I wanted to make a nice outdoor bench using as much reclaimed wood as possible. Ideally it would have been 100% reclaimed or recycled lumber but I settled for using new lumber for the frame of the bench and pallet wood/staircase parts for the seat, back, and arm rests. This is a relatively quick and easy project (excluding drying times for spar varnish, more on that later) and required few other resources.
Pallet Wood or Similar Boards
Screws (various sizes based on wood thickness)
Minwax Golden Oak or Natural Stain (They are both very similar)
Minwax Spar Urethane
Miter Saw (though almost any saw will do)
Step 1: Building the Frame
The basic frame of the bench is a simple rectangle made from 2x4's. I believe my dimensions were 4' long and 18" wide. After securing the pieces together, I cut the back brace at the angle I wanted and secured that to the rectangular base.
Step 2: Adding the Legs and Supports
I cut the 4 legs from 4x4's and then 2 shorter legs to go in the middle of the bench. I made the middle support out of a scrap piece of 2x4 and cut a notch in the center (using the oscillating multi-tool and chisel) the same size as the scrap 2x2 which I would be using as the longer support. The short support in the middle I screwed to the middle legs and 2x4's along with some glue for good measure.
Either end of the longer support I secure to the sides using a long screw at either end. As for the 4 legs, I attached them to each sides corner using two screws and wood glue.
I didn't take a picture of the step where I added the supports to the back piece but it is pretty straight forward. I simply attached each of the 2 2x4's using 2 screws at each end of the backrest.
Step 3: Adding the Seat/Backrest/Armrest Boards
As I mentioned before I wanted to use reclaimed wood as much as possible and the back/seat/arm rests offered that opportunity. I sanded the pallet boards lightly all over to keep the worn look and then a bit harder where there were some jagged ends. To add some contrast I used pieces from a broken up staircase that were thin and painted white to fill out the rest of the seat and backrest.
When adding the pieces to either end be sure to cut a notch so that they will fit between the legs and the frame of the backrest.
After placing the boards for the seat and attaching them with screws, I measured and cut the pieces for the backrest and then cut their ends at an angle (the same angle of the backrest) so that they would sit flush on the boards for the seat. After fitting each board (bracing them with a scrap 4x4 so they wouldn't fall over) I attached them to the bench's back with screws.
Step 4: Staining and Varnishing
After sanding any random rough spots I stained the wood with a natural color using Minwax Natural (or maybe it was Golden Oak, I can't quite remember). I applied two coats, sanding in between each application.
After the stain was dry and the bench was dust free I applied a coat of Minwax Spar Urethane. There is plenty of debate on the internet about what outdoor urethane/varnish to use but since Minwax brand is most readily available for me I chose that.
To apply the urethane simply use a disposable brush and go with the grain, taking care to seal the ends of the wood and any notches, dents, or scratches. Applying the urethane is probably the most time consuming part of the project. After each coat (which takes 4 hours to dry in ideal conditions) the whole piece must be sanded with very fine sandpaper before another coat is applied. In total I applied three coats and then let the finished bench stand for 24 hours.
The spar varnish will protect the bench from uv rays, rain, and temperature fluctuation but once the snow starts falling (at least up here in Wisconsin) it would be wise to place any outdoor wood furniture (and patio furniture in general) inside or raised and under a cover to reduce the chance of the varnish cracking off and the wood rotting.
Step 5: Finished Bench
With the bench finished its ready for the trip to its new home and backyard.
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