Introduction: Potting Bench

About: I like to dabble in a bit of everything: woodworking, metalworking, sewing, electronics.

My parents replaced part of their deck and poured concrete. My mom asked if I would be able to use any of the boards they pulled up to make a flower potting bench for my grandma. The boards all looked pretty worse for wear, but I said I'd see what I could do.


Materials: Old decking boards & decking screws.

Tools: Thickness planer, table saw, miter saw, drill.

Step 1: Boards

My mom picked through the boards, trimmed off the rotted bits, and brought over the ones she thought were salvageable.

First I went over them with a metal detector wand before running them through my thickness planer. These wands are about the same price as a set of replacement blades for the planer, so you only need to find a couple screws or nails before it pays for itself.

Since the boards were pressure treated, planing them and creating so much sawdust probably wasn't the smartest idea, but I'm not sure how else you would clean them up. I made sure to keep my garage door open and wear a mask while I was processing them. Once I was done I swept up and took a shower immediately. I kept the garage door open for a while to make sure the air was nice and circulated.

Step 2: Cut to Width

Some of the boards were better than others, and most definitely had a good side and a bad side, but on the whole I was surprised with just how well they cleaned up.

With the faces addressed, I moved on to the table saw to clean up the edges and cut them all to a uniform width. I ended up at around 4.5", which was the width of the narrowest board after it was squared up.

Step 3: Skeleton

I set aside the nicest looking boards for the bench top, and made sure I had enough long pieces for the legs, and then ripped a few boards down to 2.25", or half their original width. I used these to make two frames that would be used to mount the benchtop and bottom shelf.

The reason the two frames have ribs going in opposite directions is because I would be using the nice long board sections for the bench top, while the bottom shelf would be covered with the shorter pieces I had leftover. Normally I'd try to avoid having too may parts going in perpendicular directions because of wood expansion. However this wood has already spent the past 15 years exposed to the elements and this was going to be a piece or outdoor furniture not fine woodworking.

I attached everything on this project with some short black coated decking screws.

Step 4: Legs

Next was the legs. I was keeping them simple, just two boards butt-joined on their long edge, forming an L. I first cut all eight boards to the same length. I screwed them to the top frame first then used a couple pieces of scrap as spacers to temporarily hold the bottom shelf, while I attached it.

Step 5: Bottom Shelf

Since you'd rarely be looking closely at the bottom shelf and it would most likely be covered with pots and bags of soil, it is where I used some of the less attractive boards and the shorter cut-offs. I used this strip of wood as a spacer between boards.

I did end up having to cut a weird skinny slat for the center, I kind of wish I had taken the time to either trim all the boards a bit narrower or used wider slots to avoid this, but like I said the bottom shelf shouldn't get too much attention.

Step 6: Benchtop

Last was the benchtop. This is what I saved all of the best boards for, and it was satisfying to watch it finally come together. First I laid out the boards to see how much of a lip there would be on the front and back, then cut the boards to length to match that lip on the ends.

That's about it, I hit the edges with some sandpaper to soften them a bit, and it was done!

Step 7: In Action

Here's the bench on my grandma's porch all loaded up with pots. It's a covered porch so I'd imagine this bench should be around for a while.

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