Intro: Shorten an Oversized Kitchen Bench Unit
I have wanted to get rid of our kitchen table and chairs for a while, but the bench unit that I wanted from the big-box store wouldn't fit. Last week the table was on sale so I was more willing to cut apart the brand new furniture than if I paid full price. I looked at the display unit and thought there was a way I could cut down the short bench and make it fit in my kitchen.
The visible pieces are mostly solid pine, but the hidden pieces seem to be glued-up panels of smaller strips of pine.
Step 1: Mod
My plan was pretty simple, I just had to remove 7 inches from the end of all of the pieces except the seat-back and drill new holes for the hardware. The seat-back would be a little more difficult, since there was a "panel" detail routed into the surface.
I thought the best way to handle that was to find the center of the panel, and measure 3.5" out from that point on each side. Then I could re-join the halves back together and the pattern would match up almost like before.
Step 2: Cutting
I added a long piece of scrap wood to the miter gauge that came with my table saw to make it more like a cross-cut sled. This way I can make more exact, truer cuts than I can make with my compound miter saw. I lined up all of the marks I drew on the painter's tape with the kerf on the "sled" and cut the 7 inches off the end of each piece. I repeated this process for the seat support rails, the seat bottom, the bottom of the storage bin under the seat, and the seat back cap.
For the seat back, I set my fence to 3.5" less than half the length of the panel. I made one cut, then turned the board around and ran it through on the other side. I intentionally left more material on the end pieces so I could fine tune the fit.
Step 3: Drilling Dowels
I bought this doweling jig for another project and while it works, it can be difficult to use. I mark where I want my holes, then shine a flashlight down through the jig to make sure everything lines up. I measured the distance from the end of the board and made a mark on all of the other pieces. For each board I used the flashlight to make sure everything was lined up before I continued.
This jig is supposed to be "self-centering" but it doesn't do that very well and if you don't hold the black pins in place, the drill bit may wander.
Step 4: Additional Drilling
The bench seat has a hinge pin and 2 supporting braces but cutting off 7 inches from one side, I lost the pre-drilled holes on one side. The braces were easy, I just measured the same distance in from one side as the existing one, laid down a piece of painters tape and made my marks on top of it. I drilled the holes using the drill stop collar so I didn't go too deep.
For the hinge pin, I used the doweling jig again to ensure the hole ended up where I wanted it. Again, I used the stop collar to prevent me from drilling too deep.
Step 5: Pocket Screws
I bought this pocket hole jig when I was building my Radiator Cover, so I thought this would be another good use for it. The screws won't add a lot of rigidity to the board, but they will keep everything snug while the glue dries. I have another plan to improve the strength.
Step 6: Biscuit Joinery
I bought this biscuit joiner from Harbor Freight for about $50. Lately, I have been trying to buy better quality tools that are more precise and last longer, but in a pinch I will still consider buying a cheap tool for a single use.
Biscuit joiners are so easy to use. You just mark where you want the center of the biscuit to be, set the blade to the center of the board by adjusting the fence, select the size of biscuit you are using (I used #20). Once all that is done, you line up the center line on the tool with the lines on each of the boards and push the spinning blade into the wood.
If you look closely, you will see a few holes on the board where I had originally tried to use dowels. My cheapo self-centering doweling jig wouldn't center correctly, and the boards turned out slightly skewed when I fit them together. I suggest skipping the dowels and go right for the biscuits, they are much better.
Step 7: Finish
Everything worked out as I had hoped. The bench seat lifts up and contains extra storage. The seat back is nice and strong while still matching the other panels. Now we have a kitchen table that really fits our small kitchen and maximizes our space.