Intro: Acrylic Side Table W/ Floating Mahogany Drawer
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For this project I wanted to make a mid century modern side table. but use uncommon materials to do so. I like the idea of using acrylic to build the table in such a way you can see through it. I found this 3/4' acrylic at a local plastic supply in Oklahoma City. The drawer is constructed from mahogany, and features maple spline reinforced miters. The drawer then appears to "float" inside the case. Thanks for checking it out.
Step 1: Cutting the Acrylic to Size
I started with a 4' by 4' sheet of 3/4" acrylic. I found this at a local plastic supply in Oklahoma City. For the drawer you'll need roughly 160" of some sort of 4/4 hardwood at least 5 1/2" wide. I chose mahogany, and it was a really good choice. The combination of the acrylic and mahogany really pop. To the build!
- You need a special saw blade to cut acrylic accurately. I used this one. It's an 80 tooth triple chip blade specifically made to cut plastics.
- Set the table saw fence to 16 inches and rip (2) 4' by 16" sections. The material is heavy, and bulky. Just take your time and allow the blade to do the work. My first cut took almost 5 minutes.
- The case is roughly 24 inches wide. Find the center of a 4 foot 16 inch wide section and cross cut it in half. A table saw sled is a really good idea for this cut.
- From the second 4 foot 16 inch section rip (2) planks at 4 3/4 inches.
- From one of the 4 3/4 inch wide planks mark the 16 inch width using the upper or lower case piece in order to get the exact depth. It may not be exactly 16 inches. Now cross cut this to size using a cross cut sled.
- Cut the second 16 inch long side piece in the same method. Now do a dry fit of the case and measure the length needed for the back piece. (See pics for detail) Sneak up on this cut for a perfect fit.
- The base structure is made from 4 apron pieces, and 4 legs. Rip the left over acrylic from the 4 3/4 inch off cuts into 2 inch wide strips. Rip the rest of the original 4 foot long panel to 2 inches. From these pieces you'll cross cut all the legs and aprons.
- Cross cut (6) of the 2 inch wide pieces to 17 inches long. This will cover the 4 legs, and the front and back apron. Cross cut (2) of the 2 inch wide pieces to 13 inches. These will be the side aprons.
Step 2: Angled Cuts for the Base
Use the above pic for reference.
All of the angled pieces on this table are 9 degrees. You can change the angle slightly if it pleases you, but for some reason I am drawn to 9 degree angles. I used a 9 degree angle for my plywood table build also. (Seen here)
- A digital angle gauge like this works well for setting your saw blade correctly. Set your saw blade to 9 degrees, and rip a 9 degree bevel on the two 13 inch aprons. This will allow then to match the angle of the legs they will rest against. This provides more structure to support the case.
- Set your miter gauge to 9 degrees. For the four legs cut 9 degree angles facing the same direction(a parallelogram). the final length should be 16 1/2 inches.
- Now cut opposite 9 degree angles on the front and back apron pieces. (a trapezoid).
Step 3: Sanding & Table Assembly
Now its time to sand all the edges. A lot of projects you'll see online use flame polishing. Its a cool and quick technique, but it is not ideal for this project. The reason is since this has a wooden drawer, and there will likely be sawdust floating around your workshop, acrylic has lots of static electricity. It will attract all the dust. You'll want to clean it with denatured alcohol which also helps remove the static. If you flame polish denatured alcohol with crack the edges. (Crazing) Trust me on this one folks! (Also make sure to peel off the backing before adhesion)
- Sand all edges first with 600 grit, and then with 1200 grit.
- To assemble we'll start with the upper case. I used an acrylic CA glue given to me by the plastic supply I bought my material from. Because of this I don't know the brand. Instead I will provide this link for a popular adhesive that "welds" the acrylic together. There is a whole trick to applying the adhesive. Get your pieces set up like you want. I started with the back and a side piece of the case as shown in the pics. With your applicator bottle get the majority of the air out of the bottle. Tip the bottle over while releasing pressure on it. This will cause air to flow back into the bottle, and prevent the adhesive from coming out. Put the needle tip next to the joint your adhering and begin squeezing adhesive into the joint. It will flow into the joint. Practice on some test pieces first.
