Introduction: Corner Bench With Storage
Once again, my beautiful wife was the inspiration for this project, a corner bench in our dining room for lots of guests and handy storage. As usual, I took a while coming up with a design I considered safe enough for our house with small boys. Benjamin is helping demonstrate my solution - instead of lids coming down with scissor-like edges flush with the adjacent seats, the lids and adjoining seats have a 45-degree bevel and a small gap. Also, the lids have spring-loaded supports to help reduce the risk of injured fingers.
The sturdy structure of this bench is all plywood, so there is no need to build a frame inside. This leaves more room on the inside for storage.
I'll point out one more thing- the photos of the finished bench were taken after about 6 months of use as half the seating at our dining room table. I like my wife's suggestion that more DIY articles should show how well a project holds up after it has been in use for a while.
I used inches, so if your measuring tape is in cm, multiply my sizes by 2.54.
- Plywood - I used 3/4 inch plywood with a Sande veneer, which is actually closer to .7 inch thick.
- Piano Hinges - longer than the lids so you can cut them to length
- Hard board for the back
- 1/4 inch MDF Bender Board - I found this at my local home improvement store in the concrete section, sold for making concrete forms. I used it for all my trim with very satisfactory results. Alternatively, you could cut your own from full sheets of MDF.
- Brad nails, 2-inch for plywood, 3/4 inch for trim
- Wood glue
- Wood filler
- Number 0 joining biscuits
- Drywall screws (1-1/4")
- Paintable caulk
- Painter's tape
- Wood Shims
Step 1: Plan Your Bench to Fit Your Space
I used the model in the attached drawings to plan the project. There is a .pdf version you can download for printing. In the end, you most likely want to alter it to fit your space. I would recommend you keep the lids about the size of mine or smaller. After months of sitting on this bench, I can comfortably recommend you keep the same height of the bench seats from the floor and depth of the seats front to back. The drawings don't include the trim around the base or on the wall, described later. If one or more of your benches is longer than a standard sheet of plywood, you can consider planning the joint to hide behind a piece of trim, like mine did.
Since my baseboard is the cheap MDF kind, I didn't hesitate to cut it and fit it around the bench. If you have a reason to preserve your baseboard, I would suggest you design the bench lid to extend behind the bench by the thickness of the baseboard, then cope the trim on the sides of the bench to fit over the baseboard and cover the gap.
Step 2: Cut Panels for the Boxes
Before you start, you can sketch your pieces on sketches of sheets of plywood as shown and mark them off as you cut them. I used a table saw for ripping and a radial arm saw for cross-cutting. Alternatively, you can use a miter saw and/or circular saw. If power tool safety is not second nature for you, click here for some eyesight- and finger-saving tips.
Step 3: Build the Boxes
Where pieces meet at right angles, I put a bead of wood glue on the edge and held the joint together with a brad nailer. Where pieces butt together end-to-end, I used a biscuit joiner and #0 biscuits. It's not necessary to hold the boxes up in the air like mine, but I needed to work on them a while in the garage before moving them into the house. This was a comfortable working height for me, on saw horses and a roller stand. This bench nearly took up my whole garage, so it provided its own motivation to get it done!
Step 4: Measure and Cut Out Holes for Existing Electrical Outlets
Measure the locations of outlet plates from the corner and from the floor, then mark them on the back side of the bench accordingly. Drill holes in the corners and cut out the rectangular holes with a jigsaw or keyhole saw.
Step 5: Cut the Lid and Seat Pieces
In addition to cutting the panels for the lids and seat, I needed a 45-degree edge where they meet on the side. For my trick on getting these edges accurate, see my prior instructable on beveled edges.
Step 6: Assemble the Lids
Again, where joining edges, I used the biscuit joiner with #0 biscuits. I made clamping jigs from scrap pieces of the beveled edges to protect the seat's beveled edges from damage from the clamp jaws. I left one joint in the seat un-glued so I could disassemble after painting in the garage and reassemble it in it's new home.
Step 7: Cut the Piano Hinges
I cut the hinges the same length as the lids with a hack saw. Then I used a wide putty knife as a guide to cut the 45-degree bevel on the ends of the hinges as shown.
