SketchUp to Reality - bedside table

I use Google SketchUp (SU) to do a lot of doodling and planning. Sometimes I actually produce something which I have modeled. This is a nightstand I made for my daughter.

Besides basic assumptions for a bed side table, the design criteria were:

1. It had to fit stylistically with her present furniture and be neutral enough to fit with future furniture.

2. It needed to incorporate some bins.

3. It had to minimally block the vent which it will be on top of.

4. It had to be quick & easy to build.

After Googling around looking at bedside tables, I drew first on paper just to think about the design, then started in SU. I modeled the height of her bed and the window behind it to help get the size and proportions right. We purchased bins and I modeled those.

I used pocket screw joinery to assemble it. I bought a "Kreg Jig" system earlier this year and I have found it to be extremely useful. It is a quick and strong way of assembling things. It's not "fine woodworking," but not everything needs to be.

In addition to the model of the nightstand in place, I copied the components onto imaginary boards to optimize lumber usage. One of the "scenes" in the model shows the diagram below. I had planned on gluing up lumber to get 12" wide panels, but when I went to purchase the wood, lumber which would dress to 11 1/4" was available. I quickly updated the model and was good to go. The pine lumber was nominal 3/4" thick.

I used hand planes to prepare the wood, a guide and a circular saw for the crosscuts, and handsaws for the rips and curves. My router broke just before I started this project, so I was not able to use a router bit to round the edges. I did that with a block plane and sandpaper which resulted in a nice handmade look.

I sanded and scraped the pine and on first assembly, found that the wood was substantially less than 3/4" Using 1 1/4" Kreg screws for that size resulted in some of the screw points coming through the sides of the boards. I disassembled it, moved the boards slightly and replaced the screws with smaller ones.

I do not find finishing intuitive, but I am pleased with how this turned out. After I assembled the piece the first time, I disassembled it and finished it flat. Finishing individual pieces is much easier than working with completed furniture. The downside is that all the glue surfaces are covered with finish. If I were doing it again, I would mask the glue surfaces. Between the lack of glue and the smaller screws, I have some concern about structural integrity, but it feels solid enough.

I wanted to learn about shellac because I had never used it before. Shellac’s great fault is that it is soluble in alcohol, so you wouldn't want to use it anyplace where an alcoholic drink might be placed on it.

I used Zinsser Bulls Eye shellac. The shellac as it comes out of the can is very thick. Finishers refer to that thickness as a three-pound cut. A three-pound cut means - if the shellac had been made from flakes, as it used to be, it would have used three pounds of flakes mixed in one gallon of denatured alcohol. For the first coat, I added two units of hardware store denatured alcohol, making it a one-pound cut. Subsequent coats were a two-pound cut. I sanded with 400 grit to smooth the surface between coats. I also applied a gel stain between the 2nd and third layers.

After the four layers of shellac, I applied Trewax, Mahogany wax with 000 steel wool, then buffed it. Unfortunately, where I had put the wax on in a swirling pattern, there was a slight stain on the shellac. Repeating the waxing as below, eliminated almost all of the stains.

Next time, I will not leave as much wax on the surface while it is drying. It should be just enough to create a haze with no ridges. I would also apply the wax with the grain. The final finish has substantial depth.

The customer is happy and I'm pleased to be able to show it to friends. The model is available in the 3d warehouse here.