Introduction: Combo Gun Cabinet/Nightstand From Bamboo Flooring

About: I am odd. I have been odd most of my life. The people who love me, know that and love that about me. The people who are offended by me... well, I wish them well. I make video games and am old enough to be m…


There are some very important safety considerations to keep in mind when dealing with gun storage, so know your local laws and err on the side of too much protection! The parts I can't demonstrate are the steel reinforcement parts. I lost all of those images. But deciding to make your own gun cabinet is a serious decision. If you can't do it to maximize security and safety, you might want to reconsider doing it at all. I am a paranoid person with regard to gun safety, and I assure you, this safe has much more than I am able -- or willing :) -- to show. ===========================

Hi! When my family and I moved from Cali to Texas, my phone died. At the time, I thought I lost all of my pictures of this process, which made me cranky. Yesterday I found a bunch of them. Not all, so there is one section that has very little, and the finished shots had to be taken in my bedroom with bad light and angles. Still, this is a build I wound up quite happy with, though there were moments of extreme regret, mainly around material choice.

I wanted to build a gun cabinet and I needed a night stand. Logical conclusion: do both at once!

At Home Depot they had a bunch of solid bamboo flooring on clearance. I had never worked with bamboo, but had heard it was very tough. Turns out, they were right. This stuff is super strong and resilient! So I bought several boxes, intending to have some left over for other projects. I think I had 1 stick left at the end, after a couple of mistakes mid-stream.

In the last section, I will sum up my feelings about this as a construction medium. As you can see from the horribly dim picture above, it CAN be done...

Step 1: Framing

Before reinforcing with plywood, angle steel, and expanded mesh, I wanted a basic structural frame. This was more like a wooden mannequin of the finished object than a support structure, so I wanted to do this part light.

I used white pine 2x2 on a 3/4" CDX ply base. Every step in this part of the instructable could be prefaced with "Using Gorilla Glue and screws, I..." so just assume if you see a joint, it was all foamy with glue at some point. I love that stuff! The last picture above shows the angle reinforcement while glue dries.

The dimensions for each cut in this build were lost when my phone died, too, but the total external measurements are: 50" High x 40" Wide x 21" Deep. The nightstand part is 20" tall and 11" wide.

[Side note: One of the bad decisions I made is shown in this pic. I wanted to do a hidden panel in the nightstand, so I did not put a top-rail on the edge of the nightstand. I later decided this was a Very Bad Idea and added a rail.]

Step 2: Sheathing

Keeping the edges square was sporting with this project, so I decided to attach the tops and then wrack it before gluing, if needed.

Once the top and the nightstand shelf were attached, I began attaching strips of the flooring. Each one is tongue-and-groove construction, which I Gorilla glued and screwed. The screws are all hidden under the final trim applications, which are also G-glued in place... I may have overdone this bit... Still, like I said at the beginning: err on the side of too much.

[This was the point where I decided to add the rail. The total cost was time spent breaking the shot posts free, scraping and sanding off Gorilla glue, which sucks, and replacing the bamboo I had tried to be all fancy with. It was worth it and more embarrassing than costly.]

Step 3: Tiling

I considered mortaring the tiles in place, but decided against it. I was concerned that it might crumble away as temp changes and moves jostled it around, so I went with my other favorite thing: Liquid Nails!

You see the border? The intent was to make trim strips to custom fit... this was... yeah, I won't do this again. More on that later.

So, as you can see, using the flooring puts you continually in this state of "I'm almost done, right?" which starts to become disheartening as you move from challenge to challenge. And then it would have the opposite positive effect of giving me a glimpse of the finished thing and encouraging me on... Lots of ups and downs on this project.

Step 4: Trimming

That top picture is pretty humble for how much work it represents... It's where many hours of my life went. At the time I did this, I had one power tool: a crappy $50 Craigslist table saw. So somehow I decided this was enough to let me make my own molding and trim... Oh, my, the innocence of middle age. Using that saw, I ripped 1x6 down to size, then beveled them with a second pass. Using the miter and with much gritting of teeth, I made a bunch of complex cuts to fit all of these components and angles together.

