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Near the door or at the foot of the bed, this simple bench is perfect for a small space.
D.Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you need a lot of tools and machinery to start woodworking. While it’s definitely nice to have a splicer, planer, table saw, and milling machine, the only power tool I used to make this bench was a jigsaw. To learn about the simple tools and techniques we use, download the free “I Can Do That” manual online.
We designed this project around the available sizes of common lumber and assembled it with a simple but strong method: nails and cleats. To add visual interest to this simple design, the ends are thicker than the front, back, sides and top, and all the joints are offset. This creates lines and shadows at the intersections. It also takes some of the pressure off your accuracy – if your measurements are slightly out of phase no one will ever know.
Since I was planning to paint this piece, I decided to use inexpensive material – # 2 pine. I used 2 x 12 dimensional lumber for the ends and 1 x 12 and 1 x 10 for the rest. If you want to use a clear finish to show the wood grain, you may want to switch to clear hardwood. Spend some time choosing your material. You want the straightest pieces you can find with the fewest knots and other flaws.
The shortest 1 x 12 piece I could buy was 4 ‘long. This length allowed me to cut between the knots to get a clear piece for the top, seen in the photo on the right, and I used the extra to make the 3⁄4“X 3⁄4“Studs that hold the front and back panels to the ends. I cut the top off 1⁄8”Shorter than the front, back and bottom to provide space when opening and closing.
The two end parts and the front and rear panels have been left at their full width; only the top and bottom need to be ripped to the final size. After I cut the ends to size, I marked the feet at the bottom, made the cuts with the jigsaw, and cleaned the saw marks with a rasp. I then used my combined square to mark the location of the front and back panels. I placed the panels against my marks as shown in the photo above to determine the exact location of the cleats.
When I was sure my layout marks for the top edges of the front and back panels were 1 ″ below the top of the ends, I cut the cleats to size, leaving room for the bottom. Then I put glue on the cleats and nailed them to the end panels. While the glue dried, I glued and nailed the bottom to the bottom edge of the front panel. Then I put this assembly on an end panel, gluing and nailing it to the cleat using 3d finish the nails. Before putting the back panel on, I attached the other end as shown in the photo above.
I then placed the box face down on my bench and attached the back panel, using a couple of clamps to keep the mounting square and aligned with the pencil marks as shown in the photo. After placing the nail heads below the surface with a set of nails, I was ready to attach the top to the back panel with a piano hinge.
With the top protruding over the back panel, I had room to surface mount the piano hinge. I used an awl to make pilot holes for the screws and attached the hinge with a few screws in the beginning to make sure it opened and closed properly. So I removed the screws and the hinge and prepared the bench for painting.
I loosened all the edges with my plane and a rasp, then sanded with # 100 grit paper to remove the milling marks. If you’re using a random orbit sander, stay away from the inner corners where the front and back panels meet the ends. If you get too close, the edge of the sanding disc can penetrate. It is best that you stand an inch or two away with the sander and work by hand in the corners.
I primed the bottom of the hinged top and the bottom edge of the ends first. When this dried, I put a screw on the end of each foot to keep the ends off the surface while I painted the rest of the bench.
Dimensional bench cutting list
Item No. Dimensions (Inches) Material Comments
❏ 2 End 1 1⁄2 x 11 1⁄4 x 16 Pine 2 x 12
❏ 2 Front and back 3⁄4 x 9 1⁄4 x 27 Pine 1 x 10
❏ 1 Top 3⁄4 x 10 3⁄4 x 26 7⁄8 Pine cut from 1 x 12
❏ 1 Bottom 3⁄4 x 7 3⁄4 x 27 Pine cut from 1 x 10
❏ 4 cleats 3⁄4 X 3⁄4 x 8 1⁄2Pine tree
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