This is an instructable that will cover a variety of wood working methods to create a changing table where the top can be converted into a shelf, and the unit be used as a shelving/storage solution. There are no screws/hardware holding this together (with the exception of hinges and pulls on the doors) . The tools used for this build (there may be other methods using different tools) are as follows:
Table saw with a 10" cross cut blade and an 8" stacked dado set
Palm sander with 320 grit sandpaper
Clamps (from 12" to 60", you can never have enough clamps)
First step is to choose your wood - this was entirely built out of 1x6 T&G and 1x4 Blue Stain Pine from a big box store.
Inspect the wood and remove anything that shouldn't be there - especially staples. These will wreak havoc on your blades, possibly ruining them. Inspect them closely - not during this build, but had a hidden staple ruin a set of 8" jointer blades. This step is crucial in protecting your tools!
Step 1: Cut and Glue Your Wood Into Panels (Glue Lams)
In my build, some of the T&G wood had the tongues and grooves cut off, then glued - others I decided to glue as is across the tongue and groove. Ensure that all panels, as glued, are larger than what you expect to cut them down to. There can always be variations in panel sizes from one to another, and it's easier to cut them down to the same size.
To glue these (Known as a Glue Lam)- apply a liberal amount of glue to the ends to be mated together but not so much that it's creating a huge mess and dripping everywhere. Too much glue is ok, but you will just have more clean up. In the photo above you may notice there are quite a few clamps.
The clamps across the boards being glued together apply the pressure at the glue points.
The clamps you see applied to the face - there are spare pieces of wood that are true/flat underneath - pressure is applied with the clamps from the pieces being glued together across them all to a known flat surface - in this example at each end and in the middle (3 spare pieces that were jointed flat).
When the glue is dried - (generally I give 24 hours) - remove the clamps. If the spare "flat" pieces have attached themselves you should be able to knock them off with a hammer.
Use a dull chisel to run across the glued joints and remove excess/raised glue. This isn't required, especially since you plan to plane and/or sand - but the glue is harder than the wood and can be hard on tools. Having a spare/cheap chisel to remove the excess glue before hand can assist in keeping the rest of your tools in good shape!
Step 2: Cut Panels Down to Size, Plane, Sand
In this build, I kept the wood at their 6' and 8' lengths when gluing together. I did 3 lay ups at full length and 4 boards each. This also allowed me to have an extra 1-3" per panel to cut down to size. (The cabinet door build will be a separate step entirely)
For this build there are a total of:
2 back panels (48" each)
2 side panels (35" each)
1 inside center panel (30")
1 top panel (48")
1 bottom panel (48")
1 large shelf (about 28")
2 small shelves (about 18")
Until you are ready to design and cut your dados for assembly, if you can, try to cut the panels a little oversized. Then for the panels (like the top, bottom, and back pieces) try to cut them all together at the same time.
The first photo in this step show cutting them to their "rough" size first.
The second photo in this step shows how all of the 48" pieces were cut together. The ends were all placed flush with one another (opposite end of being cut). Clamp them as much as you can. I used a spare piece of wood and 2 roller stands (with the wood being flush - front and back to the table saw height) as a table "extension" to support the weight off the table saw.
Run these through - I was able to *just* barely cut 4 panels at a time on this saw/blade (will vary by saw capabilities)..
I do not have a thickness planer that is able to handle boards this wide when glued together - I hand planed the mating edges, then sanded each panel.
Step 3: Measure for Your Dado Cuts, Test, Remeasure, Design How It Will Be Assembled, Cut.
Set your table saw up with your dado blade (or blade set). I used a piece of scrap wood (identical to the wood I'm working with) to run through.
The idea with this build is that the entire piece of furniture is held together by tight dado cuts (which is a groove cut into the wood, and the perpendicular piece fits into the slot) and is glued together. No screws!
With my dado set - I installed a set of blades with 1 thin chipper blade - and the dado cut was too thin (another piece of pine would not fit). I removed the "thin" chipper blade and replaced it with a larger chipper blade my set has. This resulted in a cut too wide.
For this build the wide cut wouldn't work as I wanted a nice and tight fit. I used an old piece of 5" sanding disc paper, cut a hole in the middle of it, reinstalled the thin blade, and used this 5" sanding disc as a 'shim' to make the dado cut just a little bit wider. This worked perfectly, and was able to get a tight fit.