Does it look like it took all afternoon to do those little trims? No? Sadly, it did. Le Sigh. When I had finally completed the frame work around each top surface, I went back to Home Depot and bought molding and trim for the rest.

From that point forward, I really only had 2 major "What was I thinking?" moments. So: Progress!

Step 5: Regretting... I Mean Staining

Yeah, staining. You know the down side to using pre-finished flooring that is on clearance? there are NO premixed stains that match it. I tried Lowe's, HD, Ace... the closest I got was a mahogany variant that was too red.

So I went back to my theatre design roots and recalled some color theory. Using food coloring (yeah, I just said that) I mixed and tested about 20 combinations of the mahogany stain over a food-coloring treatment.

Some of them looked great when they were wet! And then went moss-green on drying. Others looked like I rubbed mud on the wood. A couple came close, and when I added some Dark Forest Green RIT dye to one batch because it had some black in it, I got the color and shade I wanted (or close enough to look good from >3 feet).

Up close and with a flash, you can see some difference, but really it is some of the best color matching I have ever done. As frustrating as it was, this was something I came away feeling very proud of.

Also, as you can see from the image, I hand-carved a bunch of leaves... No I didn't. This is a strip of pre-stamped trim from HD. But I like it. :)

Step 6: Reinforcement

These are the pictures I lost. So I straight-up copied a picture of my recommended mesh from the Ace Hardware site. Because I am such a swell guy, here's a link:

The second image is one example of things being bolted through all layers. I did not want to resort to relying on screws for the most critical structure points, so I through-bolted anywhere that might represent a risk.

Not shown: Steel mesh and angle-steel which was hidden behind the internal paneling and pegboard.

Step 7: Finishing

I love the look of wood and did not want to potentially bang my grandpa's antique rifle against bare steel, so I finished the inside with beaded pine paneling. Pegboard on the back allows me to change configuration as needed. Long-guns are held in place with vinyl-clad hooks.

I had originally intended the space under the nightstand to be ammo storage, but eventually decided to store my ammo in a completely separate part of the house. Again, I build with paranoia, so If someone gained access to the cabinet, there would not be anything to shoot.

Also, please note that the rifles are chained in place. If someone managed to get inside the cabinet, they better have a bolt cutter with them.

Then, of course, each gun has a security lock, preventing a round from getting into the chamber.

Finally, if someone got past all of those protections, they would find that the bolt/bolt-carrier group for each rifle has been removed and stored in a separate safe somewhere else. But they would have a really nice club!

Why take all this paranoid precaution? Because I would rather have you laugh at my simpleminded nature than have one of my firearms hurt my family or someone else.

Please do not start a gun-nut/anti-gun debate, this is not the place. I choose to own firearms and that means I choose to store them responsibly.

Step 8: Summing Up

In total, this project took me 4 weekends. I loved doing it, and I stretched some mental muscles that had been dormant for a while. I also grew as a wood worker, designer, and color theorist.

Things I did right:

  • Heavy reinforcements in every possible way
  • Beautiful color (to me)
  • Nice choice of tile patterns, which give it character
  • Deciding to use pre-made trim strips
  • Color matching
  • Material choice is VERY strong, but also very hard to work with.

Things I need to learn from:

  • Bamboo flooring is tough as nails, but very unforgiving.
    • Once you mar the surface, you have bright white wood peeking out. the single best discovery I made along this line is that a brown Sharpee matched my finish almost perfectly. For small mars, a quick Sharpee pass made the oops much harder to see
    • When cutting it, even the sharpest blades result in little stringy tear-through bits on the end. Even with butted up against other material, the bamboo is very friable at the edges and peels off the whole length of your work piece. I taught myself some creative new words in this process!
    • Pre-drill and counter sink! This stuff will split if you say mean things to it.
  • The seeming win of quick and color-fast finish is offset by the need to color match with all other pieces of the work. I would not do it this way again.
  • Buy the best tools you can afford. Trying to make something like this with a badly maintained 1980's-vintage table saw was a bad choice.
  • Steel-reinforced-plywood-reinforced-wood is HEAVY, so do not do this project if you have to wheel it in and out of the house for 4 weekends.

On the whole, I loved making this, and it was my most ambitious build at the time I made it. It has served me well in the past few months.