Adding Shelf to Create Storage Space Under Side Table
Utilising Wasted Space for Storage
We bought a set of ornate nest of table’s years ago, three of which are occasionally nested e.g. stacked away in a corner to make more floor space in the living room when we have guests. The fourth, and largest one, is in permanent use as a coffee table by the sofa’s arm of where I sit.
It’s this fourth table where I saw an opportunity to utilise wasted space for storage by simply placing a shelf across the table legs stretchers; with the stretchers support the shelf.
I’ll not be doing the same for the other three tables because they are occasionally nested, and therefore the space is needed below them so that they can slide in beneath each other.
Obstacle to Just Simply Using the Stretchers
The purpose of stretchers is to hold the legs together to give them more stability and to make the whole structure stronger; albeit these tables have stretchers on only three sides because the fourth is needed to be kept clear so the tables can slide in underneath each other.
However, for the particular table where I intended to add the shelf, one of the stretchers is already used to support a remote control holder that I rigged up on the side of the table. Therefore I could only use the two remaining stretchers, at right angle to each other, as supports for the shelf.
Shelf Support Design
The shelf itself is just a sheet of wood with a notch cut out of one corner to fit around one of the legs.
The shelf would be supported on two sides by the two stretchers at right angles to each other, and supported on the third side by a shelf support being fitted at the bottom of the back of the wooden remote control holder that I made in a previous project.
Because these are ornate tables (as with the remote control holder) I don’t want the shelf to be a permanent feature, nor damage the table. Specifically, so that there is always the option to reverse the design and take the table back to its original form.
Therefore the design was for the remote control holder and the shelf would click together and lock each other in place.
This was in improvement on the original design for the remote control holder. As previously, the base of the remote control holder slipped over one of the leg stretchers and the top was in front of the table top skirting, with the whole thing locked in place with a large turn button latch.
Whereas now the shelf would be pushing against the back of the remote control holder, meaning that I no longer needed the turn button latch, and the top of the remote control holder could be placed behind the table top skirting, rather than in front of it.
The big advantage of having the top of the remote control holder behind the table top skirting, rather than in front, is that it pushes the remote control holder back slightly, making it less obtrusive and a neater finish.
To achieve this, the only compromise I had to make was to fix the front of the shelf to two of the stretchers with small screws, and the only reason for that is because the table only has three stretchers because it was designed as a nest table. Therefore, over the years the two legs not held together by a stretcher had splayed, and securing them to the shelf just pulls the whole table back into shape.
However, using a couple of small screws in this way is just a minor intrusion into the integrity of the table, which is easily reversible with just a bit of wood filler if I ever decide to take the table back to its original design and purpose as a nest side table.
Step-by-step Guide to Making and Fitting Shelf
Cutting the Shelf to Size
The required steps are as follows:-
- Measure the length and width the shelf needs to be to fit into the space and be supported by the table leg stretchers etc.
- Measure and mark a piece of plywood of suitable thickness e.g. 12mm (½ inch) to the correct width.
- Cut along the marked line using a circular saw.
- Measure and mark the correct length (the back of a saw can make an ideal square for this); then cut to size.
Making Notch to Fit Around Table Leg
Having cut the plywood to size:-
- Lay it in place next to the leg so as to mark where to cut for the notch so that the shelf will around the table leg. Repeat the process for marking where to cut the other side of the notch.
- Clamp the plywood to the workbench and use a handsaw to cut the notch.
- Test fit, and make any minor adjustments if necessary.
Fitting Shelf Support on Back of Remote Control Holder
As the back of the remote control holder (which I previously made to fit on the side of the table) will be supporting one side of the shelf, the next step was to make the shelf support to fit the remote control holder.
For the shelf support, I decided to repurpose the now redundant wooden turn button latch that I’d previously used secure the remote control holder in place against the table side.
This I did as follows:-
- Place the table on its side, with the remote control holder and shelf in place, so as to mark with a pencil where on the remote control holder the shelf support needs to be fitted.
- Using a tape measure, pencil, square and handsaw; measure, mark and cut the redundant turn button latch to size.
- Drill a couple of pilot hole into the shelf support and screw it to the remote control holder.
Cleaning and Preparation
Before final fit, the shelf should be cleaned and prepared for wood staining and polishing.
Therefore the few simple steps I took for this were:-
- Using an orbital sander to give it a quick sanding all round, and to smooth off the edges.
- Using a clean rag, giving it a good wipe over on both sides, with white to clean off all the saw dust, and leaving it for half an hour to dry.
- Then applying teak oil on the underside of the shelf to nourish the wood and give it a bit of colour; albeit the underside will not be visible when the table is in use, so it’s not critical.
Wood Dye and Polish
I had the option of wood stain or wood dye. Wood dye is more expensive so I tend to use if sparingly in DIY projects, especially on big projects. Wood dye is effective on bare wood because (unlike wood stain) it does easily absorb into the wood to give a good finish.
I opted for wood dye on this occasion because it’s easy and quick to apply, you only need to wipe it on with a cloth; and it becomes touch dry quickly; usually within half an hour.
Once the wood dye was dry, I then generously applied the beeswax with a yellow duster, and left it for 15 minutes before buffing it up to a shine.
I always use beeswax, and never silicon based furnisher polishes, because the beeswax gives a long durable protection, while the silicon is oil which looks shiny at first but becomes dull and sticky when the oil dries, attracting dust; which means that with silicon based polish you are forever have to polish the furniture.
Final Fit and Securing
Although the shelf and the remote control holder all slotted together tightly, and locked each other into place, the one issue was the two leg tables not braced with a stretcher had splayed by about 1cm (½ inch) over the years, and needed to be put back in shape to keep the shelf and remote control holder firmly locked together.
It wasn’t that the legs were loose or wobbly, they were still solid; but they did need pulling back into shape with a clamp, and then secured in place with a couple of discrete screws through the shelf, and into the side stretchers.
A simple solution, that’s revisable with some wood filler (to hide the screw holes), in the event that at some future date, I decided to remove the shelf and take the nest side table back to its original form.
If you had a choice would you prefer a set of nesting side tables than can be stacked when not required, or dedicated coffee or other some other type of casual tables in your living room?
Table Complete With New Shelf and Ready for UseClick thumbnail to view full-size
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Arthur Russ