A small bench over an enclosed shelf makes a stylish seat with storage…
I admit that I wasn’t really paying attention when my wife said, “Oh, I love this little bench. Wouldn’t it look great in our foyer or a child’s room?” She was looking at one of those furniture catalogues full of pictures of excessively styled rooms with way too many pillows.
By the time I finally looked at the catalogue, I saw a nice enough bench, well designed and properly proportioned – but nothing I couldn’t build myself. Since she had her heart set on it, I offered a compromise: I’d build my own version of the bench, customised to her exact specifications, down to the paint colour.
With great reluctance, she finally agreed. On an occasion or two (or ten), I’ve promised to make something, then haven’t. But much to her surprise – and mine, too – I bought all the materials the next day and soon presented her with the bench shown here. As she says, it looks great. Here’s how I built it.
Cut the panels
I used a portable circular saw to cut the four main bench parts – top, shelf and both ends – from 19 mm plywood. I placed the plywood’s best side facing down so any splintering would occur on the top’s underside.
Next, I used a router with an 19 mm diameter straight bit to cut a shallow rebate into the rear inside edge of each side piece. The 13 mm-wide, 8 mm-deep rebates frame the bench’s tongueand- groove ceiling board back. I routed a 19 mm-wide, 8 mmdeep dado (a groove cut across the grain) on each side piece [see image 2]. The dadoes, 100 mm from the bottom of the sides, cradle the bench’s plywood shelf.
To mark the arches of each end piece and the 22 x 88 mm pine apron, I simply bent a steel ruler to the desired radius and then traced along it with a pencil [see image 3]. I used a jigsaw to cut along each curve [see image 4] then smoothed the edges with 120-grit sandpaper.
Assemble the box
I began the assembly by spreading cold glue (PVA) into the endpiece dadoes. Next, I set the horizontal shelf into the dadoes and fastened it with 25 mm screws [see image 5].
Once the shelf was attached, I cut a 22 x 50 mm cleat to fit between the upper rear corners of the ends. Holding the shelf in place with a bar clamp [see image 6], I fastened it with screws. The cleat provides support when attaching the top and the ceiling board planks.
Next, I glued and nailed the pine face frame using 40 mm panel pins [see image 7], driven below the surface with a hammer and nail set. Before attaching the plywood top, I trimmed its ends and front edge with 12 x 18 mm pine, which concealed the exposed plywood edges and created a more finished look.
Finishing the top and back
I attached the top with drywall screws but had to use two different lengths. I drove 30 mm screws upward through the 25 x 50 mm cleat and 50 mm screws up through the face frame’s horizontal upper rail [see image 8]. To prevent the wood from splitting, I drilled screwpilot and countersink holes into both the cleat and rail.
Then, I primed and attached the tongue-and-groove ceiling board planks that make up the back of the bench [see image 9]. I filled all visible nail and screw holes with wood filler, let it dry and then sanded the surface smooth with an orbital sander fitted with 150- grit sandpaper [see image 10]. Once the bench was fully assembled, I primed all remaining bare-wood surfaces. When the primer was dry, I lightly hand sanded with 150-grit sandpaper and then applied two coats of semigloss paint.
Time to prime (see images 11, 12 & 13)
Priming the interior surfaces as they’re cut is much easier – and neater – than waiting to prime everything once the entire bench is assembled. This works when building any box that you plan to paint. I built this bench with 19 mm plywood and 22 mm clear pine, because both accept paint well.
Priming the inside faces before any assembly ensures an even coat in tight spots. I balanced this panel on my hammer to prevent the primer from pooling on the surface.
Coat each of the tongue-and-groove planks individually or you’ll see an unpainted line when they expand and contract.
To get a steady, consistent stream, spray horizontally toward a vertical surface, sweeping back and forth. This is how a pro in a spray booth would do it.