How to Build a Wooden Bench

What You'll Need
7 each, 4x4x6 cedar or pine fence posts
1 Box of #8, 2 inch exterior screws
1 Box of #8, 1-1/2 inch exterior screws
Sandpaper in grits of 100 and 220
Golden oak stain
Spar varnish
Table saw

Building a wooden bench can be a simple, economical project with careful planning and the right materials. Although wooden benches are often made with exotic woods, the use of pine or cedar 4x4 posts, trimmed and sized on a table saw can produce a stunning project. Staining the bench with elegant, warm tones will increase its beauty, and varnishing it will protect it against the weather so that it can even be used outdoors.

 The most difficult aspect of working with the fence posts is that they will seem a little unwieldy at first. For example, depending on the table saw, most fence posts will have to be cut in half before cutting into other pieces. Cutting posts in half will necessitate making one cut, then turning the post over and making another cut. Once the posts are trimmed to the required width, the rest of the cutting will be simpler.

 Step 1- Cut Bench Parts into Appropriate Sizes (Thickness x Width x Length in inches)

  1. 2 Front legs 2-3/4 x 5-1/2 x 25
  2. 2 Back legs 2-3/4 x 7 x 39
  3. 2 Arm pieces 2-3/4 x 4 x 24
  4. 1 Front rail 1-1/4 x 5-1/2 x 57-1/2
  5. 1 Back rail 1-1/4 x 3-1/4 x 57-1/2
  6. 1 Back crest rail 1-1/4 x 4-1/2 x 57-1/2
  7. 2 Side rails 1-1/4 x 2-3/4 x 18-1/2
  8. 1 Mid rail 1-1/4 x 3 x 19
  9. 2 Stretchers 1-1/4 x 2 x 18-1/2
  10. 12 Upright back slats ½ x 2-1/4 x 19
  11. 5 Seating slats ¾ x 2-3/4 x 60
  12. 1 Forward seating slat ¾ x 2-1/2 x 54-1/2 

Step 2 - Shape the Pieces

Before constructing the bench, shape the arms, rails and back frame. The top of the arm pieces (#3) should have a gentle dip where the elbow rests, then a slight rise to accommodate the natural lift of the wrist. At approximately eight inches from the ends of each of the rails, (#4 and 6) shape them to form a downward curve. This will give the bench an appearance of a raised crest in its middle.

Step 3 - Assemble

Clamp and dry fit all pieces. Attempt to sit on the bench to ensure it is comfortable and at the right height. All joinery for this bench can be accomplished through the use of dowels or mortise and tendons. The simplest, and the most sturdy joinery, will be to glue and screw all the parts together with common, but strong, butt joints. To accommodate the gentle dip of the back rail, and to insure that the back slats all fit, it may be necessary to rout a groove into the back rail.

Step 3 - Stain and Finish

Once the bench is completed, begin sanding with 100 grit sandpaper, finishing up with 220 grit. Stain the wood with Golden Oak, which will give it a soft, warm color. Let stain dry thoroughly, and then apply three liberal coats of full strength Spar varnish. Let each coat dry thoroughly before sanding between each one.