I built the prototype of this bench years (OK, decades) ago as a platform to stand on while supporting one end of a piece of Sheetrock on my head as I nailed it in place on an eight-foot ceiling. Since then, labor-saving Sheetrock lifts have become common. These lifts make the work a lot easier and avoid sore muscles and a sore head. But I have kept the old-fashioned bench. It is so handy in so many ways that I would not think of discarding it.
Standing on the bench puts me at a comfortable height to do all sorts of household projects from hanging curtains to cutting in paint where walls meet ceilings. Installing lights, ceiling fans, wood trim, shelving and the like is more easily done standing on the stable, roomy bench than standing on the narrow step of a ladder.
In addition, the bench serves as a low table or workbench on which to saw or drill. On the bench, a paint can or roller tray is within easy reach. So are flower pots and potting soil. Also, it makes a good place to sit and take a break. Turned upside down, the bench becomes a box in which to carry tools and materials to a work site. There are so many uses for the device that finding a name for it is difficult. We just call it “the bench.” Its dimensions can be easily altered to suit your purposes and size.
The 2-by-2s used for legs need to be selected so they are free of large knots that would weaken them. I’ve specified ½-inch AC-grade plywood, but you could use any plywood between ½-inch and ¾-inch. I used ¾-inch for the top because I didn’t have enough ½-inch. The 2-by-2s are actually 1½-by-1½-inch, and plywood thicknesses may be less than the sizes used to refer to them. The width of the top equals the length of the end pieces plus two thicknesses of the side pieces. The widths and lengths of full sheets of plywood are almost always exact.
If you have a table saw or other equipment to saw plywood accurately without a jig, then cut the pieces indicated above and proceed to assembly. If you will rely on your handheld circular saw, then mark the cuts and use a length of 1-by-4 clamped to the plywood as a guide when sawing. Measure the distance from the far side of the saw’s blade to the edge of the saw’s foot and clamp the 1-by-2 guide that distance from your cutting line. Before making the cut, be sure that the saw blade is where it needs to be.
Use 1/8-inch pilot holes for all screws to avoid splitting. The heads of the screws should be countersunk so they don’t protrude from the surface of the plywood. You can glue up as you go, but I prefer to screw the pieces together first to make sure everything fits.
1. Screw the end pieces of plywood to the legs.
2. Screw the side pieces of plywood to the legs.
3. Fasten the plywood top to the tops of the legs using one screw 1¼ inches in from both edges. If the sides are bowed in so they aren’t aligned with the top, put a stick in between them. If they are bowed out, put screws through the slides into a stick to draw the sides into alignment with the top.
4. Drill two 1 5/8-inch holes each 3 inches on either side of the center of the top. When the point of the bit just goes through the plywood, finish the hole from the other side. An alternative is to drill from the bottom with a scrap underneath. Either method will prevent splintering around the holes.
5. Use a handsaw or power reciprocating saw to remove the wood between the holes.
6. Round all edges of the plywood with a rasp or coarse sandpaper. Paint, varnish or leave unfinished.
7. Mark the pieces adjacent to each other, remove the screws, apply glue to all surfaces that contact each other, reassemble and weight the top.
The finished bench. You won’t believe how useful such a simple thing can be.
An avid gardener and woodworker, Tom Larson combines these passions whenever possible. His bench is in constant use at his home in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
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