Paddle bench
Photo by Sarah Robertson

3 upcycled benches perfect for the cottage

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Content from this article was originally published in the Spring 2016Spring 2017 issues of Cottage Life magazine.

Looking for a simple seat to place on the dock or by the front door? Try taking some cottage castoffs and turning them into a signature bench.

Here are some innovative, reader-made projects to inspire you.

The paddle back

Relax, paddlers and rowers, here’s a piece of furniture you can really put your backs into. Showcasing a collection of vintage oars and paddles, Sarah Robertson’s bench draws on her summer camp days in Algonquin Provincial Park. “I have a vivid memory of the paddles hanging in racks at camp and the different patinas on them,” the Jack Lake, Ont., cottager says. So when she spotted these oars and paddles in an antiques shop, “I wanted to do something with them. I thought they’d look great on a bench.”

Sarah and her husband, Stuart, assembled a bench seat from cedar 2x6s, mounted it on a couple of towering conifers, and framed a backrest from two 2x6s and a 1×8. She sanded and varnished the blades, then drilled pilot holes and screwed them to the 1×8, placing the tallest in the centre. Once she was happy with the arrangement, she trimmed off the shafts.

Now, the west-facing bench is a prime spot for sunset cocktails, and it’s popular with visitors. “We had one kayaker who just stopped in and said, ‘Where did you get your bench? We need one too.’ ”—Ray Ford

Apres-water ski

Courtesy of Al Norman

Every 15 years, Al Norman builds a new version of the original bench his grandfather designed in 1935 at his cottage on Lake Panache, Ont. The bench has a low seat and a high back, which makes it “perfect for watching the stars at night,” says Al. The most recent iteration includes even more family history—Al used the Mermaid water skis he learned on in the ’60s.

To make the bench, Al removed the footholds in the skis and plugged screw holes with wood filler, then coated them in spar urethane to preserve the graphics. He constructed the frame out of lumber and screwed on the skis to form the seat and back. “My dad water-skied up until he was 75 years old, and now my kids do it,” says Al, still an ardent skier himself. “I’ll keep going until I can’t get across the lake.”Alysha Vandertogt

Spruced-up seat

Photo courtesy of Mark Kreger

For most cottagers, a downed white spruce would mean a lot of cleanup for a little firewood. But when Mark Kreger saw a tree sprawled across a trail, he found a way to minimize work and maximize comfort.

“It was too big to move the whole thing, so I cut the end off and trimmed the boughs,” Kreger, who cottages near Kearney, Ont., says. “Then it struck me: if I propped the log up, I could make a rustic bench.” He just needed to put a leg under one end.

Using his battery-powered chainsaw, he cut a short piece of log, notched a saddle into the top of it, and dropped the “bench” onto the leg to make a level seat. Another length serves as a footrest for folks who tire on the way to Kreger’s swimming hole. “It’s a nice place to sit down for a spell and enjoy the view,” he says.—Ray Ford

Looking for more DIY inspiration? Check out our special Get-ready Guide in the Spring 2017 issue—on newsstands now!