When I was in college, funny graphic tees were just starting to be the trendy thing to wear. Slap on a funny tee-shirt (my “I Heart Soccer Moms” will always be near and dear to me) with a pair of hole’y jeans and your reef flops and you fell right in line. Or looked like a d-bag. Potato Pa-tah-to. What I keep thinking about with this project though is a shirt I had that said, “I heart hot beaches” (I apparently “hearted” a lot of things back then) and how if I changed one letter the shirt would be really funny… to no one but me. Ha.
Ok. I’m satisfied. I still think it’s funny.
On to the build!
Purchase List (per 1 bench)
- (2) 2″ x 8″ @ 8ft
- (2)* Premium Cut 2″ x 4″ – *no room for error here, if you’re worried about the angled cuts just buy the extra 2″ x 4″ and save yourself the trouble. I did. Ha.
- (4) 2″ x 4″ @ 14″ – Legs With 10 Degree Taper
- (2) 2″ x 4″ @ 14.5″ – Leg Header
- (2) 2″ x 4″ @ 7.5″ – Leg Cross Brace With 10 Degree Taper
- (2) 2″ x 4″ @ 45″ – Cross Braces
- (2) 2″ x 8″ @ 73″ – Bench Seat *I’ve added an inch for error, you can cut it 72″
** I recommend prepping the 2″ x 8″s first before you make any cuts on your 2″ x 4″s. Once you have the bench seat cut and assembled, your measurements might change slightly since lumber isn’t perfect.
Tools & Supplies Needed
- Sliding Miter Saw (sorry folks, need a slider here or a table saw for dado cuts)
- Power Drill/Impact Driver
- Circular Saw (optional if add the extra inch to the 2″ x 8″)
- Random Orbit Sander
- Kreg Jig Pocket Hole Jig
- 1-1/2″ Pocket Hole Screws
- 2-1/2″ Pocket Hole Screws
- Speed Square
- Speed Clamps
- 24″+ bar clamps
- Wood Glue
- Stainable Wood Filler
As always… make sure you know how to use your tools before you start. Tools are dangerous. Wear your safety gear!
Step 1 – Cut your 2″ x 8″s for the bench tops. These are 6 footers so if you’re really confident in your dado cuts (more on that in a second) you can just lop them off at 72″, but if you’re like me, you can give yourself a cushion and cut them at 73″ and clean up the excess later. My instructions will assume you added the extra inch. While we shouldn’t be superficial about things, you’re going to want to pick two pretty pieces of lumber. They should be void of defects (like villainous facial scars!) and sit flushly side by side and be equal in length. Dry clamp them together and then mark 12.5″ from each end and 14″ from each end. Draw a big X on the 1.5″ space between the two marks.
Step 2 – Dado cuts! What’s a dado cut? It’s sort of like a lap joint. What’s a lap joint? It’s a groove cut into a piece of wood to create a connecting joint. Sounds complicated. If you’ve got a sliding miter saw, a table saw, or a table saw with a dado blade (you’ve got a dado blade? why are you following my instructions?) then you’ll be fine. Set your blade depth to cut 1/2″. Test it out on a scrap piece of wood, seriously. Measure for accuracy. Because we’re attaching the legs with 1 1/2″ pocket screws you are safer to cut a little less than 1/2″ than more or your screws will come through the seat with too much torque. 4 out of 5 people don’t like screws poking them in the butt when they sit down. The 5th has a weird secret.
I recommend using a spacer between your piece of wood and your saw fence guard. That way when you pull your cuts with each pass you have a clean groove cut all the way through. If you don’t use a spacer, the groove cut nearest the fence will slightly taper following the contour of the saw blade. Don’t throw your groove off. It’s worse than losing your mojo.
Or at least it means you’ll have to chisel more.
Once you’ve cleaned up your dado cut, you should get something that looks like this… mind the gap.
Step 2.2 – Once you’ve made all 4 dado cuts, line your grooves up on a flat surface and dry fit a piece of the 2″ x 4″ that you’ll be using for the legs. You might have to go back and trim a little extra off. You want the fit as snug as possible.
