Building a bench is a good way to get your feet wet with furniture making. It is a relatively simple project that uses several basic woodworking techniques and tools. Bench building is a project that can reward you with not only a great seat that could be in your family for generations, but also with a sense of accomplishment that only comes with doing something productive, creative and worthwhile.
The frame needs to be strong enough to hold three adults. 2”x4” boards make a sturdy frame and are relatively inexpensive to purchase. You’ll need three to four 6’ boards to start. Determine the length and width of your bench. Use a miter saw, table saw, or a handsaw to cut four pieces that will make up the front, back and sides of your frame. A standard size for a sitting bench is about 4’ long and 18” wide. Secure the four boards together using screws, framing spikes, or nails long enough to penetrate the receiving board by 1.5”.
Now you basically have a rectangle. You can use plywood or an 18” wide board for the seat. I like to use a thicker stain-ready board so that the seat lasts longer and looks beautiful. Cut the board so that it has about a 1” overhang when placed on top of your frame.
You can practice your joinery skills to attach the board to the frame. The type of joint that you’ll use is called a “stub mortise”. This is a shallow mortise that does not go all the way through the wood. Start by drilling holes into your base at the same diameter as the selected wood dowel. A hardwood dowel will be stronger than a softwood dowel, in general. Inset the dowel pegs and secure them with wood glue. The height of the dowel pegs should all be equal. Mark each one with chalk and center the bench seat over them. Follow the chalk marks on the bench seat and drill your stub mortise holes on the marks. Use more wood glue in the holes and around the top edge of the frame to secure the seat. Use clamps and let the seat dry for a few hours.
For the legs of the bench, you’ll want to use cabinet grade plywood. I generally use the same wood that I used for the seat so that everything matches. Use a nail gun or drill out holes for screws to avoid splitting the wood when you attach it to the base. You can make your bench whatever height you wish. Standards are around 18” high. The side panels should fit underneath the lip of the bench seat. Brace the two panels on each end together by attaching a 2”x4” board underneath. It should brace the legs so that they cannot splay out or bend inward.
When you’re done, sand and stain the bench. Use tung oil, varnish or lacquer to protect the finish and give it the desired look that you want. Don’t forget to sign and date your work in an inconspicuous area when you’re done!
About the Author: Dave Murphy is the founder and president of Good Wood, Inc., which makes a high quality wood dowel and the best hardwood dowel on the market. They also create wooden balls, wood knobs, wooden toy parts, custom wood parts, and more. They offer safe wood finishing, wood turning and can import from off-shore when necessary. Visit http://www.goodwoodinc.com for all of your wood product needs.