I love designing furniture and have created many pieces in my house. I have a bar table that is a little worse for wear and devoid of storage possibilities.
Instead, I have taken the challenge to create, using simple materials and techniques, a sophisticated sideboard in mid-century modern style. In doing so, sharing the project in a step by step manner which will allow the reader to reproduce this piece of furniture with the ability to utilize the design as cabinetry in different forms. This concept will become clear as this article progresses.
Here is the sideboard:
First of all you will need this list of materials:
- Two 2″ x 2″ x 8′ lumber preferably in a hardwood for the legs.
- Two sheets of 4′ x 8′ furniture grade plywood or four sheets of 4′ x 4′ plywood or 8 sheets of 2′ x 4′ sheets of plywood. An excellent grade of pine is fine, but birch or better grades of plywood are even better. If you intend to paint instead of stain the surface, then a less expensive piece of wood is OK as long as the finish is durable and the substrate is strong. Of course, if you know how to plane and join hardwoods or can find boards in the proper size, then using solid wood such as hickory or maple will produce furniture that will last a very long time and provide an exquisite surface. Another note, many hardware stores or lumber yards carry plywood already cut to the above dimensions. I purposefully designed this piece so those without a lot of tools could buy supplies pre-cut. Unfortunately, this only goes for the top and bottom.
- A good quality wood glue.
- Pivot hinges. Not entirely necessary, other sorts of hinges are possible, but you will have to account for changes in width or other accommodations for the shape of the hinges.
- Sandpaper from coarse to very fine. An orbital sander would be ideal for obtaining a very smooth surface.
These are the only materials one will need. The only other important note is the tools. This project utilizes a pocket joint. To accomplish a pocket joint, a special jig is a necessity. A pocket joint jig allows an angled hole where a self-tapping screw establishes a butt joint between surfaces. A Wikipedia article on the pocket joint. One other thing, the simple jigs are not very expensive at all, starting at 19 dollars and up.
In order to cut the sides, middle, shelves and doors, a metal-cutting guide will help considerably. A circular or jig saw will work as long as you use the appropriate blade for cutting fine wood.
Here, too, one does not need an expensive guide system. A straight piece of wood and a couple of clamps to secure the material will suffice as a guide. Since you will be making just a few straight cuts, a fancy or complicated system is entirely unnecessary.
To install the doors and to drill the pocket joint holes, it will be vital to have a drill. Nothing fancy. A simple inexpensive electric drill will do.
- The top, bottom and back of the sideboard are 2′ x 4′ so you need three pieces and as mentioned above, lumber yards and hardware stores sell plywood in this size.
- The sides and middle are 23 1/4″ x 24″ so cut three of these. It should be noted that 2′ x 2′ pieces are sold in many places.
- The two shelves are 20 7/8″ x 22 1/2″. The width of 20 7/8″ makes this shelf flush with the supporting pieces. If want the shelves to move or you will be using adjustable shelving pegs, you will need to cut the width narrower accordingly.
- The two doors are 23 7/8″ in height and 20 3/4″ in width. The doors fit inset to the carcass of the cabinet and, therefore, should have enough reduction in the width and height so that the door easily closes and opens on pivot hinges. Depending on the thickness of the pivot hinge attachment plate, the door height can be cut to 23 3/4″ allowing for more room to swing.
- Cut 4 legs at 27 1/2″. if you wish to have the side table taller simply increase the length allowing for more space between the bottom and the floor. Since the tops of the legs are flush with the top of the table, no other changes are created by giving more height.
Begin by attaching two of the legs to the back. Pre-drill the pocket joint holes to permit easier assembly. You probably do not need as many pocket joint holes as seen in the following images of the back. Five or six on each side attaching the back to the legs is probably enough. Also, be careful with pocket joint jigs. A tendency to move the material when attaching can leave the surfaces uneven. Use clamps to stabilize the two pieces that you are joining before screwing tight.
Note: Glue only where the legs are secured to the top and bottom. You may glue elsewhere, but due to the expansion and contraction of wood, without glue wood can adjust to the humidity and temperature. However, plywood has layers of wood with the grain in different directions and the contraction and expansion may not be that great. If you are using a less expensive plywood that could use the extra strength, use glue liberally. However, if you have decided to take on this project with hardwood, use glue where the grain follows in the same direction and sparingly in spots.
The back will be 3/4″ from the top of the legs. This is to account for the 3/4″ reserved for the table top.
You can next affix the top and bottom to the back and front legs and to the back panel. (Before installing the top and bottom, these two pieces will receive the sides and middle supports. It is a good idea to mark where these supports will go on the top and bottom before doing anything else to make them easier to insert later on. Look further down for placement.)
Only the bottom can have two pocket holes on each corner. The table top can have two in the front, but only one in the back since 3/4″ of the 1 1/2″ leg is taken up by the back panel. Before attaching the legs, make sure to drill any holes beforehand.
Next install the sides and the middle piece. (If you want to use a peg system for adjustable shelves, mark for the holes now. See the section below about the shelves.)
If you wish to give the cabinetry extra strength by providing pocket holes on the back of the three upright pieces in order to attach to the back panel, that is entirely alright.
Now that we have the legs, back, top, bottom, sides and middle pieces connected, the only thing left is the shelves and doors.
The shelves may be attached by various methods. Yet to make them adjustable, drill two rows of holes on the middle and side supports that will accept pegs. Hardware stores have brass pegs for shelves that just require insertion into a hole. Obviously, marking for these holes before installing the pieces will be much more convenient. Here is a video about adjustable shelves:
In this case the doors are installed with pivot hinges. The direction for installing pivot hinges is given above in a video. Nevertheless, pivot hinges come in a few different forms and instructions may be included when buying them or on the manufacturer’s or company’s website. At any rate, plenty of information is readily available.
The graphics being used display a circular wood handle made by cutting a circle in half, offsetting the application of the half circles so that they meet on the edge of the central support and act as a stop. Using a handle from a store means you will also have to think about a stop to prevent the door from banging the insides. The simplest and easiest to install is a magnetic stop. This can be as simple as a small L shaped bracket as the stop and a magnetic strip on the door. Whatever you might purchase will most likely come with instructions. Of course, if you decide to go with something like the round wood door handle (very mid-century modern), you might not need a trip to the hardware store for a stop. One other thing concerning the doors, the shelves dimensions will only allow the door to shut flush anyway. Why all the information about stops, then? You don’t want the doors constantly banging against the edge of the shelves and you want the doors to stay closed.
This is it, except for the painting or staining. Whichever you use, I suggest a glossy finish. The mid-century modern look to the cabinet certainly suggests such a finish.
Here are some further suggestions on color and finishes:
This simple and inexpensive cabinet design can work very well as cabinetry and storage for small spaces:
The sink and cooktop installation involves simple cutouts with a sabre saw and access through the back. The unit with shelves is created by extending the back 27 1/2″ legs an additional 36″, hanging some IKEA shelf supports and adding 12″ shelving. A convection oven in the bottom and one has a small kitchen system.
If you decide to tackle this project, good luck. Since I am making one myself, I will append the images to this article as soon as they are available.