Introduction: Bench: Homage to Enzo Mari

I’m a retired guy, and therefore by societies' standards, I must do woodworking in the garage with tools low on quantity and quality. I will work only in areas insufficiently open to freedom of movement around bikes, toys and other unfinished projects (you, of course will ensure that your workspace is clear, open and safe). I only do ninety degree angles since anything else comes out horribly wrong. Always.

Recently I ran into Enzo Mari’s work on Google or Pinterest or somewhere. Loved his concept of “Self Design” (Autoprogettazione): Big box available lumber; straight 90 degree cuts; no fancy hoo-hahs; 1x2 to 1x6s; hammer and nails (I used screws). Straightforward. Looked easy.

So I began with copying (almost) his Autoprogettazione dining table for my son and his family. Turned out darn-tootin’ fine as long as you didn’t look too closely.

Then it hit me: Rats. I need chairs. Son Sam wanted a bench for his two munchkins, ages 4 and 5. I went back to Mr. Mari, hoping to find something to copy. Well, for all his wonderfulness, Mr. Mari apparently didn’t have grandbabies demanding benches.

So what follows is an homage to the Self Design concept developed by Enzo Mari in response to grandbabies that control everything this Grampa does.


•Select Pine 1x2’s, 1x3’s and 1x6’s. Nice crisp edges.

•Chop saw or Miter saw to cut 1x2’s to 1x6’s.

•220 grit sandpaper and flat sanding pad.

•A bunch of scrap lumber for the ‘swing set’ frame.

•A couple boxes of cup hooks and eye hooks.

•Pre-stain wood treatment.

•Water based stain.

•Water based wipe-on poly.

•Power drill for pilot holes and screws (and one of those angle attachments to screw into tight corners).

•Clamps. 6 or so.

•Screws to taste. 1.25”L and 2.5”L. I used camo deck screws for the table. I’ll try decorative screws for the bench, just ‘cuz.

Step 1: The Wood

Hit a Big Box and be prepared to pay outrageous prices for select grade pine now-a-days. I used short lengths, so they can fit in the car. The picture shows a couple of examples from the pile.

•3 - 4’L 1x6 cut to 42” for the seat.

•3 - 3’L 1x3 cut to 16” for three pair of legs.

•3 - 6’L 1x2 cut to 17” for 6 pair of horizontal supports.

•3 - 6’L 1x2 cut to 10.5” for seven pair of angled supports for stability (in the end, I omitted the angled supports at the legs. Not needed structurally. Looks cool tho.

•4 - 4’L 1x2 cut to 42” for two pair of truss top and bottoms.

•1 - 3’L 1x2 cut to 8” for 5 vertical supports between the truss top and bottoms.

Step 2: The Plan

Pretty straightforward. Have fun with it. Do what looks good to you. Just make sure it's stable.

Step 3: Sanding

Wax on. Wax off. Nice n slow. Change the sandpaper often. Back n forth for like, forever. Put on some tunes. Sand the full lengths before you cut. Much less awkward. Just sand down the ends once cut.

You don't need a picture to watch someone sand wood.

Step 4: Build a Swing Set and Hang the Pieces

•Grab some scrap lumber and build a swing set frame to hang all those darn pieces you cut

•Install eye bolts(or whatever) about 3” or 4” on center along the horizontal

•Install cup hooks on one end of each piece of cut lumber

•Hang ‘em

Step 5: Wood Prep, Stain and Poly

Follow the directions on the cans.

•Pre-stain wood prep will help with blotches that can happen with stained soft wood.

•Pick your favorite water based stain. Don’t worry about the darker stained ends. Adds character. Stain everything and hang ‘em to dry.

•I just discovered the beauty of Wipe-On Poly. Love it. Grab A LOT of t-shirt pieces. Pour some Poly in a clean container, dip in the t-shirt piece and wipe it on each piece. Don’t go heavy with the application. Multiple thin coats is the way to go. Hang ‘em to dry, then do one gentle swipe with 220 grit sandpaper between coats. Do 4 to 8 coats, until you’re sick of doing it. So, 4. Time for tunes again.

Step 6: Assembly

•The truss. The top and bottom supports are laid flat on the work table. The ‘innards’ are laid on edge. The 8” pieces are installed vertically. The 10.5” L angled pieces snugly abut the vertical boards. Just make sure the ends aren’t exposed past the supports. You may need to cut them down a bit. Or just do what looks cool to you. Lay another pair of top and bottom supports. Clamp it all real tight. Carefully drill pilot holes a bit offset from center for the screws to connect the top pair of horizontal boards to the ‘innards’. Carefully flip it over and do it again. Offset the screws the other way so they don’t run into each other.

•Make three pair of legs. Align a pair of 17” pieces to the top of two pair of 16” 1x3 leg pieces. Measure an 8” gap (or better yet, set the truss to butt up to the top pair of 1x2s) and align another pair of 17” pieces. Offset screw. Flip over carefully and offset screw again.

•Assemble the truss to the legs. Your drill may not fit in the tight spaces, so consider dropping a 20 to buy one of those attachments that allow you to drill at an angle. Drill pilot holes and screw to the truss.

•Set the seat boards and screw in place.

Call the grandbabies.

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