Introduction: Mini-Bleachers

Here's a quick and easy design for mini-bleachers for stuffed animals. My wife has TONS of these Ty beanies and no place to display them properly, so I came up with this design. We have two cubic style dressers, so I designed these in Sketchup to fit on one. I plan to make two, but I'll need to talk with her to see if she wants any design changes after this. I used millimeters in my file because I find it easiest to work with, as opposed to inches. You'll see inches on my most of my tools because that's what's normal around here. I've included the sketchup file so you can follow along! Lets take a look at what's needed to accomplish this!

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Step 1: Get Your Tools and Wood!

I used cherry and red oak. I was meaning to go for two contrasting woods so I SHOULD have gone with white oak, but we live and learn! Use whatever wood suits your fancy. Pine and poplar would be easy to use, and because it's a display the softer woods won't sustain a lot of abuse. The wood pictured here (5.5 board feet of cherry and 6 board feet of red oak) is enough for two bleachers and cost me $28 from my local hardwood dealer.

Tools I used ----

Measurement tools: T-Square, Speed Square, Incra-T-Rule, Sliding Tri Square, Digital caliper, Digital T-Bevel, Metal Ruler

Chisels: 20mm, 16mm, 10mm, and 6mm (pictured are all my chisels, I was just too lazy to pull out the ones I used)

Planes: Low angle block plane, Stanley #4

Saw: Japanese Combination Pull Saw

MISC: Marking Knife (My X-Acto Knife), and a mallet (that wood cuttoff is my mallet, I don't have a "real" one yet).

You'll also need a surface to work on, a shooting board, and clamps. I used my mini-workbench I made from video tutorials as well as a home-made shooting board. A vise is handy too.

Step 2: Rough Dimension Your Supports

I started with my cherry wood, which make up my side-posts/supports. I referenced my Sketchup File and cut a little longer than my longest piece: 425mm. You should always cut larger than you need in case you make mistakes. You can always take away lumber but you can't add it back. My lumber was large enough square that I was able to get four side posts out of it, but if it was not I would have had to cut a longer piece to accommodate.

Plane your wood down so you have a flat surface. Most hardwood comes rough-cut from a large supplier, however, you can save yourself this step if you're willing to spend a little extra for pre-planed boards at your box stores. I used my larger Stanley plane for this. I didn't need to go down to my smaller block plane.

After you have a flat surface you need to Joint the board. Jointing, plainly put, is creating a flat surface perpendicular to your already flat surface. You use a combination of planing and jointing to create a square piece of stock. Mine didn't get perfectly square, but i'm just beginning so i'm not worried about it - i will get better at it the more often I do it.

Step 3: Fine Tune Your Support Stock

You should now have a large block of wood. Cutting this down will allow you to create your four side posts. I measured slightly wider than what my dimensions called for again for my margin of error. To get my four posts, I measured twice as thick as my sides had to be so I could cut it in half, then half again. In other words, I cut the post down the middle twice - just imagine a cross on the end of the board and you'll get the idea (figures 5 through 7).

My plans called for 25mm wide supports, but I had been a bit too vigorous in my planing earlier and only had 48mm to work with (figure 1 and 2). It isn't a big deal if your lumber is not exactly as you planned as long as you are comfortable adjusting your plans going forward. I cut my wood down to four 24mm wide supports instead.

I made sure to use the "ripping" side of my Japanese pull saw (figure 3). The ripping side is the side with chisel like teeth. The other side, "crosscut," has teeth like a shark. The ripping saw is designed to cut with the grain.

I used my marking gauge to pre-mark where I wanted to saw (figure 4). This helps you visualize where you want to saw and actually makes it easier to saw in a straight line.

Again, i'm fairly new so I made mistakes in sawing, as seen in picture four. I "hid my crimes" by planing out these mistakes later. This, again, made my lumber thinner than my design but I was still able to work with it.

Plane your four supports flat, level, and square with each other (figures 8 and 9). My work surface didn't allow me to do all four at once, so I made do by planing three, then planing the last one to match. It's not ideal but it's what I had to work with.

To finish fine-tuning your support stock, square one end of your shorter posts. Figure 10 shows me squaring using a home-made shooting board, which holds the stock at 90 degrees to my plane. I run my plane along the end of the board and it makes it square. After, trim your other end to slightly longer than needed with your cross cut saw. You can use your marking knife (I used my X-Acto knife, figure 11) to mark a line across your board before you trim it with your cross cut saw (figure 12). Marking it with a marking knife works just like a marking guage. Next, square the other end. I didn't bother squaring the ends of my two longer support braces because they get cut to angles in the final design.

You should now have two shorter bottom supports and two longer top supports. The bottom supports should be square on all sides, but the top supports don't need their ends square.

Step 4: Finish Up Your Frame

I used my T-Bevel to mark my angles. My digital T-bevel shows the degree at which the slide is at (figure 1), but if you don't have a digital one, a protractor and a regular sliding T-bevel works just as well. My plans called for 35 degrees. I set my T-bevel to the correct angle, marked one post, then while I still had my angle set, marked the other posts (figure 2 and 3). Using the tool to mark all the angles at once ensures accuracy and the angles are all the same.

