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MAKE Asks: Building Furniture

Furniture & Lighting
MAKE Asks: Building Furniture

MAKE Asks: is a weekly column where we ask you, our readers, for responses to maker-related questions. We hope the column sparks interesting conversation and is a way for us to get to know more about each other.

This week’s question: It seems to me that a rite of passage for almost every maker I’ve met is to build a custom piece of furniture at some point. What is one of your favorite pieces of furniture that you have built?

When my wife and I downsized after a move, we were still busting at the seams after having donated or tossed many items. To solve the problem I looked into buying a queen sized loft bed to fit our mattress. I found out that such a beast did not exist locally, so I built one myself. I drafted the design on a piece of graph paper in three different views (the first time I had done such a thing since high school shop class) and put the whole thing together. It was the largest piece of furniture I ever built, but provided much-needed storage space.

Post your responses in the comments section.

28 thoughts on “MAKE Asks: Building Furniture

  1. danielmcgregor says:

    My favorite piece of furniture is this coffee table I made using an old Phillips TV, an LED RGB lighting strip with built in radio. It is also one of the biggest projects I have worked on so far.

    Heres the link to my blog:

    And my make projects page

  2. Halfvast Conspirator (@halfvastcnsprtr) says:

    My wife and I love Stickley furniture, and always wanted a Stickley dining room set (table and chairs). A full set would be about $20k so I figured I could save about $18k by building it myself. After a fair amount of study, and realizing that Stickley had very few dining tables/designs, but some nice chairs, I found some plans for similar chairs in a magazine, and designed my own table to reflect the chairs (which I also modified to suit my sensibilities). So, after some period of time, 2 arm chairs, 4 side chairs (should have done 6, still have the jigs), and a large table, all quartersawn oak emerged from my shop. Gorgeous, solid, and will outlast me and my kids, and my grandkids…

    After building the set and showing it at my woodworking club, a fellow member brought me a book on FL Wright furniture, and there in one picture was an almost identical set built in the 30s for one of his houses! I swear I had never seen that, so I figure I was channeling Frank….

    I got a private tour of the Stickley museum a coupla years ago, and showed the pictures to the manager — he was most intrigued and said Gustav would have approved!

    By the way, while this project took a fair amount of time and study, and a few good tools ($18k can buy a lot of nice tools but you don’t need near that much), this sort of thing is not beyond anyone who has the interest and diligence to work to a high standard, and is willing to learn from book and magazines and fellow woodworkers. Don’t be intimidated! and, most importantly, have fun!

  3. babywrassler says:

    I’m not sure it counts as furniture, but what came to mind for me was the seven-foot tall Scaredy Squirrell nut tree I made for my son’s room ( He loves the Scaredy Squirrell books and I wanted to give him a home for his stuffed Scaredy Squirrell. In the sense that the tree is Scaredy’s bed, I suppose it is furniture :). I’ve made other, more traditional bookshelves, tables, and desks, but none were as fun as the tree.

  4. Keith Anderson says:

    I made an outdoor bed frame out of recycled lumber. Its queen sized, and we have a mattress in a waterproof cover that we can put on it. I’ve slept overnight on it when the weather is right, and it makes for a fantastic spot to lounge on a Sunday with a cup of coffee and the paper….

  5. Jeremy says:

    The only piece of furniture (If you can call it furniture) I built from scratch was a rolling cart to place in front of my tread mill or bike trainer. It has three height adjustable fans, a television with a quick adjust clamp on a post to raise/lower it for bike to treadmill transitions, a western digital WIFI media streaming device, dvd player, and a computer. I looked on the internet for days trying to find a source for inspiration but found nothing like what I wanted, so I took some measurements and made a rough plan in my head and built exactly what I needed .

    I have also rebuilt shelves and desks and a bead to custom configure them. I added custom foam to an office chair to fit my body more ergonomically and am currently adding a headrest I made out of wood, foam and some scraps of leather I found that match the chair perfectly.

    There is definitely something to be said for custom furniture made the way you want it.

  6. Greg says:

    I’ve built a lot of stuff but little of it has been furniture. This is ironic because furniture has always been the thing I want to make the most. I have built several bookshelves, a large play structure in the yard, and am currently building a craftsman-style bed. The most useful thing so far has been some modifications to my kitchen cabinets. We got rid of a wall oven and I decided to make a cabinet in the hole left behind. I made two raised-panel doors to match the others in the kitchen and then rather than putting shelves in it; I made three shallow drawers that pull on out full-extension slides so that you can actually get to the stuff in the back.

  7. FredB says:

    Working from a ’70s Sunset Book Easy-to-Make Tables and Chairs, I developed a trestle table to use as a workbench. I liked having no corner legs and a self leveling table. It’s built to a custom height to suit the way I work.

    This is the first photo I posted to the MAKE pool.

  8. gdkonstantine says:

    I love building furniture. My first project was when I was a teenager, at a time when I didn’t know anything about how it should be built. The project was a day bed/bench made out of 2×4 lumber. It was total overkill, but my parents still have and use it in their home. On my own and with my better half, I’ve built some more sophisticated items. It is always nice to make something that is uniquely yours.

  9. John Honniball says:

    The closest that I’ve made to an item of furniture is the workbench that I made for the garage/workshop:

    I was lucky enough to be given an offcut of kitchen worktop that fitted exactly into the space available! All I had to do was support it at the right height. I based the design on one at:

  10. quack says:

    My favorite piece of furniture is always the next one I’m going to build. I’ve done lots of shelves, a bed, little cabinets and what not. Hopefully plan to do a nice big office desk soon when the company I work for moves to a new place, and there are end tables on the to do list for the living room too. Picking the past projects it would have to be the set of 4 large bookshelves in the basement of our old house. Two of them were hinged to make a hidden door that covered over the utility/storage area. They would trip a light switch when opened too. It was a fun project and everyone I showed it to loved it. Now I’ve got the itch to get back out to the workshop soon.

  11. walt scrivens says:

    My wife is a talented rubber-stamper. She uses Copic markers for coloring her cards, and she needed a way to keep her markers organized and handy so I designed and built a custom cart for her markers. The tray on the top is removable so that she can take the markers with her, and the bottom contains a storage compartment for her airbrush equipment. The overall height is designed so that the cart can be stored under her work table (which I also built for her). The website is my wife’s gallery. You can see the cart here:

  12. Joe Rodgers says:

    Last year I was obsessed with making things out of corrugated plastic signs found on the road after election season. The most successful was some lightweight shelving made from the 1×2 sticks, signs, and some 2″ self tapping screws. It’s not for anything very heavy, but it’s just the thing to store my plastic model collection.

  13. jamesbx says:

    I built most of the wooden furniture in my house. The flickr link shows a Craftsman style dining table I built from plans that were in a re-print of The Craftsman magazine, and I believe a Stickley design. The dining chairs are patterned from chairs that show up in a Stickley catalog. I designed the china hutch and buffet myself.

    The toolmonger link shows a nightstand I made for my youngest daughter. That one is my design as well. I hauled thousand pound logs off the mountain in NC, had them milled, and used them for the project.

    I’ve made upwards of 20 fine furniture projects over the last 15 years or so. The house is getting pretty full, so I’m more into blacksmithing and lampworking glass lately.

  14. Peter says:

    realy cool advice

    I´m building my own beautiful furniture right now with this great wood craft plans:

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In addition to being an online editor for MAKE Magazine, Michael Colombo works in fabrication, electronics, sound design, music production and performance (Yes. All that.) In the past he has also been a childrens' educator and entertainer, and holds a Masters degree from NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program.

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