I built a 12" x 48" side table for the model workshop over the last three weekends. The intention was to have a place to drop bag, keys, and other stuff when I got in the workshop, but as soon as I put the unfinished shelving in place I realized it was a great place to put the model kits that I actually intend to build, as well as reference books that are in the workshop temporarily from the study next door.
The basic design of the table is the same as the shelves made from 1x6s that Daddy and I made for my paperbacks years ago – which I still use for BluRay disks in the movie room – which means solid shelves and sides with a recessed toe kick at the bottom, but the dimensions are far larger – twice as deep and twice as long, with an overhanging top screwed on.
Since I was not sure whether I would be staining or painting it I didn't want exposed screws, so I used a technique which I learned building my large Bartley shelves – cleats. As the photo shows, I use 3/4 x 3/4# poplar strips as cleats to hold the shelves and top to the toe kick and the top cross-pieces. I chose the poplar because it is harder than pine. The cleats were pre-drilled with countersunk holes for the screws, then glued and screwed into place. One dried the the shelves were attached, which was easier than I thought now that I had a workbench I could securely clamp the pieces to.
But I wasn't happy with the 12" x 48" craft board that I used for the table top (at right), and decided to build a new to-be-stained top from multiple smaller boards (final at left). After realizing that I had enough boards of the right size from the old Hub Shoe Store already set aside in the garage, I decided to use those, since the wood – which is at least 50 years old, and potentially 90 , is far better than new stock.
Determining the age of the old boards is interesting. Each of the 1×4's were actually 3 5/8" wide, which means they predated the 1961 standarization which reduced the width of 1 x 4s to 3 1/2. Their standardization means they weren't likely from the original store, which would have made them 120 years old, but since the store hadn't been modified since the 1950's, they likely date from the 1940's-1950's – possibly as early as the 1930's. In any event, very good old wood, although still nothing compared to the old shelving, which dates from 1897, making it old-growth East Texas lumber.
I started by choosing boards with no major defects and cut them to the required lengths, then used my plate joiner to cut holes for biscuits in the sides and ends of the boards. Next it was time to glue them together and clamp them securely while they dried.
My plan is still to paint the base the trim color of the room – a cream color – but I don't think I'll sand or stain the top – just oil it and enjoy the natural wood color. But as it isn't attached I can always go back and plane or sand it down if I want.