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How to Build a DIY Mid-Century Modern Bedside/Night Stand

I had some leftover White Oak from some Arts and Crafts Dining Chairs I built a little while back, and it was almost exactly the amount I needed for a pair of Mid-Century Modern nightstands. Because most of the stock I purchased for that project was 8/4, it meant that I had a lot of dimensioning and resawing todo.

resawing material to proper dimensions for mid-century modern night stand

Getting Started on the Body of the Night Stand

I set my table saw blade to 45 degrees and cut a beveled edge on each of the panels, riding the square edge up against the fence. At this point, I wanted to trim as little off the panels as possible, as I wanted to have plenty of room for final trimming. With a 45 degree bevel cut on one end of each panel, I set my fence to 19 inches to trim my top and bottom panels to final length. I made sure to cut all four top and bottom panels for my pair of nightstands while the fence was set, to make sure the measurement was exactly the same on each panel. After trimming the top and bottom panels to length, I repeated the same process for the sides, setting the fence to 13 ¼”. The last cut to make on the panels was a 45 degree bevel on the front edge of all of the panels. This is optional, but I think the bevel on the front edge is one of the biggest design elements of these mid-century modern nightstands.

Assembling the Night Stand

To help with assembly, I decided to add some biscuits in the corners of the nightstand carcass. Biscuits are extremely helpful when it comes to aligning the corners of a beveled cabinet like this and they also add a good bit of strength to the mitered corners. After cutting the biscuit slots, I moved onto assembling the carcass, which went pretty smoothly. I really like to use strap clamps when assembling mitered carcasses as they help hold things in place while I add clamps. One of the panels bowed a little bit overnight, and the straps helped persuade the panels to lie flat during the glue up. Once the glue dried, I removed the clamps, sanded off any glue squeeze out, and then moved over to the router table to cut the rabbit into the back of the cabinet to accept the back panel. I used a ½” rabbeting bit and probably should have made this cut in two passes because Oak is extremely stringy and loves to tear out in huge chunks, but luckily I didn’t have any major issues.

Next, I cut the back panels to size from some scraps of ¼” plywood I had on hand, and then rounded the corners with my random orbit sander so that they’d fit into the rabbit. I could have used a chisel to square up the corners on the cabinet, but I find that sanding the back is usually faster. To attach the back panel to the nightstand, I used a little glue and a few brad nails. Once the back panel dried, I chamfered the sides and back edges using my router. Since the front edges are beveled, the chamfer bits bearing didn’t have anything to ride up against, so I pulled out my trusty block plane to chamfer those edges. Before chamfering, the front edges were extremely fragile, so I’d definitely recommend doing this. Also, chamfering edges with a block plane is definitely one of woodworking’s greatest pleasures.

chamfer edges of drawer with hand plane

Time to Start the Drawers

With the cabinets done, it was time to move onto the drawers. For the drawer fronts, I wanted to give them an interesting aesthetic, so, after cutting the drawer fronts to size, I drew a little curve that would serve as the drawer pull. I cut out the curve on the bandsaw, although a jigsaw would work fine if you don’t have a bandsaw, and then refined the curve using my oscillating belt sander. Next, I traced the curve onto the second drawer front, cut away the excess at the bandsaw, making sure to stay proud of my line, and then moved over to the router table. I attached the drawer front with the refined curve to the other drawer front with double sided tape, and then used a flush trim bit to cut the second drawer front to match. Next, I rounded over the top edges of the drawer front, since this is where your hands will come into contact with it, and then moved over to the laser cutter.

I use the Full Spectrum Muse, their new hobby laser. It has a camera inside that allows you to place your artwork on the piece you’re laser engraving with pretty good accuracy. I found this geometric pattern on Google images and just dragged and dropped it into RetinaEngrave, Full Spectrum’s software. After getting my settings dialed in, I sent the job to the laser and it got to engraving. This engraving process took about 30 minutes, and I made sure that the artwork bled over the edges so it would be an edge-to-edge design. This step is completely optional. Since the laser only cuts in a small focus area, the laser won’t damage the bed of the laser cutter even through it’s cutting over the edges. While the laser cutter worked, I go to work on the drawers. The drawer sides are made of ½” plywood and the bottoms are made from ¼” plywood. I cut the sides, fronts, and backs to size at the table saw. I decided to use hardwood drawer slides on this build, since the drawers won’t see heavy use, so I cut a ¾” wide groove into the drawer sides to accept the drawer slides using a dado stack. The depth of the cut will depend on your drawer slides, but I went with a ¼”deep groove. Next, I cut the drawer bottoms to size on the table saw and miter saw. To assemble the drawer, I kept it really simple and just used 1” brad nails and glue. This is kind of an experiment, to see how the drawers hold up with no other extra fasteners. I have a feeling they’ll be just fine. One little trick to hide the drawer bottoms from view is to chamfer the edges so that the chamfer just meets the bottom of the drawer sides. It’s a really quick process and makes the drawers look a ton better.

