Modern Indoor/Outdoor Bench

Lucas Peters, posted on Jan 29, 2019

Indoor/Outdoor Bench

This contemporary bench goes anywhere inside or outside of your home. Build it from nearly any wood, apply a clear finish, and set it in an entry way or at the foot of a bed. Or, make it from an outdoor-hardy wood—such as the white oak shown here—then apply a UV-blocking finish or stain, and set it on a deck or patio. It has only four different parts, and easily goes together in just a weekend, so no matter your skills or time constraints, this seat can't be beat!

Materials or Supplies

Materials or Supplies

About 18 board feet of 4/4 white oak
Scrap hardwood for spacers and loose tenons

Cut the Parts

The construction on this bench is very simple, but requires some precise miter cuts. I used a dialed-in tablesaw miter sled equipped with stop blocks. Whatever your method, make sure it's accurate and repeatable. Start by cutting out the parts from 3/4" oak. (Everything except the spacers start out slightly over-length):

  • 11 rails: 2 x 40-1/2"
  • 22 legs: 2 x 15-3/4"
  • 30 spacers: 2 x 2"
  • 2 feet: 2 x 16"

Miter one end of each leg to a final length of 15-1/4" and both ends of each rail to a final length of 40".

Mortise-and-Loose-Tenon Joinery for the Ends

Making mortises with the plunge router

To add strength to the mitered joints, I used mortise-and-loose-tenon joinery. I don't have a Domino, so I made a self-centering mortising jig like the one here for the mortises. I used a plunge router with a 3/8" upcut spiral bit and a guide bushing to make 1-1/2"-long mortises that were 3/4" deep. The centered witness mark on the jig lets me line it up with a centerline mark for the mortise. I recommend practicing on scrap and making sure everything is clamped down tight.

For the loose tenons, cut three strips of scrap hardwood 3/8 x 1-3/8 x 12", checking the thickness for a snug fit in the mortises. Rout 3/16" roundovers on all the edges, then crosscut them into 1-3/8"-long tenons. These are a little narrower than the mortise length to allow for adjustment during glueup.

Begin the Assembly

Glue and clamp 11 rail/leg/tenon assemblies. Check each joint for square as you clamp. It's easiest if you ensure the heels of each miter joint align so that the bottoms of the legs will be flush later. If the miter toes are a little off, you can sand that flus after assembly.

When the glue has dried, finish-sand the faces of each assembly taking care not to round the edges.

Then, add the spacers. Be sure to orient the spacers with their grain in line with the rail. Use a 5"-long scrap flush with the assembly's end to position an outer spacer before gluing and tacking the spacer in place. Then use a 12"-long scrap from there to place the center spacer. Use the 5"-long spacer from the other end to place the other outer spacer. Repeat until 10 of the 11 assemblies have spacers.

Complete the Bench

Gluing and clamping the bench assemblies

To keep things manageable, I glued up the assemblies in three batches before gluing the batches together. First glue and clamp the assembly without spacers to two other assemblies as shown. Use a flat surface with a square edge (like your workbench) to ensure the assemblies are square and flush at their ends. Repeat the process with two groups of four assemblies.

Then, glue and clamp the three larger assemblies together.

Measure the bench's width at the top. Cut the feet down to that measurement. Screw the feet to the outside legs first, aligning them flush. Then, use a 3/4" scrap to evenly space the other legs as you attach each to the feet.

Finish-sand and apply a clear coat. Since I was placing my bench outside, I used a couple coats of penetrating oil.

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