Introduction: Park Benches for All
There are a few stories about where the design for this bench came from. The one I prefer is that my grandmother was in a softball tournament at the local mill and they made these benches for the event and raffled them off when the tournament was over. The original has lasted 40+ years though we did have to replace the legs at least once.
You can easily make this bench including staining or painting in a weekend at a cost less than $100.
- 8 - 8 foot regular 2x4
- 1 - 8 foot pressure treated 2x4
- 3 inch screws
- Solid stain
- Chop saw (A hand saw will also work)
- Router, router table or a block plain (Optional)
- Paint brush
Step 1: Cutting the Slats and Stretcher
You can make this bench up to 8 feet wide however to maximize material I recommend 5 or six feet. 5 feet is a traditional looking width for a bench of this type and 6 feet will maximize the use of your materials. I will describe the 5 foot length.
1) Cut 7 pieces to 5 feet in length. (Seat and back slats)
2) Cut 1 piece to 39 inches in length. (Stretcher)
NOTE: If you are making a six foot bench the stretcher will be 8 inches longer and you'll have a bit more overhang over each side.
Step 2: Cut the Seat Supports
The strength of this bench comes from the seat supports. They define where the legs go and support the seat. The cutoffs from earlier will form these 8 pieces. I cut both at the same time so they are matching lengths. One is actually shorter than the other. The long side is 22 inches and they are cut at a 15 degree angle. Cut four sets.
Step 3: Cut the Legs
You can use basic 2x4's for the whole bench but I like to make the legs out of pressure treated so they last longer. The front legs are easy. Cut two at 16 inches. The back legs are a bit more complex and I like to make a template if I'm making multiple benches. The bottom is cut at a 15 degree angle and the top cut is at a 30 degree angle. The total piece is 16 inches long. Pictured is the final product as well as my template with the angles and the length. If you are doing this with a handsaw the long length isn't a problem but if you are using a chop saw the angle is actually 60 degrees with the piece setting perpendicular to the saw. If you want to use the chop saw you will need to place the piece parallel to the saw and cut it at a 30 degree angle. Make sure to secure the piece with a clamp.
Step 4: Cut the Back Support
The back support is 25 inches long with a 15 degree cut on the bottom. I like to round over the top for a more refined look.
Step 5: Round Over All Edges and Sand
2x4's come with a 1/4 inch round over already so for a consistent look I round every cut edge over as well on the router table. You could also do this with a sander or a block plane or even skip this step altogether. Once the round over is complete I rough sand everything. Remember this is a pretty basic bench out of 2x4's so you don't have to get too picky with the sanding.
Step 6: Pre Stain Before Assembly
If you are going to put a finish on, it's easier to do this before you assemble. I like to use a solid stain vs paint as it's less likely to peal.
Step 7: Assemble the Legs
It's now time to start screwing things together. I like to drill a pilot hole for all screws however 2x4 lumber is pretty forgiving and you can skip this step as long as you don't screw too close to the edge. The first assembly consists of the front and back legs, one set of seat supports and the back support. Both legs should protrude by 9 inches and make sure they are flush to the front and back of the seat supports. The back support sits flush with the bottom of the two side pieces and against the back leg. You'll be making two mirror images.
Step 8: Add the Stretcher
The original bench didn't have a stretcher and it was plenty strong. I added one to reduce the chance that the bench would start to rock back and forth over time and it's really helped. It is placed in the middle of the lower seat support. Make sure you are attaching from the right direction. You'll be covering these screws later when you add the second set of seat supports.
Step 9: Attach the Seat Slats
It's now time to add the seat slats. I put the back slat right against the back supports and the front slat gets a 3/4 inch overhang. The middle two slats then split the difference with about a 1 inch gap.
Step 10: Finish the Base
Previously we left off two of the seat support sets. Now that the seat slats are on it's easy to add them. The bottom of the bench is now complete.
Step 11: Add the Back Slats
I like to position the bottom back slat a 2x4 width above the seat slats. The top slat is even with the top of the back supports and the middle slat splits the difference. You will end up with a gap that is very similar to what is between the seat slats.
Step 12: Final Touch Ups
Since we pre stained before assembly you are now complete but it's good practice to touch up any places that need stain. You can also decide to add some sort of foot protectors. A piece of 1/8 inch plastic helps avoid having the legs directly touching the ground.
You are now ready to find a permanent location for your bench. You'll notice my profile is Park Bench Anarchist. I started this account when I saw how much it cost for the local municipality to install a dedicated bench. At the same time, there were a few ad hoc benches made out of old stumps and landscape ties that needed replacing. This bench fills the gap between an expensive formal park bench and a stump. If you are going to be a park bench anarchist I recommend an out of the way spot that needs a bench where you can fly under the radar of your local government and be willing to maintain the bench as if it was your own.
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8 months ago on Introduction
I think you could make the same bench with PVC boards, that wouldn’t be affected by the weather, and it’ll last a long time. The same bench, made of composite materials and seen in many places, costs a fortune.
Reply 8 months ago
I wanted to use pvc for a bench re-do. From what I saw, it seems the pvc needs supporting closer together than a bench would provide.
Reply 8 months ago
You’re probably right, just like Trex needs closer supports. At least you don’t have to worry about paint or stain where something is constantly in the elements.
Reply 8 months ago
Would an extra leg in the middle do?
Reply 8 months ago
I’m no expert. It would certainly help.
9 months ago
Nice job on the bench :)