Introduction: Popsicle Stick Bench

My wife was out of town for a few days, and she's always wanted a replica of the popsicle-stick bench they have at Disneyworld/Disneyland's 'A Bug's Life' area, so I decided to build it.

Disclaimer: I'm a computer guy, not a wood guy. This is my first real attempt at building something that wasn't just a temporary/ugly/makeshift thing. It's also my first instructable. Corrections and feedback are more than welcome in the comments.

Step 1: Get Your Materials

I picked up more than I need. I think if you were scrimping and made no mistakes, you could get by with:

(6) 1x6x8'

(3) 2x6x8'

(2) 2x4x8'

~50 2" deck screws

3 colors of stain - The $5 sample size (~150ml) works if they have it. I had to go with the larger pint (quart? dunno - I'm metric) size to get the red and purple that I wanted.

Spar Urethane - Probably 1L would do (half a pint? an eighth of a teaspoon - who knows?). I would reckon any sort of exterior-grade clear finish would work (polyurethane, varnish, shellac, lacquer)

Step 2: Round Your Corners.


Create a template. Mine was done on a laser cutter. A 5.5" circle merged with a square to make a sort of 'tab' that I could clamp to each of the 1x6s. If you don't have a laser cutter (what are the chances), I suspect you could just free-hand a template out of some scrap wood and sand it down until it's to your liking

With the template clamped underneath the wood, I traced it out with a bottom-bearing flush-trim router bit. It slipped a bit because it was acrylic on wood - so you can see the extra notch in the picture there. So once I got one board to work without slipping (I added more clamps), I used it as the template, rather than the acrylic.

To round the ends on the larger 2x6s, I had to get a top-bearing flush-trim bit, trace the template from the top, flip the 2x6 over, then swap back to the bottom-bearing flush trim bit and finish the job. If I were doing it again, I would order a taller bit that could do the whole thing in one-go.

For the 1x6s, I rounded the corners on one end, measured 66" (I scaled the width/height of a popsicle proportionally), then used the router to trace off the other end. The 'popsicle stick' should be 66" tip-to-tip. If your board is straight, you can use that as the template for all future popsicle sticks, and never measure again!

For the 2x6s, I rounded off one end, then put them to the side as they had to be cut to length later.

Step 3: Sanding + Staining

I thought the finish would be a bit better on the boards, but it wasn't. I borrowed an random-orbit sander from a friend, and sanded all the boards with 80 grit to get rid of the sharp edges, clean up the rounded ends, and smooth out the faces.

Following that, I stained the sticks using different colors (I had extra boards and extra stain, so there's a couple extra sticks in the pictures).

I started using a brush, but that didn't seem right, so I switched to paper towel. The paper towel was easier to control, and resulted in a lighter coat. The stain I had (Minwax and Behr) went on *very* dark with a single coat. I suspect it's because I was using pine

Step 4: Dry Fitting, Figuring Out Bench Dimensions

I mocked up what the frame would look like using scraps I had laying around.

I measured a nearby chair to get a rough estimate of how high the seats (and subsequently the legs) should be. I think it was ~16", so I cut the 2x6s so they were 16", from rounded tip to the bottom of the bench. The back of the chair I had was around 36", so that's what the taller popsicle sticks in the back were measured to be (rounded part to rounded part).

The rectangular frame is 2x4s mitred at 45 degrees, with 4 deck screws per corner holding them together. The joints seem to have slipped a bit, and they aren't perfectly square. I suspect there are a dozen better joining techniques I could have used.

It was assembled on top of some MDF I had laying around, to try and make sure the legs were flat. I put three legs on, all flush with the top of the 2x4, then flipped it over so it rested on those legs and added the other legs (put them flush to the ground, then screwed them in place, so everything was level.

Then I carried it upstairs before tacking on the seat and back - so I wouldn't have to haul a 100 pound bench up the stairs in one go.

Step 5: Final Prep Before Wife Sees

The bench is outside now, I tack on the top-boards using a brad nailer. It can be sat on, but not breathed on too heavily.

I didn't want to screw it in yet and lacquer it because:

a) I was running out of time - I had to pick up the wife at the airport in a few hours

b) The boards looked a bit dark, and I think I wanted to sand them a bit more

c) She's better at colours than I am, and if she wanted to swap a colour out with a different one, it would be easier before sealing.

Step 6: Sanded and Coated

We agreed it was too dark. The boards were pulled off, and manually sanded with 220 grit. I tried using the orbital sander, but it just took off too much stain and left some circular marks. We had to re-apply a thin coat of stain with a paper towel to get a nice look. I also lengthened the back-center post for more support. I don't think it's necessary, but it makes it feel more sturdy.The flat top is a bit off-putting. I might replace it with a rounded top, or a jagged-but-sanded-smooth version to make it look like a broken popsicle stick.

The first picture is in the garage (out of the rain) after a single coat of Minwax Spar Urethane (I think it's a polyurethane, I have no idea). The second picture is after a between-coats-sanding with 220 grit sandpaper (by hand) and a second coat of the urethane (then sat out in the rain). I'll probably do one more light sanding with 400-grit just to get the gloss down.

Overall, it seemed to go pretty swell. My wife wants a second one (and since it's not a surprise, she can help me with this one!), and my dad asked me for the plans so he could build one himself

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