Introduction: Nightstands

About: Furniture builder and content creator who enjoys teaching. Please visit my site - - for more free plans and videos.

Continuing to work on our Master Bedroom, the last items on the list were the nightstands to match the rest of the furniture in the room. A couple of nightstands sounds simple enough, right? Well, I had to make things a bit more interesting by doing in-depth filming of my design process, lumber selection and milling process, 2 videos of construction, as well as a video for my finishing process. These videos will be scattered in this Instructable where they're appropriate.

This will be like several Instructables in one as I will cover the additional parts of my process that normally only get a brief mention. These parts of the process really make a huge impact on the final piece.

Thanks in advance to mtairymd for all his hard work on the plans as well as collaborating on the write-up!

Step 1: Associated Instructables and Projects

Since there are several pieces that go together to make up all the bedroom furniture, I wanted to include them here for reference. The only piece that I haven't done an Instructable on was the king-sized bed. Although, that one may be coming as well.


Step 2: Design

In my first video, I go into a great deal of detail about how my projects are designed. For me, it all starts with pen and paper. I jot down the "known" factors that have to go into the piece like overall dimensions and some of the "feature" requests that my wife wanted in this project. I then do some rough sketches incorporating those thoughts.

Once I have all my notes together, I move over to Sketchup and get the piece into a more readable form where I can make changes and alterations easily as well as print out a shop copy of the piece to hang in the shop. This becomes my reference drawing for the build to help keep me on track.

From there, I do the actual build and document changes that were made to the original plan along the way. For instance, in the case of the nightstands, the drawer sizes changed quite a bit during the build and were updated in my Sketchup drawing and will be shown in the final plans.

Once the piece is finished, the final Sketchup drawing and all my notes go to mtairymd who creates the final plans that get published here as well as on my website.

Note: This may sound simple but, there are usually a lot of emails (and sometimes phone calls) between us getting details correct for the final plans. This process usually does not happen quickly but, it's important to both of us that they come out accurate.

Step 3: Plans

Although bits and pieces of the plans will appear throughout the Instructable, you can get the full set of plans here or on my website.

Step 4: Tools and Material

Tools: These are the tools that I used. As always in woodworking, there are many ways to perform the same task.

  • Jointer
  • Planer
  • Table Saw
  • Bandsaw
  • Miter Saw
  • Router (Edge guide as well as straight bits and profile bits)
  • Sanders
  • Drill - 3 1/4" Hole Saw
  • Chisels
  • Festool Domino (Optional)
  • Oscillating Spindle Sander (Optional)
  • Clamps
  • HVLP (Optional)

Material: Lumber choices can be changed as desired.

  • 4/4 African Mahogany (Or, lumber of choice)
  • 4/4 Wenge (Or, lumber of choice)
  • 8/4 African Mahogany (Or, lumber of choice)
  • 6/4 African Mahogany (Or, lumber of choice)
  • 1/2" African Mahogany Plywood (Or, species of choice)
  • 3/4" Baltic Birch Birch Plywood
  • 1/4" Maple Plywood (Baltic Birch could be used)
  • 1/2" Maple
  • Blum undermount drawer glides (4 Sets - These can be changed to suit your wants/needs)
  • Dominos (Optional)
  • Drawer Pulls (4ea - These can be changed to suit your wants/needs)
  • Figure 8 Fasteners (8 ea)
  • 2ea Desktop Power Grommets (Optional)

Finish: This was my finish of choice. There are numerous alternatives available

Other: I stop at 180 grit when applying a film finish. Otherwise, I would sand to 220 grit.

  • Sandpaper - 80, 120, 180, 400 grit
  • Glue

Note: The linked items above are affiliate links that help support me and my sites. If you would like to see more of these affiliate items, they can be found on my website.

Step 5: Lumber / Grain Selection

This is an often overlooked step that really makes a difference in the final piece. It would be easy to think that just by using expensive or exotic lumber that the final piece will be great. By selecting specific grains in that lumber to get the parts, I get the most aesthetically pleasing piece that I can in the end.

In the included video, I go over in great detail how to read the end grain to determine face and edge patterns as well as the side grain to determine the correct direction to feed the stock through your jointer and planer.

For this piece, I start with 3 templates that I cut from some scrap material in the shop. The 3 templates are for the legs and the 2 different sized rails that go into the nightstands. I use these templates to set on the rough lumber which shows me exactly what the grain pattern will be for that part. Once I select the actual part location, I outline the template in chalk to identify the cuts. These templates are all oversized as I won't do final milling or sizing until a later step.

