How to Build a Wooden Side Table: A Beginner's Guide

Building your own side table can be a fun and rewarding DIY project. Not only can you save money by building it yourself, but you can also customize it to fit your specific style and needs. A wooden side table can add warmth and character to any room, and it’s a great beginner woodworking project.

Before you start building, it’s important to have a plan and gather all the necessary materials and tools. You can find free plans online or create your own design. The materials you’ll need will depend on the size and style of the table, but typically include wood boards, screws, wood glue, and a finish. You’ll also need basic woodworking tools like a saw, drill, and sander. Once you have everything you need, it’s time to get started on your wooden side table project.

Understanding the Basics

Before you start building your own wooden side table, it is important to understand the basics of woodworking. This will help you create a sturdy and functional piece of furniture that you can be proud of. In this section, we will cover the types of wood you can use for your project and the safety measures you need to take to avoid accidents.

Types of Wood

Choosing the right type of wood is crucial for the success of your project. There are many types of wood available, each with its own unique characteristics. Here are some of the most popular types of wood for furniture making:

  • Pine: A softwood that is easy to work with and has a rustic look.
  • Oak: A hardwood that is strong and durable, with a distinct grain pattern.
  • Maple: A hardwood that is hard and dense, with a fine grain pattern.
  • Cherry: A hardwood that is known for its rich, warm color and smooth texture.

When choosing your wood, consider the look you want to achieve and the durability you need. It is also important to choose wood that is straight and free of knots, as this will make it easier to work with and create a smooth finish.

Safety Measures

When working with wood, safety should always be your top priority. Here are some safety measures you should take before starting your project:

  • Wear protective gear: This includes safety glasses, earplugs, and a dust mask.
  • Use sharp tools: Dull tools can be dangerous and cause accidents. Make sure your tools are sharp and in good condition.
  • Keep your workspace clean: A cluttered workspace can lead to accidents. Keep your workspace clean and organized.
  • Use clamps: Clamps can help keep your wood in place and prevent it from moving while you work on it.
  • Follow instructions: Make sure you read and understand the instructions for your tools and equipment before using them.

By following these safety measures, you can ensure that your woodworking project is not only successful but also safe.

Gathering Your Materials

Before you begin building your wooden side table, you’ll need to gather all the necessary materials. Here are the two main things you’ll need to consider:

Wood Selection

Choosing the right wood for your side table is crucial. You want to select a wood that is strong, durable, and visually appealing. Here are some popular options:

  • Pine: A softwood that is easy to work with and affordable.
  • Oak: A hardwood that is strong and durable, but can be more expensive.
  • Maple: Another hardwood that is strong and durable, with a smooth and uniform grain pattern.
  • Walnut: A high-end hardwood that is known for its rich, dark color and beautiful grain pattern.

When selecting your wood, be sure to consider the size of your side table and the weight it will need to support. You’ll also want to choose a wood that matches your personal style and the overall look of your home.

Tool Requirements

In addition to your wood selection, you’ll also need to gather the necessary tools to build your side table. Here are some of the most common tools you’ll need:

  • Saw (circular or table saw)
  • Drill
  • Wood glue
  • Clamps
  • Sandpaper
  • Wood stain or paint (optional)

You may also need additional tools depending on the specific design of your side table. Be sure to review the instructions carefully and gather all the necessary tools before you begin.

Creating Your Design

When building a wooden side table, the first step is to create a design that fits your needs and style. Here are a few things to consider when creating your design:

Size and Shape

Think about where you will be placing your side table and how much space you have available. Consider the height of the table in relation to the furniture around it. You want to make sure that the table is the right size and shape for your space and needs.


Wood is a popular material for side tables because it is sturdy and durable. However, there are many different types of wood to choose from, each with its own unique characteristics. Consider the type of wood that will work best for your design and budget.


The style of your side table should match the overall decor of your room. Do you want a modern or traditional look? Do you want a simple or ornate design? Consider the style of your existing furniture and choose a design that complements it.


Think about how you will be using your side table. Will it be used for storage or as a decorative piece? Will it be used for holding drinks or as a place to set down your book? Consider the functionality of your table and design it accordingly.

Once you have considered these factors, you can start sketching out your design. Use graph paper to create a scale drawing of your table, including the dimensions and any decorative elements. This will help you visualize your design and make any necessary adjustments before you start building.

Remember, the design process is an important part of building a wooden side table. Take your time and create a design that reflects your personal style and meets your needs.

Cutting the Wood

Before you begin building your wooden side table, you need to cut the wood to the appropriate sizes. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Measure and mark the wood. Use a measuring tape to measure the length and width of each piece of wood you need to cut. Mark the measurements on the wood using a pencil and a straight edge.

