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Build a Painting Bench

Build this light, but strong bench in about 4 hours. Use it as a table and as scaffolding as well as for sitting.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

The benefits of a multi-use bench

I was talking to Bill Nunn, one of our rock-star painting consultants, and my eyes rested on his elegant (and elegantly beat-up) bench. He always has it with him, so I asked him to tell me about it.

Twenty-plus years ago, he set out to design the ultimate painter's bench. It had to be light, so he chose pine. It needed to be the right height to stand on for high brush work and, of course, to sit on for breaks. It had to be easy to move, so he gave it a handle. Then it had to be easy to haul through countless doorways while he worked. That called for curved stretchers so he could comfortably tuck it under his arm.

Bill designed not only the ultimate painter's bench but also a great platform for many other home improvement jobs. And with the right wood or finish, it would be just as fitting as a high-end boot bench or a stool for the man cave. Here's how to build your own.

Light and easy to carry

Light and easy to carry

Mobile work table

Mobile work table

Mini scaffolding

Mini scaffolding

Comfortable for sitting

Comfortable for sitting

Bill's Bench in Action

Bill's bench is light and easy to carry. It serves him as a handy painting table and scaffold when he needs to paint high areas. And, yes, he sits on it too!

Step 1: Buy the materials

Buy yourself a 6-ft. 1x12 and an 8-ft. 1x6. Pine will cost you about $15. Choose any wood species you like, but select the flattest 1x12 you can find. While you're at the home center, pick up a small box of 2-in. finish screws and a No. 1 square-head screw bit. Oh, and make sure you still have a quarter in your pocket when you get home (more on that later).

Painter's bench details

Painter's bench details

Figure A: Painter's Bench

Overall bench dimensions: 36“ x 15“ x 12“

You can download a pdf of Figure A in “Additional Information” below.

Cutting diagram

Cutting diagram

Figure B: Cutting Diagram

Cut all the parts from an 8-ft. 1x6 and a 6-ft. 1x12.

You can download a pdf of Figure B in “Additional Information” below.

Step 2: Make all final cuts on a table saw

Figure B shows you how to lay out the parts. Cut all the parts to rough length (1/2 in. overlong) first. You can use a circular saw for that. Then rip the parts to final width by crosscutting on the table saw with the miter gauge, including the 5-degree bevels at both ends of the legs (Photo 1). (You could make all the cuts with a circular saw, but you'll get much better results with a table saw.)

Step 3: Scribe, cut and smooth the curves

Notice in Figure B that there's a 1/4-in.- wide slat. That's for scribing the curves on one leg and one stretcher. When you rip the slat, choose wood that doesn't have any knots or it'll snap when you're bending it. Either get a helper to help you make the scribes or use clamps and nails (Photo 2). It's simple: Just mark your starting and stopping points, bend the slat and make your scribes. Clamp both boards together and make the cuts with a jigsaw (Photo 3). Then clamp both boards together again and smooth out the curves with a belt sander (Photo 4).

Step 4: Round off corners

Here's the part about the quarter. Use it to mark all the outside corners for rounding (Photo 5). Also trace around the quarter to mark the ends of the handholds. Then use a 1-gallon paint can to draw the front and back of the handhold. Soften all the edges with 100-grit sandpaper, and if you wish, sand all the parts for finish before assembly.

Step 5: Assemble the bench

Make all your connections with 2-in. finish screws for a rock-solid bench. A bonus is that the small heads are inconspicuous. Predrill 1/8-in. pilot holes, especially if you're building with hardwood. Screw the stretchers to the legs first and then center and fasten the bench seat to both the legs and the stretchers. Lastly, flip the bench upside down and screw the feet to the bottom of the legs (Photo 6). Finish your masterpiece any way you wish. Or go au naturel—the bench, not you!

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Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

    • Tape measure
    • Belt sander
    • Drill/driver, cordless
    • Square-head screw bit, No. 1
    • Drill bit set
    • Jigsaw
    • Table saw

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.

    • 1x6, 8-ft. long
    • 1x12, 6-ft. long
    • Finish screws, 2-in.

Comments from DIY Community Members

Share what's on your mind and see what other DIYers are thinking about.

1 - 3 of 3 comments
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December 23, 7:48 PM [GMT -5]

I built 4 to give away this Christmas. I also painted them with Milk Paint. First time that have used it and both the benches and the paint came out great. Great project!

November 08, 8:26 AM [GMT -5]

I have built about 6 of these already and have given them as gifts to family and friends. Pine or poplar - this is a great easy project.

July 21, 1:11 AM [GMT -5]

I enjoyed the project almost as much as my family has enjoyed using the finished bench. The instructions were well documented. The photos and drawings helped visualize the steps as well as helping look ahead preventing wrong moves. I did have a little trouble aligning the side braces with the legs but a sander erases any doubt that I knew what I was doing. I chose common yellow pine and a clear poly finish. I intend to make more for gifts to family and friends. Thanks for another well thought out DIY project.

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