As you will see in the final piece at the end, all of the upper and lower rails are grain matched as are the legs. This means that each set came out of the same board and side by side in that board.

Note: It's important to label all of these parts as they're cut. I usually like to write on the end grain with a sharpie being mindful to replace those marks later when I cut the parts to the final size.

Step 6: Milling the Parts

I start by cutting out the parts identified in chalk. I use the jigsaw for the cross cuts and the bandsaw for any ripping that needs to be done. A board not sitting completely flat and square in the chop saw can cause kickback and reactionary wood at the table saw can pinch the blade causing kickback as well. This is why I choose to use these tools to get the rough parts from the lumber stock.

Once all of the parts are cut (oversized), I do the initial milling to get them flat and square as well as to a closer size. I start by getting one flat face and one square edge at the jointer. I then plane the opposite face at the planer and square up the final edge at the table saw.

I then sticker/stack the parts and let them sit for a couple of days to allow for the freshly milled lumber to move as it wants. By leaving the material a little oversized, I have the opportunity to correct that wood movement just before using the parts with one more round of milling taking the parts to the final dimension.

It should be noted here that we don't always hit that perfect dimension called out for in the plans. This is ok as long as all the similar parts are the same and the error is minor. Just remember to pull the future measurements from the actual piece and not the plans. This is known as relative dimensioning and happens all the time when making furniture.

Step 7: Construction Videos for the Nightstands

Step 8: Legs and Rails

As the cases will go together pretty quickly, I start by milling all of the leg and rail parts to the final dimension.

I then lay out all the parts where they actually go in the piece ensuring that the grain matching performed in the previous step is in the correct location and orientation. Don't forget to re-label the parts as necessary.

Note: I used orange chalk on each part to identify the face and orientation of each piece. This will be important information in a future step to maintain the grain matching.

At this point, I mark all of the domino locations as well as mark all of the curves in the rail parts. I used the template created earlier for the rail parts to make the final template of the rails to mark the curves.

Note: I used a number of preset squares to locate the different domino locations. Once I had a square set for a particular location, I locked it in and marked it with blue painter's tape and a sharpie for that particular location. Example: Top of leg to domino / Top of top rail to domino.

Step 9: Dominos, Grooves, & Curves

I start by cutting all of the domino locations in each rail part. I then reset the depth of the domino by 1/8" and cut all the leg parts. This ensures that the rails are all set back on the legs by 1/8" creating the desired reveal.

At the table saw using a 1/2" dado stack, I cut the grooves (dados) in each of the rail parts to 1/4" deep. The upper side rails will need a 3/4" deep groove to account for the curve that will be cut into those parts. It's important to note that the face of each piece is oriented towards the table saw fence. This ensures that any error in the location of this groove is the same on every part and will not interfere with the fitting of the panels in a future step.

Note: The back upper and lower rails did not receive curves so each was grooved at 1/4" deep. Additionally, the front upper and lower rails do not get any grooves.

With all the grooves cut, the curves are all cut at the bandsaw and rough sanded. Be sure to not remove any of your marks at this stage as we'll still need them for future steps.

Note: You could use the created template to flush-trim these curves as well.

Step 10: Dry Fit

The dry fit is important to ensure that all the parts fit as they should. I will often use this dry fit to come up with my clamping strategy during the glue-up in a future step. This allows me to have all the clamps ready to go during the glue-up.

There's a lot of important information to gather during this dry fit.

  • Dimensions of the side panels as well as the back panel
  • Location of the needed grooves in the legs
  • Location of the notches needed in the legs that will hold the dust panel

Note: Even though the plans call for specific sizes and locations of these items, it's important that the measurements and locations are taken from the actual piece (Relative Dimensioning).

I use a dry erase board in the shop to write all this information on. I find this a very helpful tool in the shop rather than jotting the information down on a scrap of paper that I won't be able to find when I need it.

Step 11: Grooving the Legs

With the locations marked in the previous step, I set up the router using dual edge guides and a 1/2" router bit set to 1/4" depth to cut all of the panel locations in the legs.

Note: The inside faces on the front legs do not get any grooves.

Step 12: Notching the Legs

To ensure that the dust panel notches in the legs are all in exactly the same location, I clamp 2 legs together and use a shop-made jig to route the notch locations in both legs at the same time.

The jig is built to allow for a guide bushing in the router with a 1/2" spiral router bit. Even though the panel is 3/4" in thickness I chose to use a 1/2" bit for better control of the router on these deep notches as well as less material to remove with a chisel in the corners.

