When getting ready for our second daughter, Hailey, to arrive, my wife, Chantelle, and I discovered that the change table I had built for our first daughter, Emily, was nowhere to be found. We soon learned that the table had been floating from friend to friend for the past five years as they had their children. Since the table was currently in use by a set of new parents, I set out to build another one.
This time, I really wanted to make a change table that could grow with Hailey, right up into her adult years. Once we no longer need the diaper-changing area, the pad holder simply unscrews and the unit becomes a lovely piece of furniture for Hailey’s room.
This project is made of a combination of solid cherry and 3⁄4″-thick and 1⁄4″-thick veneered plywood. It has basic face-frame and carcass construction, with glued-in-place plywood panels for the door and back.
The carcass is made with 3/4"-thick cherry veneer ply, with 3/4" x 3/8" rabbets at the corners. Cut the top, bottom, sides, divider and shelves to size, then mark the dado locations for the shelves carefully. Cut the dados using either a tablesaw with a dado-blade set or a router spinning a straight bit.
Next, make your shelves by taking 3/4" x 15 1/4" x 16 1/8" pieces of ply and applying strips of solid cherry to the front edges using a bead of glue, then hold them in place with brads or 23-gauge pins at the extreme outside edges. Placing fasteners at these locations means they’ll be hidden by the face frame after final assembly.
Lay the carcass on its back on a work surface, and dry-fit the parts together. A couple of clamps to hold the parts upright make this task much easier. Once you are sure everything fits perfectly, remove the clamps and add glue to the rabbets and dados, reassemble and reclamp. Check for square by measuring and equalizing diagonal measurements taken corner to corner, and then allow the glue to dry.
The next step is to mill all of the 3/4"-thick cherry lumber for the stiles and rails for the front and rear frames. Once assembled and attached to the carcass, this cherry covers all the exposed plywood edges. Joint, plane and rip your stile and rail material to final widths, then cross cut all of the pieces to length.
Now, take the stiles and rails for the rear frame to the router table. Cut a 1/4"-wide x 3/8"-deep centred groove on the inward-facing narrow edges of all four pieces to accept the plywood back panel. These grooves need to be stopped, as continuing to the ends will make attaching the rails difficult. If you do happen to cut the grooves all the way to the end, you can easily fix the situation by gluing filler strips in place at the ends of the grooves.
To join the stiles and rails together, you have a few options. The plywood of the carcass will support these joints, so they don’t need to be incredibly strong. You can use dowels, pocket-hole screws or biscuits to bring the stiles and rails together. Just make sure that when they are clamped together, they are perfectly square. Any inaccuracy here will cause trouble later, when mounting the frames to the carcass.
To make up the rear panel, cut a piece of 1/4"-thick cherry plywood to final size and give the sharp edges a light sanding with 180-grit paper, to ease assembly. Next, apply a coat of glue to the ends of the rails and inside the grooves in the stiles and rails before sliding these parts in place around the plywood. Clamp the assembly together and let it dry.
The joints on this panel don’t need any reinforcement, but if you’d like to make them a little stronger, plunge a #20 biscuit slot into the joint on the top and bottom edges of the frame and glue a biscuit in place. Remove the protruding half of the biscuit with a handsaw after the glue cures, and sand flush. These joints are not the most attractive, but they’re completely hidden by the top and base during final assembly.
The front face frame is actually easier to make than the back one. No panel is needed. Cut the parts to size and then bring everything together with glue and the fasteners of your choice. I chose two 3/8"-diameter dowels per joint, but pocket-hole screws would be excellent too.
To attach the front and rear frames to the carcass, plunge #20 biscuit slots every 6" to 8" or so, and apply an even layer of glue to the plywood edges. Insert the biscuits and clamp the face frames in place until the glue sets. Once the glue has cured fully, trim the solid wood flush with the surface of the ply using a sharp block plane or some 150-grit paper wrapped around a sanding block. Go slowly here, as you don’t want to sand or plane through the thin, veneered plywood surface.
The top is 3/4" x 16" x 32 1/4" plywood edged with solid cherry fastened with glue and #20 biscuits. Use a bandsaw to cut a curve on the front edging that goes from 2" wide in the centre to 1 1/2" wide on the ends.
To help with alignment and to add visual detail, I used splines to join the side and front edging pieces to the top. The groove is simply a 1/8" x 3/8" x 1 1/2" stopped groove cut into the inside edge of the front trim piece and the front-facing ends of the side pieces. The splines are 1/8" x 3/4" x 1 1/2" pieces of cherry inserted into the grooves with glue, then sanded flush after the glue is dry. The top is held in place with #8 x 1 3/8"-long pan-head screws, driven up through the inside of the cabinet. Since both the carcass and the top are plywood, there is no need to allow for seasonal expansion.
The base is made separately so the carcass just slips in place. I used 3/4"-thick cherry, mitred at the front and dowelled together at the rear. The plans show how four corner blocks also reinforce the joints.
