bookshelf to nightstand conversion

We’ve all had them, those cheap particle board bookshelves that look nice but if you even think about lifting it with any number of books on it, it will crumble.

I had two left over from my college years that I didn’t manage to telepathically destroy. One was black and one was dark brown, so they looked a little silly in the guest room next to each other. Instead of throwing them out, I decided to cut them down and update them to function better as bedside tables. I was inspired by this post from Simply Beautiful by Angela. 

The starting measurements of each were: 40.5” h x 24.5” w x 12″ d.

Here’s what I needed (this is to finish one bookshelf (I bought double the amount listed below):

  • 4 1x2x96”
  • 1 1x4x96”
  • 1 bookshelf
  • Liquid nails
  • plywood-for the backing (at least 41” x by 25”)

I starting by cutting the bookshelves to 21.5″ high. 

From here on out, I will describe my steps for one bookshelf, I obviously did all of this for both shelves at the same time.  

Then I cut the “legs” I was putting on the front and sides (1×2’s cut to 24” you need 8 of these 2 for the front, 4 for the sides and 2 for the back)

*** If you set out to update your own bookshelf, and it happens to be the same size as mine, please, please still confirm your own measurements as I did have some small adjustment cuts that you may or may not have to do, depending on any variations in the wood or squareness of your shelf. ***

I glued the sides on first and let those cure overnight with clamps on. Then I glued the fronts on and clamped them to cure. While I was waiting for those to cure, I made more cuts.

I cut the bottom cross bars (front and back). These were 1×2 cut at approximately 23 ⅛”.  I also cut the side cross bars (4 of these 2 for each side). These were, again, 1×2 wood cut at approximately 8 ½”.

BEFORE SECURING THE BACK LEGS: measure cut and secure your backing, then secure the back ‘legs’.

Once the all of ‘legs’ were dry and cured, I began gluing and securing the crossbars.

As those were curing, I measured for the top. This consisted of a border of 1×2’s and 1×4’s inlaid to create an even surface.

I again used liquid nails and clamps to construct the inside of the top.  Then I secured the 1x2s by gluing and nailing them.

While the top was drying, I prepped the base for painting.

I gave it all a good sanding. I starting with 120 grit and went to 220. I also sanded the shelf just enough to rough the surface up so the white paint would adhere better.

I wiped everything down with tack cloth (basically sticky cheese cloth), and then primed the base and shelf.

While the base was drying, I sanded the top, paying special attention to make sure it was even and smooth.

I then wiped it with tack cloth and got my stain ready. I used Varathane Wood Stain in Espresso. After the stain was dry, I coated the top with 2 coats of poly.

While that was drying, I went back to the base and painted it white (Snowbound by Sherwin Williams).

I used a paint sprayer for this step and it sped up the process alot, but I have also had great results rolling/brushing the paint on (see note).  

NOTE: If you are brushing/rolling the paint, adding Floetrol to your paint helps to eliminate the brush and roller marks. Floetrol slows the dry time, which is usually a con, but that added time, gives the paint extra time to even out and dry to smooth finish. It also dulls the paint a bit, but also strengthens the finish.

Once everything was dry, I ran a bead of liquid nails on the top edge of the base. I then placed the stained top on and placed a few paint cans on top to weigh it down while it dried.

Here’s the finished product. I hope you are inspired!

If you have any questions, leave a comment or send a private message via the contact form!

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