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Forum topic by ryjack posted 03-13-2018 04:33 PM 382 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2 posts in 6 days

03-13-2018 04:33 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question joining beginner furniture

Hey everyone, first of all thanks in advance for any advice you may have. I have grown up in construction and working on cars so I have a good foundation to work from, but am relatively new at woodworking. I have built a couple of small pieces that turned out, eh. I am trying to plan a build for a buffet table in our dining room, something that has drawers and cabinet doors with a flat surface on top to serve at family get togethers. My 5th wedding anniversary is coming up, which the gift is wood, so I thought this would be a great idea. Knowing my wife, she would want it stained slightly dark or even painted.

Everything I find for inspiration and plans online use big box store 2×4 lumber, pocket screws, and all seem to be sponsored in some way, shape, or form by Ryobi.

I have or have access to many tools. Also, I am willing to purchase new tools if needed.

Specific questions:
1. Does anyone have advice on how to find plans or cut lists etc for something as I am describing? My biggest challenge is learning how to make the carcass, then drawers.
2. What type of wood would be best for an affordable buffet?
3. What type of joinery would you recommend for my first real piece of furniture? Buscuit, pocket screw, mortise and tenon, etc?
4. Anything else I should consider or should be asking?

Thanks again for any advice. I am willing to learn so please be gentle!


8 replies so far

View bbasiaga's profile


1158 posts in 1927 days

#1 posted 03-13-2018 04:46 PM

If you are looking for plans, you can go to some of the magazine sites like Wood, Popular woodworking. Etc a d see if they have something you like and buy them.

That will set your joinery, as the plans will be designed with a certain joinery.

For good wood to paint, you can find a lumber yard that sells poplar. It is a relatively inexpensive hardwood that is strong and paints well.

To make nice furniture out of home store construction lumber you will need a jointer and planer. Perhaps you already have them. If so then you can also use rough sawn hardwood from an actual hardwood dealer. Of course, the big advantage of home store stuff is its cheap, so if youu screw pieces up you can replace the wood cheaper.

The furnitujre can look good either way. Hard to paint the home store stuff because of the knots. So if you decide on paint go another way with that.


-- Part of engineering is to know when to put your calculator down and pick up your tools.

View Jon Hobbs's profile

Jon Hobbs

126 posts in 636 days

#2 posted 03-13-2018 05:40 PM

Hey RJ,

Welcome! What you’re looking to build is often called a “sideboard”. You might also search for other types of furniture that are similar. Look at the construction and joinery used, and then adjust the overall dimensions and layout to meet your needs. You’re basically looking to build a box with some drawers and doors, and perhaps some legs. A nightstand is also a box with drawers and possibly a door. A dresser is also a box with drawers. As is an armoire.

There are many ways to skin the construction and joinery cats. Many of which will work just fine. The tools that you own, or have easy access to, will also influence which construction and joinery techniques you use. If you have a pocket hole jig, but don’t own a dovetail jig, well, that’ll influence your joinery choices :)

Also, the amount of time you have available to complete your project will be a factor as well. Something like an anniversary present has a deadline :) Hand cutting a dovetailed carcass will take a long, long time. Especially if you’ve never done it before. Hand cutting mortise and tenon joints will take longer than using a Domino (but cost a lot less).

At your experience level, for that type of project, a Domino would be great if you can swing it. Otherwise, a doweling jig or router-cut floating mortise and tenon joints should be relatively easy and quick, and be sufficiently strong.

Biscuits are quick and easy, and not too expensive, but they’re also not very strong. For edge-joining boards, they’re pretty good, but not much else.

If you go with paint, I strongly suggest avoiding the Home Depot or Lowes brand. Head to Sherwin Williams or Benjamin Moore and ask about their cabinet-specific paints. I’d also echo what Brian said – go with poplar if your’re going to paint it. It’s inexpensive and very easy to work with.

If you go for a non-paint finish, cherry is a good option for wood. It’s not too expensive, it’s easy to work with, and there are several dead-simple finishing “recipes” that will yield gorgeous results. You could always combine finishes too. A poplar carcass painted off-white topped with a cherry top would look very elegant IMHO :)

Good luck and enjoy the ride!

-- Jon -- Just a Minnesota kid hanging out in Kansas

View Woodknack's profile


11297 posts in 2312 days

#3 posted 03-13-2018 09:31 PM

Specific questions:
- ryjack

Agree with Jon, I think you want to build a sideboard or huntboard.

