How to make a rustic side table or plant stand from reclaimed wood

This beautiful little side table can be really straightforward to make using 100% reclaimed wood. You’ll need a few tools, a source of reclaimed scaffold board(s) and about 4 hours of your time. Below I will take you through an easy step by step guide to make this character piece. I’ll provide the dimensions I’ve used but you can adapt these to suit your own requirements. I’ve made a few of these now for both myself and some customers. I use mine as a bedside table but it can have many different purposes including a side coffee table, an end table or even a plant stand.

Tools required

To complete this project I’d recommend the following tools. You don’t need these specific tools but it will make the build process easier and allow you to complete the whole build within about 4 hours.

Materials

This short list of materials should help you achieve a good sturdy table.

Step by step guide to build a rustic side table or plant stand

Step 1. Select the perfect board

Select your boards carefully. Choosing the right board will make a difference to the outcome of your table. Select a board (or boards) that are dry flat and don’t show signed of any major cracking. (small cracking is fine and can add lovely character to the piece.)

You can use new scaffold boards for your project but this takes away the uniqueness of your finished project.

To check if a board is warped or twisted, hold up one end and look down the length of the board. Any signed of twisting will look obvious.

The above images show a slightly warped board. Whilst this is ok to work with I would avoid anything worse than this.

What can I do about warped boards?

Some board will naturally flatten if they are stored correctly. Make sure they are stored flat and dried out slowly if wet. Do not store your boards upright as this will cause more twisting and warping.

flat scaffold boards

Step 2. Cutting the boards

Cutting your boards. Now you have selected your perfect board you can measure and cut the pieces required for the project. For this table we need two legs, two side pieces, a lower shelf and a top shelf. 6 pieces in total. Mine measure as follows:

  • Legs are 28cm (x2)
  • Side pieces are 20cm (x2)
  • Top shelf is 40cm (x1)
  • Bottom shelf is about 30cm (x1)(we measure the exact length when we have cut the other pieces)

Using your sliding mitre saw set the cut angle to 15 degrees. Your mitre saw should be able to cut the width of the board in one go, which is about 225mm.

You can leave the mitre saw set to 15 degrees for all the cuts. It’s important to leave this angle for each cut to ensure all the pieces fit together nicely.

The legs and side pieces will need to have cuts perpendicular to each other like this:

The top and bottom shelf will have cuts like this:

When you have the legs, sides and top piece cut you can now think about the bottom shelf. To ensure we cut the correct size bottom shelf we need to first line up the top and side pieces and balance the uncut bottom shelf on top. Then mark out the cut line with a pencil.

You could also just measure the length from side to side when you have the side pieces in place.

Doing it this way saves a load of maths!

You should now have all 6 pieces ready for the next step.

Step 3. Sanding time

It’s now time to sand all the boards. Using your orbital sander with an 80 grit paper go over each boards covering all the sides and corners. Make sure you pull off any debris and remove all splinters.

Once complete you can now go over the boards again with a 120 grit paper. Finish off the boards with 240 grit paper for a nice smooth, splinter free board.

I use an old towel to help reduce noise and help keep the boards still when sanding. I also have a vacuum attached to the sander to reduce dust in the air. It’s just a cheap vacuum which I found on Amazon but it does the trick.

Step 4. Drilling holes

For this part I use a pocket hole set to join the top shelf to the side pieces. I like these as they hide the screws inside the wood. You’ll need to set the drill piece and the slider settings to the correct length before drilling.

You’ll find this chart in the Kreg pocket hole set. We want the material thickness of 38mm for the scaffold boards.

Set the Kreg drill bit to 1 1/2″ and the same for the slider. Attach the slider to the wood and clamp it down. I normally make two holes, each about 3cm in from the edge. Like this.

Only make these two holes at one end of the side piece.

Drill down until you hit the stopper.

We can now drill the holes for the two legs following the same process, but we won’t attach them just yet.

Step 5. Attaching the pieces with screws and glue

It’s now time to glue the edges of the side boards and screw them into the top shelf. I normally do a dry run first, meaning I don’t use any glue yet. This will help you line up the edges perfectly. It can be a little slippery trying to do this with wet glue.

Now apply an even layer of glue over the edge to be stuck down. You can smooth the glue out using your finger or a popsicle stick. you’ll need 1 or 2mm of glue to cover the whole edge.

Place the pieces together and using the 64mm pocket hole screws tighten the pieces together. You should have a nice join with little or no gaps. Wipe off any excess glue with a rag.

When you have the top shelf and two side pieces screwed and glued in place just check they are nice and secure.

Rest the bottom shelf on top and we will drill some pilot hole in the bottom with the pilot hole countersunk drill bit. I normally drill a hole at each end about 2 cm in from the edge.

Now you can glue the ends and screw the bottom shelf on using the 60mm screws.

Now that the top section is secured the final part is to fit the legs. You should already have the pocket holes drilled so now it’s as simple as glueing and screwing in place.

This should take you up to something that looks similar to this:

Step 6. Staining the finished piece

To finish the table off I use an interior varnish. I use a Ronseal interior varnish but any varnish should be fine. Select the colour you prefer.

Apply the stain with a brush using gentle strokes in the direction of the grain. Try and apply about 2-3 coats ensuring you leave about 1 hour in between each one.

So this completes the build. Feel free to be creative with this build and experiment with different sizes and dimensions. You can even elongate the whole design for a nice TV stand or bench type design.

If you don’t feel up for making your own then why not try one of these from the handmade marketplace Etsy.

Thanks for reading my latest step by step build guide. Why not try one of these similar projects:

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