Making furniture is one of my favorite things. There's very little more empowering than imagining a piece of furniture and actually making it a reality with a little hard work. Not only is furniture making a great way to potentially save money, but it's a really practical way to put your creativity to work!
Recently my mom asked my dad if he would be able to find time to make her a bench she could use at the dining table for family feasts and also in their entryway. I said, "Ma! Why don't I make you that bench?" Girls know how to use power tools too! So we worked together to come up with this simple slatwood bench design in a slightly distressed ebony finish.
-3 1x3" boards* ($3.82 each for pine)
-1 1x4" boards* ($4.58 for pine)
-8 1x2" boards* ($2.48 each for pine)
-4 angled leg plates (like these) ($1.14 each + $5.50 shipping= approximately $10)
-4 tapered legs in 12"-16" length, depending on your desired height—I used these ($17.95 each for pine), but these are less expensive ($5.38 each).
-8 1.5" Kreg screws
-32 1.5" flat wood screws
-16 finishing nails (at least 1.5")
-wood stain or paint and primer
-120 & 220 grit sandpaper
-extra fine steel wool
Total Cost (including lumber, legs, and leg mounting plates): $68
Cost assumes the less expensive table legs and does not include screws, paint, glue, etc., because those are items I already had on hand, and you may too. Also, cost of lumber will be lower if you buy longer boards and cut them down to size.
-Kreg pocket hole kit (with jig, drill bit, and driver)
-standard drill bits & drivers
-2 short clamps & 2 long clamps (not pictured in supplies)
-belt clamp (not pictured)
-rag or sponge
-optional: power sander
*The length of the boards is up to you, but I used 4' long boards.
Step One: Use the miter saw to cut 45 degree angles on the ends of two 1x3 boards as shown above. Cut down the length of the 1x2s to match the inside length of the freshly cut 1x3s. It is very important that the 1x2s are perfectly cut to exactly match the inside length of the mitered 1x3s.
Step Two: Use an extra board to space out the planks as shown above, arranging the 1x2s in the middle, and the 1x3s on the ends. Use scrap wood to make sure the ends of the 1x2s are even.
Step Three: Measure the distance between the 1x3s and cut two pieces of the 1x4 to that length. These will be the support boards for the bench. Screw them to the previously spaced-out 1x2s, as shown above. I attached mine 6" from the ends of the 1x2s. Make sure to keep pressure on the board while drilling the pilot holes and screwing in the wood screws, or you might mess up the board spacing.
Step Four: Clamp the Kreg jig onto the ends of the attached board and drill 2 pocket holes which will be used to connect the 1x3s to the edge.
Tips for Making Pocket Holes: It's difficult to give specific instructions for what stop point to set your Kreg jig when drilling pilot holes, because there are variants involved, such as where the stop collar is placed on your drill bit, what length screws you are using, and the exact thickness of your wood. My suggestion is to practice with scrap pieces of wood to ensure you do not over-drill or under-drill for the pocket holes.
Step Five: Loosely clamp the 1x3s to the edge of the attached support boards. Use a scrap piece of wood to make sure the edge of the 1x2 boards perfectly line up with the inside of the mitered 1x3 edge. Once each end of the bench is perfectly even with the mitered 1x3s, tighten the clamps. If the ends do not match up evenly, you may need to trim the attached 1x2s with a table saw, or else shave a bit off the mitered 1x3 before attaching them.
Step Six: While the 1x3s are tightly clamped, screw the 1.5" Kreg screws into the support boards, attaching the 1x3s securely to the base of the bench.
Tips for clamping: When clamping soft wood like pine, use scrap pieces of wood as a buffer between the clamp and your finished piece, or the clamp will imprint the wood.
Step Seven: Measure the entire width of the bench base to find the length to cut the last of the 1x3s to create the mitered end caps. Cut more than you think you will need, then slowly, slowly trim a tiny bit more off the ends until you get the perfect dry fit.
Step Eight: Loosely fit a belt clamp around the entire bench top, preparing for fitting in the mitered end caps you cut in step seven. Soak the end grains of the wood with water and cover with some Gorilla Glue.
Step Nine: Fit the mitered end cap into place and completely tighten the belt clamp. The pressure from the clamp and the moisture in the wood will activate the Gorilla Glue, creating a strong bond. I added some finishing nails to be extra sure the wood won't pop out of place due to natural shrinking/growing that occurs with moisture changes in the environment.
Step Ten: Sand down the entire bench with 120 grit sandpaper to fix any unevenness in the seams. If you have extreme unevenness, you can fix it with 60 grit sandpaper and a power sander. Add wood filler to any small gaps in the seams and to cover the nails, which should be slightly recessed into the wood. (You can recess nails by tapping them with another nail.) When the wood filler has set up, sand down the entire bench again with 220 grit sandpaper.
Step Eleven: Stain or paint the bench to your desired finish. If you are painting, make sure to wet sand the primer with 400 grit sandpaper and water before painting. This will ensure a silky smooth finish. If you are staining, always sand down with 0000 grade steel wool after each coat of stain and also after the first coat of sealer, unless you are using wax as a sealer.
Step Twelve: Attach the leg mounting plates to the support boards of the bench. I attached mine about an inch from the support board's edge, making sure to work around the screws that were already in place. Make sure the placement of the angled leg plates will direct the legs' angle to the outside corner of the bench. Then screw the legs into place until they are perfectly tight.
I love how sleek the bench is, and while I like the way it looks in my modern home, it will fit right in with my mom's transitional-styled decor too! -Mandi
Credits // Author and Photography: Mandi Johnson. Photos edited with Stella and Valentine from the Signature Collection.