Design & DIY

Take five boards and make one bench

outdoor-bench-with-flower-pots Laura Arsie

By the dock, beneath a window, or beside the fire, this classic five-bard 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 barn boards stacked under the cottage.

What you’ll need:

1″ Douglas fir or lumber of your choice

10 “figure-eight” tabletop fasteners

10 #8×1″ wood screws

10 #8×3/4″ wood screws

8 #10×3″ wood screws

8 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.)

2. Drill holes for wooden plugs (if you plan to use them) in the aprons, 3 ½” 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” diameter pilot holes through the apron and into the ends and temporarily assemble using #10×3” 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”diameter 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 #8×1” 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 #8×1” 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 7/65” diameter pilot holes for a #8×3/4” 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 chellac. Buff with line 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 around 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 antique 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.


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