Meditation benches can be costly, and the pleasure of building your own bench for meditation can be a fun and fulfilling process. These are instructions for a rocking meditation bench, which allows the kneeler to adjust the amount of lean the bench has at any given time. This has been the style that I have had the most success with in terms of comfort. The model also includes instructions for building in padding, so no pillows are needed!
Wood 1X5.5, 31'' total length
Padding cut to about 12''X12'' (I use a retired Ridge Rest sleeping pad but anything will do)
Scrap fabric cut to about 14''X14'' (Tough fabric such as heavy canvas or upholstery fabric is recommended)
3/4'' wood screws (24 count)
1.5'' brackets (6 count)
Upholstery tacks (up to 20 count)
Sanding block (or sandpaper)
Paper to cut leg pattern
Wood stain of your choice
Step 1: Cut Bench Pieces
With the hacksaw, simply cut two leg pieces* (5.5 inches) and one bench piece (19 inches).
*I am 5'10'' and the 5.5 leg height works perfectly. If you are taller, you can go up to 6'', but keep in mind that the bench and the padding will add some height. The rocking aspect of this bench makes it quite versatile for people of all sizes.
Step 2: Begin to Shape Legs Using Pattern
You should have a piece of paper on hand that is 5.5''X5.5" Fold it in half and draw the shape of half of one of the legs--this is the same technique you may have used to make heart-shaped valentines in grade school. (You will exclude one corner and round out the another corner by doing this) Be careful not to shorten the paper on either side. You want the outcome to have the same 5.5X5.5 dimensions through the center (see photo). Cut out the pattern and open the paper to see your symmetrical leg pattern.
Once you've got the pattern, lay it over one of the legs and trace the shape. You will follow this line in the next step. Do the same to the other leg piece.
Step 3: Shape the Legs Using a Coping Saw
Shape the legs one at a time. Secure the first leg in the vice, being careful to protect it from harmful vice teeth (depending on the type of vice, use a rag or additional pieces of scrap wood to protect the sides of your leg piece).
Following the pattern lines made in step 2, trim the legs with a coping saw. When both legs are trimmed, you can stack them to see if there are any great discrepancies. If one piece is wider than the other at any point, you can mark the bigger piece with the pencil to use as a sanding guideline in the next step.
Your leg pieces will look pretty rough at this stage.
Step 4: Filing and Sanding the Leg Pieces
Again, you will work with each leg one at a time. Secure the first leg in the vice again. I begin with a course wood file and shape the leg as necessary. This stage of filing is typically pretty aggressive, so you can expect quite a bit of sawdust. File until you've achieved the final shape and size of the leg using your pencil marks as a guide. Round the edges as you work.
After shaping with the course file, use the fine wood file to give the leg a smoother look. Finally, use a sanding block or fine sandpaper (150-240 grit size) to finish the piece. I prefer a block because it's easier to hold onto and is more flexible around curves and round edges.
Complete both legs, and then file and sand the sawed edges of the bench so they are round and smooth.
Step 5: Preparing to Stain
The sawing and sanding is over! This is what the pieces look like before staining. Wipe down the wood with a damp cloth before staining to be sure the pieces are free of sawdust. You can see that my pieces have specks of paint in them because they are old scraps. This is perfectly okay for the bench piece in particular because it will be covered with a seat by the end of the project.
Prepare a place outside for staining and move to the next step.
Step 6: Staining
You can brush your stain on or use a rag like I did here. I find a rag much easier since this is a relatively small project; a rag can be dried and tossed while a brush takes more maintenance!
Let the pieces dry for at least 24 hours. The stain cannot be sticky when you move to the next step.
*The bench will be covered in the middle, so stain is really only necessary at the ends. Cover about 4 inches.
Step 7: Attaching the Legs to the Bench
The bench is finally taking shape in this step!
I use three brackets to hold each leg in place, and I actually use the brackets to measure the placement of the legs on the bench. (*I also spray paint my brackets black for a different look. Do what works for you!)