I measured to make sure I didn't start cutting too far back (figure 4), then I started cutting my tenon for my "corner bridle joint" (figure 5). A corner bridle joint connects two ends of wood and allows for long-grain to long-grain connection, which is a strong bond with glue.

I cut the "mortise" (negative space) on the shorter, bottom supports first (figure 6), then cut the tenons (positive space) on the upper supports (figure 7). To do this, I measured the widths of the support, divided by three and rounded to the nearest whole number. Here, the dimension was 24mm, so the third was 8mm. If they were 23mm thick, I would have still used 8mm to keep things simple. I found the center of the board, then measured out each way 4mm. This ensures the mortise and tenon is in the center of the support. When you mark these, be sure to choose a reference face (I used the inside face) and STICK TO IT. This will ensure your joints line up. I had plenty of wood to trim after connecting them, but that's a happier accident than not having enough.

Glue the mortise and tenon together and you have your frame (figure 8). Lets get busy with the seats while the glue dries.

Step 5: Rough Dimension Your Seats

I say seats, but these are bleachers so they are really boards. My red oak came pre-planed (but not pre-finished, so it still needs smooth planed and sanded). The lumber was 24mm wide (figure 1) by 60cm. My diagram called for 100mm wide boards, so I measured that out (plus a little extra for errors!) and cut those first (figure 2 and 3). This leaves us with two 24mm by 100mm boards, so I marked a line down the middle of the thin side (24 down to 12) and started cutting. This was a terribly long task and my Japanese pull saw kept binding (figure 5). I got blisters from this. I would highly suggest a true "rip" saw, or if it weren't a hand-tool only project, a bandsaw. Ripping this down took the longest of this project.

With my lumber I was left over with a piece just the right size for the back brace for my top seat (figure 6).

Step 6: Fine Tune Your Seats

Plane and joint your boards. I explained how to do this with the cherry, so if you need a refresher, hop on back to that step. My diagram called for a forty-five degree bevel on the front of the seat. I chose a thin side and measured its thickness, then marked that distance from the short side (figure 1). I used my Stanley plane to create the bevel (figure 2). I also trimmed down the top too just a little, no need for this to be razor (figure 3).

Square an end of each board. I marked a right angle on my boards to help me tell me I got it squared with the planer (figure 4). A helpful tool was my block plane. The lower angle helps reduce tear-out when squaring your ends. Measure the length you need. From the diagram, my measurement is 725mm. I cut down to near this line, then squared with the planer from there.

I made plenty of mistakes planing these thin boards, most notably was trying to plane against the grain. This causes the board fibers to tear out rather than shave off. I sanded with 220 grit paper to help hide these errors (figure 5).

Step 7: Connecting the Supports

Trim your top support to the correct distance and angle, and plane it down. I don't have a shooting board for this angle, so I just eyeballed it (figure 1).

Now you need to mark all your mortises on the supports. I referenced my diagram a lot here. The rear corner of the seat starts 10mm up from the inner corner of the bridle joint on the support (figure 2). Then I just measured the same distance from the edge all the way up the top support, that way the seats all start the same distance inset from the edge.

My diagram called for a slight 5 degree tilt to the seat to ensure the beanies stayed in their seat, so I marked this with my T-bevel (figure 3). Each seat starts about 100mm up the inset from the last, so I marked these at this time too.

I used my seats to mark down their exact width on the supports. I had to decide which seat will be in what order, and I had to keep them that way, to make sure the measurement was true. I placed the board's back bottom edge at the "x" on the support, aligned with the 5 degree tilt, outlined the board (figure 4). I used my marking knife and gauge to get consistent depths.

Chisel out your waste. This step took the second longest, and was the loudest by far. Be sure to take out a little out a time and don't rush it, otherwise you risk tearing out large portions of the wood (figure 5). I test fit my seats at regular intervals to ensure I was chiseling to the right depth and width (figure 6).

Step 8: Finishing Up

I test fit all my pieces when I had all the mortises cut. It's a good idea to do this before finishing your pieces or trying to glue up, just in case you made a mistake. My pieces don't fit perfect, but i'm happy with it (figure 1).

Sand your pieces down, if you wish (figure 2). I definitely did because I made quite a few accidents. Ideally, if you can plane well enough you don't need to sand. A planed finish is beautiful but hard to do.

Get your clamps ready! I only have two clamps long enough for this, but it is enough (figure 3). Then just glue up the joints and assemble. I used sacrificial pieces of wood between the clamps and the project so the clamps wouldn't mar up my mini-bleachers (figure 4).

Step 9: Happy Wife

Here the stands are completed. They aren't oiled or sealed yet, I'm still deciding what will look best in our room. She fit nearly all of her beanies on one mini-bleacher, so now she says she has to get more for when I finish the second mini-bleacher! Oh boy.

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