- Brad nail gun
- Miter saw
- Table saw
- 1-1/4-in. screws
- 1-3/4-in. brad nails
- 2-in. brad nails
- 3/4" plastic or cloth feet
- 36 linear feet of 1x6
- 4' x 8' sheet of 3/4" plywood
- Coat hooks
- Pocket screw jig
- Spray lacquer
- Wood filler
- Wood glue
Time, money and tools
Building this set will take you two or three days, plus a few hours of finishing work. These pieces were built from cherry boards and cherry plywood. Cherry is expensive—made from oak, maple or birch this project will cost much less. For a more rustic look, use pine and plywood and spend even less.
This project requires two special tools: a table saw to rip solid wood to width and a pocket screw jig to make strong butt joints. If you don’t own a pocket screw jig, buy one. It’s a good investment and is easy to use. In addition, you’ll need a drill, miter saw, random orbital sander and jigsaw. An air-powered 2-in. brad nailer isn’t absolutely necessary, but it’ll save lots of time and give you better results.
Project step-by-step (14)
Cut parts to size
Rip the parts for the grille. Cut all the slats to identical lengths using a bump jig. Make fine length adjustments by turning the lag screw in or out.
Drill pocket holes
Drill pocket holes in the grille parts. To avoid confusion, lay out the grille with the best-looking side of each piece face down. Put each part back in place after drilling.
Assemble the grille
Assemble the grille with pocket screws. Screw the front stile to one end rail first, then position the slats using a 7/16-in. spacer. Attach the rear stile last.
Assemble the seat box
Cut the plywood parts and assemble the seat box, sides, back, partition and grille with 1-3/4-in. brads and glue. Predrill and screw the cleats to the top of the box.
The bench begins as a box
The box that forms the core of the bench is made mostly from 3/4-in. plywood. For the floor of the box, a grille was made from solid wood slats. You could save a couple of hours by using a 12-in. x 44-in. piece of plywood instead, but a slatted grille looks better.
Rip the grille parts to the widths shown in the Cutting list and then cut them to length. All the slats (A) must be precisely the same length, so make a simple bump jig from plywood scraps and a lag screw. Clamp your miter saw and the bump jig to your workbench and make the repetitive cuts.
Pocket screws make assembling the grille fast and easy. For tips on using a pocket screw jig. Watch this video for a step-by-step guide for using a pocket screw jig.
Use wood glue on your pocket screw joints later in this project, but skip the glue when you assemble the grille—removing excess glue from between the slats is nearly impossible. When the grille is complete, sand all the joints flush with a random orbital sander and a 100- or 120-grit disc. Then switch to a 150- or 180-grit disc and sand the entire surface.
Use this same sanding sequence on all the solid-wood bench and shelf parts.
Cut the plywood box parts following the Cutting list. If you don’t have a table saw, use a circular saw and straightedge. Lightly sand the plywood parts with 150-grit sandpaper before you assemble the box with glue and brads.
Fasten the face frame
Assemble the face frame with glue and pocket screws and nail it to the seat box. Remember that the face frame overhangs the sides of the box by 1/8 in.
Draw an 8-1/2-in.-radius arc using an arc jig. Cut the arch with a jigsaw and sand it smooth. When you cut the arch to length, trim from both ends to center it.
Add parts to the box
To complete the bench, you just make up the remaining parts and attach them to the box. Assemble the face frame with glue and pocket screws and sand the joints flush. Always make sure your parts fit the box correctly before you apply any glue. When you attach the face frame to the box, make sure the lower rail is flush with the top of the grille. It’s OK if the upper rail isn’t perfectly flush with the cleat, since that joint will be covered by the seat later.