Something I should have done before assembly was to cut a portion of the drawer front so that the interior drawer box will be hidden once the drawer front is attached. I just traced the shape of the drawer front onto the drawer box, cut it out with a jigsaw, and sanded it smooth. The last piece for the nightstands was the hardwood drawer slides, which I cut from a scrap piece of Hard Maple I had on hand. The slides ended up at ¾” thick by ½” wide. Now, you might be asking yourself, what about the legs? And that’s a good question. I had originally intended to turn some tapered legs on the lathe using some more leftover Oak I had. I spent a few hours last week getting my lathe all set up, cutting up some leg blanks, and then getting two out of the eight legs turned. I really enjoy turning, but I don’t enjoy turning the exact same thing over and over. It’s tedious and honestly kind of stressful. After finishing the second leg, I hopped online really quick, just to see how much a similar leg would cost. $2.50. Yes, two dollars and fifty cents, including the hardware to attach the legs to the brackets I’m using, and some metal feet on the bottoms of the legs. I decided to scrap the idea of turning them myself and just bought 8 legs.

Applying the Final Finish

Anyway, back to the project, I decided to ebonize the Oak and, after some research, found that some people were using India ink for this and I love the way it came out. This bottle was around $13 and I don’t even think I used half of it on this project. I just wiped on a heavy coat using a shop towel and let it dry overnight. The ink dried extremely quickly, as I think it’s alcohol based, and according to the bottle, it even has shellac in it. A second coat wouldn’t hurt, especially on a wood with an open grain pattern like Oak, but I don’t think it needed it. For the finish, I decided to spray on a few coats of a water based polyurethane using my Q3 Platinum HVLP system by Fuji Spray. If you’ve watched many of my videos, you know that I love spraying on finishes, and the Q3 is an outstanding HVLP system. The sheer amount of adjustability in the air flow, fan shape, and amount of material that’s passing through the gun allows you to really dial in your finishing, and making adjustments when finishing different parts of a project is super simple. After the finish dried, it was time to assemble the nightstands.

spraying the finish on the mid century modern night stand with a fuji q3 hvlp sprayer

Final Assembly of the Legs and the Drawer

First, I installed the legs. This was pretty simple, I just needed to add these brackets I picked up online. I wanted the legs to splay both towards to sides as well as towards the front and back of the nightstand. To achieve this, I needed to mount the brackets at a 45 degree angle to the corners. I marked a center line using a speed square and measured in roughly four inches, then centered the bracket and added the included screws.

installing the legs on the mid century modern night stand

With the legs installed, I moved onto installing the drawer slides onto the sides of the cabinet using a few 1” screws. I made sure to pre-drill and countersink the holes, so that the heads of the screws were below the surface of the slides. To make the drawers slide a little easier, I added a little bit of paste wax to the drawer slides. I’ll apply the wax periodically to keep the drawers riding smoothly. Next, I added the drawer fronts to the drawer boxes, using the playing card trick to space the drawer front evenly. The little handle cutout allowed me to get a clamp onto the drawer front, and then I added a few screws from inside the drawer. With the drawers installed, the nightstands were done!




The Video and Blog Post was Created by Johnny Brooke of Crafted Workshop in partnership with Acme Tools.  Check out more of Johnny’s work on this Live Edge River Coffee Table, Walnut Conference Table or on his website at Crafted Workshop.

Bio: Johnny Brooke

Johnny started Crafted Workshop in May of 2016 and he’s built countless projects since then. He loves making things with his hands but, when he’s not in the shop, Johnny also loves craft beer, playing music, and hanging out with his wife. Johnny took Crafted Workshop full time in July of 2016 and hasn’t looked back since!

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