Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Simple Indoor/Outdoor Rustic Bench Plan

During the warmer months, our family spends almost every evening outside in our backyard.  The kids invent new games to play while Brent and I are usually tinkering around on a project back there.  Dinners are mostly eaten at our patio table, when the wind doesn't force us inside, that my dad built for us years ago.  I love that table because it has four benches that seat up to 8 people.

As we were recently in the midst of building a new patio table with ice chests sunk into it, we decided to design a plan for matching benches.  I think benches are great for patio tables because you can squeeze more people onto them than individual chairs - kids pack like sardines on them.  We've tested these benches and 3 adults can comfortably fit on each one.  And also, patio chairs tend to lean back, which makes it hard to eat at a table while sitting in them because you are always leaning forward.

Benches are super versatile, too!  Not only do they work great at a table, a bench would be perfect around a fire pit, on a covered front porch, inside a mudroom or even at the foot of a bed.  And the best part of this particular plan is that it only costs about $35 per bench to build, if you use an inexpensive wood such as Douglas fir!  Stain and exterior sealer would add to the cost if you didn't have it on hand already.

Spoiler Alert:  Here's what the finished bench will look like!

Feel free to cut all of your material according to the cut list below at the beginning of the project.

2 - 2x6  8' length
3 - 2x4  8' length
1 - 4x4  8' length
2 1/2" Kreg screws

Cut list:
2 - 2x6  64"
1 - 2x4  64"
2 - 2x4  55"
2 - 2x4  6 3/4"
2 - 2x4  9 3/4"
4 - 4x4  16"

Set the Kreg jig at 1 1/2" and your drill depth at 1 3/8".
On the two pieces of 2x4 cut at 55", drill 2 pocket screws in both ends.  Then drill pocket screws at each of the increments in the picture below - 5", 12 1/2", 24", 31", 42 1/2" & 50".  Both boards will be identical now with their pocket screws.  All of these pocket screws will be necessary to attach the skirt to the bench seat.
Here is what your pocket screws should look like in the small pices of blocking.
Sand all of your pices with 80 grit sandpaper and an orbital sander.  Follow up with 120 grit sandpaper.
Stain the inside edges of the bench seat boards.  These edges would be impossible to reach after the top is assembled.  I keep a foam brush inside a resealable bag while building these benches.  It will feel like you're getting it out and putting it back all the time!
Center the 55" skirt on the underside of the bench, you should have 4 1/2" on either end.
Now adjust the skirt so that it is 1 inch off the edge of the bench seat.  Repeat on other side.
Clamp the skirt to the bench seat and attach wth Kreg screws.
Working with these four pices of blocking, stain the outside and inside edges of each one.
Position the medium sized supports at 18 1/2" and 37" on the 2x4 cut at 55".
Attach the small support to the inside edge of the skirt by rotating the piece as shown.
And then attach to the opposite side.  Make sure the ends of the bench seat are perfectly flush with one another before you screw it together.
To assemble the legs, center the small support on the leg and attach.  Check that your small support is not upside down - the pocket screws should mimic that of the photo below, otherwise, you won't be able to attach the small support to the underside of the table in a future step.
Attach the other leg.
Clamp the leg assembly to the underside of your bench seat.
Attach with the pocket screws you drilled in the 55" skirt and run screws from the small support down into the underside of the 2x4 that makes up the bench seat..
Once both sets of legs are attached, set the bench down to verify it sits flat.
Sand everything once more with 120 grit paper.  Apply a coat of stain to the underside of the bench.  Once it's dry, flip it over and brush on a coat of conditioner.  On softer woods, conditioner helps to even the tone of the wood, decreasing blotchiness.
 It's very fast to apply as the wood will absorb it quickly.
After a coat has been brushed on, wipe off any residue with a dry towel.  Stain can be applied immediately or up to 2 hours following the conditioner.
On the board below, I applied conditioner on the right half then put stain on both the right and left.  You can see how the tone of the wood is more even and less splotchy on the right.
I used the same interior wood stain that we used in our basement remodel.  
Applying the stain with a foam brush makes cleanup much simpler.  Just store the foam brush in a resealable plastic bag if you have to stop for awhile or add a second coat.  I only needed one coat of stain, but you do have the option of applying a second coat if your first doesn't turn out as dark as you'd like.
Once the stain has dried on the bench, I applied three coats of this water based spar urethane.  The finish will build with each coat, so if you are wanting a glossy look, don't worry if the first coat doesn't look very shiny.  Every coat you apply afterwords will get glossier and glossier.  Make sure to VERY LIGHTLY run a fine sanding sponge over the table in between coats of spar urethane.  
Here's what you can expect for a finished product!  Plans for the table are available for now over at Remodelaholic.  The benches have been sized so that they will fit under the table.

