Making a Bench from Dimensional Store Bought Lumber

When my wife Anita does shows, I’m always looking for something that I can make fairly quickly that she can sell in her booth to help pay for some of her fees. After helping her do shows over the past couple of years, I’ve noticed that small benches are quite popular. They’re nice to stick out on front porches or foyers or even mud rooms. In fact, some people even use a bench as the seating for one side of their kitchen table.


I designed this bench to be made from a 2″ x 12″ and a 2″ x 8″ that are eight feet long. However, if you change the dimension of the stretcher a little bit, it could be made form a 2″ x 12″ x 10′. The only issue doing that is you need to make sure your 2″ x 12″ x 10′ is choice wood with no splits at the end of the board because you’ll need nearly every inch of it. It doesn’t matter to me because I can’t fit a ten foot board in my car anyway, so I bought a 2″ x 12″ x 8′ and 2″ x 8″ x 8′ for under $20.00.


The construction of the bench is super simple. I make the legs 9″ wide x 16″ long. I measure down 2 1/2″ from top and bottom on each side and use the lid from my garbage can to draw an arch connecting the two marks. Then I cut it off the arches on my band saw. I sanded the arches smooth on my oscillating spindle sander.


The feet are 5″ wide x 10 3/4″ long. I draw a 1″ radius on both sides and remove the material with chisels, planes and files.

I want the bench to have four feet so I take two of the pads and cut grooves in them on my table saw. Once all the grooves are cut, I remove the waste with my bench router and plane everything smooth.

When designing the stretcher, I did nearly the same thing as the legs. I measured 2 1/2″ from each side and make a mark. Then I find the stretcher center and mark 2 1/2″ off each side of the center. I swing a compass set at a 12″ radius connecting the marks creating the arches for the stretcher.


In order for the legs to attach tot the stretcher, I bored a 1″ x 4″ mortise through the legs with a 1″ forstner bit and cleaned it up with chisels. The tenons I cut on the table saw and band saw and cleaned them up with my rabbet plane.

After all the parts are sanded, I dry fitted everything together to make sure the bench looked right. I wanted the tenons to have a mechanical fastener along with the glue, so I drilled two 1/4″ holes through the side of the legs going through the tenons.


I grabbed some scrap oak and split a few splitters of wood with a chisel. The pins run down the grain making them exceptionally stronger since the grain follows the strength of the wood. I sized the pins by punching them through my Lie-Nielsen dowel plate. I shaved the pins a little bit with my spoke shave so they would start to fit through the 1/4″ hole of the dowel plate. Once the pin starts to fit in the hole, I pound the hell out of it.


After I was satisfied with the way the bench stretcher fitted to the legs, I started gluing and screwing everything together, I placed glue of the pins and inserted them into the tenons of the bench. I didn’t bother draw boring the holes of the tenon. I was already satisfied with the tightness of the joint.


The bench was painted a duck egg blue and waxed over top. The next bench I make will probably be a different color. Maybe a black or grey as neutrals are always popular.


You can see the detail of the top where the scrub plane left little ridges in the wood giving the bench a bit of detail. It definitely looks better than having a plain board for the seat of the bench.


Making loose tenons

I recently outfitted my Colt plunge router base with a Micro Fence and I plan on using it a lot so I need a way to make a lot of loose tenons quickly.

When making the tenons, I grab some scrap maple I have lying around, rip it down to 3/8″ on the band saw and plane it to size on the planer.

The router bit I use is 1/4″ spiral up cut bit so the tenon stock needs to be 1/4″ in thickness to match the mortise.

Once I have the tenon stock sized, I run a veneering plane over both sides of the work piece to plane grooves into it. The grooves will give the glue a place to spread so that the tenon will fit in the mortise snuggly.

The router bit I use creates rounded ends in the mortise so I run the beading part of a 1/4″ beading plane over the tenon stock to round its sides.

Making the tenon stock is done, but now I need to cut them to length so I decided to quickly build a table saw sled with some more scrap wood.

I took a piece of 1/2″ plywood about 15″ long and laid it over my table saw with wooden runners in the dados of my table saw. I made sure the plywood was square to the saw and quickly glued and pinned the plywood to the runners.

I then cut up a 2 x 4 to create the front and back of the sled making sure that everything was square. The sled is not pretty but I don’t work for Woodsmith Magazine so I’ll skip the hard maple and cabinet grade plywood when building jigs. As long as it works, it’s fine by me.

I marked 3/4″, 1″, and 1 1/2″ lengths on the bottom of the sled to act as quick reference marks for certain sizes of tenons.

In no time at all, I can cut a multitude of precisely fitted tenons and store them in sandwich bags for easy storage.

Discovering the faults of production type chairs

My wife and I were browsing Half Price Books tonight when a wooden chair caught my eye. What I saw was a screw on the top of the chair where the side was mortised into the top.  So I grabbed my phone and took a couple of pics.

I turned the chair around and I saw the tenon and how small it was in relation to the size of the mortise.

The amount of slop on the tenon was astonishing. Seemed like there was a 3/16″ play all around the tenon. I couldn’t tell how much difference there was between the thickness of the tenon and the width of the mortise but there wasn’t any glue residue on the tenon. You would think with all of the stress put on a chair that the manufacturer would be more attentitive to the proper size of the mortise and tenon joints in their furniture. Just another reason why it’s better to buy furniture from craftsmen who care about their work.