Introduction: Potting Bench (upcycle)

About: Full time scientist and amateur maker. Looking to improve my making skills, I spend most of my free time renovating or working with cameras or wood. I'm hoping to learn plastic, metal and leather working skill…

Old industrial items are my favorite to upcycle. Take this old stillage (picture 2), it used to hold kegs of beer; made from thick galvanized steel its built to last and ideal for the outdoors. So when I saw one for sale I had the perfect project, A potting bench. This project shows how I built a potting bench from a stillage. It requires some basic metal and wood working knowledge and tools.


  • Paint and/or stain for both wood and paint for metal
  • Wwelding gear, I used AC welding (also called stick welding, or fcaw)
  • Bondo
  • Angle grinder and plenty of cutting disks
  • Wood, I used 2x4s (pressure treated pine) for the roof, and cut them down into 2x2s for the table as this gave a better aesthetic. For the bench top I down-grade decking wood that I got at discount from a lumber yard.
  • Plastic -0.8mm polycarbonate- sheeting or other roof material. Old corregated iron would be a great upcycling choice, but in my case I wanted sun coming through.
  • screws, real hefty ones, like 5 inches / 125mm. Button head screws for the roof, medium sized screws for attaching the counter top.
  • trolley wheels.
  • clamps
  • A metre (about 3 foot) of angle iron for brackets or just buy 8 brackets.
  • bolts for the brackets, I used 2*6mm bolts (1/4 inch) in each bracket.
  • plywood and pegboard for a back wall

I'm not going to give dimensions, since if you find a stillage it's unlikely to be the same size. Its the concept I would like you to remember.

Step 1: Cut

This was hard work with my little 4 inch angle grinder, but with a couple of thin cutting disks and ample patience I was able to cut through the thick metal. I made a cutting plan in the image above. Take care to think through where you will be cutting before just tearing in.

Step 2: Bend and Weld.

I started bending the metal, even with the wedge cut out this was hard work. I used clamps to stop the metal springing back and progressively increased the pressure. Finally a mallet and muscle did the most work. Once in place I welded the frame in place. I also left a tab in the center beam that I bent over to cover the cutting hole.

Since my welds are not galvanized, its important they are protected from the elements. I covered the welds with a thin layer of bondo, we call it bog in New Zealand, then a layer applied a layer of paint to the whole structure. Two layers of protection is probably overkill for most peoples needs, but the local UV and coastal weather can really take its toll on outdoor furniture. Beside painting a galvanized structure was really an aesthetic choice.

Step 3: Wood Roof and Table Top.

At this point I realized that the structure was becoming too heavy to lift (more than 120 kg / 250 pounds). So I decided the roof would serve two purposes. First, it will act as a trolley to move the structure to its final resting place then it will act as a roof.

You can see the roof design in the photos. There's really nothing complicated here, but-joints and long screws (over half the screw is concealed by my hand), and too many beams for a roof alone... I attached some heavy duty castors that I salvaged from an old trolley and used the roof as a temporary trolley to move the metal structure to its final resting place. I then removed the wheels and placed the roof on the structure. You can see a little strain (small gaps) on the roof from using it as a trolley, but the image looks far worse than the reality.

I then fabricated some brackets from angle iron (but these could be purchased) and bolted them to the metal frame. These also need painting with a suitable paint. Also remember the roof must be on an angle so the water runs off, I just used a scrap of treated plywood at the front to create a small incline.

Finally before attaching the roof and the table I painted the wood and attached the polycarbonate sheeting to the roof with some button head screws.

Step 4: Decorate Accordingly.

From here things are pretty simple. I stained and attached the old decking with screws to make a counter top. I didn't have enough decking so I simply spaced the boards out more. I evenly spaced screws since they will be visible. I left a hole on the left to corral rakes and shovels. Like this, the structure would be fine on its own, but I then decided I needed a back board to hang things on. I used a couple 1/4 sheets of thin treated plywood. I also attached some pegboard, which is wont last in the outdoors, but with the appropriate paint and primer will last a while to come (see intro picture)

Step 5: Voila, We're Done.

Thanks for reading my instructable. All feedback is welcome.