Introduction: How to Build a Modern Entryway Shoe Bench
Hey everyone, I made this modern shoe storage/entryway bench for my parents as a Christmas gift. They've been having some knee pains from having to kneel to put on and take off their shoes, so I made this for them hoping to make their lives a little easier. Here is my process on how I built it, and be sure to check out my Youtube video above to help better understand each step!
Awhile back my wife and I went to Denver, Colorado to visit some friends. Besides the great scenery and food, one of the most memorable places we visited was the Denver Art Museum. If you’ve been to the Denver Art Museum, you probably know what I’m talking about. The architectural design of the Hamilton Building will make anyone stop in their tracks. Daniel Libeskind, said his design was “…inspired by the light and the geology of the Rockies, but most of all by the wide-open faces of the people of Denver.” And for the longest time, his design have stayed in my mind. I knew I wanted to incorporate it into a piece of furniture, but I just didn’t know what…until I decided to build something special for my parents.
Walnut hardwood: Roughly 20bdft
Walnut 1/4" Plywood: (1/2 sheet)
12" Soft Close Bottom Drawer Slides https://amzn.to/2s9DgWc (Amazon)
Microjig Tapering Jig: https://amzn.to/2VaZyDO (Amazon)
Microjig Grr-ripper: https://amzn.to/2VaZyDO (Amazon)
Microjig Grr-rip Block: https://amzn.to/2VaZyDO (Amazon)
Walnut Stain: https://amzn.to/2E2RAm8 (Amazon)
Figure 8 Clips: https://amzn.to/3410YkA (Amazon)
White Marker: https://amzn.to/2VaZyDO (Amazon)
Bandy Clamps: https://amzn.to/2VaZyDO (Amazon)
Step 1: Breaking Down Lumber
I started out with 8/4 walnut lumber for this project. The first thing I did was marking out all the pieces I'll need, and then crosscutting the pieces down to length at the table saw. Afterward, I resawed them to yield material for both the carcass as well as the drawers.
Step 2: Panel Glue-up
Once all the lumber for the main case has been milled up, I edge glued them together to yield the panels I needed for the build. For this I used Dominoes, but I actually don't recommend using it! The reason is that we'll be cutting tapers in the left and top panels. You'll have to keep tabs on where the Dominoes are, or it's really easy to cut through them and end up with a ruined edge.
But what I do think is important, is to keep a few sets of cauls on hand for the glue up. I think using cauls to clamp panels together during glue-ups is the best way to ensure the panel will stay flat during, and after, the glue-up.
Once I've given the glue enough time to cure, I came back and used a scraper to get rid of all the glue squeezeout. Now on to the next step!
Step 3: Cut Main Case Panels to Size
If you've had a chance to watch my Youtube video on this build, you'll know how the panels come together for the main case structure. But in case you haven't, I'll do a quick explanation here. The top and bottom panels are joined to a tapered left panel with miter joints. But the right panel is more like a vertical partition that sits in dados in the top and bottom panels. This means when cutting the panels to size, the top and bottom panels will both receive a 90-deg cut on one end, and a 45-deg miter cut on the other. The left panel will receive miter cuts on both ends.
As I stated earlier, the left panel will be tapered. I found it easiest to cut the taper in the left panel first, and use that to finalize the depth of the top and bottom panels. The taper on the left panel goes from 18" at the top down to 15" at the bottom, which I marked out and cut using my tracksaw. Then I took this tapered panel over to the top and bottom panels to mark out their final depths.
For the bottom, it'll be a pretty straightforward cut. The depth would just be the same as the lower end of the side panel (15"). But for the top panel, it'll start out as the same depth as the top end of the side panel (18") and then at around halfway down the length of the panel, it'll taper down to the same depth as the bottom panel (15").
After marking out these cuts on the top panel, I lined up my tracksaw with my layout lines and cut the taper on the top panel first, keeping my blade at 90-deg. I'm mentioning the angle of the blade because I had to cut a bevel along the 18" deep section of the panel that matches the angle of the tapered left panel. To determine this angle, I used an angle gauge to measure the taper, then transfer that angle over to my tracksaw. You can see why that bevel is needed in the last image of this section. I also had to cut the same bevel along the bottom panel.
Step 4: Joinery for Main Case Panels
After the top and bottom panels have been cut to size, it's time to cut the joinery. I butted the top and bottom panels against each other, with the rear edges touching. Using a large square, I laid out a line representing one edge of the dado. Then I took the vertical partition to draw the second edge of the dado. And finally, I marked where the stop-dados needed to end.
Next, it's pretty easy to just line up my 1/2" router bit with one line, cut to my stop, then readjust to cut to the second line. I did this for both of the vertical partitions.
Note: The top panel is deeper than the bottom panel. So the dados on the top panel will end further from the front edge than the dados in the bottom panel. I forgot about this...so I had to make repairs by cutting a piece of wood and glue it into the dado. Luckily the mistake was on the bottom surface of the top panel, so nobody would be able to see it.
With that 1/2" bit still in my router, I attached an edge guide to cut a 1/4" rabbet at the back edges of the top, bottom, and left panels. But before I put the router away, I swapped over to a 45-deg chamfer bit to add just a little bit more style to the front edges of the panels.
