Decorating & Design

February 6, 2009

Build A Bench

We’ve designed this sturdy pine bench to be both beautiful and practical. Finished in a water-based wood stain from Minwax, it provides an ideal place for reading, relaxing or removing shoes and boots, and can also act as a handy serving table. When bringing “indoor” furniture outside, be mindful that weather conditions — namely, wind, moisture, humidity, heat and cold — can damage untreated furniture.

In this article:
The box
The lid
Finishing touch

Materials and Tools

To stain and protect your bench, you will need the following:

  • 150-grit and 220-grit sandpaper or sanding blocks
  • Clean, lint-free cloths
  • Synthetic bristle, natural bristle and foam brushes
  • Minwax Water-Based Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner*
  • Minwax Water-Based Wood Stain in “Vermont Maple”*
  • Minwax Helmsman Spar Urethane in Semi-Gloss*

*Note: We used Minwax products for this workshop, but any brand may be used.


  • 3 butt hinges with screws
  • 10 or 12 nail-on glides (prevents legs from splitting)
  • hinged-lid flap stay
  • 2 lb. 1-1/4″ #8 rustproof screws
  • 1/4 lb. 2″ galvanized spiral finishing nails
  • exterior wood glue
  • exterior wood filler


  • table saw (including push stick for narrow fillers)
  • mitre saw
  • variable speed drill
  • drill bits and countersink
  • screwdriver bits
  • hammer
  • nail punch
  • tape measure
  • pencil
  • putty knife
  • large work bench
  • carpenter’s square
  • router
  • chisel
  • safety glasses

Note: Only two types of lumber are used. 1″ x 6″ (actual size 3/4″ x 5-1/2″) and 1″ x 4″ (actual size 3/4″ x 3-1/2″). All thicknesses are 3/4″.

Cutting List

For 1″ x 4″ stock:

  • lid: 12 @ 3-1/2″ x 13″
  • verticles: 32 @ 3-1/2″ x 15-3/4″ (cut a few extra for fillers)
  • vertical (corner joints): 4 @ 2-3/4″ x 15-3/4″
  • inner-frame fronts and backs: 4 @ 3-1/2″ x 19-1/2″
  • inner-frame sides: 4 @ 3-1/2″ x 19-1/2″
  • centre braces (inside): 2 @ 3-1/2″ x 18″
  • leg fillers: 12 @ 3/4″ x 3/4″ x 9-1/2″

For 1″ x 6″ stock:

  • front and back legs and centre verticals: 6 @ 5-1/2″ x 17-1/4″
  • legs at sides: 4 @ 4-3/4″ x 17-1/4″
  • lid centre: 1 @ 5-1/2″ x 13″
  • mitered lid frame: 2 @ 5-1/2″ x 56″ with 45º mitre both ends
  • mitered lid frame: 2 @ 5-1/2″ x 24″ with 45º mitre both ends
  • lid under-structure: 2 @ 5-1/2″ x 50-7/8″

The box

Step 1

Pre-drill and countersink screws.

Step 2

Measure your two recycling bins to make sure that they will fit comfortably inside the bench.

Step 3

Assemble the innermost frames with glue and screws. You will end up with 2 frames 3-1/2″ x 21″ x 53″.

Step 4

Assemble legs with glue and finishing nails.

Step 5

Attach the legs and centre verticals to both frames. Start with the top one and ensure top frame is flush with top of legs. Then install (on inside face) the leg fillers flush with the exposed edge of legs. These will act as spacers before mounting the bottom horizontal inner frame.

Step 6

Space five verticals across the 19″ openings and 3 verticals across the 11-1/2″ openings. Ensure that they are 3/4″ below the top inner frame. Fasten in place with glue and screws. Fasten corner verticals in the same manner and rip filler strips on the table saw to ensure equal spacing of vertical.

Step 7

Fasten centre braces to 15-3/4″ verticals and then install inside box.

The lid

Step 1

Place the mitered pieces face-down on a workbench and carefully space all the 13″ pieces.

Step 2

The lid under-structure should be set back 2-9/16″ from the outer edge of the mitered frame. Assemble with glue and screws.

Step 3

Mark the location of your hinges and router the full thickness of the hinge (in closed position) into the box only. Carefully chisel the same clearance for the barrel of the hinge on the lid’s underside. Fasten the hinges.

Step 4

Support the lid at approximately a 100-degree open angle and install the lid flap stay.

Step 5

Install nail-on glides.

Finishing touch

Step 1

Once bench has been constructed, sand it all over with a medium grade sanding block or 150-grit sandpaper. To remove sanding dust, wipe all surfaces with a cloth dampened with water. Repeat process with a fine grade sanding block or 220-grit sandpaper until surface is smooth. Remove sanding dust with a cloth dampened with water.

Apply the Water-Based Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner to all areas of the bench, especially the porous end grain. After five minutes, remove excess Conditioner with a clean, lint-free cloth. To smooth raised grain wait 15-20 minutes and lightly sand surface with 220-grit (fine) sandpaper. Remove sanding dust with a cloth dampened with water.

Step 2

Stain the inside and outside of the bench with a water-based wood stain using a synthetic bristle brush, foam brush or a clean, lint-free cloth. We used Minwax Water-Based Wood Stain in “Vermont Maple”. Work in the direction of the wood grain. Wait no more than 3 minutes, and remove excess stain with a clean, lint-free cloth. Let dry a minimum of 2 hours. If a darker colour is desired, apply a second coat. Do not sand between coats.

Step 3

Protect your bench by applying Minwax Helmsman Spar Urethane Semi-Gloss using a natural bristle brush or foam brush. This durable finish provides protection from sun, rain and temperature changes. A minimum of 2 coats provides the best results. Allow to dry at least 6 hours between each coat. Be sure to cover all open joints, edges and end grain.