table from a 2x4 piece of wood and a couple of sheets of plywood.
The plywood forms the base and top of the table, and the 2x4 forms the stem of the table. Plywood is cut into successively small squares and glued together before mounting on a lathe for turning. A lathe is also used to turn the 2x4 piece into a dowel shape with two ends that fit into the top and bottom pieces.
Step 1: Turn a 2x4 Into a Dowel
Here, we use a 2x4 to make the stem of the table.
Cut the 2x4 lengthwise so the short edges are all as even in length as possible. The overall length of the piece is up to you, but aim for roughly 1 meter.
Mount the piece on a lathe as shown in the pictures, being sure to support both ends. Check alignment by gently spinning the lathe by hand. It will be difficult to hold both ends at their centers, so don't stress too much if the piece wobbles a bit when you gently turn the lathe by hand.
Set the lathe's speed to a low speed and remove material with your favorite tool until you form a dowel shape. Make notches at both ends of 2-3 inches in length. These ends will be pressed into the top and bottom parts of the table. Make sure to sand the entire piece for an even surface. Don't worry too much about perfect angles and edges just yet - these adjustments will come later when all the parts are ready to fit together.
Step 2: Prep Plywood for Turning Top and Bottom Pieces
The process is the same for both top and bottom pieces, except that the bottom piece should be heavier than the top piece (use more wood for the bottom piece).
Cut plywood into successively smaller square pieces. Feel free to play with the number of layers you use, the size of each successive layer, etc. My largest square measured 16 inches on each side. Just remember that the bottom piece should be heavier than the top piece.
Glue all the pieces together with wood glue and press together with a clamp. Leave to rest until the glue sets (I waited 24 hours).
Once the glue is set, saw off or sand off the outer corners of your piece and mount on a lathe.
Step 3: Turn Top and Bottom Pieces
The pictures shown here are a variety of attempts at turning plywood and scrap wood on the lathe. It's a good idea to practice getting the shape you want with simple scrap wood pieces before you commit to turning your carefully glued plywood.
When turning plywood, exposing the layers of each sheet will give a nice pattern to your piece. Don't be afraid to carve deeply into the plywood. You'll likely need to do quite a bit of sanding to get a nice finish on the plywood.
Step 4: Sand for an Even Surface
While the base of the table is mounted on the lathe, insert the stem of the table and sand the intersection between the two pieces. This will give a nice even surface to the junction between the base and stem of the table. Make sure to hold the other end of the stem with a center support (or at the very least, with a careful hand grip).
Repeat this with the top of the table.
Step 5: Assemble!
Add a bit of wood glue to the holes in the top and bottom pieces, insert the dowel into both holes, and press!
If you'd like, you can add a wood finish to the entire piece.
Congratulations! You've transformed simple pieces of plywood and a 2x4 into a beautiful and functional side table!