For this wooden bench, I wanted to create something as simple to put together as a single slat of wood on a couple of two-by-fours, but sturdier and more visually interesting.
To join the seat and legs together, I tried out the Kreg jig for the first time. It’s a tool that drills screw holes in a way where two boards fasten firmly together through diagonally drilled holes. Kirsten mastered this tool long ago and I thought I’d try my hand at it. Read on to find out what happened, and also know that you can toe-nail the feet onto your bench seat, too.
All said and done, this bench lives up to its name. Using basic building techniques and construction-grade lumber, you'll have a brand new bench in just a couple of hours—it's that simple. Now, let’s get building!
Step 1: Design your bench top
For this two-person bench, we used basic construction-grade two-by-four lumber. Our bench is 50” long, 15” deep, and about 19” tall. The cutting guide below builds a bench the same size, but you can adjust the dimensions for a one-person, or three-person bench, or to make it higher or lower.
Step 2: Cut lumber
Our bench top will be 50” long, so we used 10-foot-long two-by-fours to minimize waste. First we trimmed the ends of the 10-footers, measured 50” inches, and made our first cut. Then, using this first piece as a guide, we cut nine more pieces the same length. Cut as accurately as you can to make all the boards the same length, otherwise, you’ll have some boards longer than others, and it will show. For the two legs of the bench, we cut four 15” pieces and two 9” pieces from the left-overs.
Step 3: Sand
Now is a good time to sand your cut ends to remove any splinters.
As you sand, pick out and mark two nice-looking boards: one for the front and one for the rear of the bench. These two boards will show more than the others. This is also a great time to inspect the rest of the boards, decide which edge will show, and make a mark on the edge that will face downward on the completed bench.
Step 4: Assemble the first two seat boards
Using a flat work surface, grab your “front” board (50” long), and another board the same length. Position them with the nice edges down on the work surface. Square up the ends nice and even and clamp together. Fasten together with five 2 5/8” screws. 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 other screws.
Note: We used a Smart-Bit 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
Reserving the nice piece for the last layer, grab a third 50” two-by-four, clamp it into place, and (paying attention to the pencil marks showing the head location of the layer behind) secure the third board with five screws. Again, mark the edge of the two-by-four above the screws you just drove so that you know where they are when attaching the next layer.
Repeat with the remaining boards. For the last board, the screw heads will show. 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 50”.
Now you have your bench seat!
Step 6: Drill legs with Kreg jig
Using a Kreg jig, I drilled two holes into one end of the four 15” long pieces (legs) and two holes into both ends of the two 9” pieces (cross braces). Since this was the first time I’d used a Kreg jig, I practiced on some scrap lumber first to get a feel for it—oh, and I read the directions, too! You can buy a clamp to hold the jig in place, which could be helpful, but Kirsten stopped using the clamp long ago so I just held the jig in place like she does and it worked fine. Perhaps if I were doing fine woodworking I’d use a clamp, but for this project, it wasn’t needed.
Step 7: Assemble legs
Next, I assembled two “H” shaped legs for the bench. I first joined together two 15” pieces with the 9” piece spanning between them. I positioned the 9” piece 3 1/2” up from what will be the foot of the leg with the Kreg jig holes facing downward. Joining boards with the Kreg jig is simple and satisfying. You use the long bit included in the kit to drive the four screws, which cinch the boards tightly together.
A word to the wise: This being my first time with a Kreg jig, I did not account for the access one needs for a drill and long drill bit. Attaching the first joint was easy, but the second one (with only a 9” gap to work in) was more difficult. I gave the screws a head start in the holes before final assembly (which helped), and I made a mental note not to design tight workspaces in the future if I’m going to use a Kreg jig!
Step 8: Mount legs to bench seat
Next, we started the screws in the tops of the four legs and then set the legs against the bottom of the bench seat. We positioned the legs 4” from the ends of the bench, centered them front-to-back, and drove the screws home as our last step in assembly.
Step 9: Sand the finished bench (stain optional)
You may find you don’t need to do this last step, but you can sand the top, sides, and ends of the bench and smooth out any rough spots (this is especially easy if you have a power sander). Rounding the top edges of the bench will also make it more comfortable to sit on.
You can leave your bench natural or choose to stain it. A good rule to follow when staining is to apply the finish to all sides, including the bottom. If you like a gray, weathered look you can treat your bench with Lifetime Wood Treatment—it's a simple, non-toxic treatment for wood that you apply once, and never have to re-apply again.