The Bench

Here's a project that we completed awhile ago, but haven't posted yet. It's the second major construction project we built - a bench. You see when we moved into our new apartment, there was this recessed nook in the upstairs bedroom that was just calling for a cushioned seat for some comfy reading. Over the course of about six months (we really got slowed down on the sanding) we finally built the bench. Here's the story:

 The basic supplies for this project were a bunch of 2x2 furring strips (which can be had for a few dollars / 8 feet, so they tend to be one of my favorite basic building supplies), plywood for the walls and surfaces, and metal brackets to hold everything together. Of primary concern was that the center of the bench not sag and support the seat fully. To this end, I created two frames (see right) of the furring strips.

 On top of each frame went a piece of plywood. You can see one of the few tools I was using, my hand drill / screwdriver. This is really a must-have, switching to the drill and putting in a few pilot holes helps the screws go in straight and without causing the surrounding wood to splinter. Also, it really helps to have a countersink (a cone shaped bit) that drills out a divot for the screw's head to recess into. This way the top of the wood is flat, and there are no screws sticking up to poke yourself on (or in this case to interfere with the seat top and baskets).

 Here you can see the walls going up. Again, the furring strips provide support (they will be the main weight-bearing elements). Imagine the bench for a moment without the plywood and with a top on it. If you're like me you can see the whole lot shearing and falling over to one side when someone sits on it. By having the plywood "L" into the furring strips at the end, I was hoping to use the plywood's resistance to shearing to help strengthen the bench to this particular mode of failure.

  Here we are with the top on. One thing you can notice, is that because the plywood L's into the furring strips there is a small gap. If you have a router, you could create a small groove in the furring strip for the plywood. This would remove the gap while maintaining structural stability.
  Our joke at this point was that it looked more like a coffin than a bench, and unfortunately it stayed this way for a couple of months over the course of the winter as we were building up the courage to sand it down prior to the staining.

  Here's the complete creation. What is left out of these pictures are the steps of staining and the creation of the cushion for the top. Prior to staining, we also attached two pieces of trim on the front to add embellishment, but really to just help hide the exposed sides of the plywood.
  The cushion was a really good find. After looking for foam at a bunch of craft stores and finding it very high priced (it was looking like $75-80 for 2 inches of foam) we found a camping mat at our local wholesaler (COSTCO / Sam's / etc.) with three inches of foam for $30. Just had to slice it up, wrap the cloth over it and staple the cloth to a thin (1/4 inch) piece of plywood. This was screwed in from under the seat to hold it in place.
  We snagged a few baskets and pillows from one of those store that sells unsold / slightly damaged shopping center stuff (Home Goods, etc.), and the bench was complete!
Here are a couple of other photos of the complete bench in the "reading nook".

Tool List:
  • Wood saw and miter box (cutting the furring strips).
  • Cordless screwdriver (also used to drill the pilot holes)
  • Jigsaw (This was the next tool on the purchase list, although all of the plywood pieces could have been cut by the hardware store).
Price Tag:
  • Tools: $63
  • Supplies (wood, stain, baskets, foam, etc.): $166
  • Total: $229

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