How to Build a Garden Bench
Make this attractive, comfortable garden bench. We show you how to build it with simple biscuit joinery.
IntroductionAssemble this attractive, comfortable garden bench. We show you how to build it so it's strong and durable, using a simple biscuit joinery technique.
- Biscuit joiner
- Drill bit set
- Drill/driver - cordless
- Speed square
- Table saw
- Tape measure
This simple but handsome bench is comfortable and just plain easy to build and uses only biscuits and screws, the simplest types of joinery. Still, the bench is surprisingly strong. We spent about $95 for the lumber for this bench. You may have to buy more lumber to get knot-free pieces, so your cost may vary. You’ll find everything you need to build this bench at your local home center or lumberyard. Refer to the Materials List, then choose the lumber carefully to avoid large knots.
In addition to the lumber, screws and wood plugs, you’ll need No. 20 wood biscuits and a special tool called a plate or biscuit joiner to cut the biscuit slots. You can buy a good-quality biscuit joiner for $100 to $170. You’ll also need some clamps, a table saw and a router fitted with a 1/4-in. round-over bit.
Project step-by-step (11)
Cut Out and Drill the Parts
- Use a table saw to rip the boards to the right width.
- Pro tip: For crisp, clean edges, rip about 1/4 in. from the edge of the boards before you rip them to the final width. To work around knots, you may have to rough-cut some of the boards to approximate length before ripping them.
- Cut the ripped parts to length.
- Note: We used a 1/4-in. round-over bit and router to ease the edges of the seat boards. It’s a great task for a router table setup if you have one.
- Measure and mark the center of all the screw holes and drill 3/8-in.-deep holes for the 1/2-in. wood plugs.
- Note: We used a Forstner bit to create clean, flat-bottom holes. Later you’ll fill them with wood plugs to hide the screws. You can easily control the depth of the hole by drilling until the top of the cutter is flush with the surface.
Cut the Biscuit Slots for the Seat Rails
- Mark the centers of the biscuit slots on masking tape.
- With the plug recesses facing up, cut the slots in the narrow sides of the legs.
- Pro tip: Keep the plate joiner and leg tight to the bench top as you cut. Use tape to avoid marks on the wood and to keep track of the orientation of the pieces.
Position Slots for the Long Rails
- Orient the leg so the previously cut slot is facing up.
- Cut a slot on the side opposite the plug holes.
- Note: Use a spacer to position the slot so the long rail will be centered on the leg when it’s installed.
Mark the Rail Ends
- Mark the centers of the curved seat rails and long rails on masking tape.
- Note: The tape also helps you keep track of the orientation of the slots.
Cut Slots in the Long Rails
- Position the long rails with the masking tape facing down.
- Use a speed square as a guide for cutting biscuit slots for the intermediate rails.
- Align the square with the edge mark for the seat rail.
- Make a center mark on the square as a reference for lining up the plate joiner.
Join the Rails and Legs with Biscuits
- Put a biscuit in the slot and dry-fit the leg and seat rail to make sure the rail is oriented correctly.
- Note: It should be centered on the leg.
- Then spread glue in the slots and on the biscuit and press the leg and the seat rail together.
Complete the Leg Assembly
- Use a spacer to support the lower rail.
- Drive screws through the legs into the rail.
Connect the Seat Rails with Biscuits
- Join the two long rails with the two intermediate seat rails with biscuits and glue.
- Clamp them and let the glue set about 30 minutes.
Join the Leg and Seat Assemblies
- Connect the leg assemblies to the seat assembly with biscuits and clamp them together.
- Attach the brace with screws.
Screw on the Seat Slats
- Start by attaching the two outside slats.
- Center the middle slat and attach it with screws.
- Position the remaining slats so there’s an even space (two biscuits wide) between them.
- Pro tip: Use a board to align the slat ends.
Hide the Screws with Wood Plugs
- Glue flat-top wood plugs into the plug recesses.
- Use a cutoff dowel or a small block of wood to pound them flush.
- Finish the bench with a penetrating oil that leaves a natural wood look.