How To Build Easy, Chunky Wood Nightstands
For the first time in our lives, after four decades of living on this planet, we’ve upgraded to a king sized bed! We’ll get more into whys and hows in an upcoming post (it’s both bigger and significantly lower) and we see the obvious irony of owning a bigger bed in our smaller house – but let’s just summarize it as: “the things we do for our dog.”
You’ve also probably heard this before, but sometimes the way to feel like you’re living large in a smaller space is with fewer larger furniture pieces (as opposed to a bunch of small dollhouse-scaled furnishings). There’s such a luxury to having a nice long 90″ sofa upstairs, a big 72″ table that seats up to 8 people in the kitchen, and truly, it has been glorious to have such a giant bed. Like, two people who never cared about a king bed now actively wax poetic about it every day, and our entire family regularly piles in to read or hang out on lazy weekends.
The upgrade did come with one tradeout. Upgrading to a larger bed meant we had to swap our larger side tables out for smaller ones that *perfectly* fit the space.
Thankfully we don’t really store very much in our side tables (as long as there’s room for a lamp, some books, and a glass of water we’re good). So yeah, maximizing the size of the thing you actively relax on and sleep on was a fair trade for minimizing our side tables.
And today, we’re sharing how we whipped up these custom nightstands (you can make them any size you’d like to fit your room like a glove!) with a somewhat unusual material. Nope, it’s not scrap wood or two-by-fours (or pallets – remember all those furniture tutorials?). We actually used a butcher block countertop to make these two chunky solid wood side tables.
Why Build Custom Nightstands?
By now you know that our old bedside tables no longer fit along the wall with our new king sized bed in place, but why not just buy something already made? We realized that in order to maximize the room with a bigger bed, it would be smart to shift it slightly off-center on this wall. It’s only by a couple of inches (and not super noticeable – especially due to a secret about our bedroom that we reveal in the video below this picture), but that slight shift makes it much easier to access our closets which are both located on this side of the bed.
Shifting the bed a few inches off-center meant that my side could accommodate a slightly larger nightstand than Sherry’s. And before I sound like the bad husband for claiming the “bigger” side, Sherry’s side actually has more walking space due to that aforementioned secret that’s revealed in the video below. So yeah, watch that and let us know if you ever noticed that our room does that – because we hear that most people who have followed along for years had no idea!
A Quick Bedroom Tour On Video
Not to spoil the ending or anything, but a lot of this will make more sense if you watch this short video Sherry shot of the finished nightstands. In it you’ll see:
- Why we needed two differently-sized nightstands
- How we maintained room for the closets to open
- What the wall of the bedroom does on Sherry’s side of the bed
- What we store behind the closet door that’s fully blocked by the nightstand
- One side table modification we considered (if you want a lot more storage, we have a quick tip for you in this video)
Plus you’ll get a sneak peek of how that whole back wall of our bedroom is shaping up with the new bed!
Note: You can also watch this video on YouTube.
Weighing Our Options (& Saving Money)
Long story long: this slightly asymmetrical situation left us with a few options for getting new nightstands:
- Finding matching nightstands that (miraculously) came in two slightly different sizes
- Embracing that non-matching nightstand look
- Getting two smaller nightstands, and leaving a little gap on my side
- Build our own!
All of the options had potential (except for maybe #1) and since our desired measurements were pretty specific, we decided to make our own.
Plus, like many DIY options, we realized we could save ourselves quite a bit of money compared to some of the nightstands we were finding online. We knew we wanted something with clean lines and a modern chunky wood look – and many of the storebought options were surprisingly pricey… especially if we had to buy two!
The good news is that our final cost for BOTH nightstands was just $310 – which was the cost of the butcher block counter we bought and the oil we used to seal it. That means each one breaks down to about $155 for a super substantial solid wood nightstand. Not bad!
