I wanted a wooden bench to have next to my entry door (for sitting down when you take your shoes off). I also wanted to try out some new woodworking techniques and tools. Currently I am using it as a plant stand until winter rolls around, so I guess I will have to stand and take my shoes off until winter.
Step 1: Plan/Design
I used this diagram for the first picture to determine the height I wanted the bench to be. The length and width were determined for me because I had a nice rough cut piece of white pine I got off some old dude from craigslist. It is roughly 51 inches by 14 inches.
Instagram is a great way for me to follow super talented artists. I usually will save screenshots of pieces/ideas that I like. A newer trend I started seeing is using white paint as a kind of accent on the legs along side a natural stain. I like "attempting" new techniques, so I though I would give this a go.
You could create this bench with multiple different tools, but I did include some of the more basic ones I did use (not included : miter saw, cordless drill, random orbital, etc).
Step 2: Squaring the Top - Router Sled
The slab I got was a little bowed, so I did have to square it. Seeing as how it was too wide for my planner ; I decided to make a makeshift router sled to get it flat. This router is undersized for this (HP wise), but it did work fine. They sell router bits that are made for this (planning) - do yourself a favor and buy one (I ended up just using a large straight bit). It will save you about 100 passes.
I just built a 2x4 frame around my slab of wood and built a wood jig to hold the router in place. My bench is (relatively) level, so it made a good reference point. Make sure you don't take too much off at once; It took me about 3 passes on each side until it was square enough for me. People do this online all the time, and I remember always being intimidated by it. It probably was the most fun part of the whole process.
Step 3: Bowties
For those of you not familiar...."Bowtie keys" are used when there is splitting in your piece of wood your are working with. It helps stabilize the wood, so no further splitting can take place. Typically you use a different species wood (I think I used Oak in this case), and the orientation of grain is typically opposite of the original piece. I have always liked when I see people use different species of wood for bowties...It really makes them "POP" when you stain them.
Being more of a "weekend woodworker"; I opted to just purchase a butterfly router bit and template off amazon. WOW! It worked like a champ! I couldn't recommend it more.
Having a bandsaw or table saw would have come in really handy when cutting the keys out (I ended up doing ok putting the wood in a vice and using a pull saw). I cleaned up the bowtie holes with a cheap chisel and scoring knife. The bowties fit pretty tight with a little glue. There was about 1/6in above that I had to trim off with the pull saw (you could also use a hand plane here).
Step 4: Attaching the Legs
Honestly, I just kind of made up the "leg/frame" as I went along. I cut a piece off of the end of the dowels I bought (I think the legs were 1 3/8in) to kinda judge the placing of the 4 legs. About 8in off the edge and a couple in from the sides.
I didn't have a spade bit big enough, so I though I would just be able to use the spade bit and trim it bigger with a router straight bit. WRONG. You could do this if you built some sort of router jig, but I wasn't patient enough for this. I ended up buying a forstner bit set to achieve the holes I wanted. Typically you would have a drill press for this (they aren't really designed for a cordless drill), but I ended up using my cordless drill and it worked fine. Other than a sore wrist (I had to apply the pressure with my body weight that the drill press would have) it turned out ok. By using a speed square you can keep your drill square-ish.
Anytime you are drilling a hole make sure you are always thinking about tear out. Clamp a piece of crap wood behind your piece your drilling to help with this. Luckily I did experience only a little tear out, and it was on the bottom of the bench.
I used the adjustable speed square again to figure out the length I would have to drill in each dowel to connect to the frame. I ended up having better luck going down in dowel sizes when drilling "intersecting frame dowels". So, 1 3/8in for the legs, 1in connecting the legs, and 3/4in connecting the 2 leg frames.
I decided to not bore you with measurements, because if you build this you will probably make it your own and adjust it as you start construction.
Step 5: Sand - Finish
Sanding sucks. Took a couple hours to sand the top and the dowels. I opted to use WATCO danish oil (natural) to really make the stain pop. After 2 coats of oil I was happy with the final color. I forgot to sand the bottom (and there was a little tearout by the legs), so I though painting it white would be a good way to cover that up. I also painted about 1in on each leg dowel as a kinda accent (you can't really see any of it unless you look at it at eye level). I might add a little more white paint down the legs so its a little more visible in the future. I also will probably add some sort of poly (some would say that sacrilege over danish oil), just to ensure the finish holds up from wear and tear.
The end product turned out as I envisioned. I was really impressed with how the top and the frame came together. Tried a lot of new techniques, failed along the way, but I did learn a ton. Let me know what you think; I would love to hear your opinions (or criticisms). I will try to answer any questions if you have any. Thanks for reading!