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Build a Painting Bench

Our favorite pro painter's favorite tool

FH11APR_BILBEN_01-3Family Handyman
Build this light, but strong bench in about 4 hours. Use it as a table and as scaffolding as well as for sitting.

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Time
A full day
Complexity
Beginner
Cost
Less than $20

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.

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. 1×12 and an 8-ft. 1×6. Pine will cost you about $15. Choose any wood species you like, but select the flattest 1×12 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).

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.

Figure B: Cutting Diagram

Cut all the parts from an 8-ft. 1×6 and a 6-ft. 1×12.

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

Step 2: Make all final cuts on a table saw

Photo 1: Cut accurate angles

Use your table saw’s miter gauge when you cut all the parts to final length. Screw a 1×2 to your miter gauge so you can clamp on a stop block for identical cuts. Cut parallel 5-degree bevels on the top and bottom of the legs.

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

Photo 2: Mark perfect curves

Mark the starting and stopping points of the stretcher curves, then scribe them using the 1/4-in.-thick scribing slat. Use the same trick to mark the curve on the legs.

Photo 3: Gang-cut the curves

Clamp together the stretchers and legs and cut the curves with a jigsaw. This trick will give you identical matching parts and keep you from having to mark curves more than once.

Photo 4: Gang-sand the curves

Belt-sand the curved parts to eliminate saw marks and smooth out the curves. A belt sander works best, but an orbital sander will do the job too.

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

Photo 5: Round off sharp corners

Use a quarter to outline the outside corners, then cut and sand all of them.

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

Photo 6: Assemble the bench

First attach the stretchers to the legs. Then screw the bench seat to the legs and stretchers, and finally, center and screw the feet to the legs.

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!

Additional Information

Required Tools for this Project

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

  • Belt sander
  • Drill bit set
  • Drill/driver - cordless
  • Jigsaw
  • Square-head screw bit
  • Table saw
  • Tape measure

Required Materials for this Project

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

  • 1x12
  • 1x6
  • Finish screws