One Board Side Table




Introduction: One Board Side Table

The first step in this project is selecting the correct board. This project was made to enter in to the "One Board" contest, and I feel like in order to be a "One Board" purist you should start with a 2x4 - but I went with a piece of Ash for a few reasons different reasons.

  1. The size of the board is 7.5" x 8' x 7/8" - which is about the same volume as a 2x4, so I figure I am in the ball park on that. This is pretty close to the size of a 1x8, so if anyone wanted to replicate this project, it could be done with only a few modifications.
  2. It's hard to find a decent 2x4 right now. Most of them look like bananas and are full of cracks splinters.
  3. With the current cost of construction lumber, there is not a whole lot of difference between an inexpensive hardwood like Ash and crummy construction grade pine.
  4. The emerald Ash borer is killing ash trees all over. The board I picked is cut locally from an Ash tree that was killed by the borer. Using it for my project is a lot better use for the tree than letting it stand and rot or be cut up into firewood!

The second step is figuring out what to build that will make best use of this piece of Ash. I've been promising my daughter an end table for a while. Her birthday is coming up and she is at an age where she just learning how to use the internet at school. It will be really fun for her if she can see the process that went into building her table on her school computer and show all of her buddies. Not only that, but I can drive her by the woods were the board came from to make her table, and tell her all about it!

There are a lot of pictures in this instructable, and they each contain helpful notes. As you read, view the pictures in order.


Lots of supplies used here, but you could make due and build this project a lot of different ways. You will probably need access to the following tools and supplies at a minimum though.

  1. 1 Board
  2. Drill
  3. Pocket hole jig / Screws
  4. Bandsaw
  5. Stain/Varnish
  6. Some variety of sander
  7. Wood Glue
  8. Pipe or bar clamps.
  9. Tapemeasure

Step 1: Measure and Calculate

I had a general idea of the size and height of the table that would work, so I laid it all out in pencil on the board. My plan is to scale the table so that I use as much of the board as possible. I'll keep my scraps (minus the sawdust) and we can see how close it is at the end. Rough layout measurements are on the attached PDF.

Step 2: Rough Cut the Leg Components

Four legs are going to be made from 6 pieces of 1 7/16" x 24" Ash. In order to minimize waste, the standard 1/8" wide ripping blade in the table saw was swapped for a thin 1/16" kerf Skil saw blade. A 1/16' each time adds up when you don't have any wood to spare!

Step 3: Glue Up the Leg Components

In this step we will glue up the leg component boards in two sets of three. In a future step, we will rip those glue ups in half to make 4 legs. I used pipe clamps for this step, but just about any clamp style will work. When gluing, the idea is to make multiple pieces of wood look like the same board, so be particular on which boards are grouped when making the glue up and how their coloring and grain pattern look when placed together.

Step 4: Cut and Glue the Top

The top board is 28" long and about 71/2" wide. It will be crosscut at 14" and then glued together to make a top that is about 14" x 14". After it is glued it will be cut to finished dimensions.

Since the board had one edge cut straight when I got it from the neighbor, and I am not sure how straight it really is, the board will be run across the jointer first to make sure that there is a gluing edge that is flat and square.

Glue up note: When gluing, the pressure from the clamps below the boards tends to buckle the glue joint(s) so that they push upward like a rainbow. In order to solve that problem, the center clamp is placed across the middle and on top. Tighten all the clamps evenly to keep your glue up flat.

Step 5: Square the Legs

When squaring the legs, I treated each glue up as if it is a new piece of rough cut lumber by surfacing a face and then an edge on the jointer.

I wound up with legs that are just shy of 1 1/4" square. After the legs are squared, place all four of them together and clean up the ends on the miter saw.

Step 6: Taper the Legs

In order to add some interest to the profile of the legs, I am going to give them a slight taper. Since the legs are pretty thin, I think a taper that cut all 4 sides would make the legs a little too skinny and look out of place. So, I tapered the two faces that face toward the inside of the table.

There are a few different ways to cut a taper, and usually I'd but a small taper like this on the jointer, but since Ash is prone to tearing out, the tapers will be cut on the bandsaw and cleaned up with an edge sander.

It's important to have a good plan, especially when working with limited materials so I made sure to lay out and mark everything before I made any cuts.

Step 7: Cut the Front, Sides and Back

I had budgeted 2, 10" wide boards for these components. One board will be the sides. The other will be the front and back. They ended up being just over 9 3/4" long.

Step 8: Some Finish Sanding

Since there is a lot of estimating in this project, I'm not really sure what the final size of the top and the drawer is yet. So, I am going to finish sand the legs and the sides to get the table ready for partial assembly .Then, I can take all of the measurements I need directly from the table and not have to make any guesses.

Step 9: A Little CNC Detail

The CNC router is really fun, and it seems to find a place in every project that I make. I use Easel software on a Millright CNC router and am very pleased with the setup. I'm not going into a ton of detail here because that opens up a whole new can of worms and the CNC process could be an instuctable all on its own!

For those who are interested, I am cutting with a 1/8" diameter 60 degree V bit and 2mm depth of cut. Feed rate and plunge rate are 4000mm/min.

