Five Board Bench
Originally written Jul 4, 2017
Lately all of my woodworking projects seem to take a long time to wrap up. Last Saturday, I noticed Dave Rutan's five board bench post, and said to myself, “Hey, I could make one of those pretty quickly!”
I set up my 7” miter saw, dug out an 8' 2×12 and an 8' 2×4 and got to work. First two cuts (with a hand saw) were the legs. 20” seemed about the right length. Then a 48” seat left me with an 8” long scrap. The 2×4 got one end chopped off at 45 degrees on the miter saw, then cut to 48” on the long side, and another 48” long chunk of 2×4, which left me with a 6” long piece of scrap.
With my five boards cut, and the miter saw already set to 45 degrees, I cut the wedges out of the bottom of the legs. I made the straight bit 3” wide, with a 6” wide cutout in the middle. I didn't worry about the depth of the cut, figuring that this is a quick and dirty bench. I also cut the notches in the tops of the legs to put in the 2×4s down the sides of the bench. Again, I didn't worry about the depth of the cut, figuring that it wouldn't be too big. I did cut off the notches with a hand-saw so I didn't have too many stray cuts.
Two cordless drills, one with a drill bit for pilot holes, and the other with a Torx bit, plus a couple dozen deck screws left over from another project and I was into the assembly. The legs and sides went together first. Drill, screw, check for square. Two screws at each corner and things seemed square enough. Drop the seat on top and screw in one corner. Check for square, adjust a little, and drive in the screw diagonally opposite the first one, and things should be good. Four more screws and the seat is on.
Then I sat on the seat, and took a 6tpi rasp to edges, corners and such, rounding things off to make it less likely someone would get a splinter. As I worked, I noticed that there was a little wobble in the bench, so I grabbed the 8” chunk of 2×12, and cut it in half diagonally, then put that between the leg and the seat with four screws holding everything in place. Went to the opposite corner of the bench and did the same with the 2×4 scrap I had (the other half of the 2×12 had a knot that looked like it might be weak, so I tossed it).
Everything together and smoothed, I cut two handles in the top. Two sets of five holes made with a 1” spade bit, then a little rasp work to clean them up, and I had handles (or flatulence slots). Used the bench that afternoon at a neighborhood picnic. It's nice to do a project that's usable in a single day!
Sunday I primed the bench. Monday I painted the underside and today I painted the top.
Updated Oct 7, 2020: Here's the bench after we moved to Santa Fe and repainted it with a sea-green enamel rather than leftover house paint. It sits next to our front door, and many of our neighbors have commented how nice it is.