How to build an ‘Industrial Sideboard’

This is a project I have been meaning to do for a long time. I really like the ‘industrial look’ furniture. You know the type: welded steel frames and chunky wooden panels. After a bit of shopping around (well actually, quite a few months!) I couldn’t find anything that was right. So, there is only one thing for it – here’s how I built an industrial sideboard.

First things first: some requirements

I was looking to build an open fronted sideboard for my dining room. A single ‘floating’ shelf along the middle. The sizes could be varied but something like 300x600x900mm (DxWxH) would work well. I wanted the frame to be a welded mild steel box section which I could spray paint black. Finally, I would use chunky pine board as wooden inserts into the steel frame.

  • Steel box section frame (finished in satin black spray paint)
  • Pine wooden panels (finished in medium oak varnish)
  • Open front with single floating shelf
  • Approximately 300x600x900mm (DxWxH)
  • Cost – as low as possible!

Furniture Board & Final Sizes

After a bit of shopping around, I decided on using solid pine ‘furniture board’ for the panels. This furniture board is made by gluing strips of timber together and then planed to final size. The standard thickness I went for was 18mm and this was available in various widths (100mm, 200mm, 300mm & 600mm). The real beauty of using the furniture board is that the long edges are already cut perfectly straight and parallel! All I had to do was trim to length 🙂

Now I had decided on the timber panels, this gave me some basic dimensions to work to. Some it was time to draw up some basic designs in CAD: Fusion 360 in my case. The below show the basic dimensions but feel free to modify them to suit your needs!

Steel frame work, the lazy way

With the design done, it’s time to get some materials on order. I already mentioned that I intended on using solid 18mm pine furniture board for this project. Most of my local hardware stores stock this and here are some links:

  • B&Q – good range of sizes and usually well stocked locally
  • Wickes – also stock a nice oak board (although a little out of my price range for this project)

For the steel, I decided on going with 20mm x 2mm mild steel box section. There are plenty of places you can get your steel from but one of my favourites is The Metal Store. No affiliation. But I have used them quite a few times now and they have been great. And for this project, there is one huge bonus…

They’ll do the cutting and save you all the hard work!

That’s right, they will do all the cutting…for FREE. That’s right, for FREE. So when you receive your steel, all you have to weld it together. For the dimensions above, here is a copy of the order / cutting list you need:

Order List

  • 1 x 20mm x 2mm x 6m
  • 1 x 20mm x 2mm x 1.5m
  • 20mm x 3mm Mild steel flat bar – 1.5 metre length*

Cutting List

  • 4 x 900mm
  • 2 x 640mm (top cross member)
  • 2 x 600mm (bottom cross members)
  • 4 x 300mm

Cost: £22.09

Cost: £FREE

*The flat bar is used to make some tags so we have something to attach the timber panels to. These steel tags help to keep that industrial sideboard look. Let’s quickly jump into that.

Tags, tags and more tags

So I know I said we can get everything already cut for us. Well, I lied. We need to cut some tags to be able to attach the wooden panels to the frame. I decided to use a tag at each corner. Not only does this give something sturdy for the wooden panels to attach to, but it also makes the frame extremely solid.

Making the tags is easy. Just cut strips with 45degree edges as below in the photos. For this project we will need 20 tags (4 for each panel). So we need to cut our 1.5m length of flat bar steel into 20 equal lengths, so each tag needs to be approximately 7.5cm.

The final step is to drill a hole into the centre of each tag. The hole needs to be big enough to run a screw through to secure the wooden panel. To keep that neat industrial sideboard look, I also countersunk the holes so the screw sat flush.

Quick: Look away! It’s welding time!

Now it is the fun time – welding! And obviously, just as I started, my MIG welding gas ran out. So I decided to use some “gasless MIG wire” I had on the shelf. This is a flux coated wire which means you don’t need a shielding gas. In hindsight, I really regret this decision. I found that the gasless wire left a lot of spatter mess and flux residue to clean up. All the time I saved in the cutting, I definitely lost in cleaning up welds!

