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Build simple nightstands in just a few hours from inexpensive construction lumber. A pair costs as little as $50.
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Cut the legs (A) and top rails (B) to length (Project Diagram, Cutting List and Cutting Diagram). The materials are enough to complete two tables. Adjust your pocket-hole jig for 1-1/2-inch-thick material, and clamp it in place angled about 15-degrees to slightly overhang the top rail edge. Drill two pocket holes in both ends of each rail (Project Diagram, Drawing 1 and Drawing 2).
Angled pocket holes allow a drill -- with the added length of the long driver bit for pocket-hole screws -- to fit between the legs when screwing the top rails to the legs.
Use an orbital sander to finish-sand the parts; sand the faces, edges, and ends. Sand round-overs on the ends of the legs and rails that match the rounded edges of the construction lumber.
Secure the rails to the legs by driving pocket-hole screws through the angled holes in the rails (B) into the legs (A), keeping the top faces and edges even (Project Diagram, Drawing 2).
This project uses just a few feet of four different widths of construction-grade lumber, so be sure to pick out straight boards with nice, even grain. When cutting these short parts, work around small knots or blemishes.
Cut the top (C) and side cleats (D) to length (Project Diagram, Cutting List and Cutting Diagram). Drill two pocket holes in both ends of each cleat and two pocket holes in each edge of the top (Project Diagram, Drawing 1). Finish-sand the faces, edges, and ends. Sand round-overs on the ends.
With the parts upside down on your workbench, clamp the top (C) between the end frames (A/B). Drive pocket-hole screws through the top into the top rails (B) (Project Diagram, Drawing 2). Leave the assembly upside down on the work bench.
To position the side cleats (D), cut a 7-1/4-inch-long spacer from scrap. Place the spacer under one cleat, clamp the cleat between the legs, and drive the pocket screws. Repeat with the second cleat.
Cut the shelf halves (E) to length. Drill two pocket holes in both ends of each shelf half. Finish-sand the faces, edges, and ends. Sand slight round-overs on the edges and ends.
To center the shelf (E/E) on the width of the side cleats (D), cut two 7-7/8-inch-long spacers from scrap. Mark the midpoint of the length of each cleat on the inside face. Place the spacers under one shelf half, align the inside edge of the shelf half with the marks on the cleats, and drive the pocket screws. Repeat with the second shelf half.
If you’re finishing the project in one color of stain or paint, you’re ready to apply the finish. If you’re using multiple finishes like we did, remove the shelf and before you stain the parts.
By removing the shelf parts you avoid the need to mask off the parts while applying the different finishes. To save time, apply the two different finishes to the parts at the same time.
We applied white paint to the shelf and stained the remainder of the nightstand. After the stain dries overnight, apply at least two coats of satin polyurethane.
Lightly sand between coats of paint or polyurethane with a fine-grit sanding sponge to remove small dust nibs. After sanding, wipe the parts with a tack rag and apply the next coat.
Reinstall the shelf.