1) I think all the woodworking magazines have done sideboards over the years and sell plans you can purchase, or buy an issue of the magazine from ebay. It used to be a popular project so there are plans galore. I would stay away from free internet plans like Anna White or you’ll be back here in 6 months asking how to fix the sideboard that’s bulging at the seams and coming apart.
2) Any kind of wood you want. Find a local hardwood dealer and see what they have in stock. Allow for at least 20% waste. Construction lumber actually requires more skill as it is not meant for furniture. You could also use a nice hardwood plywood to simplify construction.
3) If you buy plans, the appropriate joinery will be in the plans. Try to match the plans to the joinery methods with which you are comfortable. You can change the joinery from one type to another but that requires more experience.
4) A sideboard will be somewhat challenging as a first project. I would recommend building something smaller, simpler, but it really depends on your confidence and competence level. I would also suggest you be honest with yourself about your goals. If it’s just to do something and you don’t really care about keeping it for 10+ years, that’s a completely different thing than someone who wants to build an heirloom piece they can pass down to their children. Most of the advice you get here will be geared toward the latter.

-- Rick M,

View JBrow's profile


1340 posts in 852 days

#4 posted 03-14-2018 02:41 AM


Congratulation on your anniversary!

As others have said, various woodworking magazines offer plans either for sell or in the pages of their magazines. A well-stocked public library may carry some woodworking magazines that can be reviewed. Finding a public library with woodworking magazines from several publishers and spending time looking through all those magazines would be a time-consuming chore.

A google search for “dining buffet plans”, “sideboard plans”, and “dining furniture plans” may be more efficient and yield good results.

But before exercising either of these two options, a look at Woodsmith’s web site might have something you like. They have several pieces that could serve as a dining room buffet and I believe they sell their plans and suspect those plans are also found in back issues of Woodsmith magazine. Usually the Woodsmith magazine features tips and techniques that are directly related to the project plans contained within that magazine.

Fine Woodworking is another source for plans that can be purchased. From what I have seen, they tend toward classic joinery.

Assuming you are looking for affordable materials, you would like the project to come together easily and be long lasting I recommend against common construction lumber. Even the best kiln dried construction lumber is generally too wet to produce long lasting results and can even cause problems during construction.

In my view the better alternative to construction lumber, rough sawn lumber or more expensive S4S home center hardwood lumber is hardwood plywood. I have found that Menards (apparently there are several in the St. Louis area) stocks several species of hardwood plywood in the store. A hardwood lumber dealer would carry a larger number of species but would be more expensive than Menards. I would figure no more than 2-3 sheets of ¾” plywood and 1 -2 sheets of ¼” plywood for drawer bottoms, the back, and perhaps panels if frame and panel doors are built. A saw blade designed to cut plywood would reduce plywood crosscut tear out.

If your project is done with hardwood plywood, the only hardwood lumber that would be needed is for the face frame, possibly drawer fronts, and edge banding of any exposed raw edges of the plywood.

Solid hardwood used could be bought as rough sawn or S4S at the home center. Rough sawn lumber is my preference, but milling it flat and square requires time. While it can be dimensioned with hand planes, a jointer, planer and table saw would require less effort.

I would think that poplar or maple would be good choices of wood; maple is about 2X the price of poplar. Poplar takes stain (although tends to blotch) and accepts paint well but is less dense than maple. Therefore poplar will ding more easily than maple. Not being one who uses stains to any great extent, I cannot say how readily maple accepts stain. Maple does paint well. My local Menards stocks maple plywood and maple 1X S4S boards in the store. If that is not the case in your area, a hardwood dealer can supply maple or perhaps it can be special ordered for delivery to your local Menards.

I prefer classic joinery methods such as mortise and tenons for the face frame, rabbet and dado joinery for assembling the carcase, cope and stick joinery for frame and panel doors and drawer fronts, and dovetails for drawer boxes. These joints are quicker and easier with jigs, specialty router bits, and other machinery. But a bigger problem than tooling may be the added time required to employ these joinery methods. A faster and easier method would be pocket screw joinery used along with glue. Depending on the design, some or all pocket holes can be hidden. If building off of someone else’s plans, some dimensions may need to be adjusted since pocket hole joinery is a butt joint technique.

Under the Anything Else category and for what it is worth, including the wife in selecting the design and finish is probably a good idea. While it takes away from her surprise when the project is done, it can avoid the ugly surprise of her being underwhelmed by your hard work.

View skogie1's profile


117 posts in 1295 days

#5 posted 03-14-2018 11:52 AM

Hey ryjack, welcome to woodworking. I also got started in woodworking by just picking a project and going for it, about 8 years ago. Since then my tool collection and skills have expanded greatly. So here are my thoughts.

I suggest walnut for your wood. You’ll be able to find it as a veneered plywood and lumber. Poplar was suggested but poplar can go really brown when it ages (I’ve used it). What I like about walnut is that it’s beautiful and easier to use than some of the other hardwoods like Maple. And finishing walnut with one of the many available oil based finishes is easy and very beautifying.

Do you have access to a jointer, planer and table saw? If you’re buying rough stock from a hardwood store you’ll need that. If not, no problem, just buy dimensioned lumber from a big box retailer (I doubt they’ll carry walnut however). You’ll probably use veneered plywood for the case anyway so you won’t have a lot of need to dimension the lumber yourself, except probably drawer fronts and top.