Step 10: Pocket Holes

Pocket holes are one of the easiest, strongest, and fastest ways to put together a butt joint. They do not necessarily appeal to the traditional woodworker like a mortise and tennon or dowel might, but man are they handy! A handheld Kreg pocket hole jig can be picked up for pretty cheap and is a great addition to any shop.

Step 11: ASHembly (HA!)

One of the drawbacks of using pocket hole screws is that, since they are drilled on an angle, they tend to pull the joint out of alignment as they are tightened. In order to get around this, it is important to clamp everything down tightly while it is being assembled. It also can be tough to maneuver the drill and long driver bit inside of a small table like this, so I made use of some of the U joints out of my socket set.

Tip: Use fine thread Kreg pocket hole screws. Kreg screws are expensive because they are good. I've tried cheaping out on pocket hole screws and it is nothing but problems.

Step 12: Measure and Rough Cut the Drawer Components

The drawer opening is 1 5/8" tall, 9 3/4" wide, and 11" deep. I want to leave a little bit of room for expansion and contraction, but I do not want to have a big gap showing. So the final drawer dimensions will be 1 9/16" tall, 9 5/8" wide, and 10 7/8" deep.

There is a 10" long and a 13 1/2" long board left to make the drawer components from. I'll cut he sides and the bottom from the longer board, and the drawer front and back from the shorter board.

The drawer sides and the bottom are resawn.

Step 13: Finish Cut Drawer Sides

Now its time to finish cut at assemble the drawer. Since this will be a flush drawer, the entire drawer front will be exposed. In order to hide the drawer components, as well as any fasteners used to assemble the drawer, I used a rabbet joint to attach the drawer sides and the drawer front/back. There are other options out there, but this a quick way to make a solid joint on a small drawer.

Step 14: Finish the Bottom and Assemble the Drawer

The bottom of the drawer fits into a dado slot in the drawer front, back and sides. After sanding the bottom glue up flat with the drum sander, it ended up being just over 1/4". I cut the dado with two passes on the table saw.

When fitting a solid wood vs. plywood drawer bottom, it is important to remember that wood will swell and contract along with moisture, so leave a little room around the edges for it to move. Since the ash I am using is about 9% moisture (since its air dried not kiln dried) I left 1/16" in each direction. I don't expect this board to swell much, if at all. Typically I would figure about 1/8" of movement per foot of wood perpendicular to the grain. Wood does not move much parallel to the grain.

Figuring for the size of the drawer: The depth of the dado is 3/16". One dado on each side, so 3/16"+3/16"=3/8". Now, subtract 1/16" for wood movement and you are left with 7/16". This measurement is added on to each of the measurements noted in the pictures.

Step 15: A Mistake and a Solution

Somewhere along the line I made an error, and the glue up I had planned for the top was too narrow. If this were not a one board project, I'd have just added another ash board to the side and re glued it. However that was not possible given the material I had left over. So, I made due with what I had. A little bit of an unorthodox solution, but it could certainly be worse.

Step 16: Back on Track / Cut the Top

Now it is time to cut the top to size. I am using the center strip of boards as the center, so all of the measurements will come from there.

Step 17: Attach the Top

Just like with the drawer bottom, wood movement needs to be taken into consideration when attaching the top. The screws are placed inside of wide counterbored holes so that as the top moves, the screws can shift within the holes to keep the top from splitting.

Step 18: Make and Attach the Drawer Pull

I had budgeted a piece of ash about 1 1/2" x 3" for the knob, and ended using about 1/4 of it. I cut a simple tapered rectangular knob for the drawer. I feel like this matches the overall style of the table. One screw and a couple drops of wood glue hold the knob to the drawer front.

Step 19: Woodworking Is Done / Scrap Assessment

Here is what I had left. Overall, given the complexity and number of operations involved in the table, I feel pretty good with what is left for the fireplace!

Step 20: Stain

Although all of the table components have been finish sanded before assembly, there are always some scuffs and bumps involved in the assembly process, so make sure to go over everything and carefully inspect it before you apply finish.

I like the look of a darker stain on Ash. The darker colors also sink into the CNC cut details better and help them pop.

The stain is applied with a cotton rag. Be careful when staining all the nooks and crannies on a project like this. If you leave a dark streak of stain on too long without wiping it off, it will show through.

Step 21: Polyurethane

Spraying polyurethane is the way to go. The finish is smoother, more even, and the process is way faster. On a small project like this, it is especially easy as you can just spray it with a rattle can. I've used this spray poly before, and I like it because it goes on thick and flattens itself out, so I was able to finish this project with just two coats, and still achieve a nice Ash finish.

The heat in my shop is around 55 degrees, so it really slows the polyurethane's drying time and allows it plenty of time to spread out an flatten before it sets up.

When applying polyurethane, make sure to get every surface you can, even places that aren't seen like the bottom of the table. Uneven application and unfinished wood areas may lead to future problems with cupping and wood movement.

Step 22: Sign and Date Your Work

Sign and date your work! Even if it is something small - that way you can look at it later and think about all the fun things you were doing at that point in your life. When I am gone (In many years hopefully) and the kids are rummaging through all of my stuff, I want them to find names and dates all over the place!

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    7 months ago

    A lesson in woodworking and an excellent result.