Introduction: Simple Shaker-Style Bench - From Redwood Fencing

Here's a simple yet sturdy little bench. A friend asked if I would 'up-cycle' some old leftover redwood fence boards (the vertical 'pickets', not the grass board). He conducts a little seminar/workshop each week beneath his redwood trees, and wishes to provide some of that new-fangled 'social distancing' for his visitors. Built for only ONE person at a time (only 30 inches long), they now serve him and his group quite well.

His boards were five-foot long and eight inches wide - you'll see that clearly in the cut-sheet below. This project is easy to modify if you'd like a 45 inch bench, or if your boards are 10 inches wide.


two old redwood fence pickets (upcycled) - 3/4" x 8" x 60" each

eight finishing nails 1-1/2" + eight phillips flathead zinc screws #8 x 1-1/4"

saw, screwdriver, square, level, outdoor wood glue, sandpaper

OPTIONAL: drill + bit, angle grinder + flap disc, router + ogee bit

Step 1: Think Three Times; Measure Twice; Cut Once

The clamped-together 'mock-up' photo demonstrates its simplicity. To make these old boards smoother and less prone to splinters, I used an angle-grinder with a flap-disc; any sanding would help.

SEAT - two pieces 8" x 30" [If you have plenty of wood or if some boards are in bad shape, your project might just take on different dimensions]

LEGS - two pieces 8" x 15" [The finished bench should not be taller than 18 inches overall to avoid being top-heavy; these benches are only 15-3/4" in height] Cutting a 2-1/2" x 2-1/2" notch in the bottom of each leg gives the look of 'feet'; the notch is optional and is simpler than trying to cut a half-circle.

STRETCHERS - two pieces 2-1/2" x 24" [Though it appears to be easier and hence more logical, cutting 4" wide stretchers makes the bench look clunkier and heavier - this width is plenty sturdy enough]

Step 2: Make the FRAME

The upside-down clamped-together 'mock-up' is sort of a test run for the frame.

On a flat & level surface, set the two stretchers 8" apart, with the BEST flat edges on the bottom. Insert the legs and tighten the clamps a little, to see if your frame will come together. Flip it right side up; all the top edges will be glued, so they should appear pretty close to level. Is your test run ready to go forward?

Remove the clamps and set each leg on its side. Set a stretcher on top, align the corners, and mark the places where finishing nails and wood screws will go. Tap the nails in slightly, and start the screws (option= drill small pilot holes for the screws). Glue this stretcher to both legs and hammer the nails in.

Turn the partial frame upside-down again, and wiggle the legs to be vertical; that is, at a right angle to the stretcher. Clamp each corner, and finish the screws. Remove the clamps.

Flip the partial frame over, and glue, nail, & screw the other stretcher onto the other side of the legs. Set the completed frame up onto its feet.

Step 3: Make the SEAT

Referring back to the clamped-together 'mock-up', the seat is made of two 30" boards, side by side.

I have approached this in two different ways, and really don't have a preference.

One is to apply glue along the edge of one board, clamp the two boards side-by-side so they are FLAT, and let it dry with the clamps on. When dry, remove the clamps.

Approach number Two skips making the seat ahead of time, and moves forward to attach one board at a time to the frame.

Step 4: Attach the SEAT to the FRAME

The seat will be centered left-to-right AND centered front-to back on top of the frame.

If you glued & clamped the seat together so it is now single piece, set it on top of the frame. If not, mark the center of the right leg and put the BACK seat board on the frame, as in the first photo.

It's time for a tiny bit of arithmetic -ughh....Hey, but the drawings will help a lot.

Side to side is kinda easy. The frame is 24" wide and the seat is 30" wide, so the seat 'hangs over' 3" at each end. If the frame's wood is 3/4" thick, then the middle of the leg (where screws will go) is 3-3/8" from the end of the seat. On the seat board, mark the location for the screw 1-1/2" up from the centerline of the seat.

Front-to-back, the nail should be 4" plus another 3/8" from the centerline of the seat, and 10" from the right edge. Similarly, mark the remaining three corners of the seat.

Pre-set the nails and the screws (drill pilot holes?) if you wish, run a bead of glue along the frame where the seat boards will be attached. Nail it, screw it, and clamp it until the glue is set. Then remove the clamps.

Step 5: Finish the SEAT-TOP, at Least

A little extra time adds the finishing touch: smoothing the seat, rounding the corners of the seat, and optionally using a router with an OGEE bit to pretty things up - are a few things worth consideration. As anyone can tell, routing is NOT my finest skill....

The redwood has withstood plenty of weather as part of a backyard fence, but will soak up rain or sprinkler-water like a sponge, so look into a clear weatherproofing or water-sealing finish.

Step 6: Share Your Project - Be Different

This INSTRUCTABLE shows clearly that a simple one-person outdoor bench is fashioned from just two 5-ft long fence boards, up-cycled from a backyard fence.

My friend then asked that I make a two-seater. The stretchers would have to come from a partial third board. Certainly, the seat could be a bit shorter and the legs taller, BUT the extra height would make the bench less stable and more likely to tip, so 45-in became the seat length.

An idea for your consideration: though the screws are plenty strong, they don't look very shaker-style; use longer finishing nails along with exterior wood glue and set the heads below the wood surface.

Another thought: notch the top of the legs to fit the stretchers, which makes the frame more rectangular and gives a 'simpler' look to the bench.

Be careful, have fun with this, and " MAKE STUFF" !

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