Materials & Tools Needed
We knew this butcher block material would be great for recreating the look we wanted. We’ve used it elsewhere in our house, most recently in our utility closet as well as to top some Ikea cabinets in our bedroom (post coming soon) and we love it because the thickness can really elevate a store-bought cubby or an Ikea cabinet. Plus we already knew the color looks great with our floors. But if you’d rather use something other than butcher block, you can still follow the same technique with any wood of your choice.
Step 1: Plan Your Build
Even though the butcher block slabs are cheaper than those store-bought nightstands (the island size, 72″ x 39″, is $300) it’s still pricey, so we really wanted to get TWO nightstands out of ONE piece of wood. So Sherry and I sketched out a few options, crunched some measurements, and came up with a design that 1) we were excited about and 2) didn’t waste wood.
You can see from my rough drawings above that we debated a blocky “8” design with three horizontal surfaces (more on that in the video we shared above) but we ultimately scrapped the bottom shelf (leaving it more like a blocky “A” instead) because it would keep the nightstands lighter and it honestly didn’t feel necessary (we didn’t need space for a basket or a folded blanket or something that would fill that larger cubby it would have created). Bonus, it’s easier
to clean under for Eufy to clean under!
Step 2: Cut Your Butcher Block To Size
The careful planning and measuring gave us a clear plan for the size of each piece that we needed to cut. So first, using a circular saw, we cut the butcher block island twice down the center area to give us two 18″ wide slabs. Each slab would become one, 18″ deep nightstand. Alternatively, you could cut it exactly in half, one time (which would leave you with two 19.5″ slabs) but that would’ve made our nightstands too deep because it would have blocked access to my closet door.
I realize my front porch “workshop” leaves something to be desired, but it gets the job done. Also: wear safety goggles. I got them on right after that shot above (see the picture below). And as for working on our front porch, it’s actually a nice flat surface that I can spread out on. And don’t worry, I make sure that we never cut the top of the actual decking. We spin the piece around to finish our cuts so the blade is always hanging over the step (like you see below).
Once I cut my two 18″ slabs, I measured carefully and cut each into the 4 pieces needed for each nightstand: 1 top, 2 sides/legs, and 1 shelf. Although, actually, I waited to make my final shelf cuts until the other 3 pieces were assembled. That way I could double-check my measurement one last time for a tight fit.
You’ll also notice we use painters tape on each of our circular saw cuts. This not only gives me a surface to draw a straight line on (without marking up the actual wood) but it also can help you make a smoother cut with less chipping and splintering. Also, I’ve tried a couple of circular saw guides (like this one) and find that I do better free-handing my cuts – but they’re an option for you if you want to give them a try.
Step 2: Mark Your Pieces
After my cuts were made, we roughly balanced the tops on each set of legs to check our progress. We also used this step to decide which parts we wanted to show – like what side of each piece of butcher block looked the best, had the fewest knots, etc.
Once we determined our layout, we used painter’s tape to loosely mark the orientation of each piece. The long pieces along the inside of each side piece were especially helpful to remind us once we proceeded to the next step: drilling our pocket holes.
Step 3: Drill Pocket Holes In The Legs
To attach the side pieces to the top piece, we wanted to screw up from the inside of each leg into the top – that way we wouldn’t have any visible holes on the top of the nightstand. To do this, we used our Kreg Jig to drill three pocket holes on the inside of each leg (this is where our tape markings helped remind us where to drill). Here’s where you can learn more about how to use a Kreg Jig. It’s an MVP tool we’ve had for over 12 years!
I drilled all of the pocket holes for the legs in one step since it saved me from switching out my drillbit back and forth for the next step.
Step 4: Clamp & Screw The Legs To The Top
With our pocket holes drilled into each leg, we turned the top piece upside down and clamped one leg in place using this clamp designed specifically for pocket holes. This helps keep it precisely in place while you drill, so you don’t have any last-minute shifting.
With one end securely clamped, we carefully screwed through the other open holes using 2″ pocket hole screws. Once those were secured, we removed the clamp and screwed through the last pocket hole.
