On the Side: Build a Simple Accent Table

Make this simple, modern table using standard-size lumber and pocket-hole joinery.

We take side and end tables for granted, but when we need a little extra storage or a place to set down a drink, they're invaluable. This sleek, modern table features a cantilever design and a glass top that offers an unobstructed view underneath, where a large shelf provides storage for books or collectibles.

Construction notes
Pocket-hole joinery makes this project easy to construct. I prefer to apply glue to the mating parts to create an even stronger bond. You’ll be drilling into two different thicknesses of stock, so be sure to set your jig and drill bit accordingly. You can fill the pocket holes with paint-grade pocket-hole plugs or paintable wood filler. The plugs will need to be trimmed using a flush-cut saw.

To make cleats for the top and the shelf, I simply fastened ripped 1x material with glue and brads. This eliminated the need to create a rabbet profile with a router or table saw fitted with a dado blade. The only tools you'll need for this project are a table saw, a miter saw, a drill/driver, a pocket-hole jig, a nailer (or hammer), a sander and a flush-cut saw if you use pocket-hole plugs. Refer to the cutting list for all part dimensions.

All of the lumber for this project is readily available at most home-improvement centers. I used milled, standard-size clear select pine (2x2, 1x2, 1x3) for all parts except the shelf and the top. The shelf is cut from 1/4-in. hardwood plywood, and I had the 1/8-in.-thick glass top cut to size at a craft-supply store. It is 1/8 in. smaller than the width and length of the opening so it fits easily and can be removed in the future for cleaning.

The 1x3 is ripped on a table saw to create the shelf cleats. The shelf also is cut to fit using a table saw. All other parts are cut to length using a miter saw.

When finishing, fill the pocket holes and brad holes and thoroughly sand the entire project, including a slight roundover on all corners and edges. In keeping with the simplicity and speed of this project, I applied a couple of coats of spray primer and a couple of coats of spray paint (Rust-Oleum American Accents Semi Gloss Black). Because I have hardwood floors, I also added felt furniture pads to the bottoms of the feet.

Create the top and bottom assemblies
Cut the top side rails (B), top end rails (A), bottom side rails (D) and bottom end rails (C) to length. Drill two pocket holes in both ends of the top side rails (photo 1). Apply glue to the ends of the top side rails and position them perpendicular to the ends of the top end rails. Clamp them in place, making sure that the joint is flush; then attach them using No. 8 x 2-1/2-in. self-tapping pocket-hole screws (photo 2). Check for square by comparing diagonal measurements from both directions.


Drill two hidden pocket holes in both ends of the top side rails (see part B in the illustration for more detail).


Line up the top side rails and top end rails (A) according to the illustration. Attach the pieces with glue and self-tapping screws.

Drill two pocket holes in both ends of the bottom side rails and one end only of the bottom end rails. Apply glue to the ends of one of the bottom side rails, position the ends perpendicular to the ends of the bottom end rails without pocket holes, clamp in place and attach using 2-1/2-in. pocket-hole screws. Reserve the remaining bottom side rail for a later step.

Use a table saw to rip the 1x3 to 1-1/4 in. wide. The remaining portion of the board should measure approximately 1-1/8 in. wide, depending on your saw blade kerf width (photo 3).


Create two top end cleats (E) by using a table saw to rip a 1x3 board to 1-1/4 in.

Measure the distance between the two top end rails; then cut two top end cleats (E) from the 1-1/4-in. ripped section to match this measurement. (It should be 15 in.) Apply glue to one face of the top end cleats, position them flush against the edge of the top end rails with the pocket holes and attach using No. 18 x 1-1/4-in. wire brads (photo 4). Cut the top side cleats (F) to fit, apply glue and attach using 1-1/4-in. wire brads.


Attach the top end cleats to the inside edges of the top end rails with glue and wire brads.

Assemble the base
Cut the feet (K) to length, apply glue to one end, position at the end of the bottom end rails without pocket holes and attach using No. 18 x 1-1/2-in. wire brads.

Cut the slats (H) to length and drill two pocket holes in both ends of each part. Note: Remember to change your pocket-hole jig’s drill bit settings to match the lumber thickness.

Place a scrap of 3/4-in. plywood on your workbench. Position the remaining bottom side rail flush against the plywood with the pocket holes facing away from it. Starting with one slat centered on this rail, attach the slats spaced 1-1/2 in. apart using No. 8 x 1-1/4-in. self-tapping pocket-hole screws (photo 5). Be sure to apply glue to the slat ends before attaching them.


Use a scrap piece of 3/4-in. plywood to center the slats (H) along the bottom side rail. Attach the pieces using glue and self-tapping screws.

Cut the legs (G) to length and drill two pocket holes in one end of each part. Apply glue to the ends of the bottom side rail of the slat-and-bottom-end-rail assembly, position it 1 in. from the end of the legs without the pocket holes, making sure the pocket holes on the other end are facing up, and attach using 2-1/2-in. pocket-hole screws.

Apply glue to the ends of the bottom end rails of the bottom-side-rail-and-bottom-end-rail assembly, position flush against the legs where the other bottom side rail meets and attach using 2-1/2-in. pocket-hole screws.

Measure the distance between the two bottom end rails and cut two bottom end cleats (I) from the 1-1/8-in. ripped section of the 1x3 to match this measurement. (It should be 17 in.) Apply glue to one face of the bottom end cleats, position them flush against the edge of the bottom end rails with the pocket holes and attach using 1-1/4-in. wire brads. Cut the bottom side cleats (J) to fit, apply glue and attach using 1-1/4-in. wire brads (photo 6).


Measure and cut the two bottom side cleats (J) to size; then attach them to the inside edges of the bottom side rails using glue and wire brads.

Apply glue to the top ends of the legs, position this assembly flush against the top assembly using the scrap 3/4-in. plywood to support the slats and attach to the top end rails using 2-1/2-in. pocket-hole screws.

Mark the center of the top side rail adjacent to the slats, center the middle slat matching this center and attach using 1-1/4-in. pocket-hole screws. Position the remaining slats 1-1/2 in. apart and attach using 1-1/4-in. pocket-hole screws.

Finishing touches
Measure the inside dimensions of the bottom rail assembly and cut the shelf (L) to fit. Test its fit first; then make any adjustments before applying a bead of glue on the top edge of the bottom cleats. Attach the shelf using No. 18 x 5/8-in. wire brads (photo 7).


Cut the shelf to fit according to the dimensions within the bottom rail assembly. Apply glue to the top edge of the bottom cleats and attach the shelf with wire brads.

Fill the pocket holes using paint-grade pocket-hole plugs (photo 8) or wood filler and the brad holes with wood filler. Sand the entire piece; then prime and paint.


Finish the side table by adding plugs to the pocket holes and wood filler to the brad holes. Sand the entire piece; then prime and paint it whatever color you choose.

Measure the inside dimensions of the top rail assembly and have the glass top (M) cut to fit. (Remember to make it 1/8 in. smaller than the opening for easy installation and removal.) Add felt furniture pads to the bottom of the feet; then clean the glass top and set it in place.