Tools and Materials
I used readily available Douglas fir for this project, because it’s easy to cut and sand, and it’s less expensive than other options. Use whatever wood you prefer; if you have scrap wood on hand, that’s even better. If you purchase lumber, you’ll likely have some left over, which will give you a palette to try out paint or stain colors. Also, having extra wood will give you wiggle room to get your measurements correct.
- Power saw (optional)
- Power sander or sandpaper
- Drill and bits
- Tape measure
- Carpenter’s square or ruler
- 8-foot-long 2×12
- 28-inch-long 2×4
- Wood glue
- 31⁄2-inch deck screws (20)
- Paint or stain and sealer
From the 2×12, you’ll need:
- 18-inch-long boards, for bench legs (2)
- 3-foot-long board, for bench seat
- 8-inch-long braces, cut 11⁄4 inch wide (4)
I’d come into the house after another day of rain, and my boots were a muddy mess. In our so-called “mudroom,” I tried to hang on to the wall to stabilize myself while I wrenched my boots off my feet. “A bench is what I need,” I thought to myself. I looked everywhere to buy one, but everything I found was more decorative and expensive than what I needed for this utilitarian purpose, so I decided to build one myself. Here’s how I did it.
Step 1: Plan Your Bench Size
Before you gather materials, you’ll need to decide how big you want your bench to be. To figure this out, I decided where I wanted my bench to go and then I measured that space. I decide to make my bench 3 feet long and 20 inches tall. It’s a good height so I can sit comfortably, and the length allows room for one person to sit with enough extra space to set down a hat or gloves. These instructions will produce a bench the same size. You can scale up or down in size to fit your space and preference.
Step 2: Cut the Lumber
Measure and mark all the wood pieces for cutting. Since you’ll sand the pieces before assembling the bench, you’ll be able to get rid of any pencil lines or superficial blemishes later. Using a handsaw or power saw, cut out the legs, seat, and braces. If your 2×4 isn’t cut to size yet, cut it at this time as well.
Step 3: Notch the Legs
On one bench leg, measure 4 inches in from both sides along the bottom of the board and leave a mark at each point. Then, find the center of the bottom of the board and mark 3 inches up from that point. With the help of a ruler or carpenter’s square to keep your lines straight, pencil the three marks into a triangle to form a notch. The notch should measure 31⁄2 inches wide and 3 inches tall. Repeat with the other leg.
Cut out the notches in both legs. If you use a power saw, cut just shy of the apex and finish cutting with a handsaw so you don’t over-cut.
Step 4: Sand
Sand the raw edges of all the wood pieces just enough to get rid of any splinters and minor blemishes. It’s much easier to do this before you assemble the bench.
Step 5: Assemble
5a. Start by attaching the 8-inch-long braces to the legs. Center a brace flush with the top edge on the inside of one leg. (See photo on Page 16.) Then, drill two pilot holes through the brace into the leg. Apply glue to the side of the brace that will sit against the leg, and then screw the brace to the leg through the pilot holes. Wipe off any excess glue. Repeat with the other three braces so each leg has a brace on the inside and outside of its top edge. These braces will make the bench seat and legs stronger, and they’ll eliminate the need to put screws through the seat top.
5b. Next, add the 2×4 brace between the bench legs. This will require the help of a second person. First, mark how high you want the brace to sit, making sure it’s centered. I positioned mine 6 inches below the seat. Once you’ve marked the brace location, drill two pilot holes in each leg where it will attach to the brace. Apply glue to one leg where the brace will attach, and then screw the brace in place through the pilot holes. Repeat on the other side. If you don’t have someone to help you with this step, you’ll need to use large clamps to hold everything in place while you work.
5c. Flip the seat so it’s top-side down, and then mark the underside of the seat where the legs will attach. Make sure the legs are centered.
5d. Drill two pilot holes through the bottom of each 8-inch brace into the bottom of the seat. Make sure you don’t drill so far that you poke through the top of the seat. Apply glue to the bottom of the seat where the legs will attach, and then screw the legs on through the pilot holes.
Let the glue dry for 24 hours, and then paint or stain and seal the bench.
Once the bench is assembled, you may find that the legs don’t sit perfectly level. If that’s the case, use adjustable furniture levelers or a small piece of wood to even things out. Otherwise, use the old-fashioned method of planing the bottom of the legs until they’re even. Go slow, and check often to make sure you don’t plane too much.
Renée Benoit lives on a small farmstead in Hereford, Arizona, with her partner, Marty. She’s an avid DIYer who takes satisfaction in knowing that it allows her to live a more self-sufficient life.