DIY: Modern Garden Bench

by Eric Johnson
Modern Bench DIY photo

If gardeners are guilty of one thing, it’s of not stopping to sit and enjoy the spaces we create. A good garden bench can help us to do this. This particular garden bench is streamlined and settles nicely into nearly any garden setting. It’s an incredibly simple project to take on yourself, whatever your skill level. Perhaps if you’ve built it, you’ll be more prone to use it?

The bench is constructed of standard two-by-fours cut into three varying lengths. All you need is a saw to cut the wood, a drill to screw the boards together, exterior wood glue and the wood. Smaller lumber yards will even cut the lengths for you; some of the big-box locations have help-yourself saws to use. Alternatively, circular saws and jigsaws are fairly inexpensive these days and handy tools for any DIY-er to own.


PICK AND CUT YOUR WOOD

Cedar is a great choice for any outdoor project, as it naturally resists rot. To make the project cost-effective, I used standard, stock two-by-fours and stained them with an exterior-grade stain and sealer. Wood glue for exterior projects and 2½-inch construction screws round out the supply list.

Start by cutting your wood. You need five 42-inch lengths; eight 18-inch lengths and 10 pieces cut to 14 ½-inch lengths.


CONSTRUCTION

Construction steps are straightforward. In essence, you are forming an inverted U shape with the top 42-inch length of wood and two of the 14 ½-inch side pieces (Diagram 1). You then stack two 18-inch side pieces on the sides of the U shape, first applying a generous amount of wood glue, and screw them in (Diagram 2). The 18-inch pieces are spacers and supports between the inverted U pieces. Repeat these two steps (Diagram 3) three times. The final step is the same as the first step, creating an inverted U with the remaining 42-inch length of wood and two 14 ½-inch side pieces. You then have your completed bench. Sturdy and simple.

Apply a generous amount of wood glue between the pieces that form the legs, wiping off any excess that squeezes out with a damp rag. Stagger the drilling of the screws, alternating positions with each layer of wood. Also, a square tool can be helpful when lining up the boards.

I stained my bench with an exterior-grade stain and sealer, but you could leave it unstained if you prefer.


A NOTE ABOUT SCREWING INTO WOOD

A pilot hole drilled with a bit slightly thinner than your screw will prevent the wood from splitting when you screw into it. When screwing two pieces of wood together, the screw is meant to bore primarily into the bottom or second piece of wood. The screw simply passes through the top piece and the screw head holds the two pieces together. That said, it’s helpful when drilling your pilot hole to go back and bore out the hole of the top piece a little wider, rotating it to create a passage closer to the width of the screw.


Minneapolis-based Eric Johnson is a garden designer and writer. His website is gardendrama.wordpress.com.

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