Introduction: A Well FIGured Bucket

Some of my wife's fondest memories came from her Grandmother's back yard; filling her apron with figs. She was thrilled to find our new home came complete with a fig tree. I made this bucket for her and her purple thumb. It has an upholstered lid which doubles as a kneeler. As this bucket is also used to gather figs and other grown treats, the custom paint job keeps it separate from "Daddy's work buckets". This bucket also has a few other features which come in handy for her gardening adventures. 

Step 1: Find a 5 Gallon Bucket

Get a five-gallon bucket.  Use a tape measure to find the inside diameter.  My bucket inside diameter measured 10 5/8 inches.

Step 2: When Plywood and Math Collide

The seat core is made from two plywood circles.  I like to use 1/2" plyboord.  Plyboard is usually sold in 4 foot x 8 foot pieces, or more convenient 4 foot x 4 foot pieces.  I cut my circles from a 4 x 4 foot piece.

You will need to find the radius for the inside bucket opening.  Take your dimension and find the decimal counterpart (on a calculater 5/8 = 0.625 + 10 = 10.625).  Take this dimension and divide by 2 (10.625 / 2 = 5.3125).  To convert back to fractions take the decimal portion and multipy by a convenient measurement on your tape measure.  My tape measure is in 1/16th, so 0.3125 x 16 = 5, or 5/16.  The total radius is then 5 5/16 inches.

I used a stiff piece of cardboard and a nail to make a custom compass.  Place one nail hole (where a pencil or pen will go) near the edge.  Measure out your radius ( 5 5/16 inches in my example) and place another hole.  Place a light nail hole the distance of the radius from each edge.  This will be the center of the circle.  Place the nail in the cardboard compass and use a pencil or pen to trace out the circle by using the nail as a center guide. 

Step 3: Just Tracing and Cutting

The top piece of the circle can be measured out by tracing the top of the bucket.  You should end up with two circles.  Use a jig saw to carefully cut out the circles.  Please remember to use safety equipment (safety glasses, earplugs, and mask as needed).  You should have two nice circles, one slightly bigger than the other.

Step 4: Get Creative

The smaller plywood circle will be used as the insert in bucket and is what will keep the lid from sliding off.  You can choose to leave this plain, or you can take some artistic license and create a cool design.  In honor of the fabulous fig, I used a fig leaf to trace a design on the inside circle.  I also drew an inner circle freehand to border the leaf, letting part of the leaf design go into this border.  The border should be at least 1 inch wide.

Step 5: Make Your Design Pop

Use a drill to create pilot access holes for a jig saw and then carefully cut out the design.  Remember to use that safety equipment.

Step 6: Check the Fit

Now is a great time to check the fit of the inner circle.  Cutting out a design makes it very handy to get the inside circle out of the bucket.  If all looks well use some sand paper to sand all of the edges.

Step 7: Luxury Seating

The comfortable part of the seat is made from 2 inch poly foam (12 inch x 12 inch square), material (about 1/2 to 5/8 yards), clear vinyl (also about 1/2 to 5/8 yards), and staples with a staple gun (I like 3/8 inch staples with a chisel point).

Center the larger plywood circle on the foam and trace it with a marker.  Turn the foam over and center the larger plywood circle again and this time carefully flip it back over.  While holding the foam firmly on the plywood, push the staple gun about half way up the foam on an edge and press in about 1/2 an inch.  This is how the foam is held to the top of the plywood.  When done correctly you will have a small dimple on the foam.  Be sure the staple is fully in the wood and not partly sticking out as shown in the last picture.  Having some needle nose pliers handy will help retrieve any non-compliant staples.

Repeat the stapling process on all four sides.

Step 8: Trim Please

To trim the foam use a sharp knife to guide the blade against the edge of the plywood circle and the marker line on top.  I have an under utilized electric kitchen knife that works wonders on this type of foam, but use what you've got.  Just make sure to cut carefully and away from your body.  Safety first.

When done, you should have a nice foam circle attached to the plywood circle.

Step 9: How About Some Shaping

Before covering the seat, we will want to shape it further.  I used a 10 inch paper plate, centered on the top, to trace a smaller circle.  I then used my fingers as a guide to make a line about half way up the edge all around.  Note that it is more important for the side line to be level to the plywood than the top. 

Use your knife and two guide lines to create a chamfer on the foam top.  If your having trouble consider that electric knife (it will come in handy here and at holiday dinners!).

Step 10: Upholstery Time

Place your lid top foam side down on the back side of the material (at least 18 x 18 inches or 1/2 a yard square). 

If you created a custom design, you will want to make some guide marks on top piece of plywood.  This is so any staples and material will be hidden under that border.  Trace the border.  Also take note of the lip that is created.  For my bucket, this is about 1/4 inch.  Othe buckets could be more depending on the flange of the bucket.

Fold a side of material up to the bottom of the plywood lid.  Place a staple somewhere between the inner trace line and the lip that is created.  We don't want matarial or staples sticking out from under the design border.  We also don't want any staples on the bucket flange.

Once you have one staple in, turn the lid over and pull the material taught on the opposite end of where you put the first staple.  Pull it tightly enought to lightly compress the foam, but not too tight.  Hold the material on the edge of the lid with your non-dominant hand and carefully turn over to place a staple to hold this side in place.

Continue in the same manner two more times with the staples to secure the adjacent sides.  Check your progress.  If one set is too tight, use your pliers to remove the staple and re-tension.  Now would be a great time to trim excess fabric.

Step 11: Getting It Nice and Even.

Continue around the bucket pulling the material with your non-dominant hand against the top and edge of the foam and then use the staple gun to secure a staple.  You can also use your hand to evenly distribute the pleates created by the material.   I find it best to alternate from side to side to get an even pull on the material.  Use as many staples as needed, just remember to keep the staples in the correct place (where they will be hidden by the border of the inner plywood circle. 

Once you have all of the staples in on the material, use a hammer to knock any stubborn staples into the lid.

Step 12: Cut Away the Excess

You should have a lid that is fully covered.  Use a sharp utility knife to carefully trim the excess material off by cutting on the outside of the guide mark you mader earlier.

Step 13: Water Resistant Lid

A vinyl cover will allow for mud and dirt to easily be wiped away.  Take your vinyl covering and attach it to the lid as you did the material.  Take your time with the vinyl, it can be challenging.  Use the same technique to finess the plastic around the foam lid.  Make sure not to pull it too hard or you will pucker the material underneath (as shown in the third picture).

Continue all around until the vinyl is secured.  Trim away the excess as you did before with the material.

Step 14: Finding Your Inner Circle

Attach the inner circle using appropriate hardware.  For 1/2 plywood, I like to use 5/8 inch wood screws.  Drill pilot holes (making sure not to go too far into the lid!).  Center you inner circle.  Check to ensure all material and staples are hidden by the border.  Attach using the screws.

Step 15: Dress Up That Bucket

My bucket was very plain.  I chose to dress it up with some paint.  Because I have so many fig leaves at my disposal, I used masking tape to temporarily secure a leaf to the side of the bucket to make a stencil.  Using acrylic paint I brushed away from the leaf.  I pulled the leaf off and filled in the areas hidden by the tape.  I used various shades of purple to finish the design.

I also took the opportunity to paint the fig leaf design under the lid.

Step 16: Store, Sit, and Relax

This bucket is a great place to store gardening equipment. Of course it makes for a comfortable place to sit and kneel when working in the garden.  Finally, it's a great place to relax while admiring your favorite fig tree.
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