Make a 5-board bench

By the dock, beneath a window, or beside the fire, this classic five-board cottage bench is both charming and useful

By Raj ChaudhryRaj Chaudhry


Photo by Laura Arsié

1 comment

By the dock, beneath a window, or beside the fire, this classic five-board cottage bench is both charming and useful. I used 1″-thick Douglas fir, but you can adapt the simple design to whatever wood is on hand, even those old barnboards stacked under the cottage.

What you’ll need

  • 1″ Douglas fir or lumber of your choice (see cutting diagram to the right)
  • 10 “figure-eight” tabletop fasteners
  • ten #8 x ¾” wood screws
  • ten #8 x 1″ wood screws
  • eight #10 x 3″ wood screws
  • eight plugs, if desired

1. Cut the parts to finished length and width. Saw the two bottom corners—45° cuts beginning 1″ from the top edge—off each apron. On each end piece, draw a 3 ½”-radius arc, centred on the bottom edge, and cut out with a jig saw or coping saw. Cut shoulder notches for the aprons in the end pieces, precisely matching the thickness and height of the aprons (here 1″ wide by 3″ high).

By Steven Balaban2. Drill holes for wooden plugs (if you plan to use them) in the aprons, 3½” from each end and about ¾” from the top and bottom edges, along with pilot holes for the screws that will secure the aprons to the ends.

3. Clamp the ends and aprons together. Work on a level surface and check for square. Drill 1/8″-dia. pilot holes through the apron and into the ends, and temporarily assemble using #10 x 3″ wood screws.

4. The seat will be secured to the base with figure-eight tabletop fasteners, available from specialty hardware retailers. These fasteners pivot to help prevent splitting as the seat shrinks and swells with changing humidity. With a Forstner bit, bore three shallow recesses (3/4″ dia. by about 1/8″ deep) evenly spaced along each apron for the fasteners and two in each end. Centred in each recess, drill a 7/64″ pilot hole for #8 x 1″ wood screws.

5. Remove one apron, then reassemble with wood glue (weatherproof if the bench will be used outdoors), screws, and plugs. Repeat for the other apron.

6. Attach tabletop fasteners to the base with #8 x 1″ wood screws. Place the seat on your work surface, top down, and centre the base on it. Mark the centres of the fasteners and drill 7/64″-dia. pilot holes for #8 x 3/4″ screws. Be careful not to drill right through the top.

7. Remove the hardware, sand the bench, assemble, and finish as desired. To weather new boards, I scrubbed them with a wire brush, working with the grain. I used a variety of colouring techniques, but you can achieve a similar look by following these steps:

  • First, stain the wood with a dark, ­ walnut-coloured stain. Seal with dewaxed shellac. Buff with fine steel wool. Rag on some red paint.
  • Allow to dry, then add some light-blue paint. When dry, sand to remove paint from the high spots, working down to bare wood along the edges. The shellac you applied earlier keeps the paint from soaking into the wood’s pores. That makes it easier to sand and produces a more authentic-looking antiqued finish.
  • Finally, add a thin glaze of medium-brown, polyurethane gel stain. For outdoor use, finish with clear polyurethane; for indoors, a coat of paste wax will add lustre and a little protection.
5 board bench

Photo by Laura Arsié



This article was originally published on January 25, 2011

1 comment

Sort order:

Oldest Newest

Aug. 27, 2012

9:42 am

We are unable to view the cutting diagram. Any suggestions? Thank you.

You need to be logged in or a registered user to leave a comment

Log in  |  Register

Tonight on Cottage Life

  • No listings available
View Full Schedule


Raj Chaudhry