Next, make a trammel to mark the arches (P) that fit under the bench sides. Use a 1-1/2-in. x 12-in. scrap for the trammel arm. Drill a 5/16-in. pencil hole near one end of the arm, then drill a 1/8-in. screw hole 8-1/2 in. from the center of the pencil hole. For the trammel base, use an 8-in. x 12-in. scrap of 3/4-in. plywood. Drill a screw hole 6-1/8 in. from the long edge of the base and screw the arm to the plywood. Mark and cut the arches from pieces of wood 3-1/4 x 14 in. long. Then cut rungs (N). Don’t rely on the Cutting list when you cut the rungs and arches to length—instead, set them into place and mark them flush with the back of the bench. Glue and nail them into place and add the rear legs (Q). We nailed 3/4-in. plastic feet to our bench. Plastic can stain wood finishes. So if you plan to put your bench on a wood floor, use cloth or felt pads instead.
The seat (R) is simply a slab of plywood banded on three sides with solid wood (S, T). Mitering the banding accurately can be difficult and frustrating. Make the joints tight by trial and error. Start by mitering parts about 1/8 in. too long. Hold them in place to check the fit, then readjust the angle on your miter saw and shave a hair off the parts again and again until they fit perfectly. Although mitered joints look best, you may prefer to band the seat with square-cut wood if you don’t have experience with miters. Screw the seat to the bench without glue (Photo 8) so you can remove the seat while finishing the bench.
Add the arches and legs
Nail the rungs to the underside of the box. Then add the arches and rear legs. Add plastic feet or felt pads after the glue sets.
Attach the seat
Cut the seat from plywood and cover three edges of it with solid wood. Fasten the seat to the bench with 1-1/4-in. screws driven through the cleats.
Create the shelf box
Cut out the shelf box parts. Glue and nail the bottom to the back first. Then add the dividers, the top and finally the end caps.
Build the shelf just like the bench
In terms of construction and techniques, the shelf is just a smaller variation of the bench. It starts with a plywood box. The top, bottom and back of the box are identical parts (U). Be sure to place the back between the top and the bottom pieces. Add rails and stiles to the underside of the box, then assemble and attach the face frame. The back frame provides a mounting surface for coat hooks later. Make the shelf top just as you made the bench seat: Wrap a piece of plywood (GG) with solid wood banding (HH, JJ). When you nail the top to the shelf box, use plenty of glue—the top will support the entire weight of the shelf when you hang it on the wall. Draw the arc for the shelf brackets using the same arc jig you used to make the bench arches—just be sure to reposition the screw 8 in. from the pencil hole. If you don’t have a clamp that’s long enough to hold the bracket against the shelf box, tack it into place with 2-in. brads.
Add the face frame
Nail rails and stiles directly to the underside of the shelf box. Assemble the face frame with pocket screws and nail it to the front. After the glue sets, sand all the joints smooth.
Attach the back frame
Assemble the back frame with pocket screws, sand the joints flush, and fasten it to the shelf box. Then assemble the shelf top and attach it with glue and brads.
Draw an 8-in.-radius arc for the shelf brackets using the arc jig. Cut the arches using a jigsaw and the straight cuts with a miter saw set at 45 degrees.
Attach the arcs
Glue, position and clamp the upper end of each bracket and fasten the other end with screws driven from behind. Predrill so you don’t split the bracket.
A fast finish
If you remembered to sand all the parts before assembly, you won’t have much prep work before finishing. Just fill the nail holes and inspect all the glued joints for glue smudges.
Cherry usually doesn’t take stain evenly, so you can skip the stain and applied a clear finish only. With the bench and shelf’s corners and cramped spaces, brushing a finish on them would be a nightmare. Choose a spray-on lacquer finish. Lacquer is one of the fastest, easiest finishes to apply. Here’s how to use it:
- Wear an organic vapor respirator and spray the lacquer outdoors or in the garage with the door open. Lacquer contains nasty solvents.
- Spray on two very light coats, wait 30 minutes and lightly sand with 220-grit paper.
- Vacuum off the sanding residue and apply two or more light coats until you get the look you want. There’s no need to sand between coats unless specks of dust settle on the finish.
Let the finish harden overnight before you add the coat hooks and hang the shelf.
Attach the shelf to the wall
Level and screw 2-in. x 8-in. cleats to wall studs. Set the shelf on the cleats and screw through the back of the shelf into the cleats using 1-1/2-in. brass screws and finish washers.