Step 5: Main Case Glue-up
With all the joinery cut in the main case, it's time to glue them up! As with all of my builds involving miter joints, I used the Domino to help me add strength to the joint as well as making the glue-up much easier. Keep in mind I still didn't have a right panel at this point, so I used a piece of scrap plywood to help prop the right side up, as I glued the top panel to the left panel. I used a square clamp to make sure everything is nice and squared up.
Step 6: Cut Partitions to Size + Joinery
Once the top, bottom, and left side panels are glued up, I used referential measurements to determine the final height of the vertical partitions and cut them at the table saw. While still at the table saw, I also cut notches at the two corners on the front edge to hide the rounded ends of the stop-dados cut earlier.
Afterward, I laid out and cut a stop-dado into each of the vertical partitions to hold a horizontal shelf later. My parents only have lower profile shoes, so this worked out really well. If you have more high tops or boots, it's better to cut some shelf pins into the vertical partitions so you can adjust the height of the horizontal shelf.
Step 7: Partition & Back Panel Glue-up
With the vertical partitions cut to size, I applied glue and slid them into the dados cut into the top and bottom panels earlier. Then I could cut a horizontal shelf to size and attach it to the vertical partitions. Finally, I measured for and cut a 1/4" piece of plywood to size for the back panel. For some reason 1/4" walnut plywood always has one side that is not covered in walnut veneer, so it's this really ugly light color. Even though that side will be up against a wall, I always felt it'd be incomplete if I left it that way. So before gluing it in, I applied a dark walnut stain to the light side.
Step 8: Drawers
With the case set aside, I started to work on the drawer boxes. These pieces were milled down to 5/8" thick before I ripped them and crosscut them to size. Then I cut a 1/4" dado along the bottom of each workpiece, leaving 1/2" of material from the bottom of the drawer box to the dado. Finally, I cut a rabbet at each end of the front and back pieces, which is how they'll attach to the side pieces with some glue and brad nails. Finally, a 1/4" panel will slide into the dados cut earlier, before closing up the box with the fourth side.
For this bench, I decided to use some undermount drawer slides so that when the drawers are pulled open the hardware won't become a distraction. There are lots of specific measurements that you'll need to get right for these drawers to work. It'd be another Instructables just to get into those details, so maybe I'll save it for a future post! If you don't want to wait, then I highly recommend the video that Shaun Boyd did! I don't think I could make a better video!
Step 9: Making the Legs (Cutting Parts)
Next up, it's time to make the legs. Since the legs will be splayed out at 15 degrees, that's what I set my miter gauge at, and cut two workpieces. Then I laid out a taper going from 1" at the bottom and 3" at the top, and cut that at my table saw using my crosscut sled. You can definitely cut the taper using a tapering jig, but I was feeling lazy since I still had to make 15-deg cuts at the ends of the stretchers.
Once the stretchers were cut to size, I placed them on the bottom surface of the bench case to layout the angle and depth I needed to cut the half-lap joint. To cut the joint, I swapped my blade out for my dado set. My suggestion is to first remove the bulk of the material, then sneak up on the cuts until a nice tight fit is achieved.
Step 10: Making Legs (Cut Joinery & Glue-up)
The legs and the stretchers will be joined using a bridle joint. I clamped the legs to the stretchers in order to layout the lines I'll need to cut. Since it's always easier to cut the tenon to fit the mortise, I used my tenoning jig to cut the mortise in the legs first. Next, I lined my miter gauge to the lines I drew earlier to cut the tenons on the stretchers. Clear out materials from one side, flip over and remove materials from the other side. Make any blade adjustments as needed and leave just enough material so that after cleaning up the tenon with a hand plane, you'll still get a nice tight fit with the mortise in the legs.
Notice I left the legs and the stretchers proud. I did this on purpose so that I could simply flush things up after the glue-up with a flush trim saw and a hand plane. Makes things a lot easier than trying to adjust the table saw!
Step 11: Attaching Legs to Case
After the glue has had a day to cure, I took the legs out of the clamps and began sanding everything down. I think it'd be easier to sand before gluing everything together...but I guess I forgot. To attach the legs to the bottom surface of the case, I used some figure-8 clips. I used a 5/8" Forstner bit to cut a mortise in the stretchers for the figure-8 clip to sit in, and then attached them with screws. Next, I flipped the leg assembly over and attached the other end of the clip to the bottom face of the bottom panel.
Step 12: Drawer Fronts
Finally, the last thing left to do is make the drawer fronts! With all the angles on this bench, I didn't feel like just throwing on a flat-faced drawer front. So I ended up making a 3D drawer front using my CNC. Just like the drawer slides, it'd take another Instructables and Youtube video just to explain the whole process. But you're in luck, because I have a video just for that! So feel free to check it out if you're curious about how to make something like this as well!
Once the drawer fronts' have been carved, I cut them down to their final dimensions at the table saw. Obviously I couldn't put a drawer pull on a drawer front like this, so I used a 1/4" radius bowl and tray bit to cut a finger groove along the right edge. One thing I regret is the finger grooves couldn't be as deep as I'd liked because there wasn't as much material as I hoped along the right edges due to the polygons carved into them. But other than that, I just absolutely love the way this bench turned out. And I hope you enjoyed the process as well and maybe feel inspired to build one yourself!
If you'd like to see more stuff from me, don't forget to subscribe to me on Youtube and give me a follow on Instagram! I'll have more awesome stuff in the plans for next year! Thanks for following along!
Second Prize in the