Nelson Bench Inspired End Table with Built In Fridge
For this project, I took inspiration from the classic Nelson Platform Bench and created an end table with built-in mini fridge. The story and history of George Nelson and his creation of this bench is quite interesting. Watch the video below and follow along with the steps to see how I made it:
I was sent this mini fridge by a company, NewAir, to try out. When they contacted me, I had an idea to kind of integrate the mini beverage fridge into an end table, or bedside table. They liked the idea, so here we are. Thanks to NewAir for sending this to me! Look in the next section for a discount code where my followers can save 20% on this mini fridge.
TOOLS & MATERIALS: (affiliate links)
NewAir 126-Can Beverage Fridge | AB-1200X
Use code 20ULRICH for 20% off at https://www.newair.com/products/newair-126-can-beverage-cooler-ab-1200x?utm_source=youtube&utm_medium=BruceAUlrich&utm_campaign=AB1200X
Table saw - https://amzn.to/2C11FzS
DeWalt planer - https://amzn.to/2CXLyo7
Supermax drum sander - https://amzn.to/2q1u6GG
Trim router - https://amzn.to/2J8acm9
Random orbit sander - https://amzn.to/2C0gR0k
Nail gun - https://amzn.to/2C191n7
18ga finish nails - https://amzn.to/2pN38CV
Drill & driver - http://amzn.to/2C0JDfa
Miter saw - http://amzn.to/2GxJbX4
Jointer - https://amzn.to/2myoGBj (Mine is a Grizzly, but couldn't find a link for it)
Spray lacquer - https://amzn.to/2Dvqq88
Clamps - https://amzn.to/2LETmvM
There are a few things that many projects built with solid wood start out with. Milling the lumber from a rough state to some flat and square pieces is one of those things.
How do you mill rough lumber?
I’ll give you a brief summary of how I did it this time. I start by cutting the pieces to rough length at the miter saw. I usually leave the pieces a little bit long at this point, so they can be refined later. Then, it’s off to the jointer to get one flat face and an edge that is 90 degrees to that face. Then, I take that flat face and put it down in the planer. That’s the reference face, and the planer will make the other side parallel to your flat one. Then, the final step is to take it to the table saw, and rip the strips into however I need them to be. That’s a simplified version, but it’ll get you started if you’ve never done it before.
Since I got my pieces from a few different boards, I took them back to the planer to get them all to be the same thickness. And before I started creating my slatted pattern, I took everything through the drum sander, since I would not be able to sand those areas easily later on in the project.
CUTTING THE SPACERS
I needed about 30 spacer pieces for each of the surfaces (top and both sides), so I took a few of the strips I cut over to my crosscut sled, setup a stop block at an inch and a half, and cut them all out. This left some splinters on a couple of the ends, so I just briefly sanded them at the random orbit sander. I just held the sander upside down and used it like a stationary sander.
ARRANGING THE PIECES
Once all of the strips were left after cutting the spacer pieces, I took a few minutes to arrange them in a way that I liked. It is really easy to get confused while in the middle of the project, so taking a few moments to lay everything out ahead of time is really helpful.
CUTTING TO FINAL LENGTH
After getting them arranged like I wanted, I took them to the miter saw and cut them to final length. I started out doing one by one, but eventually grabbed about 4 at a time and cut them all at once. I used a stop block to help speed this process along and to make them more exact.
MAKING THE SLATTED PANELS
Next up was a test in patience. It really helps when assembling these slatted panels to go slow and take your time. The more careful you are to line all of these up just right, the less time you’ll have to spend sanding later. On the traditional Nelson Bench, I believe the spacer pieces are all one piece and a dado stack is used to create a board with some fingers on it that the slats fit into. I didn’t go that route because I thought it would be faster to just have the spacers and nail them all together. I’m not sure which would be faster. This ended up taking me much longer than I thought it would originally.
I used an 18ga brad nail gun and some wood glue to attach everything together, and kind of built it up as I went. Occasionally, the nail would split the small spacer pieces, but not very many of them did that, and it was not too bad. I made some spacers that could space evenly from the end small spacer to where the center one would go, both on the top piece and both of the side pieces. That way, I didn’t have to measure each of the 12 times as I built up the slatted panels. I could just use that piece, but the small spacer up to it and nail it in place.
I just kept building it up and up until the entire panel was made. Then, I took the panels to my crosscut sled and trimmed the ends to be even. This just seemed like the easiest way to accomplish it. Despite being very careful with gluing and nailing, there were still slight differences.
Then, I ran them through the drum sander a few times on each side…and an even number of times. That way, they were all smooth and the same thickness.
MISTAKE ALERT: I mess up with my measurements on the height of the sides. I measured to the height of the mini fridge, but I didn’t take into consideration the height of the actual panel on top of that. Well, the panels were about 1.5,” so I was short by that much. It was a pretty easy fix though, since I was able to just nail on a couple of stilt pieces to make up that height difference.
After adding the stilts to the bottom of each side, I tried two different methods to flush them to the slatted panels. The first was to use my router with a flush trim bit in it. This worked ok, but I don’t think I had enough support, because I would not keep it perfectly flat, and I got a couple of places where the bit kind of dug in more than flush. No big deal. On the next one, I decided to just measure the finished thickness of the slatted panels (remember, I sanded them a bit so they were less thick than originally planned) and ripped the additional pieces to that same thickness. That worked much better.
The added pieces were a bit longer than the slatted panels, so after I attached them, I just came back with a flush trim saw and took off the part that stuck out.
One other thing I had to do was put a small shim on either side of the top panel. After I squared up the top panel, it was slightly too narrow to fit around the fridge. I’m glad I took the pieces to the mini fridge before gluing them all together!
There was a LOT of sanding on this piece, despite my efforts to sand as much ahead of time as I could. I ended up breaking each of the sharp corners and edges by hand with some 220 grit sandpaper, rather than any kind of a routed profile. I wanted to keep the sharp look of the slats, but I didn’t want them to be sharp to the touch.
ATTACHING THE SIDE PANELS TO TOP PANEL:
I used a couple of clamps to hole it all together, and while upside down and clamped, I pre-drilled some holes from the outside of the side slatted panels into the top slatted panel. I did this on both sides before driving in some screws.
The side slatted panels were wanting to bow inward a little, and the piece needed some more lateral strength so I secured a couple of cross braces on the back. These will not really be seen, but they are important for the strength and rigidity of the end table. I just made sure to measure the width of the panel so that I could keep it the same as I went from the top to the bottom.
PLUGGING THE HOLES:
Then, I cut some plugs at the drill press using my plug cutting bit, and got them out by running the board through the bandsaw to remove the plugs I secured them in the screw holes with some wood glue. I came back a bit later and cut them flush.
For the finish, I used spray lacquer. I had a few cans of this around, so I decided that spraying something with so many slats would definitely be more ideal than trying to brush or wipe on a finish. I ended up applying 3 coats of lacquer, and then used a brown paper bag to knock back the nibs at the end. This leaves a great, subtle sheen!
I really like that this project turned out the way I envisioned it in the beginning! Drawing inspiration from the Nelson platform bench, I really think this piece gives homage to that one.
Tell me what you think below. Do you like the look? Does it work with the fridge?
Thanks for following along with this project! I appreciate you taking time, and if you would share it with someone, that would really help me out! See you on the next project!