Place the bench on the work table with the bottom side facing up. Stand each leg on the bench. Place two 1.5 inch brackets on the outside of each leg, and line the ends of the brackets with the edge of the bench. Since the ends of the bench have been rounded, place the edge of the bracket on the line created by the change in wood where you started filing. See the photo for clarification. This helps ensure the leg is evenly spaced under the bench. You can use a ruler to double check that the leg is even.
Place the third bracket on the inside of the leg and verify with a level that the leg is perpendicular to the bench when all brackets are in place. Mark the bracket holes on the bench and on the leg.
Next, remove the legs from the bench and screw the brackets into them one at a time. Rest the leg on a cloth to protect it from damage while it's on the worktable, and begin with the side of the leg that has two brackets, screwing them in with 3/4 inch screws. Then turn the leg over and rest it at the edge of the work table so the attached brackets hang over the edge and out of the way. Attach the third bracket in the same fashion as the first two. Complete both legs in this fashion.
Finally, put the legs with brackets back into position on the bench using the pencil marks made earlier as guides. Once in position, screw each leg onto the bench.
You have a bench at this point (turn it over and try it out!). The next few steps complete the meditation bench with a small cushion.
Step 8: Attaching the Seat
As mentioned earlier, I use an old Ridge Rest sleeping pad to provide the small amount of padding needed for my meditation bench, but you can use anything similar. Carpet padding or even folded towels would work for this. The key is to not make the bench too cushy because, in the long run, this will actually be less comfortable to sit on for extended periods of time.
Cut your pad to 12 inches by 12 inches, so it wraps around the edges of the bench but doesn't meet on the bottom side. Also, the pad should not meet the legs of the bench. If they do, trim the padding until it wraps inside the legs on the underside of the bench.
Your fabric should be a bit larger than the padding. I fold about an inch of fabric over at the edges, so I start with a piece that measures14 inches by 14 inches. Choose something durable, so you don't have to replace it!
Attaching the fabric can be tricky and take a bit of coordination. Remember that you can take the tacks out and start over if you need to. This may take a couple of tries, but it's well worth it:)
To begin: mark the edges of your pad when it's centered on the bench. This ends up being a guide for placing tacks and it will help you keep the pad centered as you go.
Next, fold over one side of the fabric and place it, centered, about 5 millimeters over the mark you made on one side of the pad. Attach the fabric to the bench with two upholstery tacks (I use a rubber mallet to do this, but tapping the tacks with a hammer works as well), keeping in mind that your aim is to have the tacks enter the bench on the line you penciled in at the edge of the pad.
Move to the opposite side of the pad, fold over the fabric and attach it in the same fashion with two tacks. It's important to push the pad snugly against the tacks that have already been placed so you see the penciled line made earlier. The fabric should be folded over enough that it is a snug fit on both ends.
From here, turn the bench over. Before adding more tacks, one of the ends of the fabric must be secured. To do this, fold over either end of the fabric on the underside of the bench and pull it tight. Secure it with three well-spaced tacks (this edge will be covered in a moment, so it is functional only--not for show).
Now you can carefully tack the fabric between the end you just secured and the first tacks you inserted on the top side by placing tacks every inch or so. Try to space them evenly. The last tacks you place should be those on the edge of the bench where there is only room for one tack on either side of the fabric.
Secure the remaining side of the fabric in the same fashion but be aware that this side is the showy side, so more attention should be paid to securing the final edge. Fold the fabric under like you've done for all other edges, and stretch it tight. Secure it first in the center, and then on each corner. Take care to stretch the fabric tight each time you add a tack. Add tacks from the corners to the center until the entire edge is equally secured.
Finally, you can secure the fabric from the newly secured edge back around to your starting point. Again, space tacks evenly and place your last tacks on the edge of the bench where there is room for only one tack on wither side of the fabric.
You'll find as you go that a bit of tucking is necessary, particularly when you place those last tacks on the edges of the bench. A little finesse will go a long way here.
Once you've tacked the fabric in place, your meditation bench is complete!
May all beings be happy.