Simple Garden Bench From a Log

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About: I got an old sewing machine when I was just a kid, and I've been hooked on making stuff ever since. My name is Sam and I'm a community manager here at Instructables.

A friend of mine cut down a large pear tree in his yard a couple years ago, and let me have a section of the trunk.

It sat in my garage waiting for me to come up with an idea for what to make out of it, and I eventually settled on making a simple garden bench.

This instructable covers the process I used to make this rustic little bench, and it was actually quite simple and should be relatively easy to repeat if you have the basic tools needed.

If you're interested in making something similar, hopefully this will help you out. Thanks for reading!

Step 1: Materials and Tools

You're going to need a log and a chainsaw, for starters.

Feel free to not break out your laser cutter, 3D printer, and CNC mill for this project! ; )

The log I used was 30" long, and about 15" in diameter, and the finished bench is 30 inches long and 18 inches tall.

I took an optional step of removing the chainsaw marks with an Arbortech woodcarving tool in an angle grinder, but this is definitely not necessary.

Other things I used:

  • ruler and permanent marker
  • vise and chainsaw sharpener
  • saw horses
  • power drill and drill bits
  • landscape adhesive
  • four 8" galvanized nails, 3/8" diameter
  • sledge hammer
  • boiled linseed oil

Step 2: Sharpen the Chain Teeth

I have this chainsaw and this sharpening tool, and both have been great for me.

I used my portable vise to hold my chainsaw while I sharpened the blade a couple of times during this project.

This project requires cutting the log in half lengthwise along the grain (called a rip cut or "ripping"), and standard cross-cutting chains (which I used) are not exactly ideal for this.

There are special blades made for this type of cut called ripping chains, but ultimately a standard chain will get the job done. Just keep it sharp and don't expect to go very fast.

Step 3: Split Log in Half Lengthwise

I began by examining the log to decide where I wanted to divide it into two.

I used a ruler and heavy duty marker to draw a line on the top end of the log as a guide.

Cutting from both sides a little at a time, I began cutting downward into the log carefully eye-balling to make sure I was making a pretty straight vertical cut.

Once I had made the cut through about 2/3 of the log, I flipped it over and eye-balled and placed a new marking guide on this non-cut end, and completed the cut from this end as shown.

Step 4: Cut One Half in Half Again, Cross-wise

One of the halves of the split log is cut in half cross-wise to make the bench legs.

The log half was placed on a pair of saw horses, and I used pieces of duct tape to indicate the center of the log where the the cut needed to be made. You do not need to use gold colored duct tape, however. Other colors are acceptable.

After rip-cutting the log in half in the last step, cutting cross-wise is like cutting through butter. Very smooth and easy this way!

Step 5: Cut Steps in Seat Slab

The log half that will become seat of the bench now has little cheek cuts or steps made on the underside ends so it will sit flush on the leg pieces.

To hold this piece for cutting, I used a ratchet strap to hold one of the leg pieces to it as a base.

A ruler was used to mark the location for the end cut, and it was made to the depth needed to match the width of the leg pieces. The seat piece was flipped around and this process was repeated for the other end.

The slab was then placed top-down on a small table and cuts were made to complete the notched out step portions.

Step 6: Rough Finish

I like this rough look, and was tempted to just leave it like this and proceed to fastening the legs to the seat slab.

For a quick and easy garden bench, a person could reasonably do just that. However, I decided to add some finishing details that are completely optional, but are covered for those interested.

Step 7: Make It Smooth . . Ish

I have wanted to get an Arbortech industrial woodcarver for many years, and was finally able to get one. Be warned though, they are not cheap.

BUT . .

. . . let me tell you, it's pretty amazing. It spits wood chips out at a frightening rate, and I was giddy while I was using it. Like all tools, you have to follow the rules to be safe. So if you get one, be sure you know what you're doing before you dig in. But it is a lot of fun and highly effective!

I used the arbortech tool in a grinder to smooth out and remove all of the chainsaw marks on faces of the seat and steps. To hold the steps while doing this, I used a pair of rolled up old towels on a small work table.

