The original of this bench, made by an anonymous
carpenter for a cabin in the woods of northern Wisconsin, was simplicity
itself: pine boards, nailed together.
And it had an interesting and ingenious
design detail: a cloverleaf,
clearly made with three overlapping
drill holes. It's just the kind
of little bench that's perfect for the
backyard, so we went into the shop
and made this modern version. A
little longer and a little stronger
than the original, but the same folk
art detail. And since
it's made from
pine, the price
can't be beat.
Here's how to
This bench is simple enough to
build with a few hand tools, but to
speed things up, we chose to take
advantage of the power tools in our
shop. We used a miter saw to cut the
stretchers to length and to cut the
10-degree angles on the ends of the
center stretcher, and a circular saw for
all the other cuts. If you don't own a
miter saw, you can use a circular saw
or jigsaw for all the cuts.
To make the holes for the clover
shapes, you'll need a 1-in. hole saw
mounted in a corded drill, or a powerful
We used No. 2 knotty pine to build
this bench. You'll need one 6-ft. 1x12
and one 10-ft. 1x4. Select boards that
are straight and flat, with solid, not
loose, knots. We assembled the bench
with countersunk 2-in. trim screws
and then filled the holes with wood
filler. If the bench is going outdoors, be
sure to use corrosion-resistant screws.
Figure A: Exploded View
This DIY bench is 38-in. long and 16 1/2-in. tall. For a larger version of this drawing, see Additional Information, below.
Cut out the parts
Using the Cutting List in Additional Information (below) as a guide,
cut the two legs and the top from the
1x12 (Photo 1). The legs require a
10-degree bevel on the top and bottom.
Be careful to keep both bevels angled the
same direction. Then cut the stretcher
and aprons to length. The stretcher has a
10-degree angle on each end.
Next, mark the legs and aprons for
drilling and cutting, using the dimensions
in Figures B and C as a guide. Draw
the grid layout as shown in Photo 2 to
locate the holes. Use a nail or a punch
to make starting holes for the hole saw
at the correct intersections.
Drill the 1-in. holes halfway through
the boards (Photo 2). Make sure the
pilot bit on the hole saw goes through
the board so you can use the hole to
guide the hole saw from the opposite
side. Then flip the boards over to complete
Make the remaining cuts on the legs
and aprons with a circular saw (Photo
3). Finish up by sanding the parts. We
wrapped 80-grit sandpaper around a
1-in. dowel to sand the inside of the
holes. Sand off the saw marks and
round all the sharp edges slightly with
sandpaper. If you plan to paint the
bench, you can save time by painting
the parts before assembly.
Figure B: Leg Detail
Cut a 10-degree bevel on the top and bottom of the legs, then mark the legs as shown.
Back to Top
Build the bench
Start by marking the location of the
stretcher on the legs. Arrange the legs
so the bevels are oriented correctly, and
screw through them into the stretcher.
Next screw the two aprons to the legs
The only thing left is to screw the top
to the aprons. It'll be easier to place the
screws accurately if you first mark the
apron locations on the underside of the
top and drill pilot holes for the screws
(Photo 5). Stand the bench upright and
align the top by looking underneath and
lining up the apron marks. Then attach
the top with six trim screws.
We finished this bench with old-fashioned
milk paint. You can find milk
paint online and at some paint stores. If
the bench is going outdoors, rub some
exterior glue on the bottom ends of the
legs. That will prevent the end grain
from soaking up moisture and rotting.
Figure C: Stretcher Detail
Cut 10-degree angles at each end of the 1x4 stretcher.
Figure D: Apron Detail
Drill out the cloverleaf shape, then cut the angles of the apron.