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How would you approach this Nightstand Build?

1001 Views 15 Replies 9 Participants Last post by  CWWoodworking
I'm going to be building my first official piece of furniture and I wanted to start with this simple nightstand from RH Modern.

From what I gather, the frame is 2" thick with a White Oak (pewter stained) veneer. I don't have a ton of experience with veneers so I was balancing using a 1.75" real oak plank vs. plywood or some similar substrate and an oak veneer.

Veneer feels like a huge pain to work with and get right, although obviously 1.75" Oak isn't cheap either.

How would you approach this? (Note the retail price for this piece is $1500 with tax+shipping!)

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They probably do it by veneering all 5 sides and then mitering. The core would likely be MDF as that's very stable. You can build up multiple layers without a press by screwing and gluing them together. MDF tends to bulge when screwed so to avoid that predrill holes. You can remove the screws later before you veneer. Without a press of some kind you'd have to either hammer veneer it (risky I think because I've tried it on test pieces and had failures of the joint) or use contact cement. You'll need to limit the thickness to the thickness you can miter the corners on your saw. Dominos would be great for aligning the parts but you can also use biscuits or dowels if you find a jig that has a 45 degree angle adapter (I've seen two, the Dowelmax and another one I can't remember). Biscuits will have the most play which is why I'd tend to not risk it.
@Loren so you're suggesting in this case going the veneer route using MDF as the construction base.

Just out of curiosity, is it often the case that using actual wood (2" thick) is just prohibitively expensive? I know that sounds silly with wood prices and such but I'm just asking how you tend to think about real wood vs. veneer.

I say that because veneer seems like a really finicky material to work with but I'm open to it.
Plan your work and work your plan.

Make an accurate sketch using the dimensions you want and label as much as you can.
Make a cut sheet. I draw sheet goods on a piece of paper and mark off what's needed allowing 1/8 blade width.
Make a mock up of inexpensive lumber as a test run.

To check for square measure your diagonals on all boxes and if the diagonal measurements are the same your are square.
I'd make sure every piece is square, plumb and all lengths are the same.
Best of luck and hopefully we'll see your nightstand in the Projects thread!

Do you have a table saw? Do you have a sled for a table saw that is set to cut at 45 degrees?

A tack saw would also be a great option for the 45-degree miters.

You will need a way to reenforce the miters. A spline would be a good option.

You could do a 90 deg miter not the same but might be ok for a first piece?

If it is your first, can you practice on with MDF or some other material?

You tube some of the options I gave above on making sleds and 45 degree miters.

Oak is not to expensive finding thick material is another issue.

Veneering is not real hard to do. A lot of it is very sharp tools to cut it. I have only done a little veneer work. It came out fine.

Good luck and post what you are doing.
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It would be easier for you to use 4×8 sheets of 3/4" white oak (plywood or mdf core with veneer on the outsides), then laminate together with a piece of 1/2 whatever in the middle.
Cut all your pieces about 1/2" bigger then glue them up into your 2" thick panels.
Then you can trim to size and cut your miters.

After you build it you can make a solid frame for the front out of whatever thickness you want.
Maybe resaw some 4/4 into 3/8" pieces.
@LeeRoyMan I've just started thinking down that path re: the laminated panels. I have an Axiom 24×48" CNC machine and now I'm thinking I just "cheat" and design/cut the whole thing out of laminated 4×8 sheets (I just thought of that as I came back here to read your reply!)

@Peeybadboy I'd also like to try doing this out of original hardwood so I want to think through that path as well. I need to check on some prices.
Can anyone suggest where I might find a laminated panel with that kind of texture from the photos? It feels like it's got a deeper wire brush to it than you'd see on a smooth laminate.
I'd probably want to do it it solid wood, but you need to get it very flat and consistent. If you don't have a planer wide enough you dowels are your friends for lining up glue ups. One benefit of solid wood is you can work those corners with hand planes to make the miters crisp and compensate for a little cupping that may occur. Again I would recommend dowels or a domino to align the corners but if you don't want to do that you can balance a router on the edge and cut slots for splines.
Just my 2 cents, but I'd build the frame out of solid wood, with dominos to reinforce the mitered corners. Even at 14" or so deep, the lumber costs will be waaaay less than what they're selling that finished piece for. If it needs to be deeper, you can resaw 4" or just build a panel with two pieces then cut them down.

Oak is pretty common out here, so it wouldn't be a stretch to find a nice plank of 1.75" or 2" and create that waterfall effect, especially if it doesn't need to be too deep. Then use a scrap for the drawer front so it matches. Still not going to be cheap, but quality never is.
I build quite a few pieces like that at work.

I cut the plywood pieces and dry fit everything, veneer, then reassemble.

The miters are cut on a sliding table saw attachment. Biscuits, dominos, or spline.

Half lap/pocket hole for the bottom joint.

Inset 1/2" back, screwed on.

Works for me.
Hmm, 2" thick side walls? That would weigh a lot.

After reading the RH Modern web site, What I see is modern mfg methods and materials; with little regard for quality wood furniture. Will not help with replicating these disgraces to the art of working wood.

Doubt they are using solid wood on anything, except the veneers, and maybe thin drawer fronts. One key is the model with 1" sides is more expensive than the model with 2" sides. It probably weighs more too, as the thin panel uses plywood and the thick panel uses paper honeycomb core.
If you cut one of those 2" thick pieces open, pretty sure you would find modern honeycomb core materials with MDF skin covered in wood veneer. Even the stone furniture on that site can be made with veneer over honeycomb. There are many suppliers of this modern carp, such as Lendererink

As far as the coarse texture on oak, this can be easily be created by using panel sander outfit with sanding brushes instead of belts. Brush sanders are very popular in commercial panel processing, as they provide a uniform surface for consistent color stain on large areas. They are even being used after sealer coats to remove nibs and create a uniform scratch pattern before top coat.

There are several methods that could be used to build those nightstand boxes, assuming you don't want it 2" thick. Both solid wood and plywood veneer would be easy. Plywood veneer panels cut on CNC could be designed to fold, thereby creating wrap around grain for unique look.
Posts above have already detailed these options. So I am done typing.

Best Luck.
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Heavy? Yes. I just built nightstands with 1.5 thick panels with walnut veneer. I could have built it anyway I wanted. The thick panels are easy and look substantial. I like it better than face frame build.
I was thinking the same thing 2 inches thick?
Who's going need or buy something that thick and clunky Fred Fintstone.
Good luck trying to cut excellent miters that size without a sliding tables saw and a 16 inch blade.
Congratulations on your Daily Top3 awards.

If you can build those why the questions on the nightstands? I don't get it.

Nice work on the outside kitchens.

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I was thinking the same thing 2 inches thick?
Who's going need or buy something that thick and clunky Fred Fintstone.
Good luck trying to cut excellent miters that size without a sliding tables saw and a 16 inch blade.

- Aj2
AJ makes a good point. 2" can't be mitered with most table saws + 1/2"sled. I had to miter a coffee table top like that and had to glue the top thickness up after mitering. This was pre-Excalibur slider.

One of the benefits of using my approach above is you don't have to worry about this. Just glue up panel after mitering.
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