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 (plans and full detailed tutorial coming soon!!), 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.

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 coming soon...subscribe via email or like us on Facebook to be notified when the plans are available.  The benches have been sized so that they will fit under the table.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Role Reversal

So I had to chuckle to myself the other night.  Snow had melted (don't worry, we got more after these pictures) and it had left us with a lawn littered with debris.  Turns out we didn't do as thorough of a job as we should have last fall when the leaves were falling.  There were piles of leaves in our boulevard and the flower beds were covered in leaves, over a foot deep in some spots.  Christmas lights were still dangling from the eaves.  And yes, if you look closely, that is an owl wearing a Santa hat on our front door.  The turquoise Christmas tree is still standing strong, too.
 Seriously, our house had the exact opposite of "curb appeal" - I'm thinking it would have been more accurately dubbed "gutter appeal."  Time to clean 'er up.  Or take photos while Brent gets it cleaned up!  Kidding, I put the camera down to help a little bit.  Thankfully, the kids are great helpers and love chipping in.
 And since we couldn't find any of Owen's shorts from last summer, Brent made him some.  I'm still trying to convince him to bring the length up a little bit.  Think...Davey Dukes.

 Turns out, after we raked up the garbage, there was actually green plant material beneath!
 Wow - kind of hard to tell, but this next photo is actually the "after."  Looks like we still have a little work to do.

 Then I was looking at my flower boxes, thinking they could really use a new coat of paint.

 I used my orbital sander (kind of my new best friend after that disaster of a project I call patio furniture refinishing) to sand off all the flaking paint.
 A few things to note here:  1.  That is a paint brush in my back pocket and I honestly don't even know why it's there.  Kind of looks like a rabbit tail though.  2.  Do not zoom in on my shapely legs, those babies haven't seen the sun or a razor since last October.  Only halfway kidding about the razor part.
 And then this is about the time that I started laughing to myself, because as I was outside in the yard, busting my hump, Brent was inside making dinner for the fam while simultaneously doing yoga.  Hence the role reversal.  I love him even more for it though.  You can't blame a man for wanting healthy, flexible joints!
 Had to hand sand to get into the grooves.
 Once sanding was complete, I used the same primer I use for every project to give the flower boxes a good base so the topcoat of paint would adhere well.
 After priming, there were still lots of little gaps where the wood had shrunk and moved with age.  Hmmmm...a lot like humans.
 I filled all the gaps with the caulk gun while Brent followed behind me and smoothed the caulk out.  Don't worry, his yoga session was complete.  He was cussing like a sailor as he followed me though because apparently I was using wayyyy too much caulk and it was making it difficult for him to smooth it out.
 After the caulk dried, I put two coats of our white exterior semi-gloss trim paint over top.  This shouldn't be a shocker, but flower boxes get hit with a lot of water, since the plants within need water ever 1-3 days.  So I'm not surprised that they need to be sanded and repainted every few years.
 Well there, that's looking a little better!

These small scale projects are what we tend to work on during the weekdays after work.  Not too time consuming and can be complete in a few hours.  We save the weekends for bigger, more substantial stuff...and we can't wait to share with you what we have been building for the last two weekends!!
Now we just have to sit back and wait until about mid-May, which is when we can actually plant stuff in them!