Introduction: A Simple Modern Bench

My goal for this project was to create a simple, modern, wooden bench with a concrete top and storage underneath. I had limited space (about 4 feet by 16 inches) to work with so I made my bench fit closely to those dimensions. Also I wanted the bench to be built on the cheap and ideally out of reclaimed wood so I used only 2x4's and 4x4's for the base. The color of stain, concrete, and metal bars can all be customized so I listed them as optional.

Materials:

4"x4"x96" - 1

2"x4"x96" - 2

3/4"x120" Black Pipe- 2

80 lb Bag of Concrete - 1

Various Scrap Boards, Plywood/Melamine Panel - (This is for the concrete mold which I will discuss later)

Concrete Dye (Optional)

Portland Cement (Optional)

Concrete Sealer (Optional)

Stain (Optional)

Spray Paint (Optional)

Tools:

Saws (I used a miter and jigsaw)

Router (Optional)

Power Drill (with various bits)

1" Forstner Bit

Pocket Hole Jig (Optional)

Angle Grinder or Heavy Wire Snips

Pipe Cutter

Sander/Sand Paper

Step 1: Cutting the Pieces

I used a miter saw to cut the pieces to these quantities and dimensions:

2"x4"x39" - 4

2"x4"x7" - 4

4"x4"x18" - 4

The concrete bench seat will be 4 feet wide, 16 inches deep and 1.5 inches high so I designed the wooden base to accommodate a 1 inch lip all around the sides making the completed base dimensions 46"x14"x18".

Step 2: Drilling the Pocket Holes

I chose pocket holes so I wouldn't see screws on the outside which lends a more modern and sleek look to the bench. I drilled pocket holes into the 2x4x39's and 2x4x7's on the ends as pictured. The easiest method was to use a pocket hole jig. A store bought one is a good investment but it's not hard to create your own jig from a spare piece of wood.

Step 3: Cutting Out the Pipe Sockets

To create sockets for the pipe shelves to fit I used a Forstner Bit to cut three circular cavities from two of the 2x4x7's. I then used a router to remove the wood from one side of the circular holes on one of the 2x4x7's so the pipes could slide down and into position, making them removable It was also an option to just leave the circular cavities as is and not route one side but once the bench was finished the pipes would not be removable without taking apart the bench. If say I wanted to put the bench outside and the pipes needed repainting after a season or two, this would be a big hassle.

Step 4: Building the Frame

The frame of the bench is pretty simple. I attached the legs to the 2x4x39's by applying glue and then screws in the pocket holes. I used the same technique for the 2x4x7's, clamping them also for good measure while the glue dried. I then sanded the bench with an orbital sander and stained it with Cabot's Australian Timber Oil which is an all weather stain (and also doesn't need any coats of sealer after). The stain is applied with a brush and the excess is wiped away, leaving a nice finish.

Step 5: Cutting and Placing the Pipe

For the pipe shelf I used 3/4 inch black pipe (cut to 44.5") which has an outer diameter of about 1 inch. This will fit nicely in the 1 inch holes cut with the Forstner bit. There are various ways to cut pipe but I chose a simple pipe cutter which tightens around the pipe, eventually cutting through it. Black pipe usually has threaded ends when purchased, which I made sure to keep as the pipes will be screwed in to the circular sockets.

After the cuts are made I dry fit the pipes, screwing them into the circular sockets and then resting the pipes into position on the routed side. Once fitted I removed them for cleaning and painting.

Step 6: Painting the Pipe and Installing

I sanded the pipes well to remove the rough paint and rust (black pipe usually isn't to pretty) using a piece of 80 grit sandpaper. After wiping any debris and dust off, I painted them with a 2 in 1 paint and primer spray paint.

Step 7: Making the Concrete Slab

To make the concrete bench seat I used the same methods detailed in my Pallet Patio Bar Instructable. There are a bit more pictures and details so it's worth a look:

https://www.instructables.com/id/Pallet-Patio-Bar-w...

First a form is made, ideally out of melamine so that all sides will be smooth. For the bench I used melamine as the bottom of the form and scrap 1x3's to make the sides (I ran out of melamine). I then ran a bead of silicone caulk along the corners so the bench top would have more rounded corners and to prevent and concrete leaking out. Next I cut wire reinforcement to 1 inch smaller than the dimensions of the form using an angle grinder.

The next step is to mix the concrete. I followed the instructions on the bag for the amount of water and setting time. Once the concrete is mixed I added the dye and mixed that in by hand. Now that the concrete is mixed and dyed, I poured it into the form. Ideally the form should be the same height as the final slab but since I used 1x3's (and the final slab will be 1.5 inches) it was a little tricky to screed and smooth. I tapped the form with a hammer and used an orbital sander along the bottom to remove most of the air bubbles.

After three days I removed the concrete slab from the form and sanded it with 180 grit sandpaper. I decided not to fill in any remaining bug holes with Portland cement (like in my last Instructable) as the unfinished concrete complimented the clean lines of the wooden base. I did however rub a few coats of concrete sealer onto the slab to make it water resistant and darken the color.

Once the sealer is dry the slab is ready to be placed on the wooden base.

Step 8: Conclusion

I am pleased with how my bench turned out in form and function. It is simple enough that it's dimensions can be changed to fit any space while still remaining easy to build and it can be placed indoors or outdoors. The colors could also have been changed to suit a wide range of room color schemes. In future builds I may make the storage area a little taller to accommodate milk crates which could look pretty cool.

I hope you enjoyed my latest Instructable and I'd appreciate any votes in the Concrete and Shelving Contests!

