Introduction: Scrap Nightstand

About: Furniture hacker. Author of Guerilla Furniture Design, out now. Find me on Twitter and Instagram @objectguerilla.
Summer building season is heating up.  Contractors and ambitious DIYers are taking long looks at their kitchens, bathrooms, and backyards and planning remodels while the weather is warm and vacation time is plentiful.  Alley stalkers can take advantage as old cabinets are put out to the curb.

This handsome little nightstand was made out of an old bathroom cabinet, found in forlorn circumstances.  With some clean-up, repair, paint, and the addition of shop scrap drawer fronts, a laminated wood top, and four little pallet-wood feet, I ended up with a beautiful bedside companion for less than ten bucks in materials.  Scrap on!

Built for/at the ReBuilding Exchange, Chicago, IL.

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You will need these materials:

An old cabinet of some kind
Some scrap wood/shop offcuts
2 2" x 10" or similar pieces of lumber
Some small (approx. 3" x 3" x 3") hardwood pieces, possibly from pallets
Masonite/plywood to repair cabinet back/sides if necessary
Handful of drywall screws
Polyurethane or similar

You will need these tools:

Chop saw
Table saw
Bandsaw (optional but helpful for feet)
Nailgun, brad gun, or stapler (optional but helpful)
Orbital sander
Putty knife
Tape measure

Step 1: Repair

The base cabinet for this project was pretty cheap -- chipboard-core laminate, tacked and glued together.  It had suffered some damage in its short life, sustaining some dents, dings, and holes, especially in its back.

So, whatever your particular cabinet has been through, the first step is to refurbish it.

First, clean it out well with a disinfectant cleaner.  There was all sorts of nasty stuff in these drawers -- hair, floss, etc.  Take the drawer fronts off, usually attached with screws through the backside, and discard.  Pop screws in where necessary to tighten up the box.  If really necessary, put a new back on -- I used a scrap piece of masonite -- with glue and screws.  Add plywood stretchers to the top if not already in place, cutting them to fit tightly.  

Fill in all the nail and screw holes with putty, sand smooth, and paint the whole thing with the color of your choice.  

Step 2: Top

To make the top, I used a few scraps of old-growth pine from around the shop.  Lots of wood could do, or you could follow directions here to laminate your own crazy design.

Rip clean edges onto your boards with the table saw.  Apply glue liberally, and clamp up.  Once the excess glue has reached a booger-y consistency, scrape it up with a putty knife.  Sand flush and smooth.  Slice the end-grain edges flush and clean with a circular saw, chop saw, or table saw with miter gauge.  

Step 3: Drawers

If your cabinet has drawers, pull them out.  If it has a door, take it off the hinges.  Strike a centerline on the front face

Set up a stop on the chop saw -- a clamp or block of wood that you can butt a piece of stock against, allowing you to cut a lot of pieces to the same length.  Cut a pile of varying scraps to the same width as the overall cabinet box.  

Hold all your pieces together, then strike a centerline along their top edges.  Lining the centerline on the scrap up with the centerline on the drawer front, glue and nail it into place.  If you don't have a nail or brad gun, you can screw it in from the backside.

Pop a nice contrasting piece of wood in for a handle, or recycle the pulls from your original cabinet.  

Step 4: Feet!

The feet here are made with a simple bandsaw trick that allows for angled cuts on all sides.  Of course, lacking a bandsaw, straight feet, recycled steel couch legs, or little bits from the hardware store would work just fine.  Feet are essential, though, as they keep the thing from looking less like a cabinet just set onto the floor and more like a piece of furniture.  

I used pallet-scrap oak.  Lots of pallets are made from hardwood, due to the weight they have to bear.  Once you have a piece de-nailed, run it though a planer and a table saw to square it up as best you can.  Cut four 4"-long blanks.  Then, using a bandsaw, cut two angles on the same face, per picture 6.  You could stop there, or . . . use masking tape or painters tape to put the cut pieces back on, re-assembling your original block.  Rotate it 90 degrees, scribe identical angles onto it, and cut them away.  You end up with a radically angled foot, tapering in all four directions.  

Step 5: Assembly

Time to put the whole thing together.  Measure in from the four corners of the bottom of the cabinet so your feet are evenly inset on all sides, then pre-drill (always pre-drill!) and put a 3"-4" screw  into the feet through the bottom of the cabinet, along with some glue.  Gravity will also conspire to keep them in place pretty well.

Do the same with the top, screwing through your stretchers into the bottom of the top.  Put drawers back in.

Finish feet, top, and drawer fronts with your favorite polyurethane/stain/oil/varnish/etc.

Fill it up with all your secret bedside stuff and enjoy!
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