Previously, I used these bamboo legs in a nightstand project. I liked the legs so much that I wanted to show you two new stylish side tables using the same bamboo legs.
Both of the table tops are easy to make. The first is a pine board that I sanded and finished. The second is a cutting board that I unpackaged. It doesn’t get much easier!
I have broken this post into three parts:
- Making the bamboo legs and base
- Making the pine board and bamboo leg side table
- Making the plastic cutting board and bamboo leg side table
MAKING THE BAMBOO LEGS AND BASE
As I mentioned, the nightstand project used the bamboo legs and base. You can see how to make the nightstand here. I’ve modified the instructions for making the bamboo legs and base slightly because for a side table you can be more flexible with the dimensions. But the basic construction is the same whether the legs and base are used for a nightstand or a side table.
- 1⁄4” hardboard (2ft x 2ft)
- bamboo garden stakes (at least 3⁄4” diameter)
- round dowel pieces
- miter box and saw
- wood glue
- locking pliers
- hand drill
- spade drill bit
- square dowel or furring strip (about 1 1⁄2” to 2″ square)
- palm sander
- coarse sandpaper
- fine sandpaper
Decide how large you want the base and how tall you want your side table. As we go along, I’ll point out at the appropriate steps when you may need to cut things at a different length or to different dimensions.
First, I cut a 10″x 13″ piece of 1⁄4” thick hardboard for the base. Both of the side table projects in this post had a base of this dimension. If you want a larger or smaller base, cut yours to different dimensions. I used hardboard that was tempered (smooth) on both sides, but one-sided is fine. Just face the rough side to the drawer, and attach the legs to the smooth side.
The four-foot long bamboo plant stakes I used for the legs were about 1″ at the wide end, down to about 1⁄2” at the small end. I bought these at Menard’s for about $1.50 each. Before you buy, look the stakes over good and avoid any with cracks.
I cut a total of four 16″ sections of bamboo for the legs. Because I wanted all the legs to be about the same diameter, I cut two 16″ pieces from the wider end of each of the two 4′ stakes. Here is the place where you need to figure out how tall you want your side table, because you might need to cut your bamboo to a different length, not 16″ like mine. The two table tops–the pine board and the plastic cutting board–added a negligible amount to the overall height, roughly 1⁄2“. The leg supports added 1 1⁄2“. So with the 16″ legs, my side tables were about 18” overall height.
The bamboo stake is hollow, except for joints. You’ll be gluing a dowel piece into the hollow in the larger end of each bamboo leg. If there is a joint near the end of the bamboo piece, you will need to drill this out first. I used a 1⁄4” drill bit and drilled into the joint several times to clear it, avoiding the side walls.
For the peg, choose a round dowel that just barely fits in the hollow (or is slightly bigger), and taper the dowel by sanding as needed to fit tightly. In my case, I used a 5⁄8” round dowel rod for all the legs. I measured the diameter of the center holes and bought a dowel rod closest to the diameter of the largest one. Because the center hole of the bamboo varied from piece to piece, some needed more tapering than others. In the photo below, note how I positioned the palm sander. When I was sanding, I put more pressure on the end portion of the dowel, and I rotated the dowel periodically to taper all the way around.
Then cut off a section about 2″ long. Repeat. Make four total.
Now you will glue the pegs into the bamboo pieces. Use Titebond 3 or another wood glue. Put a generous amount on the tapered portion of your dowel pegs, and insert the tapered ends in the bamboo. Have some locking pliers handy to help insert and position the pegs so that about 1″ sticks out the ends.
As a preview, the peg of the bamboo legs will be glued into square wood pieces, which I’ll call leg supports, for lack of something better to call them. Below is a photo of the two leg supports and the hardboard base. After gluing the leg supports to the hardboard, the bamboo legs will be glued to the leg supports. You have already cut the hardboard base, so now I’ll show you how to get the leg supports ready.
For my side tables, I cut two 10″ long pieces of 1 1⁄2” x 1 1⁄2” square wood dowel for the leg supports. You could use a square dowel, a 2″ x 2″ furring strip (which is actually 1 1⁄2” x 1 1⁄2“), or similar wood. The leg supports should be cut to the front-to-back dimension of your hardboard base, that’s why I cut mine to 10”. If your bamboo stake has a diameter larger than 1″ diameter, use larger square wood for the leg support. After cutting, I gave these pieces a once over with the palm sander and fine sandpaper.