For joinery, I suggest keeping it simple to increase your chance of a successful first build. Pocket screws or biscuits are easy to use. (Someone suggested a domino, which is an awesome machine, but there is a biiiiiiig price difference between a biscuit joiner and a domino). I suspect you’ll do something like make the carcase out of plywood and create a top out of lumber in which case using biscuits to align your pieces will be really nice.

You’ll need lots of clamps.

And lastly, subscribe to Fine Woodworking online. It’s not expensive and you have access to tons of instructional videos and downloadable pdf plans.

Have fun!

View olegrump's profile


43 posts in 154 days

#6 posted 03-14-2018 12:11 PM

I can tell you that maple typically doesn’t stain well. It tends to absorb the stain unevenly and doesn’t look well. Maple does look good with a nice clear finish though, if you want to go with the natural wood look. As noted, maple is denser than some of your other choices, so it is less prone to dings. Let’s face it, with a serving piece like this, we have to expect and plan for the WORST. Guests WILL drop food, cutlery and anything else they can get their hands on, always in a highly noticeable spot, and the wife (God bless her) WILL insist on placing VERY hot dishes down without a trivet or potholder. (Mine can be relied upon to demolish the surface of a nice wooden piece this way) And let’s not forget the ever present “rings” made by glasses left standing without a coaster. However you decide to finish the piece, a secondary top of glass or plexiglass should be used to prevent having to protect your surface. You will this done in almost any Bed & Breakfast for just these reasons. Best of luck to you, and please let us know how it turns out.
BTW, I just had my 7th Anniversary, and I’m STILL fighting the “Use a coaster” battle with the Missus. I need to refinish my desk top for the SECOND time. Don’t even ask about nail polish and dresser tops. It’s too horrible to think about….....

View rwe2156's profile


2837 posts in 1412 days

#7 posted 03-14-2018 03:51 PM

You’re biting off a lot for first furniture project but you can do it.

1. Does anyone have advice on how to find plans or cut lists etc for something as I am describing? My biggest challenge is learning how to make the carcass, then drawers.,

IMO THE most important step in building furniture is settling on a design. You don’t want to get half way thru a project and decide you don’t like something (BTDT got the T shirt ;-) I don’t usually work off a set of plans it seems for me they rarely fit the proportions or space available.

Personally my process starts by looking at a lot of pictures and figuring out what appeals to me. Sometimes I will combine ideas from different pieces. It usually starts with a simple Google search for images. Pinterest is a great source. I also happen to have a few books chock full of antique furniture designs.

Next, I determine the proportions of the piece. This will often be dictated by the location in the home. Especially true of your project.

Last, I will draw up a set of scale plans and spec out the joinery.

Fine Woodworking and Popular WW’ing have libraries of plans . They also have a lot of teaching articles and videos that will be of great benefit. I strongly recommend watching the project videos. You will learn a lot about techniques, tools and processes. FWW is well worth the membership fee IMO.

I also highly recommend Paul Sellers. His focus is hand tools, but every ww’er needs to has a good foundation in hand tool skills. A great source layout, marking, etc. Lots of instructive videos.

2. What type of wood would be best for an affordable buffet?

Hard to answer without know what is affordable. Premier woods would be species like cherry, walnut, mahogany, quarter sawn white oak. Depending on the size of the piece you could easily be looking $5-1000 just for the materials.

Plywood has to be top of the affordable list and would allow you to use a premier wood at a reasonable cost. Most distributors will carry various plywoods like cherry, oak, etc. Because a sideboard is basically cabinetry construction would be similar to a kitchen cabinet and very straightforward to build. You could even consider a painted bottom and save money for nice top like walnut. The best solid woods for painting are poplar and maple.

I would stay away from oak for a first project. It is notorious for tear out and finishing can be tricky.

A Shaker design is a good first choice you can use plywood for the panels.

3. What type of joinery would you recommend for my first real piece of furniture? Buscuit, pocket screw, mortise and tenon, etc?

I’ll start by saying I don’t view biscuits and pocket holes as joinery but rather methods of attaching wood together.

Joinery will be dictated by the design. For example, if you go with a frame and panel construction vs. panels & legs they will involve mortise and tenons.

4. Anything else I should consider or should be asking?

Take your time. I would be better to just have a picture to give your wife while the piece is still being built than to rush through trying to get it done in time.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View ryjack's profile


2 posts in 6 days

#8 posted 03-15-2018 09:53 PM

Wow, what a lot of great responses and help. Thank you all so much.

I do have access to a planer and jointer. I have a table and miter saw. I can buy a router too as it is on the list of soon to buy tools. May be a good way to do the dadoes.

I think I am going to go with a hardwood plywood to start the carcass. Poplar seems to be the popular choice. I have watched about a dozen videos now on cabinet making. Thanks for suggesting that, as this does seem to just be a wide cabinet.

I agree with rwe2156 that a painted bottom and wood top would look great. But, as others have suggested, the wife’s opinions are what matter here :)

I will keep everyone updated. If anyone has a tried and true method to constructing a cabinet of this type, I would love to hear it.


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