I’ve been building my way through different styles of benches over these past few weeks, and today we arrive at the final design in my bench journey. The idea for today’s bench came from our Simple Wood Bench. I wanted to create something equally easy to construct, but make design tweaks to really elevate it with visual interest.
Using the same technique but different sizes and grains of wood, I was able to create a nice variation in the color and grain of the benchtop. As for the legs, I turned to Semi Exact—a great DIY resource for metal legs and hardware—to bring in some contrast.
The final product is a sophisticated bench that offers much greater visual complexity than the amount of effort required to put it together. Let’s get to work!
Step 1: Design your benchtop
The idea for this two-person bench came right from our simple bench design. The assembly methods for the two benchtops are the same, but on this bench, we mixed up lengths of boards and species of lumber to give it a different look. Instead of having all the boards the same length, we broke up the 51” width with 18” boards and 33” boards; furthermore, we cut the 33” boards from spruce—a lumber species generally very white in color—which contrasts nicely with the western red cedar used for the other boards.
Our bench is 51” long and 16 1/2” deep and about 19” tall, and our cutting guide (below) builds a bench that size. Of course, you can adjust the dimensions to make a one-person bench or a three-person bench.
Step 2: Cut lumber
Two-by-fours like the ones we used often have either paint or a stamp on the end. Since the ends of the boards will show in the final bench, the first thing we did when selecting a board to cut up was trim off that marked end.
For our cedar boards, we cut two pieces 51” long and nine pieces 18” long. Then we cut nine pieces 33” long from the spruce lumber. See the cutting diagram for what pieces to cut from which boards.
Note: It’s not so important that the boards measure exactly the length we call out, but it IS important that the boards be the same length as each other. One easy way to better your chances for this is to carefully cut a length using a measuring tape, and then use that cut board to make the mark on the next board and cut it.
Step 3: Sand and mark outer edges
Now is a good time to sand your cut ends to remove any splinters. As you sand, inspect the boards and decide which edge will show on the top of the bench. Marking the edge you want to show will help you later on as you assemble the bench seat.
Step 4: Assemble the first two seat layers
Working on a flat surface, grab one of the longest boards and determine which side will face out and which edge will face up. Position the good side out and the good edge down. Now fasten both an 18” cedar board and a 33” spruce board against the backside of the 51” piece. Line up the ends, clamp together, and secure with 2 5/8” screws. We used decking screws because they have smaller heads. After you sink the screws in, mark the edge of the board above the screw heads—that way you’ll know where they are in the next step and avoid hitting them with subsequent screws.
Note: We used a SmartBit depth-setter tool for this project. It's optional but is an easy way to sink the screws to exactly the depth you want, avoiding screw heads that stand proud or are sunk too deeply.
Step 5: Add more layers
The third layer also consists of an 18” piece of cedar and a 33” piece of spruce, but for this layer you stagger the lengths from the order used in the second layer. Line them up, clamp them in place, and secure them with screws, making a light mark on the board's edge so you can see where the screws were sunk.
Your last layer will be the other 51” piece of cedar. Position it with the best edges facing outward and downward against your work surface. The screw heads will show on this board—if you’re particular about how they look, you can do what we did and mark the center of the board lengthwise so all the screw heads will be in an even row. We also spaced the five screws evenly across the width of the 51”.
Now you have your bench seat! Keep the good side (the top) facing downward for the next step.
Step 6: Sand
This step is optional, but running a sander (or sandpaper) over the surfaces of the bench is a great way to remove any splinters or rough spots, or minimize any variances in the boards.
Step 7: Apply finish
Another optional step is to apply a finish. We used teak oil because it’s easy to apply—just wipe it on with a rag. Multiple coats can be applied for more protection and gloss (if you decide to do this, be sure to use wet/dry sandpaper in between coats).
Step 8: Attach metal legs
We purchased bell-shaped, flat-iron legs from Semi-Exact. We chose a 16” height as well as a 16” depth. They easily screw into place using pre-drilled holes. We measured in 7” from the two ends of the bench, centered the legs front-to-back, and screwed the legs into the underside of the bench. We used some nice sturdy #14 x 3” screws to fasten the flat bar legs to the underside of the bench.
That’s it! Now you have a sophisticated bench that will surely impress your friends. Looking for more outdoor bench inspiration? Check out the other bench designs in our series: our take on a simple bench and a bench that expands to fit a friend.