Today you learn how to build an industrial side table from reclaimed wood! Last year I picked up some reclaimed ceiling joists out of a house that was getting rehabbed in East Nashville. The boards were probably cut over 100 years ago at this point and were cut on a circular sawmill. That means they have those awesome saw marks on them and the boards just scream character and history. I’ve been looking for projects to highlight these awesome boards and I found just the right one. This Reclaimed Industrial Side Table is what I came up with!
The base is very light visually to allow all the focus to be on the beauty of the top. The base is made from poplar 2×2’s with rounded corners to resemble a metal frame base for an Industrial look. The top is lightly sanded and finished to save and show the history and beauty of these old boards. It’s a great way to highlight some special boards you have. If you don’t have any boards on hand you can use 2×6’s from the big box and distress them to look worn and old. Pocket hole joinery makes assembly quick and you can easily knock this project out in a weekend.
And if you don’t have any reclaimed wood for the top, you could always use some scrap wood to make your top like my buddy Jamison from RogueEngineer did. Go check out his site if you haven’t already at RogueEngineer.com for other great plans.
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The first step is to pick your boards for the top. Pick out the boards with the best character here. My boards had saw marks, knots, and even some nail holes from where things were attached to the joists…perfect! If you are using new 2×6’s then let your imagination run wild. Find boards with the biggest gnarliest knots in them to start with then beat them up with bricks, hammers, whatever to make them look nice and old….err, rustic and reclaimed. Here is the board I used in all it’s ugly glory.
From your 8′ 2×6 cut (4) boards to 22″ long. This will give a 22″ square side table when done. These are cut long and I finished to final length before the glue up.
You have two options for joining the top panel, pocket holes or glue and clamps. For pocket holes, drill the holes into the underside of both sides of the middle boards. Use 2-1/2″ pocket hole screws and glue to connect the boards.
I wanted a more traditional joinery for the top so I opted to use glue, biscuits and clamps. No, I’m not talking about the delicious flaky biscuits you eat, I’m talking about wood biscuits. This is a wood biscuit (the 20 is the size).
The biscuits fit into slots on opposing boards. They keep the boards from moving up and down during clamping, and you know movement is the nemesis of a clamped glue up. This is the tool that cuts the biscuit slots…aptly named a biscuit joiner.
And here is what the slots look like on mating boards. If you have reclaimed boards you’ll need to make a smooth straight edge for the boards to be glued and joined on. I used my jointer and tablesaw.
Whichever method you use, make sure you don’t use too much glue during the glue up. If the glue gets on the top of the wood you’ll have to sand it off for any stain or finish to penetrate the wood. And if you have reclaimed boards you don’t want to do any more sanding than you need to!
After the glue up is dry it’s time to sand and reveal that beauty. Start with a 60 or 80 grit sandpaper to take off the dirt and debris. You aren’t trying to flatten the boards, just take off the top layer of nastiness from the old boards. Sand until you get the look you want. Then switch over to 150 grit and finally 220 grit sandpaper to make the top smooth to the touch.
Now you can start on the base of the side table. Cut (8) 2×2’s to 19″ and (4) 2×2’s to 23-1/2″. This will give a 25″ high table. If you want the table taller or shorter you can adjust the leg height and everything else stays the same. Drill pocket holes on both ends of one side of each 2×2.
Using 2-1/2″ pocket hole screws connect the top and bottom stretchers to the legs to make a rectangle. Repeat this again to have two rectangular sides. The Kreg face clamp works awesome here to hold your boards flat while joining.
The top will be mounted to the base using countersunk holes in the underside of the top stretchers on the base. Drill 1/4″ diameter holes 1/4″ deep into the underside of the stretchers. I use blue tape around the bit to mark how deep 1/4″ is and stop when the tape gets to the wood.
Using a 1/8″ bit, drill a pilot hole the rest of the way through the stretcher, centered in the 1/4″ hole you just drilled.
Here is what the top (left) and bottom (right) of the stretchers will look like when finished.
This is a good point to sand the assemblies and do any edge details. To go for that industrial reclaimed look I sanded everything to 220 and used a trim router to put a 1/16″ roundover on the inner and outer edges of the rectangles. You can also sand the edges to give them a soft feel instead of using a router.
Sand and smooth the edges on the remaining (4) 2×2 stretchers and then use 2-1/2″ pocket hole screws to connect the sides with the stretchers. You’ll need to use a large clamp to hold the loose pieces between the sides while attaching them with your pocket hole screws.
When attaching the stretchers sink screws into the outside holes first. Because of the overlapping joints, the screws in the inside holes may not go in all the way. Just drive them as far as you can before they hit the screws already in the joint.
And now you have a big cube for your side table base, good job!
For the next step you can stain/finish the base and top separately. I finished the top with Helmsman Spar Urethane in a satin finish. Holy cow! I was amazed at how much color it gave the wood.
This knot is my favorite part of the top and here it is before and after the finish.
If you are going for your own rustic look with new lumber then try several different layers and colors of stain and sanding to get the look you want.
One of the reasons I used poplar for the base is how well it takes stain. I wanted a worn metal look so I stained the base an ebony and did some liberal sanding after the staining. After that I applied 2 coats of satin poly and came up with this industrial look.
Attach the top to the base using 2-1/2″ pocket hole screws through the holes you drilled earlier in the top pieces of the base. The holes are oversized to allow for wood movement as the seasons change so your top won’t split. Clamp the top to the base, then predrill and screw down the top.
And that’s it, you’re done! When you build your own Reclaimed Industrial Side Table make sure to send me pictures or tag me on Facebook or Instagram. And if you want to keep up with all my new projects then sign up for my e-mail list below.