Over the past few years I have gotten pretty heavily involved in boxing at the local MMA gym. One of the fighters there is a young man who just moved into his first apartment and is sorely lacking in furniture. I have been looking for new projects and things to try so I offered to make him a nightstand for free(I need a new nightstand as well so this could be a trial run I thought haha). He happily accepted my offer. I sketched out 3 or 4 different designs and he choose the one he liked the most. I tried to use all scrap lumber I had left over from older projects in an effort to keep the costs down.
I mocked up a few different ideas while riding the bus to work one day but one of them really stuck with me. It was a modern style nightstand with one vertical pillar that everything is attached to (see picture of autodesk model). There would be two base legs and two arms that projected off the vertical pillar. Three shelves in total with one being on the bottom and the other two located on the top. I really want to get better at good joinery so I decided to use two modified bridle joints to attach the vertical column to the two horizontal legs. The arms and upper shelves would all be attached via a long tenon that I would eventually cut and put walnut splines into. It may seem intimidating but this is honestly a pretty straightforward build, with some decent chisels and handsaws just about any woodworker could easily accomplish this. Just take your time and enjoy the process.
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I had some leftover cherry beams that I used for the legs and arms. This will need to be relatively beefy to provide alot of surface area for gluing.
Some oak and cherry scrap boards were used for the shelves. You might need to get creative with your shelf dimensions depending on what you had available.
Chisels(I really like the narex chisels, high quality and not absurdly expensive)
Lots of Clamps
Step 1: The Frame
So the first thing to do is construct the frame. Most night stands fall between 23-26 inches tall, usually a bit taller than the bed so measure what space your working with. I settled on making the X-Y dimensions at 11 inches by 16 inches as my friend had a narrow space to fit into. It is important that the frame be constructed of pieces that are fairly large to provide good support and have a lot of area for gluing up the shelves.
- Take the chop saw and chop your beam down into the five pieces that will comprise the frame. Two were 16 inches, two were 11 inches and the central pillar was 25 inches tall.
- Now clean up these pieces on your jointer so you have a nice face to rip with. Then head to the table saw and rip your pieces to the appropriate dimensions. I went with 2.5in by 2.5in.
Cool, we are ready to assemble the basic frame.
Step 2: Frame Joining
I decided to use bridle joints to join the two bottom legs to the vertical column. I found that the easiest way to do this is to mark out a grid on the face of each leg. Extend the markings on the face down the side of the piece so the joints are an appropriate length. I know this is kind of confusing but look at the pictures, hopefully they clarify things.
When cutting the joints, I first used a pull saw to roughly cut out the waste material.
Next use a chisel to clean the tenons up.
Be careful, measure twice, and take your time.
Here is where I made a dumb move. I was impatient and decided to glue up these three frame pieces now instead of cutting the central tenon on the top of the pillar. Learn from me and don't do this yet haha.
However, when you do glue this up, spread some glue up on the tenon faces and clamp everything in position.
Step 3: Tenon on the Pillar
So this is way easier than you would think.
We are going to cut one long tenon that will run through the upper arms and shelves. These arms and shelves will all have a matching mortise that will allow them to be directly stacked. Measure the total length that both upper shelves and arms will be. 7 inches in total for my dimensions. I decided to position that tenon in the center of the pillar and make it 1 inch by 1 inch.
So mark that tenon out on the top of the pillar, centered. Then extend the lines down the side of the pillar by 7 inches.
I first rough cut the tenon out using a jigsaw (bandsaw would also work well for this).
Next, I cleaned it up with some hand chisels to make it as uniform as possible.
Step 4: Shelves
Now is a good time to go and make your shelves. I wanted three of them, one on the base and two on the upper arms.
To use some scrap materials I glued up two smaller pieces to form the bottom shelf. Cut the two individual pieces down to length using your table saw (cross cut sled might come in handy here). Once that is done, joint two edges if you happen to have a jointer and then glue them up to form a larger panel. Cauls would help here with keeping it flat.
I used the table saw to simply rip a scrap piece of oak down to the dimensions I wanted, no additional trimming necessary.
I had a nice piece of cherry scrap I wanted to use but it wasn't quite big enough. I decided to use my jig saw to cut a curved kind of shape to it (see pictures) and allow it to be a bit small. Not only would this break the lines up nicely but make the second shelf a little more functional.
Step 5: Mortise on the Shelves and Upper Arms
Right, so the first thing to do is measure the distance from the center tenon to the edge of the center pillar. This was 3/4" of an inch for me (total width was 2.5", the tenon was 1", which leaves 3/4" on each side).
Measure out from one corner and mark out your mortise accordingly. Use a gouge, knife, or scalpel to mark the edges of the mortise on both sides. This will help prevent you from blowing out the grain when you chisel things out.
Once the mortise is marked accordingly you can go ahead and chisel it out. One thing to speed this up is to drill out the center of the mortise if you have a similarly sized forstner or drill bit.
Now go to town with the chisels. Take your time and be careful, chisels are sharp....(or they should be haha)
Step 6: Assembly
Ok, so time for assembly.
I suggest going and giving everything a pretty good sanding right now as some of the spaces will be tough to get to. If you (wisely) didnt glue up the frame previously then that is the first thing to do.
Once the frame is glued up, you can mount the bottom shelf. I choose to cut a 2.5" x 2.5" corner from the bottom shelf which allowed it to fit snugly up against the pillar. I also drilled some matching holes for dowels in the bottom side of the bottom shelf and the arms to the base.
Using a toothbrush spread glue across the top of the frame arms and on the bottom of the shelf in the correct locations, then slowly clamp the shelf into place.
I went a little too heavy on the glue, as you can see....
Spread glue across the central tenon and the insides of the mortises you chiseled out. Then slowly fit each of the pieces into place.
- First place the middle shelf on the tenon and get it in place as good as you can. Now spread some glue on the top of the shelf where the upper arm will contact it. Spread glue on the bottom of the matching upper arm.
- Place the upper arm now and clamp it to the shelf tightly.
- Spread some more glue around the tenon and now put your second upper arm into place.
- Spread some more glue on the top of the upper arm and in the corresponding positions on the bottom of the top shelf.
- Place the top most shelf and clamp it tightly to the upper most arm.
- Now you need to take some long clamps and clamp everything on that center pillar together tightly.
It may be easier to do the bottom shelf in one step and the upper shelves in a second step.
Step 7: Finishing
Allright Time to Clean up and Finish.
- If your center tenon is a little long you can trim it to length with a pull saw. I had decided to cut diagonal slits into mine and hammer walnut splines into them. If you're doing this you obviously need to cut the slits before glue up.
- I choose to take a block plane and knock a slight chamfer on all of the exposed edges just to soften things a little bit.
- Now take your orbital sander and finish as much as you would like. I think for this kind of design it needs to be a pretty decent finish, in my opinion the rustic, rough sawn kind of look wouldn't mesh well.
- Once sanding was done I gave everything several coats of danish oil (a favorite of mine).
Some Notes: It is important that the legs be fairly wide, 2.5" x 2.5" is probably the smallest you could comfortably get away with for shelves of this size. The chunkier they are, the sturdier this will be. I didn't test this to breaking but it comfortably held a 35 and 45 lb dumbbell without rocking. You could add a hidden support leg under the bottom shelf if you were worried though.
And you're done!!!! Go and show off how trendy and modern you are to your friends.
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