I’m so excited to share a guest post today from one of my favorite DIY friends. Chris is always creating the most interesting pieces for the home he shares with wife Courtney and (very hyper) puppy Ellie. Not only that, he’s half of a great band! Here’s how he made these great nightstands:
“My life, to this point, can be broken in to a few distinct phases (regarding mechanical skills, at least). First there were the Boy Scout years of my childhood, during which I regarded my dad as superman and wanted to emulate him and all the hard work he did for us around the house. I had my own small tool chest and would follow him from room-to-room and project-to-project, pretending like I was actually a help.
This was followed by my rebellious teenage phase, during which anything tools was uncool and I needed to keep at least 100 feet from. Now, in my homeowner years, my dad is once again superman and I have to learn as much as possible from him so I don’t have to pay some jerk to come fix things around my house that I could be doing for little money and time.
Furniture is one of those things that gives me sticker shock. At this point, I generally know my own skills and what it takes to make certain pieces, so when I see some flimsy piece online selling for ludicrous amounts, my first thought is: I could do that for so much less. One of those items that got my creative juices flowing is a nightstand.
My grandmother left me a very nice solid oak bedroom set, including two dressers, a bedframe, and one nightstand. I love the furniture, but having one nightstand was a bit of an issue for my wife. Mostly because I claimed it for myself. (In my defense, I often stay up late reading for hours after she’s fallen asleep, so I need the light, and stand for the light, on my side of the bed.)
Of course, I want to make my wife happy, so I decided to make us a matching set of nightstands and stain them to match the furniture left to me from my grandma.
My first step was to come up with a plan for what these nightstands should look like. I considered several options, and showed them to my wife, but what we agreed on was a rectangular box, open on two sides, with hairpin legs. It was rustic and modern and, perhaps most importantly, easy to make and low-cost.
I like rustic, or shabby chic (but that’s too girly a term for me to use), furniture. So, to make these nightstands I procured a few pallets from a friend in order to upcycle the wood. Pallets are made of very hard oak and held together with large nails inserted by airgun. That means I wasn’t going to try to pry the nails out of pallets myself: it’s an exercise in futility. I went straight for the circular saw and cut off both ends, leaving long planks connected by a couple nails in a 2×4 in the middle. With just this middle board left, I was able to use leverage to pry the planks off, giving me plenty of wood to work with and some nail holes in the middle to add character to my nightstands.
With the wood free, I selected the best boards for the stands. First I chose the straightest boards, then, from that, I chose the boards with similar thickness. Once I had those separated, I put together boards that would look nice together and had unique characteristics. Some boards had a stamp from the lumber mill on them, others had big knotholes, and some had texture from the saw visible; this is a totally subjective process and everyone will have to choose for themselves what they want from their table.
With my wood chosen, I measured the size I wanted (using my old nightstand as a guideline for width and height) and marked that off on the boards. I marked it in a way that included the unique variations in the wood and kept the nail holes from lining up (the plan was to make it look rustic, after all, OCD be damned). With the measurements marked on the boards (remember: measure twice, cut once), I took the boards to miter saw and cut them all down to the right size.
When the sanding was complete, I began applying stain. I used a cherry stain to match the furniture we already have, but you can use whatever looks best to you. I applied the stain with an old undershirt I tore up, but any lint-free rag or foam brush will work just as well. I like using a shirt because I could just toss away the scrap after I was done with that application. To match my furniture I needed three applications of stain; there is no right number of applications, however, it’s all based on preference.
After staining I did an initial coat of semi-gloss polyurethane (you could also use satin, if you prefer that texture). I did this before assembly because I knew there would be parts of the wood it would be hard or impossible to apply clear coat to after assembly, but I still wanted to protect those areas; I only did one coat before assembly, though.
For assembly, I started with one side and one board for the top. I used a clamp to the hold the board in place, drilled a pilot hole in the middle of the plank where I wanted the screw to go, and then inserted a wood screw to secure it to the side. With this board in place, I propped the top piece up on a small bucket (use anything that will give you the right height here) and put a wood screw in on the other side so that the plank was screwed into both sides and able to stand on its own. From here I just kept going, screwing the planks for the bottom and top onto the sides one at a time. I made sure to lay all the boards out as I was going so I knew the proper place to screw each board into so that the fit was nice all around.
Once the rectangular boxes were complete I applied another coat of polyurethane. Because I had laid the first coat on pretty thick, I only applied the second coat to the top, sides, and the upper portion of the bottom. These are areas that will have things resting on them all the time and will be touched the most. I did not reapply to the underside of the top planks or the bottom because these will not be in contact with items.
For the legs of my nightstands I chose to use metal hairpin legs to give my rustic wooden box a modern, mid-century compliment. I scoured the internet for deals on legs and found this Etsy shop, CDM Custom Legs, to have the best deals (including shipping; these legs proved to be cheaper than even wooden legs).
I got 20” legs because my boxes were approximately 8”, which made the nightstands 28”, my ideal height. I got raw metal legs, and because I chose raw metal I had to add a polyurethane coat to the legs myself. I had to add polyurethane because humidity in the air will cause these legs to oxidize and rust and stain my carpet (if you’re putting these on hardwood floors make sure you put something underneath them, because the point of the “pin” will leave dents in the floor without something underneath spreading the load).
Applying the clear coat was simple, however. I chose a satin polyurethane for the legs and applied two coats with a foam brush. It dried quickly and added just a little time to the overall construction.
With the boxes built and polyurethane applied to the boxes and legs, the only thing left to do was to screw the legs into place. The holes on the legs did not line up with any of the screws I used in the box, but its always good to dry fit the legs in place to make sure this doesn’t happen with your nightstands. To secure the legs I used the saw 1 1/2” wood screws I used on the boxes, but I only used these on the sides because I was going through both the planks used for the bottom and the sides of the boxes. For the third screw, I purchased ½” screws that would not poke out from the bottom into the open area of the box. Once again, I drilled pilot holes before inserting the screw, being very careful not to drill to far for the ½” screws.
With all eight legs (that’s for two tables, of course) in place, my work was done. All that was left to do was put the nightstands by my bed and receive gratuitous compliments from my grateful wife and admiring friends — which is what it’s all for, really. ”
Thanks to Chris for sharing these great pallet nightstands that have an undeniable midcentury feel to them. Can’t wait to see the next project he makes! And don’t forget to check out Finer Feelings — they just released a new album and there’s not a bad song on it 🙂