Making Something Gorgeous From Framing Lumber

Here at Hackaday, we typically cover things that blink, bleep, and occasionally they might even bloop. However, the name of the site is Hackaday. We’re about being clever, reusing things in new ways, and most importantly celebrating interesting projects. While not a traditional project that would grace the front page, we would argue that this nightstand made from framing lumber clearly belongs.

Framing lumber is infamous for being squirrely, weird, and heavily knotted. Most serious furniture makers avoid using the cheap stuff and opt for more expensive harder woods. Here in the US, the big box hardware stores carry cheap fast-grown soft pine that has significant amounts of warp and twist inherent in the wood. The process of getting it straight with right-angle corners is involved and even once it has been cut, the internal stresses inside the wood are released, rendering the board twisted and warped again over time. The timelapse process of planing, jointing, and cutting in the video has an almost therapeutic aspect to it. The results are two wonderful pieces of useful furniture that would look at home in most rooms.

The craftsmanship evident in the build is noteworthy but more impressive is the process of taking cheap and unfit materials and making something beautiful out of them. Perhaps if you’re inspired and decide to make your own nightstand this weekend, you can add some touch-sensitive electronics to it. Video after the break.

17 thoughts on “Making Something Gorgeous From Framing Lumber

  1. My TV stand/computer case is made of framing lumber in the form of white pine 2x4s and “seasoned” pallet wood. I gave it a coat of watered down white paint, and it looks nice and performs perfectly. I have a nice large fan on one side for pulling air in, and another on the other for pushing air out. The temp controlled fan on the CPU never spins up beyond the lowest setting no matter what I put it through. I had a lot of people tell me it would never work when building it (due to the wood and heat), but it’s the best computer case I’ve ever had. Aside from the fan grills and the soft glow of some LEDs, you’d never think it housed a computer.

    1. heh for years when i still had a CRT and a tower PC in my livingroom, i had mine hidden under a table made with a few pieces of pine 2×4 and a sheet of half inch plywood. when i had babies that started to get into it, i covered the open side of it with luan. i was real happy with how i removably-attached the luan, i guess it’s called a keyhole fastener? i drilled out a big hole large enough to pass the head of a screw through it, below a slot that would securely hold the screw. anyways it was great but it did *not* look presentable until i threw a tablecloth over it :)

  2. I have seen some very nice makings from old skids/pallets. Some guys cut the nail ends off, others leave the holes. I have once seen work done where the boards were cut from 2×4 with a reciprocating saw, and the boards run through a sanding drum “planer”. That one used all oil based stain & “varnish” to prevent rust.

  3. If framing lumber were that bad they would not build houses out if it. Framing lumber is kiln dried and generally pretty stable. Pallet lumber on the other hand is all over the map. It is often oak, and it is not unusual for it to be air dried only to the point the outside is not wet. I both have a sawmill and live down the block from a business that gets material on 8 to 10 fool long skids with 2 or 3 rough cut oak 2×4’s and 4″ wide to 6″ wide half inch thick oak slats that are 3 to 6 feet long. I have a lot of experience with rough cut material from my mill as well as material rescued from skids. The wood from the skids is wildly unstable and also very prone to splitting. The slats are fine for rough work, but tend to cup to the point of being unusable for anything tight. You can plane it, but by the time you have the cup out, there is not much left, and because of the way it has been dried, the freshly exposed wood is prone to cupping again. I have had good results stacking and slickening and covering the stacks with a tarp making a tunnel air can flow through, and letting it sit for a year or more. Not everybody has the space to do this though. Framing lumber is very tame compared to this. The oak 2x4s are a force to be reckoned with though, you can not hand nail the stuff.

    1. There’s a guy who is well known among the electric guitar playing and building people who built a few guitars from pallet wood to demonstrate that what the body of a solid body electric guitar is made from doesn’t so squat to affect the tone. Sounds the same with the same electronics whether the body is pine, oak, walnut, or whatever some pallet was banged together from.

      1. Actually, some pallets are oak, but they are normally used for “Heavy” service.
        But that being said, it’s not premium oak, it’s the scruffy pieces that are not used for anything nice.
        However, sliced and glued, a workable piece can result.
        (But you have got to have time)

  4. New Yankee Workshop did an episode making, I believe, a cool looking coffee table out of pallet wood. Norm talks about a lot of the issues. Boy I love that show. You can watch for free at PBS.

  5. Nice work in that video!

    I took a planing and joining woodworking class about 10 years ago, and we did a lot of the same things that he does in prep. One of the pieces I made is still dead flat despite the wood being wet enough that it was cold to the touch when we were picking out the planks.

    The secrets were:
    a) alternating cupping direction on the planks when gluing up to minimize leverage
    b) a sliding dovetail 90° across the warping direction. No glue, but slight wedge and percussive fit.

    This was at the woodshop of an old monastary, and when we went to dinner in the restaurant in the cellar, there was a door using the exact same technique. Granted, it looked a little worse for wear, but it was from the 1400s and still flat enough that it was in its original use. Respect!

  6. my table is two pieces of wood,the top is 3″ x27″x 9′ pine,and the base is a single piece from a maple ,27″ diameter ” x 33 ” ,which
    is just heavy enough that the table does not teeter totter if useing
    the far ends,another section from the same maple works as a coffee table,having a saw that will pull a 24″ bar in soggy hardwood is handy,next up are a bunch of huge monster poplars
    that are wind fell,but still not dead,more than 3′ at the butt,gota
    get the bark off poplar right after cutting it or it does not dry right

  7. I build stuff out of framing lumber all the time. Key notes: careful selection, grain direction visible on the ends and level of dryness. Straight grain doesn’t warp much without outside pressure. Cupped grain warps like the cupping structure. Wet boards sat until they are dry and have warped all they can tend to not warp much further unless the grain changes direction.

  8. I take this a step further; I build tables using re dimensioned douglas fir 2×4 (about $4 a piece) to build the legs and skirt. I oversize the skirt, and build a little ledge on the inside. I seat a piece of 2’x4′ specialty plywood (currently red oak plywood, around $25 there are several options, looks like they’re used for cabinets). Because I seat the plywood in the skirt, it hides the sides. For less than $45 I have a nice table. Another twenty to add a nice ledge underneath.

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