Nightstands: The beginning

Well, about 8 months after I said I’d build some nightstands, they’re finally happening! Not that I haven’t been busy during that time!

Here’s a rough plan for what we’ll be building:

Nighstand Plan

IMPORTANT: These plans do NOT show the various joinery techniques. So, when it says a rail pieces is 9.5″ wide, the piece will actually be about 11.5″ with a one inch tenon on each side.

You should be able to make a pair of these with the following:

-Two 8 ft pieces of 8/4 alder

-Two 8 ft pieces of 6/4 alder (I was actually to use scraps from the bed build and didn’t need these, but you may not be as lucky depending on how wide your scraps are)

-A total of 8 ft of 5/4 alder, 6″ wide. In my case, I could only get pieces that were about 5″ wide, so I had to buy a second, narrow board to glue panels up.

-A total of 8 ft of 4/4 alder, 6″ wide (see note right above)

-One sheet of 1/4″ alder plywood. Don’t spend extra to get two sided ply, only one side will show in this project.

As I mention in the materials list, you should have quite a bit of scrap wood left from the bed project. This is the time to use it!

Start by taking some 6/4 Alder and cutting to about 18 inches in length. Width doesn’t really matter much; in fact, random widths may look more natural. You’ll want a total of about 15″ of width. We’re going a little bit longer than the final dimensions to leave room for squaring everything up and adding the tongue for the breadboard ends. Joint both edges, either on a jointer (which I have bought since doing to bed, such a time saver) or, as I did with these pieces, by using a hand plane.

Dry fit the pieces together to make sure the edges are flush against eachother.

Now, glue everything together with clamps and cauls. The cauls, clamped on both sides of the piece, help hold the piece flat. We’re going to plane this down, but the flater the surface, the easier.

I lost a lot of pictures when I changed phones, so here’s the gist of what we’re doing next. After everything is glued, use a power or hand planer to get everything down to about 1″ or 3/4″ thick. The thickness doesn’t matter much, depending on how warped everything is you may or may not need to take more. Don’t go less than 3/4 though.

Joint one of the long edges flat with your hand planer. Use that edge against the fence of your table saw to cut the top to 14″ in width. Then, use the miter gauge on your table saw and a stop block to make one of the side edges perpendicular to the two long parallel edges you just made. Finally, using the miter gauge again to keep everything square, make the final cut at 13″. It should look something like this at that point:


We left it at 13″ wide because we’re going to have two breadboard ends, one on each side. They will be 2″ wide each. We will take a half inch off each side of the top we built to create a tongue, which will combine with the four total inches of breadboards to give us a 16″ wide finished top. Here’s a brief video on doing breadboard ends. You can also look at my table building process for a much larger scale version.

I did, however, find a few ways to make the breadboard end process simpler using a table saw for these small pieces. You can use the miter gauge and stop block, as we did before, to make the tongue. Use the stop block on the rip fence to set the blade so it will take a 1/2 inch cut. Then, set the depth. We want to take 1/3 the thickness off each side. In my case, that meant a 1/4 inch deep cut. Start this video at about 1:30 for a visual explanation. A breadboard end, after all, is essentially a giant tongue and groove joint.

Another thing I did differently was I did a stopped groove to conceal the tongue on the breadboard. That would look like this.

Image result for breadboard ends on table

I cut the groove using a 1/4 inch bit in my router. I marked the edges of the bit with table on my router table, and did a plunge cut, in several passes, to do the internal groove. I didn’t bother hauncing the tenons, I just left the tongue one uniform depth. But I did use drawbore dowels.

Here’s what the top should look like when all is said and done! I stained exactly the same as we did on the bed: Bartley Brown Mahogany Gel Stain and multiple coats of wipe-on polyurethane.

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