Hi, it’s Mandi! Are you as picky about your furniture as I am? I’m usually looking for a very particular width, height, shape, function, and style. Oh—and price! Usually I end up compromising on at least a couple of these things (usually function—oops!), but I don’t know why, because it’s so fulfilling and not too difficult to just make your own furniture!
This midcentury modern-inspired side table is only moderately difficult to build, so it’s a good project for beginner woodworkers who are looking to kick it up a notch. You have plenty of options to customize this table to fit your own needs (coffee table, night stand, side table), and of course you can use different joinery techniques, though I opted for a relatively simple pocket-hole technique which I’ll show you in the steps below.
-24″ x 48″ edge glued white wood board cut into two pieces – $30
-one 1×3 maple board cut to one 24″ piece and two 23 5/8″ pieces – $8
-4 tapered table legs – $20-$60
-4 angled leg plates (like these) – $10
-pocket-hole screws (you will use about 16 of a $4 pack of 100) – $.75
-wood stain (you won’t even use 1/8 of a $6.50 quart.) – $1
-100 and 180 grit sandpaper ($3 for a pack of five—this project uses approximately 2 each) – $2.75
-steel wool grade 0000 ($3 for a bag; I used about 1/8 of the bag) – $.50
Total Cost of Materials: $75*
*Cost is rounded up from the average price of materials mostly purchased at Lowes.
-pencil and large compass or homemade compass (as explained in step two)
-pocket-hole jig with step bit and driver (This kit is nice)
-jigsaw with a clean cutting wood blade
Step Two: Draw a 24″ circle using a homemade compass with a tack and string like the one I made here, or for a more accurate circle, drill two holes 24″ apart in a piece of scrap wood—one hole the size of a pencil, and one the size of a wood nail. Don’t worry if your circles aren’t exactly 24″ in diameter, though each circle should be the same size.
Roughly cut out the circle you drew in step three, leaving about a 1/8″ or 1/16″ border around the line of the circle. Turn the router into a compass by clamping a piece of scrap plywood to the router bottom. First, prepare the plywood by cutting it into the tapered shape you see above. Then drill a hole sized to the router bit, and 24″ away, drilling a hole that will snugly fit a wood screw. Make sure the wood screw isn’t thick enough to pierce through the flip side of the wood circle you are cutting.
After the plywood is screwed onto the router bottom, put a nail through the little hole and secure it to the center mark of the circle. Swing the router around like a compass to cut out a perfect circle!
Sorry I don’t have better pictures of this. It took two people to cut the circle—one person to hold the nail in place in the center of the router compass while simultaneously holding the circle firmly, and the other person swinging the router around. Next time I cut a circle, I’ll have a third person around to take a picture so you can check out this technique in more detail.
Step Four: Sand down all of the wood pieces, making sure the edges of the circle are really smooth. If your circles aren’t exactly 24″ in diameter, you’ll also need to slightly trim down the three pieces of maple 1x3s so they don’t hang over the edge of the circle. Lay the boards in an X on top of the circles to make sure they’re the precise length.
Step Five: Drill pocket holes into the 1x3s so you can attach them to one of the circles. The placement of the pocket holes is up to you, but I did two holes on either side and end of each leg of the X. Make sure the length of the jig, collar on the step bit, and length of your screws are set so that the screws don’t poke through surface of the wood when they’re screwed into place. Practice on two pieces of scrap lumber to make sure the positions are alright. This is an important step—so practicing is very important!
Step Eight: In between coats of stain, use steel wool to sand down the little wood hairs that will pop up. This will make the surface silky smooth. If you decide to seal the table with polyurethane (something I always like to do so my guests don’t have to worry about coasters), then you should do two coats of polyurethane, sanding with steel wool in between and after each coat has cured.
Steps Nine & Ten: Attach the bottom circle to the middle X-supports by clamping it into place and using wood screws to drill through the circle and the X. Use a countersink bit after drilling a pilot hole. This will make sure the screw sits flush with the surface of the wood.
Step Eleven: Attach the screw plates in line with the X-frame. I placed the edge of my leg plate 3 1/2″ from the edge of the table. Before drilling pilot holes, mark the length of the screws with masking tape on your drill bit. Stop drilling when the tape gets to the surface of the wood.
Step Twelve: Screw the table legs into the leg plates. Keep screwing so that the bolts on the table legs go into the wood.
It’s really important that you mark the stopping points before drilling into the table. If you drill too far, you could end up with holes on the surface of your table. If that does happen for some reason, you can fill the hole with stainable wood filler, then refinish that section of the table.
Hiding the Pocket Holes: For the most part, the pocket holes aren’t noticeable in the table. If you get down low—to take a picture of your dog, for instance—you’ll see the holes are there. If this bothers you, you can plug these holes before staining the table. You can buy maple plugs specifically for pocket holes here. Just use wood glue, tape them into place, wipe away the excess glue, then sand and stain as usual.
Building your own furniture might seem super intimidating at first, but if you take things slow and focus on one step at a time, before you know it you’ll have a great piece of furniture in your home that you have made yourself! It’s such a great feeling.
If after my encouragement you’re still nervous about starting a project like this, why not ask a friend to help you? If he or she is experienced—great! If not, then it’s still great to have someone alongside of you to check your measurements and help hold things. You can learn together! But if you do start out on your furniture-making journey with an experienced craftsman, be sure to do most of the work yourself with his or her guidance. Doing it yourself will help you retain what you learn. Now just get out there and make something! You won’t regret it. –Mandi