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Rest easy and talk long with an easy-to-build bench for two.

You might have seen-or even sat on-this smart little two-seat bench at the Saltscapes Expo, under the big timberframe booth where writers chat with visitors. Building one for your own backyard is a perfect way to use leftover deck materials, making for strong legs and seats, and chamfered edges that are friendly to the touch. If you don't have decking on hand, follow our method using 2 x 4 legs for an extra-strong base, and 1" boards (thinner than decking), which are plenty strong enough, for the table and seats.

1. Measure and mark a piece of 2 x 4 stock 25" long for your leg template. Using a protractor, set a bevel gauge at 75°. Transfer this angle to the end of the 2 x 4, then also at the 25" mark, making a parallelogram. Using a square, extend these lines down the sides. Clamp the 2 x 4 in the bench vice and saw to length, checking the vertical lines to make sure your cut is straight. Chalk a number "1" onto this leg and use it as the pattern for the five other legs. Cut these the same way, ensuring that the length of each piece is identical.

2. Measure and cut the first 18½" seat riser (support) from 2 x 4 stock. Use it as a pattern and cut three more. You can cut an angle on one end of each (the back) or leave them square.

3. Make a jig for the leg layout on a piece of plywood or smooth workbench top-anything you can draw a pattern on, to which you will clamp the legs and risers. First, place one pair of legs 91?2" apart at the top (outside to outside) and 211?2" apart at the bottom (outside to outside) using a straight edge to keep their tops in line. Clamp them down and trace their outer edges onto the plywood. From the same end on each, measure and mark 101?2" down the outside of one leg (the front), and 121?2" down the outside of the other leg (the rear). Using the square, transfer these marks down onto the jig for future use.

4. Place a seat riser across the front and rear legs. Line up the bottom edge of the riser with the two marks. The angle it makes across the legs will be the slope of the seat. Place it so that the upper edge protrudes beyond the front leg by 11?2". Clamp it in place; drill pilot-holes and screw the riser in place. Base your screw length on your lumber choice-we used 21?2" screws.

5. Lay out the second leg assembly using the jig. Using the square, transfer the marks that locate the seat riser onto the legs. Place and clamp the riser in place, but drill and screw the riser to the back leg only. This makes an inner leg. (The inner legs are at the rear of the bench only-see photo 12.)

6. Make the other two sets of legs mirror images of the first two. First, switch front for rear on the plywood jig: on the jig, measure down and mark 121?2" on what was the front leg, and 101?2" on what was the rear leg. Erase the previous marks. Place the legs on the adjusted pattern, transfer the measurements onto the legs and clamp the riser in place. Make the second inner leg first: only drill and screw the riser onto the rear leg. Finish off by making the second outside leg. Stand all four legs beside each other on a flat surface and ensure the seat risers are lined up; adjust if necessary.

7. To add the seat back uprights at the same angle as the legs: first, rip stock to 1 x 2 for the seat back uprights. Cut one seat back upright to length and use it as a pattern for the other three; cut these out as well. Measure 5" up from the end on each one and square a line across on the 1" wide front face.

8. Pair off the legs; one inside and one outside, with the seat risers facing. Measure and mark (on top) 3?8" from the rear of each seat riser. Then place the bevel gauge on the inside face of each seat riser at the 3?8" mark and draw the angle for the seat back. Clamp a leg assembly back onto your jig; lay the 2"-wide face of the seat back upright onto the seat riser so that it is in line with the penciled bevel, and the 5" mark is aligned with the top of the riser. Drill three pilot holes and screw the upright to the leg assembly. Repeat this on the other three leg assemblies. Stand all four legs upright on a flat surface and check once more that all the uprights are at the same angle; adjust if necessary.

9. Cut the front apron to length. On its inside face, on each end, measure in 11?2" and square a line across; repeat at 211?4" from each end. Pencil an X just to the inside of each of the inner two lines, to indicate where the centre two seat risers will be attached.

10. Stand the end two legs  up 54" apart and clamp a piece of stock between them temporarily. Place the inner legs and clamp onto the support stock as well; now you are free to work on the front. Clamp a short length of 2 x 4 to the top of the first seat riser so that it overhangs the front edge by 11?2". Hold the apron stock up to the end. Keep it flush with the outer edge of and also square to the seat riser, and drill two holes through the apron into the end grain of the seat riser; screw it on. Attach the other end in the same manner, adjusting the clamp and re-aligning the leg to make it square. Using the 2 x 4 blocks on top of the seat risers as before, do the same with the two inside legs, lining them up with the X marks on the inside of the front apron.

11. Measure and mark 5" up from the floor on each rear leg. Clamp the rear leg brace on each of these marks while using a spirit level to make sure the legs are plumb. The brace can be left long and trimmed off later, so begin with a board that is at least 60" long. Adjust the temporary clamps as necessary. Check that the spacing of the legs is the same front and rear and then pre-drill and screw the leg brace in place. Trim off flush with the edges of the legs.

