Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Nightstand: The Design

 If we could boil the whole lot of furniture making into a single exercise, it would be:

     make a simple box.

Everything therein is a variation on the same theme.  

Nightstands have always been on the casework list of projects to build, along with their more substantial cousins: armoire, and chest of drawers.

I thought I might share my efforts in designing a piece, building a mockup and creating the final version.

The first step was to decide on the design's purpose. I wanted a design that provided a stable top surface at a suitable height and the means to accommodate a drawer.  Sounds simple enough, but there are divergent goals at play.  Table legs provide the height required for the table surface, and at the same time create a moment arm by which the piece can rack and stress the joints of the piece. How do we combine the need for height, a case for storage and a solid assembly?

Studying past designs, I found there to be 3 common paths from which most small tables of this sort are derived.

Frame and Panel - posts with grooves holding panels are joined
     with rails using mortise and tenon(M/T) joinery.

Leg and Apron - legs are joined with aprons using M/T joinery,
    along with runners and dividers.

Simple Box - various corner joinery (dovetails, rabbet/tongue, 
   box joints, dowels) is used to assemble an open box.

My solution:

Dovetails can be used to create a simple box case to house the
drawer and open storage slot below. Legs will be attached
using a lap joint and reinforced with pegs.