Comments

author
cherokeerunning (author)2015-12-09

Excellent How To, nice looking bench. Thanks for posting

author
Passfield8 (author)2015-11-12

Awesome frame mate. Gonna use it for a timber top. Thanks

author
aba16v (author)2015-10-15

I wonder how that concrete would look a little darker and polished...

author
polishboys2 (author)2015-10-08

Absolutely beautiful! I contemplated having concrete counter tops in my new house--- now I'm sold!! Thank you!

author
flavrt (author)2015-09-29

This is a ruggedly handsome design, but the concrete is not consistent with the quality of the your carpentry. There is a lot of casting misinformation being flung everywhere, so let's break down the problem. From what I can see, you have voids from both air and water pockets. This problem starts with a lean, unmodified, cheap concrete mix. So build your own next time from generic aggregate and portland cement.

Without enough cement, the mix cannot fix the amount of water required to make it flow completely into the form. Decorative concrete needs to be rich. More cement lubricates the mix so less water is needed, and also captures more water to prevent voids. When the mix flows better, it consolidates in the form more completely to prevent air pockets.

Oiling your form will not help. In fact, using non-pourous form material is actually making the problem worse, since pockets of separated water have no place to go.

A richer mix and a concrete additive will definitely help. Your mix will flow better with less water. Better casting technique is also needed. Before setting your steel, consolidate half your mix into the form. Use a trowel to work it thoroughly into all the surfaces and especially the corners. Get fussy with the concrete right up the sides of the form because it shows. Then jiggle your steel into the mix until it is wet. Continue to fill and consolidate with the trowel. Take extra care to stab around the edges and corners so the fine particles in the mix can displace air.

This will save a lot of patching effort and give you the craftsmanlike cleansible surface you want.

author
AmateurHour (author)flavrt2015-09-29

Thanks for the tips. I did wait to put the wire in until the form was half full and then covered it with the rest of the concrete. I must have neglected to mention it, although I did in my last Instructable.

author
pfred2 (author)2015-09-28

Whoah you tapped the form and still got all of those bug holes? Try oiling your form prior to filling it. That might help you achieve a smooth finish. Maybe you're pouring your concrete a bit too dry?

author
AmateurHour (author)pfred22015-09-28

Thanks for the tips! I am pretty new to concrete and was curious why I was getting so many bug holes even after tapping. I may have not added enough water but you also mentioned oiling the form, what kind of oil would you use?

author
pfred2 (author)AmateurHour2015-09-28

I'd use clean oil. Because used, oil is dirty. That don't mean a lot of folks don't use used oil though. Because I'm sure they get used oil cheap. Probably free out of their heavy equipment. Those big machines have like 22 quart pans. You can oil a lot of forms with 22 quarts. But seriously you want to use clean oil. Any cheap cut rate motor oil ought to do the job. Although if you have access to used cooking grease I bet that'd work too. As long as it is slippery. You might want to filter what you can out of any dirty oil you may use.

The oil will seal the wood too, so it doesn't suck the water out of your concrete. Which may be happening, and causing your bug holes. You might try just soaking your forms before you fill them too. You know, like with water? I'd try that before I got into oiling the forms. But yeah big pro jobs forms are typically oiled before they're filled. Makes stripping them easier. We don't wait 3 days to strip forms either. That can cause problems.

You want to pull forms off concrete while it is still green, but hard enough it stays together. Usually we pour one day, and strip the next. The concrete will still be soft, but we kind of count on it being soft. Just be careful around the edges, so you don't break them. But you can walk on day old concrete. Lord knows I have done that enough.

Concrete is one of those simple things that there is still a lot to know about. I probably don't know a tenth about concrete as I could, but I still know lots about it. I have poured thousands of yards of concrete when I was in construction. I've ripped a lot of set concrete up too. I learned stuff about concrete doing all of that.

Here's another little known fact about concrete. After we pour jobs we seal it like right away. As soon as we're done finish troweling it. This causes the concrete to take even longer to dry. But it makes the concrete stronger, because it takes longer to dry. It is called curing concrete. Which is weird because the process retards the concrete from curing. We just go around with one of those 2 gallon pump sprayer bottles and spray this crap all over the concrete. I'm not precisely sure what it is. But it is some chemical that dries on the concrete and forms a skin. You could probably thin out wood glue and spray that on concrete. Just thin wood glue with water.

here's a page about concrete curing

http://www.cement.org/cement-concrete-basics/worki...

See it's backwards. Curing with concrete means keeping concrete from curing. They still don't say what the cure spray is though. Ah, searching for concrete cure spray turns up products. Go have a look at that yourself. I'm sure you can incorporate some of that in your future projects.

Concrete is really a crystal. Kind of like those magic rocks? So the longer it is wet the bigger the crystals grow in the concrete, and it is those crystals all growing together that makes concrete so strong. This is why it takes 28 days for concrete to reach its rated yield strength. Those crystals are still growing. Well they grow even past that. Some folks say they never stop growing. But over time they grow a lot slower. Old concrete can be very hard though.

author
mjenk20236 (author)2015-09-28

Wondering why you selected concrete for the top.

author
AmateurHour (author)mjenk202362015-09-28

Really I just like the way it looks. I recently started incorporating concrete into my wood projects because I think the two compliment each other quite well.

author
tomatoskins (author)2015-09-28

That looks awesome! Did you secure the cement to the base at all or is it just resting on there?

author
AmateurHour (author)tomatoskins2015-09-28

I didn't secure it no. I figured it was heavy enough to sit on top and since the bench was pretty low there wasn't any chance it would tip over and off.

author
seamster (author)AmateurHour2015-09-28

If you wanted, a bit of basic construction adhesive could be used to fasten the concrete to the wood.

Very cool project, unique and original!

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Bio: To see more of my work, be it wood, painting, or other stuff, find me on Instagram at AMATEURHOUR87.
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