Step 8: Drill and Pin the Seat to the Boxes
I used dowels to pin the seat in place so I could reassemble it later in the dining room. First I drilled holes in corners and at the ends of the various parts of the seat in the bench from above, as shown in the first photo. Click here for tips on drilling perpendicular holes with a hand-held power drill. Then I clamped the seat in place on top of the benches and drilled blind holes up from underneath. Where it was tight, I used a corner-drilling adapter. Be sure not to drill through the seat. I cut a length of hose to stop the drill before breaking through the top of the seat, shown in the last photo.
Step 9: Measure the Lid Support Mounting Hole Locations
I made a little test lid to decide how I wanted to mount the lid supports. The instructions say to mount them so the opening is only 60 degrees, but I wanted to open them about 90 degrees, so I made sure that this would work on my test lid first before messing with the real lids.
Step 10: Round the Edge on the Outside Corner
I used a rasp to give plenty of room on the outside corner where the benches will meet both walls. A sharp corner is not going to fit.
Step 11: Attach Piano Hinges
I held my piano hinges in place and used the point of a drill bit to mark the centers of the holes in the plywood. Then I drilled pilot holes for the screws. Finally, I installed some screws to hold the hinges in place. Since I was having to take it all apart and reassemble later, I only installed a few of the screws in each hinge at this point. Now the seat, lids and bench are all together.
Step 12: Route the Edges of the Lids and Seat in Place
The lip of the seats and lids is meant to extend over the boxes below, so first I tacked a strip of scrap plywood under the lip of the seat all around, then I used a trim router to true up all the edges. After the edges were matching, I used a 1/2" quarter-round bit to round the edges of the seats and lids.
Step 13: Paint Lids
I don't have great photos for painting this project. As you can see, I have little kids, so I needed to be able to do a lot of my painting in the garage, before moving the bench into the house. For me, that meant painting the lids and finishing with three coats of polyurethane for wear protection. Basically, I added filler where needed, like the rounded plywood edge, did a lot of sanding to get all the joints smooth, then put on two coats each of primer and paint with a six-inch foam roller. I sanded lightly with 220 grit between coats, including the polyurethane. You can see the result in the remaining photos.
Step 14: Install the Bench and Trim
Floors and walls are only so straight. Place the bench boxes where they will live and shim under them as needed to get them aligned and level. Use screws to hold the two bench boxes together. Cut lengths of bender board to cover the top and bottom of the outer faces of the bench from one wall to the other. You can mark and sand the lower piece of trim to follow the floor. Attach the trim with glue and short brad nails. Cut pieces a little longer than needed to fill the space between the top and bottom strips of trim. Use a knife to mark the length and fit each piece as snugly as possible.
Step 15: Fill and Sand the Trim
Fill the joints and nail holes with wood filler. Sand all the joints smooth with 220-grit. When sanding near the floor, use a plastic edge to protect the floor as shown. Click here to read about my favorite way to use the orbital sander.
Step 16: Install the Seat and Lids
In addition to the dowels mentioned earlier, I used drywall screws every 2 inches to attach the seat from below. protected painted surfaces with rags, as shown.
Step 17: Install Lid Supports
I used the measurements made with the test lid to locate two supports under each lid. I drilled pilot holes for the screws. Make sure not to drill all the way through the lid, using painter's tape to control the depth of the holes. Now you can see the installed benches with lids.
Step 18: Paint Bench Trim
I was once coached by a handier friend who helped me install my first countertop, "Do your best, and caulk the rest." Before painting, I used a paintable caulk to close up the gaps. I primed and painted the bench faces, as shown. I cut some felt to cover the plywood where the lids rest on the bench. I glued the felt in place to protect the lids and help make them quieter when closing.
Step 19: Install and Paint Back Trim
We decided we wanted to put a back on this bench and make it match the trim along the outside of the bench. I made the back from hard board and glued on the same bender board used for the bench trim. Where I saw gaps between the wall and the board, I applied a bead of construction adhesive to the back of the board to prevent movement as people lean up against it. Then I put screws through the board into studs. I then used wood filler, sanding, and painting the same way I did on the bench trim.
Step 20: P.S.
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