We made this side table out of 2x4s for less than $9, which we think is pretty dang cool! We did it as part of the Modern Maker #two2x4challenge and it was definitely a challenge! You could make this table with other types of wood and the steps will be easier (2x4s tend to warp and pine is soft), but the cheap material allowed us to experiment with some joinery techniques we’d never done before. We learned a lot and shared lots of little tidbits (and failures!) in the video.
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We’ve included free plans that have a cut list and measurements. The video and this post will go into more details, but the plans are a great reference for the nitty gritty numbers.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Two 10 feet 2x4s
- Titebond Original
- Titebond III (you probably don’t need both types of glue, we just had to switch to Titebond III later on in the build because we needed something that dried slower)
- Wax polish (Briwax)
- Wood filler
- 600 grit sandpaper
- Our plans
- Table saw
- Miter saw
- Random orbit sander
- Sanding block
- ½” (dia) dovetail bit
- Bessey clamps
- Wood glue brush
Squaring & the 2x4s
We started by giving our 2×4’s a nice square edge on all sides. The rounded edges they come with make it difficult to get a finished looking end product.
We ran the top and bottom of them through the planer.
Then we ran the left and right sides through the table saw, and then through the planer.
We did this before cutting them to length because we thought that would make all our boards more consistent, but it was a little unwieldy running 10-ft boards through a table saw. So it might be easier to cut them first (leaving extra length that you can trim off later).
Cutting & making panels
After squaring them up, we cut the 2x4s to length for our top panel, shelf, and legs on our miter saw. You can find the lengths and cut list in the plans we linked to earlier.
Everything got 10 degree miters: The legs are angled at 10 degrees, which means their ends need a 10 degree cut; and the shelf buts up against the legs so it therefore needs a 10 degree cut too. Technically, you could cut the top panel at 90 degrees but we thought 10 degrees would look nice, so that one is purely aesthetic.
Next we glued up the panels for our top piece and our shelf piece. We used Titebond Original wood glue here and Bessey clamps. We also have a little silicone brush that is awesome for applying the glue. We let these set overnight.
Then we ran our two panels through the planer one more time to level out any unevenness from our glue up.
Unfortunately, we got some snipe on the ends, which is when your board isn’t in contact with both rollers at the same time and the planer cuts the ends a little deeper.
We fixed this by running it through again and again with sacrificial boards in front of and behind it until we got rid of the snipe.
This part was a little tricky since we’ve never cut dados before. We angled our table saw blade to 10 degrees and raised the blade so it would cut about halfway through the thickness of our boards. There are dados in a few different places: two in the underside of the tabletop for the legs to go into, and one on the inside of each leg for the shelf to sit in.
We started with the tabletop. We measured where the outside of each dado needed to be and made marks at those points. We started our cuts there and worked our way inward.
We thought we’d widen our dado a little bit at a time and test fit the legs with each pass as we got close.
We tried to be careful, but we still cut our first dado a hair too big. Womp.
We cut new legs for that side and it ended up being fine (you can’t visibly tell a difference in the leg thickness), but we did learn to stop a little early with our cuts. An extra snug fit is ok, and you can use a wood mallet to pound the wood into place if it’s tight. Luckily, our second dado under the tabletop was fine.
Next we cut a dado on the inside of each leg. We actually did all the legs together to make sure the dados were consistent. We again used the method of marking where the dados needed to start and working our way down little by little.
To clean up our dados, we used a router with a ½” diameter dovetail bit and a chisel. The bit got the flat surfaces really well, and the chisel helped clean the corners (plus it was super satisfying).
With our dados cut, it was time to assemble. This table is put together with just wood glue, no screws involved. Unfortunately, when we started to assemble it we realized our shelf panel had warped a little.
2x4s are prone to warping, so if you use nicer wood you hopefully won’t have to worry about this happening as much. Luckily we were able to force it into place during our dry fit assembly.
However, it took us about 15 minutes to pound everything into place with that warped shelf, and our glue (Titebond III) has a set time of 10 minutes, so we literally had to race the clock for this assembly. If you don’t have any warping it won’t be as much of an issue.
All the pieces need to be assembled simultaneously. We applied glue to our dados, roughly put the legs where they need to be in the tabletop dados, sat the shelf in the leg dados, and used a mallet to inch everything into place. We clamped everything together and let the glue dry overnight.
The next day, we unclamped our piece and gave the whole thing a good sanding using a random orbit sander for the large surfaces and sanding blocks to get into harder to reach spots.
Then we used wood filler at each joint to fill in any gaps we couldn’t close before the glue set. We let it dry and sanded it off.
Next we gave it two coats of shellac and sanded lightly with 600 grit sandpaper between coats. If you are too heavy handed with the sanding or use too low of a grit, you’ll sand the shellac right off.
After the shellac, we gave it a coat of Briwax, which we then buffed off by placing a microfiber rag between our random orbit sander and the table. The finish came out reeeeally nice. It’s got some shine but isn’t overly shiny, and it feels super smooth.
We love how this side table turned out! Like we said earlier, this build would probably be easier with nicer, more expensive wood, but this was a great challenge and the cheap material really allowed us to experiment with some new techniques. Please let us know if you have any questions about this build. Thanks!
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