To make the base, cut one piece of 3/4" x 2 3/4" cherry to 34 1/2" long, with 45° mitres on the ends. Cut two more pieces at 181/4" for the side pieces, with matching mitres on the front edges. Finally, cut one more piece of 3/4"-thick cherry to 2" x 33" for the rear piece. Initially, the mitres are just glued, while the back piece is held in place with two 3/8"-diameter dowels. Glue the base assembly together, then clamp and check for square and allow the glue to set. While the glue is curing, cut four 3/4" x 2 1/2" reinforcing corner blocks and fasten them to the inside corners with glue and #8 x 1 1/2"-long wood screws driven through predrilled holes. Locate the blocks 3/4" down from the top edges of the base.
Fasten the base to the cabinet by driving #8 x 1"-long screws up through predrilled holes in the centre of the blocks and into the bottom of the cabinet.
Add a gentle curve to the base pieces of your change table for a refined look.
The last thing to build is the door. While building doors can be intimidating, my method is not only easy but very quick. Using stub tenons and a glued-in-place plywood panel, the entire door can be made using a tablesaw.
Cut 3/4"-thick x 1 3/4"-wide material to length for the stiles and rails, and then cut a 1/4"-wide x 3/8"-deep centred groove along the inside of all four pieces. On the rails, you will need to continue this groove along the ends of the pieces by using a shopmade tenoning jig. Once all the grooves are cut, use scrap to make the four 1/4"-thick x 1 3/4"-wide x 3/4"-long stub tenons that join the stiles and rails together. Glue these tenons into the ends of the rails now.
Next comes the door panel. Cut a piece of 1/4"-thick cherry plywood to the final size that fits within the frame. That should be 11 1/4" x 27 1/2", but complete a dry-fit of the five components to make sure everything fits. Once satisfied, assemble the door by putting a bead of glue in the grooves and clamping the assembly until dry. With the plywood glued in place, the result is a strong, stable door that will never sag. Test-fit the door in the opening, and trim the edges with a block plane to end up with an even 1/16" gap between the door stiles and the opening.
I chose a simple wipe-on finish for this project. I began with two coats of Minwax tung-oil finish to accentuate the colour of the cherry, then topped it with three coats of satin wipe-on polyurethane for durability. For hardware, I used a pair of mortiseless hinges. For a door latch, I wanted something a little different, so I decided to modify existing hardware to suit. I ordered a brass transom latch, sanded its clear-coat finish down to bare metal, then I cleaned it and added three coats of flat black metal paint.
The details on this project will keep it looking beautiful for years to come.
The last step is to make a holder for the change pad. I began with two pieces for the sides and one for the back. Mark the long curve on the back piece—bringing it from 5 1/2" wide at the centre to 4" at the ends. Cut curves on the two side pieces to suit the shape of your pad, then smooth the edges.
Since both side pieces are identical, you can attach them together temporarily with double-sided tape, and then cut/sand them at the same time. Join the three pieces with a simple dowelled butt joint at the back, using three 3/8"- diameter x 1 1/2"-long dowels per joint. Finally, glue and screw blocks on the back of the holder to attach it to the top, leaving a protruding 3/4" tab below the bottom edge. To attach the holder to the table, drive a screw through these blocks and into the solid-wood edging of the top.
|Part||Material||Size (T x W x L*)||Qty.|
For the top
|Pad holder back||cherry||3/4" x 5 1/2" x 32 1/2"||1|
|Pad holder sides||cherry||3/4" x 3 3/4" x 15 3/4"||2|
|Top||plywood||3/4" x 16" x 32 1/4"||1|
|Front edging||cherry||3/4" x 2" x 34"||1|
|Side edging||cherry||3/4" x 1 1/2" x 16 1/2"||2|
|Back edging||cherry||3/4" x 3/4" x 31"||1|
|Splines||cherry||1/8" x 3/4" x 1 1/2"||2|
For the carcass
|Sides||plywood||3/4" x 16" x 35"||2|
|Divider||plywood||3/4" x 16" x 33 1/2"||1|
|Cracass bottom and top||plywood||3/4" x 16" x 32 1/4"||2|
|Shelves||plywood||3/4" x 15 1/4" x 16 1/8"||3|
|Shelf edging||cherry||3/4" x 3/4" x 16 1/8"||3|
|Back stiles||cherry||3/4" x 1 1/2" x 35"||2|
|Back top rail||cherry||3/4" x 2" x 30"||1|
|Back bottom rail||cherry||3/4" x 2 3/4" x 30"||1|
|Back panel||plywood||1/4" x 30 3/4" x 31"||1|
|Front stiles||cherry||3/4" x 1 1/2" x 35"||2|
|Centre stile||cherry||3/4" x 2" x 30 1/4"||1|
|Front top rail||cherry||3/4" x 2" x 30"||1|
|Front bottom rail||cherry||3/4" x 2 3/4" x 30"||1|
For the base
|Front||cherry||3/4" x 2 3/4" x 34 1/2"||1|
|Sides||cherry||3/4" x 2 3/4" x 18 1/4Ã�Â "||2|
|Back||cherry||3/4" x 2" x 33"||1|
|Corner blocks||cherry||3/4" x 1 3/4" x 3 1/2||4|
For the door
|Stiles||cherry||3/4" x 1 3/4" x 30 1/4"||2|
|Rails||cherry||3/4" x 1 3/4" x 10 1/2"||2|
|Door panel||plywood||1/4" x 11 1/4" x 27 1/2"||1|
(Lee Valley #00H51.24 )
(Lee Valley #00G16.01 )
* Length indicates grain direction