Maple Bedside Table
Finished in November, 2009
Once upon a time (maybe 2003?), I set out to build a bedside table that was roughly modeled after one I used as a boy. I eventually put the project aside and moved on without finishing it, and I've been carting the pieces around with me for the last 6 years or so. I finally decided to finish what I'd started, and add a secret compartment to the drawer while I was at it. The compartment is accessed by pressing the dowels at the back of the drawer, allowing it to be removed from the table. Pretty traditional, I suppose, but still fun to build.
Here's a picture of the drawer, taken out of the table. You can clearly see the secret compartment at the back. If you look closely, you can see the dowel-button on the far side, and the brass drawer stop mechanism on the near side. Click the picture for a larger version. Normally, the brass stops prevent the drawer from being accidentally removed from the table (a problem I had with the original table from time to time). The only visible part from the inside of the drawer are the ends of the dowels. They're intended to look like dowels that were simply glued into place to act as drawer stops, but they're actually buttons that press on a sprung lever and retract the stops.
You might notice a duplicate set of holes for the drawer stop hardware that is actually inside the secret compartment. This once again proves the old adage: measure twice, cut once. I really must have been out to lunch on that one, since it's pretty obviously wrong. I left the holes as they were, thinking that anyone who found the secret compartment would also learn a curious secret about the table's construction.
Here's a close-up of the dowel buttons, before installation in the drawer. They're made from a brass cap, with a steel pin to prevent it from rotating. Then the dowel is shaped to fit the cap, and epoxied into place. I soaked the dowels in polyurethane, thinking that it might prevent them from swelling due to humidity, and sticking in their holes. However, it's likely a futile attempt, since the holes themselves will still swell and shrink.
Here's a shot of the table before the top was attached. You can see the drawer slides, as well as the pieces that make up the body of the table. The joinery is all mortise and tenon. The shelf that the drawer sits on is actually another secret compartment -- the whole thing pivots up, and it can then be accessed from the drawer opening. There's enough room in there that it's not especially subtle, unfortunately. Next time, I'll design for subtlety rather than storage space. :-)
You can also see the holes drilled in the tops of the legs. These are for the bolts that hold the top on. The bolts go through slots in the top, to allow for minimal expansion & contraction due to changes in humidity. Then they were glued into these holes. It feels quite solid. Hopefully I left enough play that seasonal humidity changes won't rip the table apart.
Finally, here's a shot of the finished table. It seems a bit crude to me, but also not bad for a first attempt at furniture. This project taught me that I still have a lot to learn about building furniture, both in terms of design and construction.
The legs of the original table were actually very slightly splayed... so the sides & back were trapezoidal rather than rectangular. This was subtle enough that I never noticed until I went to measure it in detail. Although it must have complicated the construction quite a bit, it also gave the piece a very graceful appearance. My solution was to simply taper the legs... this does leave a vaguely similar impression, but the table appears much more square than the one I grew up with.
For some reason, I thought it would be a good idea to build the table from "good, thick wood". The divider for the secret compartment is probably the only piece less than 3/4" thick. In the end, though, I don't think that accomplished much beyond increasing the materials cost and the weight. I need to become more comfortable with delicately sized pieces if I want to achieve a more graceful appearance.