Step 3 – Time for pocket holes! Not the ones where you lose change in your pockets. Using your Kreg Jig set on 1 1/2 depth, drill at least 4 pocket holes on the inside piece of each board (one outside of the dado cut on each end and at least two in the middle). You’ll do this for both boards for extra strength. When you’re ready to glue and screw, put your boards on a flat surface and use your bar clamps to hold the pieces together. Be extra careful about lining up your dado cuts. If you only have 2 bar clamps, start at one end, drive your 2 1/2″ pocket screws between your clamps and then walk the clamps down so you’re screwing between the clamped areas to assure the best butt joint.
*when you flip your bench over you might notice some extra glue that squeezed out of the joint. Wipe that up because wood glue doesn’t take stain.
Step 4 – Measure the distance across the dado groove you cut (so many dance puns going through my head…). It should be 14.5″ across for both grooves (it’s a dance off!), but if not, use those measurements and cut two pieces of 2″ x 4″ to those lengths. Dry fit them to make sure they fit in the groove and are flush. Adjust as needed.
Step 5 – On each end of your 14.5″ mark 2.25″ down from the side you want sitting in the dado groove. Now, adjust the angle of your miter saw so you’ll be cutting at 55 degrees. Cut off the 1.25″ portion at the 55 degree angle.
I think you just made what’s called an irregular polygon, but I always hated math. I’m calling it the Leg Header. Go ahead and dry fit it again to make sure everything looks right.
Step 6 – Setting the angle of your saw at 10 degrees cut two pieces at 14″. Angles going in the same direction /____/ . Dry fit those pieces with the Leg Header. Pictured below:
I wanted 6″ from the bottom of the header to the top of the leg cross brace. With the saw still set at 10 degrees, I cut a piece 7.5″ \\____/ at the widest. Dry fit and adjust as needed.
Step 7 – Pocket holes again! For the love of God so many pocket holes! There ends up being 12 different pocket holes drilled in each set of legs. Keep in mind you want the majority of these facing inward so they’ll be out of sight if you don’t patch them. Follow the guide below, you’ll be using your Kreg Jig set on 1 1/2″ and 2 1/2″ screws on the legs and cross brace and then the 1″ setting and 1 1/2″ screws where the Header will attach to your dado cut.
Step 8 – Take this time before you attach your legs to your seat and sand EVERYTHING! It will be much easier now than when it’s together. Smooth and round down your corners and edges and run over your pocket holes. Don’t worry about rounding down the ends of the bench yet. I typically use 120 Grit down to a 220 with my Random Orbit Sander. Once you’re finished, brush or wipe your surface clean.
Step 9 – Attach your legs! Using the pre-drilled pocket holes on your headers, glue and screw the legs into place in your dado grooves. Be sure to make sure your edges are flush and use your speed square to check for errrr… squareness. Don’t tighten your screws all the way yet. This will not only keep you from over torquing your screws through the seat, but also from driving the legs at funny angles.
Step 10 – The forgotten 45’s… Double check and measure the inside distance between your (bench) legs (not your thigh gap). It should come out to 45″. If not.. meh. Cut both pieces to length and then drill 2 pocket holes (1 1/2″ setting for 2 1/2″ screws) into each end. Glue and screw the first piece between the headers. And do your best not to judge my mess.
Then glue and screw the second piece between the cross braces. For real about the mess… pay no attention…
Step 11 – Flip your bench over! You’re finished! Or not. Ha. Remember the extra 1″ we added to the bench? Using your circular saw, cut off the excess 1/2″ on each side. Sand your rough edges to desired roundness. Assuming you measured right, you should be left with a fully functional 6 foot farmhouse style bench. Hooray!
Finishing – Knowing i’m going to stain this bench, I used a stainable wood filler to fill the gap between my 2″ x 8″s. Run a bead into the crack, wipe smooth with a dry cloth or paper towel. Next take a wet cloth or paper towel and wipe off the excess wood filler. Technically you could let it dry and sand it off too. I just wiped it clean and then quickly ran over the area with the sander the next day for anything I might have missed.
And there you go. I heart hot benches. I’m working on matching the stain to the original table, so updates to come as far as the finished pair. I’ll be using MinWax Poly-Shades once I get the combo down. Remember… lazy… who wants to stain and poly when I can do both at once! It’s like shampoo and conditioner!
**Update** After a couple coats of MinWax Road Oak and several coats of Semi Gloss Poly we ended up with two great benches!