Then we just repeated the process on the other leg, and then again for both legs of the second nightstand.
Step 5: Repeat This Process For The Shelves
With the top and sides attached, we measured the precise length for each shelf and made our final cuts using our circular saw. Then, we broke out our Kreg Jig again to create three sets of pocket holes on BOTH ends of each shelf piece (being sure to drill them on the underside).
Next, to attach each shelf, we laid each nightstand on its back and set the shelves in place (we had cut them to be such a tight fit they basically held themselves upright). Finally, we screwed them together just like we had done before.
We chose a 5″ gap for our shelf, but it’s really up to you. We had tried something a little bigger at first but it almost looked like we had mismeasured the halfway mark when standing above it and looking down (beware of those perspective-related optical-illusions!). So the smaller 5″ spacing made the shelf look more intentionally placed towards the top of the table, which we really liked about the shape of table #4 below:
Plus, it’s turned out to be super functional for us! Look how many books it can still hold!
Step 6: Sand The Edges
To make sure all of the edges, especially the cut ones, weren’t too sharp – we gave all of the exposed corners and edges a quick sanding with some medium- and then high-grit sandpaper, just to round them off ever so slightly. That way if we bump against these or reach over haphazardly in the night, we’re not gonna slice ourselves open on some raw edge of wood.
Just be sure to thoroughly wipe down or blow off any sanding dust before proceeding to the next step.
Step 7: Seal The Butcher Block With Oil
We’ve found our favorite way to finish off this butcher block is with a single coat of Cutting Board Oil. It darkens the wood a bit and brings out the grain nicely, while also sealing it. It’s extremely easy to apply.
We typically pour a small puddle directly on the butcher block and then wipe it around with a rag or paper towel until it has all soaked in. It definitely lightens up a little bit as it dries, so don’t be too alarmed if it feels much darker than the wood you’d just been staring at moments before.
And of course, if you’d like a more specific color you can always apply stain or sealer instead.
Step 8: Let Dry & You’re Done!
We gave our nightstands about a day to dry before putting them in place, and we’re really happy with how they turned out!
They fit perfectly on each side of our bed, just as we had planned, while also giving us more function than we originally thought we’d get. This is because at one point Sherry had planned on just using a garden stool as her side table, so having an entire cubby for books and the sound machine is a real coup. Yes, that’s how into a king bed we have now become. She was willing to use a garden stool as her nightstand without hesitation.
We’ve considered storing things underneath – like a basket or something we can slide in and out – but every time we’ve put anything down there it just looks unnecessarily cluttered and we don’t need the space. So unless we actually need to store something there down the line, we’re happy to leave it empty. Plus, it really is a sight to see our robot vacuum happily spinning around to get each corner in there.
My nightstand is 22″ wide, so it has given me plenty of surface space for books, chargers, a lamp, our Alexa, and even a plant. In fact, it usually has more on here (like a water bottle, baseball cap, or a rogue Skittles wrapper) but I tried to be less of an animal for these pictures.
Sherry’s is definitely a bit narrower at just 19″, but she found this small woven storage basket that wrangles all of her bedside stuff – contact lenses, chapstick, nail clippers, and what I assume is a large collection of poems professing her love for me. (What?! They’re her blue light glasses? OK fine.)
Sherry’s side may look cramped in these photos, but if you watch the video you’ll see that she’s got plenty of space to move around thanks to that *special* wall in our bedroom.
We’re planning a larger bedroom update post that’ll have more info about why we decided to upgrade our bed, along with some extra closet space we’re about to earn (just waiting until that’s complete to take photos & share how the whole room has shaped up). Also if you thought to yourself “that bed wall might be nice with some more color or texture on it” – we’ve had the same thought, so stay tuned…
More DIY Building Projects
Here are some other DIY furniture projects and easy builds you might be interested in – especially if you’re looking to add some extra wood storage.
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