Introduction: Crib at the Curb to Beautiful Bench
A friend picked up a wooden crib and two side rails to a bed that were at the curb - she said "Here, I grabbed these for you, make something" My first thought was a porch swing. I do not have a porch that needs a swing so it became a bench.
- 1 discarded wood crib
- 2 wood bed side rails or similar 2"x8" material of necessary length
- 2 Eight foot long 2x4's (or shorter scrap long enough for the project)
- Wood glue
- 1 3/4" long wood screws or similar as appropriate to the thickness of the crib material
- As needed: wood dowel of appropriate diameter to make plugs for any unwanted holes needed for a crib, but not for your bench.
- Finish as desired, I used wood finish and polyurethane for my seat and under-color.
- I made my own chalk paint by mixing chalk (Calcium Carbonate Powder) and some flat white paint I had. I bought a pound of the Calcium Carbonate online for under $9. Mix 3-4 tablespoons per quart of paint. 10% the cost of retail chalk paint.
- Measuring tape
- Wood saw. I used a power chop saw, but you could manage with a circular saw, jig saw, or even a hand saw if you are motivated. There are not that many cuts.
- Drill, bits, screw bit appropriate to your wood screws.
- Clamps and strap as needed. Improvise with what you have.
- Paint brush.
- Orbital sander or just a sanding block and paper if you are motivated.
- Jigsaw. I chose to add a detail to the seat where it meets the arms at the front. I used a jigsaw. Your design may not require it.
- Work surface. Don't underestimate the value of a couple saw horses and a hunk of plywood to raise your work and save your back.
- Drop cloth.
- Kreg jig. I'm hooked, what can I say? A Kreg jig aids in drilling holes at a controlled angle and depth to join wood at right angles. Totally optional, but once you have one you find lots of places to use it.
- Other tools as needed and available. I used a wood chisel and a hand plane to remove some material from the side rails as I prepared the material for the seat. Screwdriver. Always end up using a screwdriver somehow.
Step 1: Assemble Your Bench Back.
Every crib is going to be a little different. Most ship flat and are assembled at home, so they tend to have some kind of fastener system that holds the ends to the sides to form the crib. Where you can, plan to use those fasteners to add stability to your project.
I started with one full side of the crib, including the legs attached using the fasteners that came with the crib + wood glue on every joint. For instance, in the image the legs were attached using the the bolts that came with the crib, but I added glue to the points where the leg contacted the wood of the rails, making the joint permanent. The bolt acted as a fastener and a clamp, pulling the pieces together. As you proceed, look for opportunities to strengthen joints by adding glue.
I did not change the height or the width of the back.
Step 2: Figure It All Out : Seat Depth and Arm Width
This step took the most head scratching and measuring to plan. Which is why I didn't think to take many pictures ( I didn't know this was going to be an Instructable at the time, apologies.)
I measured the depth of a comfortable chair seat. Based on that I decided my target seat depth was 17 inches from the seat back to the front lip. My seat will have an overhang, so I have flexibility in determining how deep the support structure below the seat will be. This is important because every crib design is different and you will need to pick a point close to your desired seat depth that will work well with the slats of your particular crib.
To avoid chopping into one of the wide vertical slats, I had to crop my ends at about 16" in width. I chose to cut the top rails longer than the 16", to just before the next slat started. I felt that would feel more like an arm top. The top of the arms are not involved in the seat and front legs, so I had room to play.
I planned to use the decorative top of the second crib side, flipped upside down, as a front trim piece, under the seat overhang. This piece would also give strength and additional places to attach the front legs. The crib frame is all 1" material.
I still wanted a 1/2" overhang on the front of the seat bench. Math alert:
So 16" of arm depth + 1" thickness of the front trim and legs + 1/2" overhang = 17 1/2" total seat depth.
I changed my planned seat depth from 17" to 17 1/2" based on the width I had to cut the crib ends to make the arms and to keep the planned overhang.
I wanted to avoid having to chop down the height of the crib ends to make them into arms - that would have involved removing the bottom rail, cutting each slat, and then figuring our how to reattach the bottom rail securely. I decided to just lower the crib ends to 2" off the ground. This gave me arms. They are high arms, but I think they work for this piece.
Step 3: Assemble Arms and Seat Support
I apologize, I did not take photos of attaching the arms to the bench back. I used the bolt and fastener system that came with the crib, but I drilled new holes for the bolts to allow the back edge of the crib ends to be attached in the new lower position. I used glue everywhere there was contact between the back and the arms.
I cut small pieces of dowel rod and glued them in the old holes. I did this throughout the project wherever there were old crib holes I was not using for the bench build.
I measured the width between the attached arms and the depth from the back slats to the front edge of the arm slats. I cut 2x4 material and made a simple frame, long edge spanning the full width of the seat area and shorter end pieces sandwiched between the front and back supports. I used two wood screws on each corner, screwed in through the face of the long edges into the end grain of the shorter cross pieces.
