Introduction: 2x4 Contest - How to Make a Pair of Nesting Side Tables

About: I am a Building Automation Engineer at a major University in California. My favorite people in the world are my wife Bouavon, and my two beautiful sons Blaise and Dhylon. I am extremely creative and I am alway…

I am always looking for an excuse use my power tools so when I was asked to participate in this 2x4 contest I was more than happy to oblige. For my submission I wanted to make a piece that required me to transform the 2x4 into something that would be hard to recognize that it was even made out of a 2x4. After doing my research on "2x4 projects", I also decided that I wanted to create something unique from what was already done. Now I know that there is plenty of 2x4 furniture on the internet but I think that my submission is less typical because it is 2x4 furniture that doesn't look like 2x4 furniture.

I am still new to making how-to's and documenting my process via video so please bare with me. This was a really fun project for me and I think that you will enjoy it as well. I have attached the Google Sketchup that I created and used to build these nesting tables. Hopefully with these simple steps and the plans you will make a pair of your own.


It seems that when viewing this page from a mobile device, the embedded video doesn't work. So here is a link to my YouTube video for your reference.


Step 1: Step 1: Cutting Lumber to Length

When you're choosing your 2x4s make sure you try to find one with the least amount of knots, it will save you some grief during this process. For this project I would suggest buying 3 decent 2x4s.

Using what ever method you prefer, cut the lumber down to the required lengths, I used my table saw and a crosscut sled.

Larger Table:

21 1/4" X 1 QTY

22 1/8" X 1 QTY

14" X 1 QTY

12" X 1 QTY

16" X 3 QTY

Smaller Table:

20 1/4" X 1 QTY

21 1/8" X 1 QTY

13" X 1 QTY

8 1/2" X 1 QTY

15" X 3 QTY

Step 2: Step 2: Milling the Lumber for the Frames

Using my table saw I squared off all of the rounded edges of the 2x4 pieces that I cut to length in step 1 by taking off about 1/8" from each side. Doing this assures that you have a nice square (or rectangle in this case) piece of lumber to work with.

Most of the pieces that make up the frame are 1 1/2" x 1" except for the bottom frame piece which is 1" x 1". With that said, it is time to rip the newly squared lumber into the final dimensions (1 1/2" x 1" and 1" x 1". Refer to the plans for exact details).

Step 3: Step 3: Milling the Lumber for the Table Tops

For the table tops I used my table saw to re-saw the 2x4s in half so that I was left with 2 pieces roughly 3/4" thick. To do this I set up my table saw fence to roughly 3/4" (Slightly less to account for blade kerf) and I raised the blade so that it was slightly greater than 1/2 way through the 2x4. Next, carefully run the lumber through the saw, then flip it over and run it through again to complete the cut. You can see this step in more detail at 0:47 of the video.

Once I had all of the pieces cut, I ran them through my thickness planer, which allowed me to quickly mill them down into even uniform pieces. These planks are going to be glued and laminated together to form the table tops so the more uniform these pieces are the better.

Step 4: Step 4: Building the Frames

Time to start building the frames now.

I started by drilling pocket holes into either end of the bottom frame 1" x 1".

I added a bit of wood glue and I used a clamp to hold this bottom piece to the 2 rear frame posts while I drove a 1 1/2" kreg pocket hole screw into each side.

Once the back portion of the frame was assembled I proceeded to attach the 2 bottom runners. To do this I applied some wood glue to the ends and attached them with some 16ga 1 1/2" nails.

Step 5: Step 5: Attaching the Angled Frame Pieces

For this step I had to make a few special cuts to be able to attach it to the rest of the frame because these pieces are angled.

I adjusted the blade on my table saw to 16 degrees and I cut both ends of this piece so that the angled cuts are parallel to each other.

On one end of the piece I cut out a triangle notch so that the bottom frame sits about 5/16" inside the angled post to provide a better bond and more stability.

Then, like the rest of the assembly, I add some wood glue and attach with some more 16ga 1 1/2" nails.

Step 6: Step 6: Making the Table Tops

For this step I selected enough pieces to accommodate the final dimensions of the table top. For the larger table top I used 6 pieces and for the smaller table top I used 5. You just want to make sure that you have enough material so that you can trim the panel to the final dimensions after the glue up.

  • I took the 3/4" pieces that I milled and laminated them together by laying them flat on some bar clamps.
  • Rotate all of the pieces except for the first piece up 90 degrees and group them together.
  • Apply glue to the sides of all pieces and spread out the glue so that it covers the whole surface area evenly.
  • Next rotate the pieces back down and arrange them so that they are as even as possible.
  • Proceed to tighten down the clamps to apply slow and even pressure.
  • Depending on the size piece you are laminating you should use about 1 clamp every 6 inches. In this project I used a total of 4 clamps, 2 on the bottom and 2 on the top.
  • wipe off any excess glue squeeze out with a damp rag and set aside to dry over night.
  • Once dried, I took the two panels to my table saw and used my cross cut sled to trim the pieces to the desired dimensions. (Large - 16"x15" , Small - 15"x11.5")
  • Now it is time for sanding. I used a belt sander with 80 grit paper to knock down all of the rough edges. After the table top is somewhat smooth, I switched to an orbital sander with 120 grit paper then on to 220 grit to make sure the table top is as smooth as possible. (Be patient)
  • Then I wrapped a sanding sponge with 320 grit sand paper and knocked down all of the sides and corners to smooth them out a bit

Please refer to the video at point 2:50 for details on this procedure.

Step 7: Step 7: Sanding the Frame

Not much to explain here other than this:

I used an orbital sander, my mouse sander (Smaller and triangular shape which is easy to get into corners with), and a sanding sponge.

I started with 120 grit and moved up to 220 then finally 320 grit. 120 on my orbital sander, 220 on y mouse sander, and 320 wrapped around a sanding sponge.

Just sand all surfaces until the frame is smooth and all blemishes are gone.

Step 8: Step 8: Attaching the Table Tops

Just like the Frame assembly, I used glue and nails to attach the table tops.

On both tables, the back and the sides are mounted flush with the legs of the table.

On the front of each table, the angled legs are attached so that the table tops are over hanging about 6 inches from the outside of the leg.

You can see this in greater detail in the 2 sketchup photos above.

I applied some wood glue to the top of each leg and aligned the table top as mentioned above.

Once aligned, I used a nail gun and shot about three 18ga 1 1/2" nails into each leg from the top of the table top.

Step 9: Step 9: Finishing Touches

Phew! Almost done!

Now that both tables are assembled, it is time for finishing.

This is my favorite part of any build because I can see the fruits of my labor come to fruition.

All that is left to do now is:

  1. Fill all of the nail holes with some wood putty.
  2. Sand down the wood putty
  3. Apply the finish of your choice. In my case I used a spray on primer and a high gloss white paint.
  4. If you use a stain instead of paint, you should probably apply a coat or two of a protective shellac or something similar.

The last thing to do is to use and enjoy your new elegant pieces of furniture!

Thank you so much if you made it this far.

Please view all of the detailed photos, download the free sketchup plans, and watch the embedded video.

If you have any questions at all please leave a comment.

If you like this project PLEASE vote for us!

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And my last request is that you check out our YouTube channel and subscribe if you enjoy the content.


2x4 Contest

Runner Up in the
2x4 Contest

Furniture Hacks Contest

Participated in the
Furniture Hacks Contest