Step 13: Tapered Feet

The tapers on the bottoms of the legs can now be cut as well per the dimensions in the plans.

I created a small template to mark each leg rather than measuring each leg for the appropriate taper.

Step 14: Another Dry Fit - or 2

After cutting the 1/2" panels to the appropriate sizes, it's time for another dry fit to measure for the final size of the dust panel.

I cut the 3/4" Baltic Birch ply to rough size and glue on a 1" African Mahogany strip to one of the long sides. This strip will be seen at the front of the nightstand so, it's important to pick a pleasing grain pattern. After the glue was cured, the panel was cut to final size and another dry fit was done to ensure everything fit correctly.

Note: I also glued the tops up at this time. The tops each came from one board to ensure grain and color match on each top. This is covered in more detail in the lumber selection video.

Step 15: Subassemblies

In order to cut down on complicated glue-ups, I like to glue up subassemblies anywhere I can. In this case, the side panels were the obvious choice.

Note: You'll notice in the picture that each nightstand's parts are stacked with the panels that they go to. This helps ensure that the right parts go on the right nightstand.

Step 16: Final Case Assembly

Once the side panels are cured, the rest of the case can be glued up adding the back panel and the dust panel. It's important to ensure everything is square as it will be very important when fitting drawers in a future step.

Note: The dust panel is not glued into the notches. This helps ensure that any future wood movement will not be restricted by this plywood panel

Step 17: Bottom Slats

The slat material is cut per the plans and placed on a frame that's glued onto the bottom rails. Each slat was attached with a small dab of glue and a pin nail ensuring that the spacing is even and the front slat lands about 1/4" onto the front rail.

Be sure to route the round overs and sand these parts to 180 grit prior to installation. Performing these tasks later would be difficult at best.

Note: In hindsight, I wish I would have prefinished these parts as well before installation. The space between the slats and the dust panel makes these difficult to finish later.

Step 18: Drawer Glides

My hardware of choice was the Blum under-mount glide with Bluemotion. However, side mount hardware would work just as well as long as you account for different hardware when building your drawers.

Regardless of the hardware you choose, "filler strips" will need to be added to the side panels to mount the hardware. These strips are milled to the dimensions called for in the plans or to your particular piece.

Note: Although these are the measurements per the plan, your strips could be slightly different. It's important that the strips fit between the legs and are milled to a thickness that is flush with the legs.

Once the pieces fit correctly, they are glued and pin nailed onto the side panels for the location of each drawer per the plan and the drawer glides are mounted to account for the false drawer front as well as the finished drawer front.

Step 19: The Drawers

The drawers are all made from 1/2" maple milled per the plans. The final widths of each drawer are taken directly from the actual piece and not the plans (relative dimensioning).

Note: The Blum hardware chosen for this build allows for 1/2" to 5/8" thick drawer material.

The 1/4" wide by 1/4" deep groove for the bottom of the drawer is located 1/2" up from the bottom and cut in 2 passes at the table saw. This placement is a requirement for the Blum hardware. These can all be done as through cuts as they won't be seen in the final drawer.

I've inserted a video below on simple drawer construction. The only difference between those drawers and the ones built for this project is that dowels were used instead of screws.

I created my own dowels from African Mahogany using a dowel plate. Standard dowels would work as well. Once the drawer box was constructed, I cut a piece of 1/4" maple plywood for the bottom and secured it at the back with screws.

Note: I never use glue on a drawer bottom so that they can be replaced in the future if needed. If the drawer bottom dados are a little loose causing "drawer rattle", a couple of dabs of hot glue on each side will stop the rattle while still allowing for the bottom to be replaced later if needed.

Note: There are multiple joinery options to construct drawers. The dowel option is merely what I chose for these drawers and not a requirement. Dovetails, box joints, locking rabbet joint, butt joint and screws, or even pocket screws are all viable alternatives to the option I chose to use.

Step 20: Drawer Hardware

To complete the drawers, Blum latch hardware was installed using Blum jigs.

Note: Although I used Blum jigs to locate the hardware, there are much less expensive options that work just as well. Using an extra glide set on the drawer, tapping the back with a hammer will give you the rear hole locations. And the catch hardware itself can be used in place of the front jig for those mounting holes. I cover this in more detail in the second construction video.

I prefer to use the more expensive Blum hardware because of the number of adjustments they have to fine-tune the fit of the drawer! Additionally, with seasonal wood movement, if there is a drawer that becomes tight in the opening, you can simply adjust the hardware rather than removing the drawer and plaining to fit. This will help keep all the gaps consistent regardless of wood movement.