I like this wavy semi-rough look so the faces were not refined any further.

Step 8: Fasten Seat to Legs

The seat slab is fastened to the leg pieces with large galvanized nails in addition to some thick landscape adhesive.

The glue might not be necessary, but I had a half-tube left from another project so I decided to use it here. It fills the gaps and irregularities in the mating faces of wood, and makes a stronger bond so I figured it couldn't hurt.

I drilled some counterbores with a forstner bit into the top face of the seat slab so the nail heads would be slightly recessed, and then drilled clearance holes for the nails through the seat. The nails should slide freely through these holes.

Slightly smaller pilot holes were then drilled into the leg piece into which the nails will fit tightly. This allows these especially large nails to be driven in place and not split the wood.

Adhesive was added to the tops of the leg pieces, the seat slab was put in place, and the nails were driven through the seat and into the legs with a 10-pound sledge hammer.

This nail pounding part was incredibly fun to do, I have to admit!

Step 9: Additional Shaping

I then used the arbortech tool to do some additional shaping of the seat slab and legs, to remove and smooth out any sharp edges.

The tops of the legs were carved to an upward taper as shown, which eliminated little visible ledges on the tops of each leg piece.

Step 10: Add a Little Oil for Color

Even though this will live outside and will turn darker pretty soon, I decided to brush on some boiled linseed oil for color.

Step 11: Complete!

The bench was finished at this point and we moved it out to our little patio.

This was a fun little project and took less than a day to complete. I recommend it if you've got a log and the necessary tools.

Thanks for reading and of course, comments, tips, and questions are always encouraged! : )

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    13 Discussions

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    Makerneer

    8 days ago

    I really like how the texture on the wood looks, good job! Thanks for sharing!

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    rob73brid

    Question 16 days ago

    Very impressive! So the log dried for 2 years? Any chance of if splitting in the future?

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    seamsterrob73brid

    Answer 14 days ago

    It's always possible! I couldn't say for certain that it won't happen, but as a rustic little garden bench I'm okay with however it ends up looking over time.

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    SusanYoung1982

    18 days ago on Step 11

    Wow. This is an incredibly beautiful piece of art; I can't stop looking at these pictures. My goal in life is to replicate this bench...after I buy a chain saw tomorrow. Thanks for sharing.

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    seamsterSusanYoung1982

    Reply 17 days ago

    What a compliment, thank you!

    It was a fun little project and very repeatable I think. Best of luck if you take it on. I'd love to see photos if you make one!

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    missourigirl61

    Question 17 days ago on Introduction

    I love this, but was just wondering, after you're done, you don't have to put some kind of veneer coating or something like that on it, so it doesn't rot out or get like "dried wood?" I work alot with plywood and to have it outside you have to put a finish on it, so I was kinda going along this line of thinking?

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    jpmarthmissourigirl61

    Answer 17 days ago

    Spar varnish would be great for this! I have a 30 year old bench made by my dad, which had spar varnish applied. Just gave it a light sanding and reapplied two coats and will easily get another 30 years out of it.

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    seamstermissourigirl61

    Answer 17 days ago

    A person could apply exterior urethane or spar varnish if they wanted. However, in this case I didn't apply any type of finish, and I don't think it will make much of a difference in the function of the bench long-term. I'm okay if it turns gray over time. With the climate where I live, I think we'll get at least a couple decades or more out of it! : )

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    Henmarsh

    17 days ago

    I really like the taper you've used on the tops of the legs - very stylish. I have some good pieces of oak that would work well. All I have to do now is find a cheaper alternative to the Arbortech tool!

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    seamsterHenmarsh

    Reply 17 days ago

    Thanks!

    You can get a lot done with 50-grit sanding discs on an angle grinder, and it's much cheaper. They gum up and have to be replaced often depending on the wood, but it's a pretty good option for less $. (You're dealing with sawdust vs wood chips then, so various trade-offs I guess..)

    Hope you make something similar!

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    agusduseng90

    19 days ago

    amazing , , , so very simple !

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    Penolopy Bulnick

    19 days ago

    I really like the texture on the seat part :D