Easy Project: Everyone always has a number of items that gather on the bedside table, such as keys, change, watches, and wallet. Here is a simple, stylish box that will allow you to keep such items close at hand and eliminate clutter at the same time.
When choosing wood for this project, keep in mind that contrasting species will give you the most visually interesting result. The box featured here is a combination of walnut and cherry. All cuts on this project are simple, square 90º cuts, and the project is held together with dowels and glue.
Begin by preparing your stock to the proper thickness (see materials list). There are two different thicknesses of material required. The sides and the top are 3/4″, and the legs are just under 1″ square. I was fortunate enough to find a nicely figured piece of cherry that was wide enough to make the top from one solid piece. If you can’t find material wide enough, you could easily glue it up from narrower pieces.
Mill all of the 3/4″ thick parts to the final thickness and then cut the front, back, and sides to the final length and width. Each of these parts require a 1/4″ x 1/4″ dado the full length of the part to hold the bottom in place. The dadoes can be cut either on a router table or on a table saw. Set these parts aside and prepare the 15/16″ x 15/16″ stock for the legs. After these have been dimensioned and cut to length, take the time to mark the inside faces of the parts, including the legs. All dowel holes must be referenced from the same edge, if everything is to line up properly later.
Each leg is joined to the sides with three dowels per edge. I designed a special doweling jig to make this easier, but the same thing could be accomplished with a marking gauge and some dowel centers. To make it easier, use the top of your table saw and fence as a reference surface. Once you have drilled the holes for the dowels in the legs and sides, test fit the pieces together with the dowels. Mark notches on the legs where the bottom will sit in. These notches are quite small so they are easily cut with a small saw and cleaned up with a chisel.
Cut the top to size and mill the 1/4″ material for the handle and runners (that hold the top in place). To make the stand-offs for the handle, I started with a piece of 3/4″ x 1-1/8″ walnut, about a foot long. Use a slot cutter on the router table to cut a ¼” groove centered on the edge, and along the length of the piece.
From this blank cut the two stand-offs so that the base is 1″ wide, and the top edge with the groove is 3/4″ wide. Drill a countersunk hole for two #8 screws in the top (location shown in illustration). To avoid splitting the stand-offs during assembly, pre-drill for the shank of the screw as well. Also, drill a countersunk hole in the end of each runner.
Sand all of the parts through to 220-grit. Then, chamfer the bottom edges of the legs, and all edges of the top, with a block plane. Chamfer the bottom ends of each runner to allow it to seat in the opening easily. Once all sanding and shaping has been completed, finish the exposed faces of all of the parts with a finish of your choice. I used a Watco Oil, followed by a wax polish.
Test fit the body of the box. Then, assemble the dowel joints with glue.
To situate the runners in the proper spot on the underside of the top, center the top on the base. Clamp a 6-3/16″ strip of wood to the top, so that it sits along the sides and between the legs. Remove the top and flip it over. Place a piece of wood the same size as the sides alongside the guides, and centered front to back. Place the runners alongside these ‘sides’, and mark the center of the countersunk holes. Drill a pilot hole for the screws and mount the runners.
To mount the wooden handle, screw the two stand-offs to the top from the underside. Use the cherry handle to line the two parts up before tightening the screws. Once the stand-offs have been screwed down, remove the cherry handle, spread some glue on the inside of the groove, and press the handle back in place.
Now, if there is enough room on your bedside table, set it down and fill it up.