I used my handy Kreg jig to drill the holes that will hold the screws that fasten the bench top to the frame. The same thing can be achieved by simply driving screws at an angle through the frame and up into the seat material when the time comes to attach the seat.
I measured that same comfortable chair to determine the seat height.
I then took away 1 1/2" to allow for the thickness of the seat top to give me the height of the top edge of tthe support frame.
I screwed the 2x4 frame into every vertical slat, from inside the frame to the slats on the outside. This keeps the screw heads out of sight under the seat. You just have to make sure your screws are long enough to reach the slats but short enough not to come out the other side.
Step 4: Legs and Front Trim
For added style and additional support for the front legs, I removed the decorative top piece from the second side of the crib, turned it upside down, with the decorative carving facing backward. I felt a solid face would look better than an upside-down version of the decoration already showing on the top cross piece.
I cut the legs from the second side to match the height of the seat support. The cross piece was anchored into the legs on either side using the two existing dowels in the cross piece placed into new holes drilled to match in the legs. The dowels were a snug fit, so I simply glued the dowels and all contact points and "clamped" the items with a strap and come-along ratchet.
In the photo showing the strap the legs and cross piece are just resting on the front of the bench to get an idea of how it would look. The glue was allowed to set and the strap removed before the leg assembly was glued and screwed to the 2x4 cross piece. The screws were put in from the back, through the 2x4" frame and into the decorative face, just like the 2x4" frame was anchored to the other sides of the bench. I had to use a few shim pieces to support the cross piece as the leg material is slightly wider than the cross piece creating a gap between the front cross piece and the support frame. I used shims to make sure the screws did not bow the cross piece in toward the 2x4" frame when they were tightened. Again, you crib will provide unique challenges.
I used two more sections of dowel fit snugly and glued in two new drilled holed to anchor the legs to the bottom crossbar of each arm. Measurements will be specific to your own bench.
Step 5: Make the Seat
I cut a section to the outside width of the bench seat from each of the salvaged bed rails. The design of the crib, and the resulting bench design, required the front legs end at points outside the interior slats of my arms, so I would need to measure my seat to span the full width of the bench. and then used my jigsaw to cut the bench seat to width to fit between the arm slats, leaving the front of the seat full width to cap the legs.
The bed rails were made from 2x8" boards, so my two sections only added to 16" when placed side by side. I needed a 17 1/2" deep seat. I ended up using a 1 1/2" piece of rail I had removed from the side rails to widen the seat between the two 8" sections.
I glued the interior edges of my wood and used bar clamps and straps with come-alongs to clamp the three pieces together to form the single seat.
Once glued (24 hours dry time) I cut the seat with my jigsaw so that all but the front would fit between the arm slats. I sanded the old finish off the wood and applied wood stain and a satin polyurethane finish. I was going for the shabby-chic / repurposed material look so I was not trying for a perfect finish, just attractive. I used a very fine sandpaper to artificially wear the front edge of the seat (as if from repeated use over time) between coats of finish. I like the worn look, but I feel it is too often over-done, removing large areas of paint or finish. I believe simulated "wear" should be fairly subtle and only be applied to surfaces that would receive wear from actual prolonged use. In the case of the bench seat, I wore the front edge and the spots to the left and right of center where people would sit.
Step 6: Stain and Paint the Bench
As I planned to "wear" some paint off of this piece I chose to apply some of my wood stain to the edges I thought I would be wearing away. The crib I was working with was originally natural finish on pine. I wanted more contrast to highlight the wear, so I sanded the old finish to allow the stain to adhere and applied stain not-so-neatly. I liked the idea of the worn edges showing an "underpainting" that would match the seat color. I could have used an accent color as well. To each their own.
I mixed up my home-brew chalk paint (2-3 tbsp to a quart of flat paint, in this case white).
And I painted. And painted. And painted. Many edges and surfaces. Several coats were required.
Once painted I used fine grit sand paper and hand sanded surfaces to smooth back the chalk paint. I may not have mixed my chalk well enough as some spots felt gritty before sanding, but smoothed right out. I sanded more on the edges of the arm tops, the outside of the front legs, a little on the detail across the front, and the top edge of the bench to reveal a little of the color below. Really subtle, but worn in the places people would touch.
Step 7: Bring It All Together
I inserted the bench seat, anchored it with screws through the holes drilled with my Kreg jig and arbitrarily stuck the bench between two trellises to photograph it.
The finishes I used make this and indoor piece, just liked the natural light to show it off.
I am pleased with the outcome. All of the steps took time. Figuring out all of the little puzzles posed by the material took time, but that was the fun of this project.
I realize this Instructable is more of a "how did" than a "how to". Working with salvaged materials, I feel the conceptual overview and approach are the best guide I can provide. Questions welcome.
Participated in the
Before and After Contest 2017