Side Table

by Dan Phalen
Can A Side Table Be Both Functional and Attractive?

When my wife decided to redesign the guest bedroom, we came up with a need for a new bedside table. She wanted a simple design, but also something quirky and fun to go with her "beach" theme of blue and green pastels. The web didn't offer much in the way of plans or ideas, so I made up my own. The neat thing about this design is that it can be customized to suit just about any style and taste.


sidetable 025.jpg

Shop Raw

sidetable 014.jpg

It had to have certain things:

  • Single drawer
  • Shelf
  • Not a face frame look
  • Wide enough to fill bedside corner


The plans for this table are free and include dimensioned drawings that match the parts in the material list provided.

Wood Selection

Since it would be finished with paint, I went with marupa, a very nice but inexpensive hardwood with straight grain, no figure, Marupa is light weight and easily machinable. Only drawback is that it stinks when sawn.

The picture below shows all the body parts laid out except for the lower shelf and drawer supports. The legs are maple machined from some scrap legs lying in a bin at my lumber store (Crosscut in Portland). The price was right ($3.00 total) and all I had to do was plane two sides of each and cut to length.


Materials List

materials list

Marking Parts for Alignment

It's a good idea to mark mortises and tenons for fit. Each leg has two joints for the aprons and two for the stretchers, totaling 16 in all. I still make my mortises with a 3/8" spiral cut router bit and chiseled ends, so no two are exactly alike.


I use penciled letters to match each tenon with its respective mortise. Use your own marking method as long as it works. By the time you get to glue-up, these pieces will be scrambled all over the shop, and you need a marking system to get them back together the way you started.


Dry Assembly

Here's a look at the pieces put together for a dry fit. This approach helped me assure the whole assembly went together square and flush.

dry fit
dry fitdry fit

Drawer Supports

The drawer is supported by stretchers that tie into each front apron segment, as well as the back apron. Here'a how it looks.

dwr support

and...fastened to the back apron. Note the runner glued to the bottom of the drawer support. At 3 1/2" each support end is shorter than the support height (3 11/16") and runner thickness (5/16) to provide clearance for the hold-down button.


Drawer Construction

The drawer is as simple as you can get. No exotic dovetails, just a plain, functional dado/groove assembly to assure a tight, square fit.

Hold-down Buttons

Closeup of the hold-down buttons in place for the lower shelf. The top of the buttons allows the 1/2" birch ply shelf to rest flush with the tops of the leg stretchers. When fastened with #8 x 1" screws, they pull the shelf down snug.


These were made from 3/4" MDF milled down to 9/16" on the bench planer. They're 1 3/4" deep by 1 1/2" wide, with a dado cut 3/8" x 3/8" to form the tongue that slides into the apron dado as shown. Same approach takes care of the top. Can't claim the idea as my own, but I like it because it allows for natural wood movement.


Here it is all painted with decorator handle and side table stuff. I'm pretty happy with it, and Sue says it's a keeper.


Thanks for looking, and I hope you enjoyed your visit.



EB Cover

Before the age of kings,
 when God was a woman...

Sumer, 3,200 BC. Under the watchful eye of a deadly cobra, Nippur’s empath queen Uruna risks her life and mankind’s future to foresee an alternative to war. Torn between her longing for love and her pledge as bride to a nation, she defies a power-mad priest and his insurgent army. But her gamble demands a personal cost more shattering than her worst nightmare. Read more...

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