Some horrible welding! I blame the wire, but if you have any hints for improvements, please drop a comment below!

The other thing I used on this one was some right angled welding magnets. My assumption was that the magnets would hold everything perfectly square. In reality, the magnets were great for holding things in place but made it a little tricky to make fine adjustments. A better technique I found was to use a scrap piece of the furniture board which had a factory cut square edge. The reason this was better is that it kept the gaps perfectly suited to the width of the furniture board. It was helped to make sure everything was square all along it’s length.

Now for the many (some might say excessive!) tags. These were easy to weld on. I used some smaller magnets to hold the tag in place whilst tacking it into place. Again, the gasless MIG (or my lack of skills!) made a right mess. Once a welded up, the tags made the frame very strong.

Cleaning up and painting

As I mentioned, I had a lot of cleaning up to do after welding. With some neat welding, I am sure you could avoid this step! But the main aim here is to prep everything for paint.

I started by cleaning up the welds with the angle grinder. Next I gave everything a good clean with a wire brush before going over with a 240grit sand paper. The final step was to clean all the surfaces with some spirit cleaner and a clean cloth – this just made sure there was no oil or welding flux remaining on the surface.

As for paint, I went with Hammerite smooth black spray paint. I’ve used this many times over the years and I know it is durable and leaves a good finish. The frame took three coats overall.

Fitting the furniture board

With the frame completely welded up, it is time to cut all of our furniture board to size. Since the width is already correct, all we need to do is cut the board to length, making sure everything is perfectly square. In some areas, you might need to tickle the edges with a sander to ensure a snug fit.

If you are following along with my dimensions, you need:

  • 3 x 600mm (top, bottom and shelf)
  • 2 x 750mm (two sides)

However, it is probably best to fit your boards to your frames rather than cutting to dimensions. This will ensure a perfect fit to your frame allowing for any moment in welding.

The the back panel, I intended on using a wall paper for the interior. So there was no point in using a nice piece of pine. Instead, I opted for a 6mm piece of MDF board. This was also a bit lighter than the equivalent 18mm furniture board.

Once you are happy with the fit, secure the boards down to the tags using some short wood screws. To be on the safe side, I pre-drilled all the holes. The last thing I wanted was the wood splitting on me!

To achieved the floating shelf, I used some simple right angled brackets. Picking some short brackets ensures that they won’t be seen once the shelf is screwed in place. I went with a slightly longer rear bracket which helps to keep everything strong and it is still invisible when the shelf is in place.

Finishing touches: making it look pretty

Right, we are almost at the finishing line! The final steps are finishing touches. The first simple one is to add some plastic end fittings to the tube feet. This makes sure the sideboard won’t damage the floor in any way. These can be bought from various places (including the Metal Store where I purchased the steel from) or you can 3D Print your own.

The furniture board has a lovely grain so I was really keen to try emphasise this. Hence, I decided to go with a medium oak varnish. I think a clear varnish would also work nicely. After a few coats of varnish, I gave everything a light sand and then a final coat with bees wax. This gives the wood a softer, smooth feel and it also smells great!

As a final bit of bling, I added a vibrate bit of wallpaper onto the backboard. This was easily stuck down with some PVA glue.

Industrial Sideboard Final Thoughts?

Want to try this but don’t have a welder? No welder? No problem! You could also complete this project using plastic connectors like these ones from the Metal Store. Instead of welding the tags you could attach the wooden panels together from the inside using brackets – similar to the way I installed the shelf.

I really enjoyed this project and I’m really happy with the result. Its an extremely strong industrial style sideboard and made from high quality materials. As you can probably see from some of the photos, I am making a few other pieces to match this one with a few interesting twists (watch this space). Next time I will definitely be avoiding the gasless MIG wire!

I hope you found this one interesting or even better, useful! Let me know if you have any comments or questions below. And please send me some photos if you build one for yourself via the contact page. ?

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