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  1. I've been putting off getting a kreg jig for awhile, but I think I just need to bite the bullet because these benches look great!

  2. The table and benches are awesome! We're going to follow your directions. We'll also be making smaller benches for the table ends for when we have big parties. For the Kreg screws, what size box should I get of each? Looks like 2 1/2 comes in 250 count and 1 1/2 comes in either 100 count or 1,000 count. Thank you for publishing your plans!

    1. We thought small benches for the ends would be great, too! As for the screws, you would only need the 100 count box for the project. Send some pictures after you get it built!

  3. This is going to be PERFECT! I am building some benches for a walking path at work and this will work quite nicely.

  4. Very nice teak benches! Or are they made of something else?

  5. Amazing! Everything is just amazing!
    The instructions are unbelievable! I just finished building these benches and the end result is better than I expected. Everyone is impressed like I have been doing this all my life :))
    Would you be kind enough to help with some instructions or any type of sketch... in building a back rest for the benches?? PLEASE!! PLEASE!
    Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!!!
    I would really appreciate it!!

  6. I have not put anything together using wood and a saw since my 8th grade shop class. (my dad still keeps that shelf on the wall no matter the tragic sacrifice those trees had to make to create that abomination of a wood project). Nevertheless, my wife now thinks I’m Bob Vila without the awesome beard…if only there were instructions here on how to remodel an outdated bathroom and kitchen with 2x4s and a Kreg jig. I can’t wait to get started on another project. Thanks for the plans and step by step illustrations

    1. Kevin - thanks so much for providing us some feedback! All of this makes sense to us when we're taking photos and writing the tutorial BUT we are never quite sure it makes sense to anyone else! Good luck on your future projects - hopefully your wife continues to be impressed :)

  7. Hi Heidi! I just sent you an email (from hello@remodelaholic), and sometimes my messages get caught up in spam filters, so I just wanted to leave a comment here, too, as insurance :) Thanks!

  8. How can I print the plans for the Table?

    1. http://www.remodelaholic.com/build-patio-table-ice-boxes/?m

  9. What type of 4x4s did you purchase for this project? All the Big Box stores carry around here are PT, Im afraid they will look really different in color if I use them and regular Pine for the top and sides.

    1. PT will stain differently (not ideal). All the blue and Orange big-box stores should have non-PT 4x4x8 as well as local lumber yards.

    2. you can use cedar 4x4's, Fir is not available here either

  10. Hi Heidi, Wondering what the reasoning was behind setting Kreg drill bit depth at 1-3/8" vs. the 1-1/4"-1-1/2" setting. We are working with the same K4 jig it looks like you guys have and the 1-3/8" setting (on the right side depth gauge) actually makes a slightly deeper pocket hole than the (on left side depth gauge) 1-1/4"-1-1/2" depth setting. Just worried that the deeper hole may allow the 2-1/2" screws to poke out of the benchtop boards. Thx!

    1. I recommend using 2" pocket hole screws instead of 2 1/2. Although I did use 2 1/2 for securing the legs.

    2. I recommend using 2" screws rather than the 2 1/2. Although I did use the 2 1/2 for the legs.

  11. Would it be possible to make this bench at a length of 6' or 7'? If so, would there need to be legs in the middle?

  12. I assume Douglas Fir is pine. Can this also be used on the table?