Introduction: Comic Book Themed Side Table (that Lights Up!)

About: Greetings! I'm an engineer, and I like to use my hands to make things that I find interesting. Fun stuff!

Hello! The woman needed a side table for her new apartment so I made her one from some salvaged wood, LED strip lights, and a couple other things. This project is also detailed on my own website,, but I'm writing a separate Instructable for all you lovely people.

Since I'm a largely visual person, I try to take enough pictures so that they can illustrate my build process completely on their own. You could possibly ignore all my words and get the idea. Now, enough introduction words. Here's the write-up for you, Instructables!

Step 1: Tools and Materials


- Pine slats (salvaged bed slats)

- Pine square strips (already had)

- Wood glue (already had)

- 1.25" wood screws (~$5)

- Shellac (~$8, not the size in the link)

- Comic book pages from Etsy ($8)

- Acrylic gel medium (already had)

- LED "Warm White" strip lighting ($8)

- Power transformer ($10)

- SPST switch (~$6)

- Light gauge wire (already had)


- "Japanese" pull saw (already had)

- Hand drill (already had)

- Various grits sandpaper (already had)

- Brush (~$10)

The total for this project comes down to about 5 hours of working time, not counting the curing times, and about $55 spent. I already had some materials and most tools, and some others that I had to buy were complete ripoffs but the only ones I could get my hands on in time.

Step 2: Design of the Table

I designed this table with no prior furniture building experience, only memories of other peoples' designs. The table itself is pretty simply made from used bed slats I got for free, and I spruced it up with some warm LED lighting and some pretty sweet comic book pages.

The top of the table is decorated with a collage of comic book pages that I ordered off of Etsy. They are attached to the slats with acrylic medium, which is what I had on hand. Mod podge is apparently more commonly used for this purpose.

Underneath the table, I wired up some "warm white" LED light strips with a simple push button switch so my woman can turn off the lights without leaving the comfort of her bed. This detail was especially important!

I used my pullsaw to cut everything for this project. It is one of my favorite hand tools because it lets me make super straight cuts without using a miter box or machine tools. All holes were drilled with my shoddy hand-me-down drill that holds charge for 30 minutes max. Those are really the only tools I needed to use!

I also did not use any measuring tools. All dimensions were determined by eye, and measured relative to other pieces. No need for precise measurements in a project where the best dimensions are whatever make you comfortable!a

Step 3: Decorate the Top

I decorated the slats that would make up the top of the table individually because the shape of the slats would leave wide gaps in the top surface after I joined them. I decided that decorating the top so that the gaps are preserved would look better.

Acrylic medium or mod podge would both work for this purpose (and plenty of other things, I'm sure). I spread the medium onto the wood in a thin layer, laid out cut-up pieces of comic book pages on top, and then covered all of it in another coat of acrylic medium. This seals in the pages and makes it stick better. Several layers of this process would probably be good, but I only had enough comic book pages to do a few layers.

Step 4: Create the Tabletop

To make the individual slats into one tabletop, I first glued the slats to each other. I lined them up side by side, spread just a little glue on each joining surface, and then clamped them together with a makeshift clamp made from a threaded rod, wood, and nuts. Not much glue is needed; excess will only drip and make the wood look funky.

While wood glue is very strong, I still didn't trust the integrity of the glue to hold a tabletop, so I glued two more slats onto the bottom perpendicularly. I weighted them down with the heaviest things I could find in the garage. No fancy equipment needed here. After the glue dried, the tabletop is done!

Step 5: The Rest of the Frame

As I said before, this is the first time I've made furniture, so I'm not sure how "conventional" my geometry is. It was the simplest design that would get the job done.

The legs were cut so that the table height would fit well with the girlfriend's bed. I drilled two holes in each leg to attach them to the tabletop. Pilot holes go in the side of the tabletop, wood screws go in, and the legs are attached! Two minor hitches here, though:

1. Since I was set on not using measuring tools, my wood screws were a bit too short for the thickness of these slats. I neglected to bring a sample of my slats to the hardware store when getting the screws, so I didn't know the exact width. However, this was easily fixed by countersinking the hole with a larger drill bit. This turned out well, because countersunk holes are always a nice idea!

2. The legs, while cut in astoundingly uniform lengths so that they didn't wobble, seemed a bit weak to me. I decided to solve this with some square pine lengths to make an "H" shape and add some strength to the bottom of the frame.

The pine lengths were cut relative to the tabletop, and drilled and screwed in quickly. Pictures do a better job of explaining than my words can. Simplicity is key here!

Step 6: Finishing the Surfaces

Since this is an indoor table and my woman shan't be using it for the rest of her life, the finishing clear coat did not need to be exceptionally thick or robust. I brushed on some shellac in a single light coat everywhere. I did not thin the shellac with acetone or anything; I'm not sure if I have to. So far, the single coat of shellac is holding up perfectly and seems as strong as I need it to be. Sorry, no pictures of this step because a messy process means I don't want to touch my phone.

Step 7: Electronics

I wanted to install some LED strip lights to the bottom, but did not know exactly where I would put everything. When the rest of the table was finished, I just cut out two lengths of strip lighting relative to the tabletop and eyeballed where they would go. I forgot to drill a hole for the switch, so I just drilled straight through the shellac and wood on one leg. The wood was too thick to simply screw the switch in, so I had to rout out a little square for the switch to sink in. Once I screwed in the switch, a quick solder job connected the lights to the switch to the power source, and the lights could be stuck on. Done!

Step 8: Reflections

This project presented a lot of firsts for me. Since it's always scary to try new techniques, I made sure to have a good order of operations laid out. This, along with careful crafting, is what I think made this project turn out well on my first try.

As always, feedback is welcome and thanks for looking!

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