  2. Prepare your saw. You can use a miter saw or a table saw to cut the wood. Make sure your saw is properly set up and adjusted before you begin cutting.

  3. Cut the wood. Use your saw to cut the wood along the marked lines. Take your time and be careful to make straight and accurate cuts. If you’re using a miter saw, use the appropriate angle settings to make angled cuts.

  4. Sand the edges. After you’ve cut the wood, use sandpaper to smooth out any rough edges or splinters. This will help prevent injuries and give your table a more polished look.

  5. Repeat as necessary. Depending on the design of your table, you may need to cut multiple pieces of wood to the same size. Repeat the above steps for each piece of wood.

By following these steps, you’ll be able to cut your wood to the correct sizes and prepare it for assembly. Remember to always wear appropriate safety gear, such as safety glasses and ear protection, when using power tools.

Assembling the Table

Once you have all the pieces cut and ready, it’s time to assemble your side table. In this section, we’ll go over the steps to join the pieces and secure the table top.

Joining the Pieces

To join the legs and aprons, you can use pocket hole joinery or mortise and tenon joints. Pocket hole joinery is easier and faster, while mortise and tenon joints provide a stronger and more traditional joint.

Pocket Hole Joinery

If you’re using pocket hole joinery, start by drilling pocket holes in the aprons. Then, attach the aprons to the legs using pocket hole screws. Make sure the aprons are flush with the top of the legs and use clamps to hold them in place while you screw them together.

Mortise and Tenon Joints

If you’re using mortise and tenon joints, start by cutting the mortises in the legs and the tenons in the aprons. Then, dry fit the pieces together to make sure everything fits snugly. Finally, apply glue to the mortises and tenons and clamp the pieces together until the glue dries.

Securing the Table Top

To secure the table top, you can use screws or dowels. Screws are easier and faster, while dowels provide a more traditional and elegant look.


If you’re using screws, start by drilling pilot holes in the table top. Then, attach the top to the aprons using screws. Make sure the top is centered and use clamps to hold it in place while you screw it down.


If you’re using dowels, start by drilling holes in the table top and aprons. Then, insert the dowels and apply glue to the holes. Finally, clamp the pieces together until the glue dries.

That’s it! Your side table is now assembled and ready to use.

Sanding and Finishing

Sanding Process

Before applying a finish to your wooden side table, it’s important to properly sand it to ensure a smooth surface. Follow these steps to sand your table:

  1. Start with coarse-grit sandpaper, around 100 grit, and sand in the direction of the grain. This will remove any rough spots or imperfections on the surface of the wood.

  2. Next, move on to a finer-grit sandpaper, around 150 grit, and sand again in the direction of the grain. This will help to smooth out the surface even more.

  3. Finally, use a very fine-grit sandpaper, around 220 grit, to give the surface a final sanding. This will create a smooth surface that is ready for finishing.

Be sure to wipe down the surface of the table with a tack cloth after each sanding step to remove any dust or debris.

Applying Finish

Once your wooden side table is sanded, it’s time to apply a finish to protect the wood and give it a beautiful, polished look. Here are some tips for applying finish:

  1. Apply a wood conditioner to the surface of the table before staining. This will help the stain to absorb evenly and prevent blotching.

  2. Apply the stain with a brush or cloth, making sure to work in the direction of the grain. Apply a thin, even coat and wipe away any excess with a clean cloth.

  3. Allow the stain to dry completely before applying a protective finish. You can use a clear coat of polyurethane or a wax finish to protect the wood and give it a polished look.

  4. Apply the protective finish with a brush or cloth, making sure to work in the direction of the grain. Apply a thin, even coat and allow it to dry completely before applying additional coats.

By following these steps, you can create a beautiful, polished wooden side table that will last for years to come.

Maintenance Tips

After building your wooden side table, you’ll want to keep it looking its best for years to come. Here are some simple maintenance tips to follow:

  • Clean regularly: Dust and debris can accumulate on your side table over time, so it’s important to clean it regularly. Use a soft cloth or a feather duster to remove any dirt or dust that has collected on the surface.

  • Avoid water damage: Water can cause damage to your wooden side table, so be sure to wipe up any spills immediately. Avoid placing wet items on the table, such as glasses or vases that may leave water rings.

  • Protect from direct sunlight: Direct sunlight can cause the wood to fade or discolor over time. To prevent this, try to position your side table away from direct sunlight or use window coverings to filter the light.

  • Use coasters: To prevent scratches or damage to the surface of your side table, use coasters under drinks and other items that may scratch the wood.

  • Apply furniture polish: To keep your side table looking shiny and new, apply furniture polish or wax every few months. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and use a soft cloth to apply the polish evenly.

By following these simple maintenance tips, you can keep your wooden side table looking beautiful for years to come.

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