I then designed how I wanted the pieces to fit together:
The entire unit would have a 3" lip at both the top and the bottom (top to act as a shelf/divider, more on this later, and the bottom to act as legs) using the left/right/back panels and offsetting the top/bottom 3" inwards.
The larger shelf would be on the left and will require cuts facing each other on the middle support and left support, in the center of each piece (since they are not the same height, make sure you measure the correct location).
The smaller shelves would be on the right and will require cuts facing each other on the middle support and right support. When you design these - make sure you offset the left and right shelves, as a dado cut should be at least 1/2 the depth into the panel (putting the shelves at the same height would cause a cut all the way through, or possible weakness in the panel).
The back panels would slide into the left and right panels, so a cut will need to be done perpendicular to the shelving cuts (I offset mine about 1").
Once everything is designed - set your fence, as needed for each cut, and cut your dados.
Step 4: Test Assemble, Sand, Round Edges, Assemble
With all of the dado cuts complete, test fit all panels together.
For my build, the cuts were so tight, and the panels (on their own) weren't perfectly flat, making them difficult to line hard edges up to the dado slots. I sanded all panels, and during sanding, I rounded the edges of all panels that would slide/glue into the dado slots. (Do not sand/round the edges of or inside of the dado cuts).
Once you are satisfied with test assembly and how the panels fit together - disassemble everything.
I found, for myself, it was easiest to get the left and right panels assembled with the back panels slid in/together first. Then move to the top panel, then the bottom panel. After those are together (and I would suggest waiting 24 hours) move to the shelves.
In the previous steps, I gave "about" dimensions for the shelves. This is because I needed to re-measure the width between center/right and center/left (between the dado cuts) as assembled. I cut the shelves down to size, sanded, and rounded the edges.
Glue these in as well.
Step 5: Add Front Lower Support and Fascia Trim
This design leaves the entire front bottom panel unsupported, other than at the dado cuts at the left and right panels.
I decided to rip down a piece of 1x4. Measure the opening distance between the bottom panel and the ground. Set your fence that distance from your table saw blade, and rip a piece of 1x4 to this width. Measure the width, as assembled, between the left and right panels inside. (You are cutting the board down to the same size as the hole at the bottom). Set this aside.
The first piece of trim (to cover all forward facing edges) was at the bottom. It would act as both trim and structural support. Measure the distance from the top of the lower panel and the ground - again, set your fence to that width, and rip a piece of 1x4 (if you designed yours taller, you may need a 1x6 or glue lam). Measure the outside distance from the left and right supports.
I tipped the base on it's side - onto some additional scrap wood, to leave the bottom 'hanging' and to have room for clamps.
Add glue to the backside of the lower "trim" piece - clamp it into place. Pick up the set aside piece of support board you cut - add glue where needed, and clamp it to the base and to the trim piece. Let sit for 24 hours.
The rest of the trim - I decided to rip some 1x4 down to just wider than the width of the facing boards (1x4 is usually 3/4", so I probably cut these around 7/8" - it wasn't a precise measurement, and one wasn't needed). Cut the ripped board to the appropriate lengths to cover the front of the left/right/center/top boards, glue and clamp.
Clamping the center trim is tricky, as you don't have a parallel surface to place your clamp on. I used the "bar" of the clamp as the force to hold the trim in place - I did this by holding the bar against the trim (in place), with pressure, then closed the clamp on the center upright (see the photos above). This allowed the "bar" of the clamps to apply the needed pressure.
Let sit for 24 hours.
Step 6: Build "raised Panel" Cabinet Doors
Unfortunately I zipped through these and the photos are lacking a bit. There are quite a bit of steps and I will try to outline them best I can. If you are unsure, you can look up on youtube on how to create a cabinet door as well. This method shown uses an inside groove along the door frame to hold the center panel.
1) Measure the width of the opening. In this project, I built 2 doors to fit on the left between the trim pieces. In my build, this was exactly 27". The height was exactly 29". This means each door would need to be 13.5" wide and 29" tall.
2) Determine your panel sizes and frame piece sizes (take into account the tongues on the top/bottom frame pieces).
2A: I decided a 1x4 was too wide for the frame, so I ripped a couple 1x4's down to 3" wide.
