Introduction: DIY Modern Wooden Benches

Looking for an easy-to-build, modern-looking, outdoor bench? Look no further. This Instructable has got you covered.

The benches featured in this Instructable were constructed for my Eagle Project, and are currently sitting at a local middle school, waiting patiently for students to make a return from remote learning and begin using them. With this being one of my first major wood-related projects, I was skeptical of my own abilities, but with a little inspiration from this site and the help of a few fellow Boy Scouts, I was able to complete the bench with relative ease.

Before we get started, I'd like to give a huge shoutout to diymontreal and their Instructable 'Modern Wooden Bench'. I was inspired heavily by their design, but tried putting my own spin on it, tweaking the build process, adding reinforcements, and finishing it in a different manner.

With all that in mind, let's get started!

Step 1: Materials

For this project, you will need:

  • 10" Metal Strap Tie
  • 2" Black Metal Brace (4 pack) (x2)
  • 75 Pk of 1.5" common nails (x2)
  • Sandpaper (Assorted 6 Pack (80 Grit, 120 Grit, 220 Grit))
  • Wood Glue (Titebond 3 'Ultimate') 8 Oz.
  • Wood Stain
  • Electric Drill
  • Clamps
  • Stain Brushes
  • Power Sander (Optional)

And plenty of wood! I used 2x4's throughout, but cut them down to 1.5 x 3.5 (for the sharp edges). Here are the specific cut measurements:

  • 3 at 48"
  • 4 at 41.5"
  • 8 at 14"
  • 6 at 10.75"

Step 2: Sand the Wood

Once you've got all your materials, it's time to begin sanding. This process does take a little while, but as I had a whole team of Boy Scouts with me, it went a lot quicker. We began with 80 grit to remove all the hard edges and 'splintery' portions, but tried our best to ensure that the edges remained sharp. Don't worry if the wood isn't perfectly smooth by the end, as there's still a lot left to do. You'll also have to do a final sanding (preferably with a power sander) once the bench is complete.

As a side note, you may notice the apparent effects of this pandemic, with all of 5 of us wearing masks and attempting to sand 6 feet apart.

Step 3: Assemble the Individual Slats

Once everything is sanded, it's time to begin assembling the individual slats. For this step, you are going to need the 2" L-Brackets, Wood Glue, the 41.5" cuts (4 of these), and the 14" cuts (8 of these). It isn't necessary to assemble all of them at the same time, but it may be helpful. To start, drill pilot holes using the L-Brackets as a template. It'll probably be helpful to draw holes first and then drill the holes. Once that's done, attach the L-Bracket using the provided screws. I also suggest using wood glue across the edge of both planks, as the L-Brackets will only attach the bottom edges together.

The 48" cuts and the 10" cuts do not require the L-Bracket treatment, but you may add them if you like.

Step 4: Put the Slats Together

For this step, you'll need Wood Glue, Common Nails and the 10" Metal Straps. It is also important that you use clamps as each slat is attached. This will ensure that none of the previous slats slip, and that the wood glue holds.

Begin with one of the slats that you assembled using the 41.5" cuts. Place the 5 metal straps along the inside edges of the wood. Put one on either side and three throughout the top. Then, use a hammer to nail it all down. Once you have all 5 straps attached, take out your wood glue and attach the 48" and 10" cuts at the top and sides respectively. Nail them down using the metal straps. Clamp both pieces together. You can either wait for the glue to dry a little bit, or immediately move on to the next one if you feel confident. Alternate between the 41.5" assemblies and the 48"/10" cuts as you move across.

Step 5: Assembled!

Our first milestone! The bench is fully assembled! You may found that the metal strap is too long, or, in some cases, too short. The best way to fix an excess is by simply hammering it down/up. This will make it flush with the wood, and will allow you to rest it near a wall. Don't worry about aesthetics. It may look ugly, but it's only the back, and people won't be seeing much of it.

If it is too short, you may have to buy additional straps and begin at the end where you left off.

Step 6: Final Sand & Stain

We're almost done!

Now it's time for the finishing touches. Use all three grits of the sandpaper to get the bench looking good and feeling smooth. I wasn't able to get my hands on a Sanding Machine, but if you are able to, definitely make sure to use it. You may find some unevenness throughout, and the sanding machine will help smooth it out with ease. That being said, plain sandpaper does the job well enough (although it takes a lot more time).

Once you've sanded everything to your liking, begin the staining process. I used a basic stain I found at Home Depot, but you can choose any color you like. Simply use the stain brushes and ensure you have an even coat throughout. I recommend two coats, especially if you are going to be using the bench outside.

Step 7: Done!

Good job! You've officially finished! Once the stain is dried, feel free to use the bench where ever.

I donated mine to a local middle school, but not before giving myself some credit. A search for 'Custom Plaques' returned several results, of which I used one from Etsy. It was easy to screw in, and the message was straight to the point: "Take a seat." Here's to hoping you'll be doing a lot of that with your new bench!