- Now assemble the remainder of the case in the same manner. Make sure to take your time with each joint. Allow 5 to 10 minutes to allow the adhesive to set before trying to handle a piece. I attached the other side piece next.
- Now you'll have the U shaped side structure of the case together. Set this on a top or bottom case piece. Once aligned attach with adhesive. Repeat for the other case piece making sure to allow setting time. Now the case should be all put together.
- Time to assemble the legs. This is probably a good time to review the video if you haven't already for context. There is a front and back leg assembly consisting of the front or back apron, and two legs. Attach a leg to the apron so that the angles match to where the leg with splay outward. (Pic above) Use a scrap piece to support the other end of the leg.
- Attach the other leg in the same fashion so that is splays outward. Build two identical leg assemblies.
- You're getting close now! Clamp an off cut flush with the front of the case so that the leg assembly will be inset 3/4 inch. Use a square to inset the legs 3 1/2 inches from each side. Place the two side aprons to match the 9 degree angle of the legs. Fit in the back leg assembly, and use the square to check alignment 3 1/2 inches inset from the side.
- Work your way around the bottom of the case apply adhesive everywhere the acrylic joins acrylic. (again this is a good spot to reference the video)
Step 4: Making the Drawer
Now you've got the table assembled, and its time to move on to building the drawer.
- Measure the case opening to get your exact dimensions.
- Begin by cutting the wood to rough length. 3 at 23" for the drawer bottom. 2 at 23" for the drawer front and back. 2 at 16 inches for the drawer sides.
- Joint one edge and one face of all these boards.
- Plane everything down to an even 3/4 inch thickness. (I had to go slightly less to get everything even. This is also okay)
- Rip the three drawer bottom boards to 5 1/4 inch referencing the jointed edge on the saw fence.
- Assemble the drawer bottom. I used dominos for alignment, but a biscuit joiner would work just as well. Glue up, clamp, and set aside.
- On the drawer front, back, and sides cut in a 45 degree bevel along the length removing as little material as you can.
- Using the width of the case rip these boards to fit the height of the case. It'll be roughly 4 3/4 inches, but measure and sneak up on this dimension. I would cut, check it, cut more, check again, and eventually I landed on a perfect fit.
- Sand everything up to 220 grit.
- Now its time to cut the joining 45 degree miters. Again its a really good idea to sneak up on these cuts. Also using a good miter gauge makes this a much safe process. Cut in a 45 degree miter on one edge making sure to orient the cut in the correct direction. Remove as little material as possible to make the cut.
- Now for the rest of these cuts you'll use the case to find the correct length. Again sneak up on these cuts, and test fit them into the case as shown in the pictures above.
- Place the drawer front, sides, and back into joining order. Flip them so the miters face down. Apply tape the joints making sure everything is flush and straight. Flip the whole contraption over and apply glue in all the joints. Fold each piece of the drawer together. Use a band clamp to clamp the drawer together.
- Once the drawer bottom is dry you'll need to cut 45 degree bevels all the way around. Cut these to match the dimensions of the drawer you've assembles. Glue in the drawer bottom.
- Once this is dry you'll need to reinforce all these mitered joints. I opted for splines, and I whipped up the spline jig in the pics in about 5 minutes. Cut at least two splines along each seam. Glue in splines to match the width of this cut. Once dry flush cut all the splines off, and sand smooth.
- Finish with your choice of finish. I used two coats of wipe-on ploy.
Step 5: You're All Done!
Slide the drawer in place, and take a minute to enjoy how satisfying that is. Thanks for checking out this build. I really think it is the coolest thing I have ever made. Watch the video for reference, and please subscribe while you're there. It will help my channel get off the ground, and help me make more cool projects like this. Thanks, and please send me any questions you may have. I would love to see someone else's take on this project. Cheers!