First nightstand constructed (ready for finish)

First nightstand ready to have finish applied
First nightstand ready to have finish applied

I finished the first nightstand this week. Okay, I completed everything except the finish. I’m planning on building the second table and then applying finish to both.

Overall, the table turned out okay. It isn’t perfect, but looks nice. The drawer is still a touch tight, so I may plane the sides a touch thinner before applying the finish.

This is a pretty basic piece of furniture. The four legs are square, with a slight taper starting 6-inches from the top. The aprons and stretchers are connected using mortises and tenons. The top was constructed from thee pieces of oak, and attached using screws.

The drawer is made from solid oak. The box is constructed with dovetails. They are hand-cut dovetails, and it was my first attempt at making a drawer, so the dovetails aren’t perfect. The bottom is made from two pieces of oak that I resawed (by hand – they were too wide for the bandsaw) to 3/8″ thick.

What am I happy with on this build:

  • The wood is clear and the case looks nice. It is built from quartersawn red oak that I had cut from a tree that was taken down in Ledyard two years ago. I have an entire section of the tree cut into boards, so I have enough wood to make a full matching bedroom set.
  • The solid drawer bottoms – I debated using plywood, but I like the feel of the solid bottom. The panel is aligned so that the wood will expand and contract from front to back (and shouldn’t bind the drawer in the summer)
  • Most of the joinery is pretty clean. Not perfect, but it is getting better.
  • The drawer front is a good fit. I’m hoping that there is enough gap that the drawer won’t bind in the summer, but it is quartersawn and shouldn’t move too much.

What will I do differently on the next build:

  • I messed up the mortise for the bottom rail. It isn’t inset enough (the front of the mortise is lined up with the front of the rail). There is a slight gap and no front shoulder on the corresponding tenon. I’ll need to set the mortise back 1/8″ on the next build
  • I will try routing the mortises on the router table. I don’t have the best mortise chisel for 1/4″ mortises. I think the router table may be quicker to get all the mortises finished. But I am not sure if I can get the full depth of mortise on the router table. The current mortises are 1″ deep.
  • I’ll be more careful on the thickness of the spacers to guide the drawer. On this project they were a little too thick which requires me to plane the sides of the drawers a little thinner (and leaves a little larger gap around the drawers than I wanted).
  • I need to be more careful making sure that the drawer front and sides are flush on the bottom.
  • I would like to have the dovetails be cleaner right off the saw. I know that just comes with practice.
  • The half-blind dovetails were tough to get clean.
  • I need a better bench to cut joinery on.
  • I need a better way to hold the piece down when I’m cleaning out the dovetails.
  • I never properly sharpened my skew chisels. That (and the previous comment) made for a bigger pain cleaning out the half-blind dovetails than they should have been. A dovetail chisel would be a nice addition to the toolbox.
Nightstand drawer
Nightstand drawer

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