January 10, 2012

Entry Hall Bench

In my recent google searches, I've come across the term "upcycling" several times. If you're like me and hadn't heard of it before, here is what Wikipedia has to say about it:

Upcycling is the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of better quality or a higher environmental value.

Being dragged along to more estate sales than your average 30-year-old guy cares to admit has produced some quality items in our home from books and art all the way up to furniture. I readily admit Court has much, much better design tastes than I do, which is why she gets dragged to Lowe's to help me pick out paint options for the pieces I make/restore. However, she is more of a "buy it as is and stick it somewhere in the house" type of person. Whereas, I can see something for what it could be with a few minor (and in some cases, major) tweaks. That doesn't mean I can always make it look like how I envision it, but whatever.

Here is an old spindle headboard I found for $5 at an estate sale a while back. Court calls it a "Jenny Lind" design. I refuse to call it that because guys aren't supposed to know that kind of thing.

Natural wood spindle headboard I snagged at an estate sale
Now, what to do with it? I haven't owned a twin bed in the better part of two decades, so one option down. Shelf or coat rack? A little too big for that (over 3.5 feet wide), so we are getting closer...I knew making this thing was going to take enough time as it is, so I didn't feel like wasting a bunch of time on creative thinking. So, I did what I always do when I'm having trouble finding inspiration for a project and started googling (according to wikipedia AND urban dictionary, it's a word so leave me alone.) things like "repurposing an old headboard" and BAM! Entry hall bench. Done and done.

With bench and legs
I wanted to get some actual carved table legs to add some detail and not be as bulky as 4x4s, but alas, that would raise my price on this and really go against what I was trying to do in the first place, which is create something inexpensive. That's an extra $40, which is like 3 weeks worth of formula and baby's gotta eat!

Example of table leg I wanted to use
I went with a simple color for the bench seat and legs, and one that would contrast nicely with the natural look of the headboard. I thought painting the whole thing the same color might ruin the nice age the headboard had gotten over the years. Plus, if I didn't like the way it looked all painted, I'm not saying I couldn't fix it, but sanding down intricately-carved wood like that is definitely a pain in the ass I want no part of.

Here it is with a light base coat before distressing
After distressing. Pay no attention to the blue painter's tape I forgot to take off.
Here is the bench seat up close so you can better see the distressing and color that the stain wipe added. The color was Valspar Swiss Coffee, which I found out about from Deana over at AlchemyFineLiving.com. She uses that a lot as well as the Grand Hotel Makinack (spelling?) Blue that I used on the rocking horse.

Bench closeup
So there you go...simple enough design with a rustic finish, and waaaaaay cheaper to make than to buy. Now for the deets, if you're interested in making something similar.

WARNING: this goes into a LOT of detail, so stop reading if you don't care how I made it. If you do care, grab a cup of coffee and continue reading. As always, if you have any questions or need me to be more specific, email me at gconaway00@gmail.com.

(1) 2"x4"x10'
(1) 2"x8"x8'
(1) 4"x4"x8'
(1) 2"x2"x8'
3" decking screws
2.5" decking screws
"L" brackets (optional, for leg stability)
Minwax dark walnut stain
Minwax furniture paste


electric saw (circular will do, but table or compound miter is better)
bar clamps
speed square
tape measure
paint brush
Kreg pocket hole jig (optional)

I made my frame to match the width of the hardboard, so I cut 2x4 to make two 41" boards and two 15" boards. This will make the outer frame of the bench seat. Then I cut the 2x8 to make two 38" boards to fit inside that. On a level surface, I put them all together (upside down, with bench top facing down) for a dry fit and clamped it in place with the bar clamps. I then drilled two holes then drove 3" screws through each side of each 41" 2x4 to go into the edge of each end of each 15" 2x4. Essentially, I now have a 41" x 18" frame (15" + 3" for width of each longer 2x4). I filled the screw holes created with wood putty, let that dry then sanded down flush with the wood to make them a little less obvious.

Working on the bottom of the bench seat and inside to out, I measured and cut supports for the 2x8 bench boards out of the 2x2 strip. I dry fit-the strips of 2x2, clamped them to my frame and pre-drilled pilot holes for my 2.5" screws into the 2x4 frame side. Then I did the same for connecting the 2x2 support to the bottom of each 2x8.

For the legs, I cannot remember exactly how long I made them, but thank god google answers tough questions like "what is the ideal chair height?" About 18" is it. So, since I made them flush with the bottom of my bench seat boards (see how I left just enough space in the corners above?), I subtracted the thickness of the 2x8 (actually about 1.5") and got 16.5." Then I cut my 4x4 legs to that length.

Attaching the legs was a bit trickier and afterwards I went out and got myself a Kreg pocket hole jig that I will use for pocket holes from now on. But since I didnt have it for this, I just drill 3" decking screws through the 4x4 and into the side of my frame. For extra stability, and to help with making them square and plum, I used "L" brackets to attach the 4x4 to the bottom of my bench seat. I used a 2' level to make sure my legs were plum before engaging the screw all the way.

As I said, I used Valspar Swiss Coffee for my bench and legs as the base coat. Once light coat did the trick since I wanted to distress it and make it look aged and worn. Then I lightly sanded the whole base coat with 120 grit sandpaper and then heavily sanded the corners, edges and some random spots throughout. I then took a rag and wiped on Minwax Dark Walnut stain one area at a time and came back with a clean cloth to wipe off the excess. This not only gets into the cracks, scratches and dents I made with my hammer and screwdriver, but it also darkens the paint to give it some patina. I finished it off with Minwax paste finishing wax to give it a little bit of a sheen and light protection.

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