Build a rustic bench

Build a rustic bench

By Cathy Dalrymple

Rustic bench

Photo by Roger Yip

This lovely little bench suits any decor, indoors or out. Choose a paint colour to make it lively and hot, like this one, or a deep, rich colour; even black will give this bench a handsome appearance. It is a great starter project for novice woodworkers, and more advanced craftsmen can build it in an easy afternoon. This bench has a very straightforward design and no difficult joinery is necessary. You need to be careful with the circular cuts, but practicing on scrap will help you gain the necessary skill. The material is all off-the-shelf, 3⁄4″-thick laminated solid pine from a home-improvement store. I finished it with exterior latex semi-gloss paint.

1 Day



Solid sides

After practising your circle-cutting skills, lay out the half-circle on the bottom edge of a bench side. Using a compass, scribe a 5"-radius arc centred on a 
16" x 29" pine board. Duplicate this step for the other bench side.

For the curve on the top of a side, mark two points. The first point is 31⁄2" forward from the top back corner and 3" down. The second is 6" in from the top front corner and 81⁄4" down. Connect a 7"-radius curve between these two points, extend straight lines to the top and front edges of the workpiece, then cut the curve with a jigsaw. Trace this same shape onto the second side and cut it out.

Take a seat

Cut the back of the bench to a length of 34", which is also the length of all other main parts. You can use biscuits to join the back to the sides, or simply use glue and screws. If you do go for the latter option, drill four countersunk pilot holes for the #8 x 2"-long screws. Add a bead of wood glue along all the joints before bringing them together. The screws should sit slightly below the surface so that you can cover them later with wood filler.

The seat rests on cleats, but before you attach them, drill 1⁄8"-diameter pilot holes through the cleats and into the bottom of the seat. You’ll also need more pilot holes for attaching the cleats to the inner faces of the sides using wood glue and #8 x 11⁄4"-long screws. Below each cleat, beneath and flush to its front edge, attach a skirt block. Fasten the skirt to both the cleats and blocks with two #8 x 2"-long wood screws on each end. Apply a bead of wood glue to the tops of the cleats and drive in #8 x 11⁄4"-long screws to attach the seat. You’ll add extra stability to the bench by securing the seat to the back with five #8 x 2"-long screws driven into predrilled pilot holes.

Final details

The bench gets more stability from a stretcher, which also is supported by cleats. As you did earlier, drill 1⁄8"-diameter pilot holes before attaching the stretcher cleats to the sides and the stretcher using glue and #8 x 11⁄4"-long screws.

Sand your bench starting with 120-grit sandpaper, then 180 and finishing with 220 grit. This great little bench is now ready to be painted or stained and shown off wherever you please.

Tools & Materials

Part Material Size (T x W x L*) Qty.

Sides 3/4" x 16" x 29" 2
Back 3/4" x 14" x 34" 1
Seat 3/4" x 14 1/4" x 34" 1
Seat cleats 3/4" x 1 1/4" x 13 1/2" 2
Skirt 3/4" x 3 1/4" x 34" 1
Skirt blocks 3/4" x 2" x 2" 2
Stretcher cleats 3/4" x 1" x 3 1/4" 2
Stretcher 3/4" x 3 1/4" x 34" 1

* Length indicates grain direction

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1 comment

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Mar. 13, 2013

5:40 am


I live in Belgium (Flanders) and I'm a teacher woodworking.

Your exercises inspire me and I'm sure to use them.

Thank you;


Michel Castelyn

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