Next, drill holes in the support pieces where you will later glue the pegs of the bamboo legs. I marked the wood in the center about 1⁄2” from the edge. If your bamboo stakes are larger than 1″ diameter, you’ll want to drill the holes further away from the edges.
Use a spade drill bit that matches the diameter of your dowel peg (5⁄8” for mine). I alternated drilling a little then dry-fitting several times to get the right depth and tweak the diameter of the hole. As you are drilling the holes, you might need to stop and tip the wood over at times to clear wood shavings. You will want to drill the hole as perpendicular, or straight, as you can. This would be easy to do if you have access to a drill press, and if you do, use it! But I don’t, so I did the best I could. One advantage to doing this project with bamboo is that the bamboo itself is not straight so I can get away with having mounting holes that are not perfectly perpendicular.
Now you are ready to assemble the legs and base. The bamboo legs are by nature not uniform, and I think this adds to the charm of this piece of furniture. I put the legs into the leg supports without glue and, with the help of an unsuspecting family member, gingerly set the hardboard base on top. I fussed with the leg position, turning the leg supports around and putting the legs in different holes, until I was happy with how it looked–a little wonky, in a good way. I then numbered each leg and the corresponding hole so I could easily position them later when gluing them in place.
Glue the leg supports to the hardboard using Titebond 3 (or another wood glue). Spread the glue on, then to get a good bond, add weight while the glue is curing.
Before I added weight, I put a scrap piece of hardboard on top of the leg supports to distribute the pressure. I then put a box loaded up with a bag of rice and wood shims on top of the scrap hardboard for weight.
Let this sit for at least 5 hours, and more is better. Follow the instructions on your glue. Now you’re ready to glue the bamboo legs in place. Spread a generous amount of glue on each dowel peg and insert into holes.
After getting the legs in place, I turned the base/legs upright and weighted it with my box of wood shims and rice.
After getting the legs and base together, I applied a couple of coats of Minwax Wipe-on-Poly (satin) as a protective finish. I applied this with a piece of an old t-shirt. A protective finish is probably not necessary, but a good idea. There are many kinds of clear protective finishes that would work, including shellac, varnish, any kind of polyurethane. Some of these come in spray forms, which you might prefer.
MAKING THE PINE BOARD AND BAMBOO LEG SIDE TABLE
- pine board, 1″ x 12″ x 22″
- palm or reciprocating sander
- coarse, medium, and fine sandpaper
- four small screws
- screw driver
- t-shirt rag
- bamboo legs/base
This attractive and affordable table top is a scrap pine board that I got at Menard’s in the “value” bin for less than a dollar. It was 22″ long and was perfect for my base, so I didn’t need to cut it. This board had prominent, reddish grain and a few knots, which is what I like. “Common” pine boards have these “rough” characteristics, which are called “defects” by the suppliers, but I wrap all the warts together and call it “charm.” Maybe you don’t like the warts, and for you a “select” or “clear” grade of pine board is your style. Just look through the boards and find something you like. Most places that sell pine boards will cut them for you, so if you pick out a 1″ x 12″ board you like, have them cut it to the length you want.
I sanded the board with a palm sander. I spent a disproportionate amount of time sanding the ends where the boards had been cut with 40 grit sandpaper before moving up through 100, 150, and 220 grits. The faces of the board needed only a little bit of sanding with coarse (40 grit) sandpaper and more sanding with medium (100, 150 grits), and fine (220 grits) sandpaper.
After sanding, I vacuumed the surface to remove sawdust, then finished with one coat of shellac (Zinsser SealCoat) and three coats of Minwax Wipe-On-Poly. You can finish the board however you like.
I attached the pine table top to the base with four small screws through the hardboard base and into the pine board from the underside of the base.
MAKING THE PLASTIC CUTTING BOARD AND BAMBOO LEG SIDE TABLE
- plastic cutting board
- glue and/or carpet tape
- bamboo legs/base
The table top for this side table is an Architec 14 x 17 Inch Plastic Cutting Board (Black) from Target. You can attach it with an adhesive such as E-6000 Craft Glue or with carpet tape.
Here are a few more photos of the two new bamboo-leg side tables.
Maybe you have other ideas for table tops to go with the bamboo legs. I’d love to see what you come up with, so stay in touch. Now go make some furniture!