When the Vikings of yore built something—a longboat, a lodge, even a drinking horn—it was sturdy and simple, functional yet attractive. This bench fits that mold. It’s rock-solid and buildable with basic tools, yet it has a certain elegance to it.
By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine
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15 to 20 hours
Intermediate to advanced
The Viking Bench
This heavy-duty Viking bench looks right at home with the massive built-to-last Viking long table. And rightly so—it shares most of the same construction techniques. If you’re thinking of building both the table and the bench, consider starting here; it’s a great warm-up for the larger project.
This Viking bench can also serve as a great stand-alone piece for your deck, patio or garden. It was designed to be just the right length to tuck neatly beneath the Viking table, but you can make it shorter if you like. Also, be sure to check out our top 10 woodworking projects once you are done building the Viking bench and table of course!
If you’ve already built the Viking table, the “leg” part of this Viking bench project is going to look mighty familiar. Just as with the table, we made our benches from stout Douglas fir lumber. For other wood options, see “Pick the Right Wood” in the Viking table story.
Start with flat, straight boards—free of splits, twists, cupping and loose knots—and you’ll spare yourself a lot of head scratching and extra work down the road. If you have trouble finding perfect 2x12s for leg material, purchase extra lumber so you can cut around the defects.
To create a single Viking bench, cut the four 22-in. leg blanks (Labeled “A” in Figure B in Project PDFs below) to length; the ends need to be square, so cut carefully. Pair up your boards so when one is laid atop the other, there is little or no gap along the ends and edges. If you flip or rotate the boards, you might find the perfect fit. Try to have any defects fall in the areas of the wood you’ll be cutting away as you form the legs.
1. Make the Leg Template
Mark out your leg template on 1/4-in. plywood as shown in the photo above. Set a scrap of plywood against the template. Drive a screw 9-1/4 in. from the end of the scrap and use that screw as a pivot point for your tape measure. Then swing the two arcs to create the leg shape. Cut just outside the line with a fine-tooth jigsaw blade, then use a belt sander to sand right up to the line
2. Make a Glue Sandwich
Use your template to mark the leg shape on all four leg parts (A). With the marks facing up, lightly dampen one board—polyurethane glue needs moisture to work—then apply the glue in squiggles across the main body of the leg. Use a putty knife to spread it slightly beyond the edges of your template marks. Polyurethane glue is waterproof, and with tightly glued seams there’s less chance of moisture working its way between the boards. Place a second board—marked side up—over your glued board and align the edges.
3. Clamp the Leg Blanks Together
Line up the mortise edges of the boards, then drive two or three drywall screws into the waste wood to keep the boards aligned. Fasten clamps—more is better—around the perimeter to force the boards tight together. Add more screws as needed. The glue will foam as it goes to work. Keep your boards clamped together for at least two hours; Let it dry overnight for good measure. Repeat this procedure for the other leg blank.
4. Cut the Leg Blanks
Cut the legs to shape. A jigsaw with a long, coarse blade works fine, but a band saw means less sanding. Whichever tool you use, make a series of relief cuts along both the concave side of the leg and the mortise cutout area as shown. These allow you to remove waste material as you cut. They also allow your blade to get back on track if it wanders and begins making angled cuts. If you have a jigsaw with reciprocating action, set it at zero; it will cut slower, but your blade will wander less.
5. Sand the Leg Blanks and Rout the Edges
Next, use a belt sander to smooth and true up the curved sides. Begin with a coarse belt, then progress to finer grits. If you have access to a bench-top sander of some sort, use it; you’ll get better results.
Use a router with a 1/2-in. round-over bit to soften the edges of the curved parts. DON’T rout the tops and bottoms of the legs or the flat area where the mortise cutout will be.
6. Cut the Leg Blanks in Half
Mark the exact center of the leg blanks and use a circular saw—cutting from both sides—to cut them in half. They’re 3 in. thick, so you’ll need to cut from both sides. Dry-fit the pieces to be sure the parts fit tightly together. Butt the tops of the legs together, then place the seat brace (B) and bottom leg plate (C) in their respective positions. Make sure the stretcher fits into the opening between the legs. Also, be sure the ends of the legs sit flat against the seat brace and bottom plate; you may need to do a little sanding or trimming until the pieces fit tight.
7. Screw the Leg Assemblies Together
Clamp the leg halves together and check the size of the stretcher opening. Adjust if needed. Once all systems are a go, apply construction adhesive to the ends of the legs, cinch the tops together with a clamp, position the seat brace and bottom leg plate (B and C) and then secure them with 3-1/2-in. exterior screws. Repeat for the other leg assembly.
8. Secure the Stretcher to the Legs
Having built the leg assemblies, you’ve done the hardest part. Cut, shape and install the bench stretcher (E) as shown in Figure A and the photo above. Use clamps to pull the stretcher shoulders tight against the legs, and drive in wedges or shims to snug the tenon tight against the seat brace. Drive screws through the seat brace into the tenon.
9. Complete the Seat Braces
Fasten the seat braces (B) to the stretcher, then position the two 2×8 top boards (F); they should run past the outer seat braces by about 6 in. Fasten the top boards with 2-1/2-in. washer-head screws. Install the 2-1/4-in. edge boards (G and H) along the four edges of the Viking bench. Drill pilot holes to avoid splitting the edge boards.
10. Apply Finish and Attach Viking Bench Feet
Apply two coats of exterior finish; we used a semitransparent deck stain. Finally, screw on the Viking bench feet (D). We recommend using white oak for the feet because it’s rot resistant. To keep your benches in tiptop shape, set them up on 2×4 blocks and cover them with a tarp before winter strikes.