12. The rear seat back support can also be left long and trimmed off later. Begin with a board at least 64" long. To locate the height of the piece, transfer the height of the legs to the back seat uprights using a level. Then clamp the piece to the marks on the back seat uprights, using the spirit level to make sure the legs are plumb as you go. Compare the distances between the uprights at the top and bottom; pre-drill and screw the support piece in place.

13. Measure the final distance between the outer edges of the outer seat risers, and cut three full-length seat slats. Measure the distance between the inner and outer seat risers for each seat space, and cut two seat slats for each space. Decide which face is going to be the top of each slat and chamfer the edges an equal number of plane strokes for each to soften the edges. Place the foremost seat slat so that it overhangs the front apron by  3?8" along its full length. Make it flush with both ends, clamp it in place, pre-drill and screw it to the seat risers and front apron. Space the other two full-length slats and the four shorter ones evenly across the risers; clamp or hold them while you pre-drill, and screw them down to the seat risers.

14. Measure the distance between the outer edges of the two pairs of uprights to ascertain the final length of the seat back slats; add 1" total for a 1?2" overlap on each side, and cut the pieces out. There should be four short ones for each side, and one long one that spans all four uprights beneath the centre tray table/arm rest. Decide which side will face the front and in which order the pieces should go, and chamfer the edges as the seat slats. Using scrap, block up the long board 21?2" above the seat slats. Make sure it overhangs the outer uprights by an equal amount; pre-drill and screw it on. Use a 3?8" shim to space the next two seat back slats equally above the long piece; alternatively, clamp, measure and adjust until they are even. Remember the 1?2" overlap at ends. Attach seat back slats to uprights.

15. Measure and cut the two outer armrests and radius their front corners evenly using the bottom of a tin can. Chamfer all edges until they feel comfortable to touch. Place them so that they overhang the rear back seat support by 1?4", and leave a 1?4" gap between the armrests and the rear seat slats; square them to the face to the rear seat slats. Clamp armrests in place and mark where they lie; then reach underneath and on the rear seat back support mark 1?4" in from their outer sides-this is where the rear seat support will be trimmed to.

16. Add an apron beneath the armrests. For each end, use a piece of 1 x 2 stock; place on top of the armrest and mark the angle where the rear seat back upright crosses the apron. Cut this angle. Slide the piece up underneath the armrest so that it is flush with the rear seat back support, and mark the other end of it 1?4" back from the front of the armrest. Reverse apron, place on top of arm rest; line up length mark with rear back seat upright, and mark angle. Cut matching angle on front end. Attach the apron to both of the leg tops, plus through the rear seat support into its end. Repeat for the other armrest.

17. Bevel a 67½° angle on a piece of 1" by 2" stock, 14" long. Either use a plane or table saw, and cut a small decorative angle on each end. Attach this support cleat to the front edges of the two inner leg uprights.

18. Cut four table pieces to length. Radius the two outer ones; chamfer the top edges of all four pieces, and chamfer the bottom edges of the two outer ones. Place them on the supports. Have them overhang the rear seat back support by 1?4", and leave a 1?4" gap between them and the seat face. Clamp the two outer ones in place, making sure they are square to the seat face; pre-drill and screw them down. Chisel off all sharp corners and edges and sand your bench smooth; sit back in your chair and admire the view.

Cutting list

We used cedar, but spruce could also be used.

  • 6 legs: 2 x 4 @ 25"
  • 4 seat risers: 2 x 4 @ 18½" 
  • 2 seat back uprights: 1 x 2 @ 26½" 
  • 1 front apron: 1 x 4 @ 54½"
  • 1 rear leg brace: 1 x 2 @ 60"
  • 1 rear seat back support: 1 x 2 @ 64" 
  • 3 seat slats*: 1 x 3¼ @ 54½"
  • 4 seat slats*: 1 x 3¼ @ 21" 
  • 1 long back seat slat *: 1 x 3¼ @ 52½"
  • 8 short back seat slats *: 1 x 3¼ @ 19" 
  • 2 armrests: 1 x 4½ @ 24"
  • 4 table boards: 1 x 3½ @ 24"
  • 2 armrest aprons*: 1 x 2½ @ 23"
  • 1 cleat*: 1 x 2 @ 14"

*Measure from bench and cut to suit

Tools List

  • Bevel gauge
  • Protractor
  • Combination square
  • Pencil
  • Measuring tape
  • Spirit level
  • Crosscut saw
  • Chisel
  • Mallet
  • Table saw
  • Drill
  • 1/8" and 3/16" drill bits
  • Countersink bit (optional)
  • Screwdriver; both a driver bit and hand driver recommended
  • Block plane
  • Joiner plane (optional)
  • Sandpaper
  • Screws: 2½", 2" (3" if you are not going to countersink the screw heads)
  • Clamps
  • Bench vice

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