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.

Materials
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.