Introduction: DIY Floating Nightstands (Plywood and Walltnut Veneer)

This tutorial shows you how to make a beautiful floating nightstand with a drawer. You can very easily adapt any of the dimensions. The veneer and the drawer is optional. You can also just paint everything or apply finish to the raw plywood.

Materials you need:

Tools you need:

  • Saws to cut the wood
  • Cordless drill
  • Sander with plenty of 220 paper
  • Mini Block Plane
  • Hot Glue Gun

Step 1: Plan the Dimensions

My nightstand is unusually large. My dad figured that his is too small, so he told me to make mine quite large and he was right. Now there is enough space for magazines, a light and a glass of water.

The dimensions are 51x51x17cm. Making it rectangular saves you a few cuts and minimises the risk of gluing them together the wrong way around. Its a good idea to make the corpus first and then to measure how much space you have left for the drawer. The drawer can be made only half as high. That saves a bit of weight and material.

You could also easily make it twice the height and add a second drawer. But that creates a little bit more dificulty because the drawer fronts have to be alligned properly with each others.

Step 2: Cut the Plywood.

The plywood is far to heavy to drag it over my tiny table saw. I used my tracksaw instead. The cuts are just as good, as long as the straight edge is alligned properly. If you don´t have a tracksaw track, you can buid one. There are plenty of tutorials for that. You can easily build everything out of a single sheet of plywood.

I always have a sheet of particle board underneath to make sure I don´t cut into the sheets below.

Step 3: Assemble the Outside Frame

There are plenty of ways to assemble this box. Pocket holes are usually the easiest option if you do it right. The limited space inside the drawer means that you need a angled extension for your cordless drill. I messed up my pocketholes and used screws from the outside instead.

That is also a very good option if you want to put a veneer or paint on there. Pre-drill all the holes, otherwise you can split apart the plywood. Obviously if you want the plywood to be decorative, you don´t want any screws visible. I plugged mine up with wood filler. On the underside, I just left them bare.

Dowels, biscuits or even dominoes would also be great. Go fancy if you want!

Step 4: Add the Veneer

This is not as difficult as you might think. Its really just gluing on a thin piece of wood. There are only a few things that are important:

  • Apply glue evenly and consistently. Otherwise it might not stick, or you have too much squeeze out.
  • Don´t get glue on the outside surfaces if you plan to stain the veneer.
  • Use some plastic as a glue barrier. Its easy to glue the veneer to your clamps otherwise
  • Steel clamps love to react with oak. Avoid direct contact.
  • Use even clamping pressure.
  • Clamp down the veneer with a flat and hard piece of wood.
  • Leave a healthy border around the edges in case the veneer moves around while you clamp it down.

I did the sides first and then the top. I didn´t bother covering the plywood edges. There weren´t any voids, so I left it bare. You can only see it with the drawer opened anyway.

Step 5: Trim the Veneer

This is not very difficult, just a bit time consuming. The thin veneer can be trimmed with a utility blade. The remaining lip can be sanded flush with a sanding block. The sanding works supprisingly well. I didn´t dare to use the router to trim the thin veneer. I was worried it could chip. I only did that on the top which was 2.4mm thick vs. 0.6mm on the sides. The router with the trim bit created a lot of tearout, but because I had some masking tape on the sides, the trim bit didn´t cut all the way. I did the details with the sanding block and that gave me some perfect edges.

Using thicker veneer at the top also makes it very difficult to accidently sand through the otherwise fine edges.

Step 6: Make the Drawer

The most important dimension for the drawer is its width. So you measure the inside of the cabinet and then subtract 2x the thickess of the drawer slides. On my nightstand that came out at 514mm. I rounded it down to 510mm. That meant that the drawer is 4mm to narrow, but the drawer slides have some give. This ensures they will run smoothly. Obviously they only have a tolerance towards the inside, not the outside.
If you want to be extra fency, you can also embed the slides into the sides of the drawer. That way you save some space. Useful if you live in Japan.

The height and the depth of the drawer are not critical, so make them whatever you like. I left a bit of space behind the drawer to mount the LED lights.

To assemble them, you can use pocket holes, just screws from the ends, dowels, or even finger joints. I guess I don´t need to go into full detail of all these techniques. Its a box, you can do it.

The bottom can be recesses as I have done it, or glued straight underneath the drawer.

Step 7: Apply Finish

As always, this is my favourite step. Its great to see the wood colour come out. I used a natural oil finish that is popular in Germany. You can use something similar like danish oil or wipe on poly. The advantage of those finishes is that they are easy to apply, they look good and you cannot do it wrong.

I needed to match the colour of the wood on the bed frame. The wallnut veneer is a bit red and dark, so I just needed some brown colour to get it to match to the bed. The drawer on the other hand was completely white, so I applied a red stain. They don´t match perfectly, but you don´t really notice. The golded drawer front and the warm leds draw all the attention to them.

To apply the oil finish, use a rag, not a paper towel. The paper towel loves to rip on the wood fibres and remains little paper trails. Old t-shirts work much better. Wipe on the oil, let it sit for 20 minutes and then remove the excess. After the first layer, you should do some light sanding ith 220 grit to remove any wood fibres that got stood up by the oil. Then you can do two more layers with 24h of drying time in between.

Make sure you spread out any oily rags to dry. If they are bunches up in your trash can, they can heat up and catch on fire!

Step 8: Make an Intersting Drawer Front.

The front is the main design feature on this nightstand. I wanted it to really stand out, so I decided to carve an art deco pattern into it on my CNC. Here is the CAD file including the CAM

Of course you could do any kind of pattern:

  • You can cut patterns by hand like our grandparents did.
  • You can make the pattern on a 3D printer.
  • You can draw or stamp on a pattern.
  • You can just keep it plain.
  • You can get some marble or tiles and glue it on.
  • You could glue on interesting items like bottle caps or pennies.
  • Epoxy River?

If you go the CNC route, you will likely need to do a lot of sanding. I sended those fronts for about 2 hours. Then I applied a filler primer and sanded some more. Ultimately I covered everything in gold spray paint and I love the look!

Step 9: Final Assembly.

There are numerous ways to mount drawer slides and you can also get a lot of jigs that help you. Since we only have a single drawer, mounting it is quite straight forward.

I always mount the rail to the inside first. Here, I just put them at the bottom. Then I insert the drawer itself and put a spacer underneath so the drawer doesn´t drag on the cabinet. Then I pull the drawer out a bit together with the slide and insert the first screw. Make sure both slides are spaced equally from the front of the drawer. Then you can pull out the drawer step by step and add more screws. This gives you perfect allignment without any binding.

To mount the drawer front its best to use hot glue. Then you can allign the front perfectly and drive in some screws from the back. Don´t forget to pre-drill! This plywood is super hard and it is easy to snap the screws. I had to remove the super glue because it stopped the front from going on flush. Try it out. Maybe you can get by if you use less glue.

Step 10: Mount It!

Don´t use french cleats! This cabinet is just to thin for them to work properly. Mine are just barely holding on. Instead you can use some 2$ steel brackets from the hardware store. Mine were about 25x25cm. So about half the depth of the nightstand. If your nightstands are as big as mine, you cannot see them underneath anyway.

Its best to mount the nightstand at pillow height. That way its less likely that a pillow could throw over your water glass and ruin the nightstand. But if it does, here is an instructable to build new ones.

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