Step 21: Fitting Drawer Fronts

Stock selection for the drawer front material is very important. Whenever possible, I try to grain-match all the drawer fronts. This attention to detail really pays off in the look of the final piece!

I started by fitting each drawer front individually to its particular opening. This allowed me to make any corrections for anything that wasn't perfect with the opening. I then milled them flat and to final thickness at the plainer ensuring they were flush with the bottom rail. I used precut shims all around the front to ensure the drawer front is located centered in the opening.

Note: Wood primarily expands across the grain. If you're building during the dry times of the year, you'll want to leave larger gaps to allow for expansion. Conversely, if you're building during more humid times of the year, less gap room is needed since the pieces are probably at their current max expansion.

Step 22: Installing the Drawer Fronts

I didn't film this process on this project because it's exactly the same as the Massive Chest of Drawers Instructable and videos. Apologies for not have the actual pictures from this build but, the steps are the same.

Using the two drawer pull locations, shim (center) the drawer front in the opening creating the desired gaps, pilot drill at the pull locations, and drive screws to secure the drawer front to the drawer box.

Remove the drawer and secure the drawer front from the inside using 1" screws on each side of the drawer box. Center the screws top to bottom, pilot drill, countersink and drive the screws. The original screws used to secure the drawer front can now be removed.

Note: On this project, I didn't install the handles until after the finish was applied. I backed the original mounting screws out about 1/2 way and used them as temporary drawer pulls.

Step 23: Profiling the Top

The tops for the nightstands needed to be profiled to match the Massive Chest of Drawers that I built earlier for this room.

The top is made from 2 pieces of 6/4 African Mahogany glued together to meet the dimensions called for in the plans.

To achieve the desired profile, the bottom side front edge and 2 sides were chamfered at the table saw. The angle of this cut is approximately 30 degrees.

The top (rounded) profile was done in a few passes with the final pass cut slightly deeper than the bit which creates the small lip on the final piece.

Note: Several shallow passes were made to get the desired look. African Mahogany, as well as several other species, are prone to burning when routing. By making several light passes, this reduces the amount of burning which, in turn, reduces the amount of sanding to be done.

The top (as well as everything else) is sanded to 180 grit prior to finish.

Note: I only sanded to 180 grit because I will be applying a film finish in a future step. There is no benefit to sanding to a higher grit when using a film finish.

The top will be attached in a future step.

Step 24: Attaching the Top

Figure 8 fasteners were used to attach the top to the base.

A 3/4" Forstner bit was used in 2 locations (Approximately 4" from each end) on each side rail to recess the fastener into the rail. Each location was pilot drilled and the figure 8 was screwed to the rail.

Note: Pay attention to the countersinks on the figure 8s to ensure the correct orientation. Normally the wider portion of the figure 8 is mortised into the rails.

With the base flipped over on the bottom of the top, the base was centered on the top and the screw locations were pilot drilled. The top is then screwed in place.

Note: Be sure to not drill too deep and go through the top.

Step 25: Power to the Top

I wanted to add power outlets and USB ports to the top of each nightstand. These are a tight fit due to the drawer locations but, they will fit.

My 3 1/4" holes were drilled in the top using a hole saw located 3 1/2" from the back and 5 3/4" from the side. These numbers may change on your piece depending on the overhang of the top and rail material thickness.

Additionally, I drilled a 1 5/16" hole in the center of the back panel near the top to allow the cord to pass through.

Note: These are the dimensions called out for in the plans but, be sure to take the measurements directly from your piece.

Step 26: The Finish

My preferred method of finishing fine furniture is to start with an oil-based wipe-on polyurethane. I really like the added coloring from the oil-based material. For this, I use General Finishes Arm-R-Seal in Satin.

After that is fully cured, I sprayed 5 coats of General Finishes High Performance in Satin.

I sand with 400 grit sandpaper between coats. Very light pressure to remove any dust nibs created during the previous coat.

After the final coat of High Performance is cured, I'll wipe all surfaces with a brown paper bag. This will remove any dust nibs that may have gotten into the finish without damaging the finish.

The video below goes into more detail on my finishing choices as well as minor repairs in preparation for the finish.

Step 27: Closing

A really fun and fairly simple project made much more difficult by myself for adding all the detailed videos around design, lumber selection/milling, and finishing. I truly hope you enjoyed the extra videos and more detailed explanations around those processes.

Regardless, they turned out great and look wonderful in the room!

I'd love to see pictures of your creations!

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