2B: Cut four pieces to 29" long for the left/right frame ends. Cut four pieces to your width (it's ok if they're a little short, they will get cut down again)
2C: Determine your groove width and depth. I used a 3/4" depth and half of the board width (3/8") as the groove width. In hindsight I probably would have done a more narrow groove.
2D: Set your dado up to cut the groove into the narrow side of all the pieces you just cut. Test as needed in scrap pieces. The goal is to have the groove be in the center, measure best you can - a trick to ensure you are cutting in the center (even if you are off a fraction of an inch) is to run each piece through twice, cutting from each side. The groove may be a tiny bit wider than you originally anticipated, but the grooves will all be even and perfectly centered.
2E: The lower frame pieces will need to be cut to (Expected Width minus 2x 3" plus 2x 3/8). As complicated as this sounds a simple method for this is to place the outer frame boards at your needed width, then measure between the grooves you just cut. That is the width of the top and bottom frame pieces to be cut at.
2F: Set the dado blades up to cut the top/bottom frame pieces so that there is a tongue in the center of the wood at each end. If your groove is 3/4" deep (like mine), then 3/4 of each top/bottom side will need to have a tongue cut, to fit into the groove of the left/right frame pieces.
3) When you know the size between grooves (top and bottom) you can create another glue lam for the center panel. Like in previous steps - I created 1 long glue lam, and cut 2 panels down to size.
4) Create the raised panel:
4A: Once the glue lam is done being glued together, cut these down to the sizes between top/bottom and left/right frame grooves (this will be between the frame pieces in the grooves).
4B: If you have a thickness planer, run the panels through until you're happy with them being flat/level.
4B: Swap your table saw blade to a normal blade. Find a scrap piece of wood (like a 2x4) that has a straight edge on it, and clamp it diagonally across the table and where the blade sits (lowered, now). I set mine maybe a little closer to the front from center. Turn your table saw on, with the blade down, and slowly raise the blade into your scrap wood. Don't cut your scrap wood in half - only raise the blade high enough to cut into your panel, but not all the way through. See the photos above - I ran scrap pieces of 1x4 through until I was happy with the groove cut. Run each of the 4 edges of your panels diagonally across the scrap wood, and across the blade. Move slowly, and carefully (if done properly, the blade should not even be seen while cutting).
5) Assemble the doors:
5A: Apply glue ONLY the "tongues" of the top/bottom frame pieces - set the panels between the left/right pieces, then install the top/bottom pieces. DO NOT glue the center panel in place - it will be held in place by the frame being glued together, and will allow for expansion. Let sit for 24 hours.
6: Set your fence to the width needed for each door (mine was 13.5"). Cut each door, assembled/glued, to that width.
7) Install the doors with hinges you've chosen (I used surface mount hinges - between the door and the trim). With these installed, the doors would bind opening/closing at the inside edges. I ran a hand plane across both inside edge doors to resolve this.
8) Install pull hardware
Step 7: Create a Temporary Divider
This piece of furniture was designed to be a temporary changing table, and then a storage unit for the bedroom. We purchased a changing table pad - the idea is to create a divider that will hold the pad in place while it needs to be a changing table.
I simply cut 1x4" pieces:
One to be wider than the width of the assembled top. One to be longer than the depth of the assembled top. I cut dados into the left/right of the long piece to fit between the top rails. I cut a dado into the back of the shorter piece to fit in the back rail, and against the new front "divider". I broke my rule here - and simply screwed these 2 pieces together (to themselves).
This can then be put into place, hold the pad, and when no longer needed - removed entirely without using any fasteners to the furniture itself.
Step 8: Apply Your Wood Treatments and Enjoy!
Apply the desired stain, oil, or other treatment you wish. I used a product called "Weathered Wood Accelerator" by Varthane. It is interesting to work with - it needs to be applied, but takes 20 minutes to 2 hours to take effect - so the quantity being applied can only be seen by the dampness of the wood (and with the variety of colors in Blue Stain pine, this can be difficult). This product then suggests to use a spray lacquer over it - which I have done.
Unfortunately the bedroom this is to be used in is not ready (and won't be before this is posted) - so the "final product" photo is, unfortunately, in the garage.
I hope you've enjoyed this instructable and it inspires you to build your own!
Participated in the
Furniture Contest 2017