Introduction: Reclaimed Nightstand

About: I'm an IT professional with a master's in library science. I enjoy woodturning, film making, and being frugal. Sometimes I make stuff that isn't horrible.

In prepping the nursery for our second child, we got a recliner off Craigslist and quickly realized that the height made it difficult to use our existing nightstands. This turned into a great reason to make some furniture. If you're familiar with my builds, I'm all about using reclaimed/scrap/salvage whenever possible. The entirety of this project is made with a few feet of 2x4, pallet slats, and some plywood.

I wanted the design to be straightforward and easily adaptable to different spaces and furniture heights. I'd initially planned on making a drawer, but we found some inexpensive cloth baskets at a superstore that were too nice to pass up! The dimensions we used were dependent on the height and width of the basket, and the height of the recliner.

See the full video here.

Step 1: Gathering Supplies


  • 2x4 Stock
  • 1/2" Plywood
  • Pallet scrap
  • PureColor Evengrain Stain, Brunette
  • Minwax Polycrylic
  • Wood Glue
  • Lint-free cloth (or brushes)
  • 1" Kreg Screws
  • 1/2" wood screws
  • itso Fabric Half Bin

Cut List:

  • (2) 1/2" Plywood @ 13.5"x13.5"
  • (2) 1/2" Plywood @ 13.5"x7.5"
  • (4) 2x4" @ 24" (at long end of miter)
  • (4) 2x4" @ 13.5" (at long end of miter)
  • (1) Panel @ 20"x15.5 (glued up from pallet boards)
  • (1) luan panel @ 14.5"x7.5"


  • Table Saw (optional)
  • Miter Saw (optional)
  • Circular Saw
  • Drill/Driver
  • Kreg Drill/ Robertson Bit or countersink
  • Combination Square
  • Clamps

Step 2: Box and Miters

I neglected to sure-up the widths and faces of my boards before starting. This is a rookie mistake, and one I hope to keep you from making. If your boards are cupped, bowed, warped, or not the same width, now is the time to remedy that! Since there was a little warp, referencing the faces on my miter saw's fence didn't wind up with perfect miters, but it was still good enough. Additionally, since my materials were reclaimed, I had to make sure I could get all my lengths out of the boards on hand. Start with the longest cuts you need first and get the smaller pieces out of the off-cuts. Doing a layout first is extremely helpful if you're short on materials.

I first made my plywood box. Since all of the pieces for this are the same depth, I set the fence on my table saw and cut them all at once, then cut that to length for the top/bottom, and sides. Since I'll be adding a plank top, I used some smaller scrap for the top of the plywood box. I did my glue-up with corner clamps. You can use metal fasteners here, but I didn't find it necessary. I didn't get photographic evidence of this process, but it's very straightforward.

Rather than sticking to a hard measurement, use the depth of the box to set up the miters for the legs. I set up a temporary fence on my miter saw, mostly to give myself a visual for where the cut would start. Still, I crept up on the cut to make sure I got it right to the line. Once I got a vertical and horizontal piece to the correct length, I used these as master templates to make the remaining pieces.

Step 3: She's Got Legs

I joined the mitered leg sections with glue and bar clamps. I think a strap clamp would have been much better here, and due to the aforementioned issues with the 2x4 material, I ended up using some screws to get more pressure on the joints. Had I been better prepared for this issue, dowels would have been a great way to go.

I used the kreg pocket hole bit to pilot and countersink my holes and used some 1" kreg screws to attach the box to the legs. I did not use a pocket hole jig, and basically drilled straight-on. This bit was just too handy not to use, especially since I had the correct length Kreg screws on hand. You may want to plug your holes, but since all of these would be covered by the basket/drawer, I didn't bother. With the dark stain, they're hardly visible.

Step 4: Making the Top

I have quite a selection of short pallet planks. I found a group that were reasonably close in thickness, flat, and that overhung the length I needed. I used a homemade jointing jig to get the sides square. Without this step, a glue-up would be nearly impossible.

I tried to glue these thin boards with just the bar clamps and quickly discovered how dumb that was. Learn from my mistake and use some cauls to keep the boards all on the same plane instead of bowing from the pressure. My cauls were improvised quickly from a 2x4 and some melamine. I don't have enough clamps to squeeze the cauls together, so I just used the weight of my miter saw (44lbs) for clamping force.

I let this set over night and then pried the cauls from the glue-up (wax paper would have kept them from sticking to the glue squeeze out). I used a blade to scrape the excess glue from around the panel before sanding it to a reasonably smooth surface. The melamine caul really helped get a level-ish surface on one face. I used a temporary fence and my circular saw to cut the panel to final size. Size was determined by placing the lower structure on the panel, upside down, and using a ruler to get a uniform overhang.

I used the same method as before to attach the box to the top with my kreg bits and screws. The last construction step was to cut and fasten a back to the drawer. I had some luan off-cuts that fit the bill. I trimmed this to length and used an electric staple gun to pop some brads in.

Step 5: Sand, Stain, and Finish

After a thorough sanding and cleaning, I used Pure Color Even Grain water-based stain, Brunette, on all parts of the nightstand. Even though I have several species (pine, plywood, oak, red oak, luan, and possibly poplar), the stain brings a very even tone across all of it. I used a small, disposable cup and a clean rag to mop on the stain, then another rag to wipe off the excess after a few minutes. The longer it sits, the darker and richer it gets, but wiping uniformly after a few minutes will prevent splotching. I came back later and did some touch-ups.

I finished with some water-based Polycrylic. We had some left over from redoing a dresser in chalk paint. I applied it with a clean rag as well. It goes on milky, so it's fairly easy to tell if you've missed a spot. It also has a fairly quick drying time, so I was able to come back with 320 grit paper in a few hours (could have come back sooner) and even out the first coat before applying the second. The instructions recommend 3 coats, but I was satisfied with 2. You can still feel the grain, but there's a definite added depth and shine to the wood. It also adds a smoothness to the drawer-slide that wasn't there before.

Step 6: Glamour Shots

We are using this as a nightstand for our nursery, but the design would be great for an end table or tool stand. The small footprint makes it perfect for tight spaces, dorm rooms, and apartments. Our local home store had a variety of patterns for the baskets, so you can also buy several styles in the same size and switch them out for different looks. These would also be fairly straightforward to make yourself (future project?), just by sewing some wire support into the edges. This would also be a great gift if you're low on cash, but have materials you could reclaim.

If you liked this article, I'd really appreciate your vote. Be sure to check out my other instructables. I've got some on everything from laundry detergent to pallet decor and sock puppets! I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

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Glue Challenge 2016

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Glue Challenge 2016

Tables and Desks Contest 2016

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Tables and Desks Contest 2016

Homemade Gifts Contest 2016

Participated in the
Homemade Gifts Contest 2016