How to Build a Simple Farmhouse Bench

Finished Farmhouse Bench

Simple Farmhouse Bench

Making this bench is fun and pretty easy. These particular benches were made specifically to fit the table at our Home for the Holidays party (you can see them peeping out here in Liz’s table setting post on HGTV’s Design Happens), but the design can be easily adapted to accommodate a larger or smaller space.

The Bench Design

This particular bench is 18 3/4″ tall, 6′ long and 12″ deep. The bench top (the seat) and legs are made from  1 x 12 poplar. Because of the length, the side rails are 1 x 6 to support any weight in the middle — plus the height of the rails is 1/3 of the overall height of the bench making for visually pleasing proportions. For a shorter bench, a 1 x 4 could be used instead. The round holes in the legs are 6” from the bottom, which combined with the rail height, divides the legs into thirds (6 + 6 + 6 = 18). I used poplar for the bench because it is widely available in 12” widths and it is great for painting. The paint is General Finishes Antique White Milk Paint. Being a traditional material, the Milk Paint lends to the timeless look and feel of the benches.

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Step 1

 Open GalleryMaking the bench seat

Start with the bench seat.

Measure and cut the top (bench seat).

Step 2

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Use the seat to mark the length of the rails.

Using the length of the top as a guide, mark the length of side rails.

Step 3

 Open Gallery Cut the rails to length, then cut the angles on the ends. I measured 4″ up on the end and 8″ down the length of the board, which turned out to be about 60°. My miter saw will make that cut, but a lot of them won’t. A jig saw or a hand saw will work just fine.

Step 4

 Open GalleryMake the bench legs

Making the legs

Measure and cut both the legs from the 1 x 12. My legs are 18″ long, which makes the overall bench height 18 3/4 high.

Step 5

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Mark the location of the hole.

Mark the location of the circle (mine is about 6″ on center from the bottom) and the angle of the cutout. The cutout starts about 3 inches from each edge of the board.

Step 6

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Get jiggy with the saw.

Cut out one side of the first leg. I used a jig saw, but a band saw or a hand saw would work just as well.

Step 7

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Drill out the center hole.

Drill out the hole using a 1 1/2″ forstner bit. Be careful not to break out the back side of the board. Drill until the center of the bit pierces the back side, then flip the board around and drill from the other side.

Step 8

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Use the first cut as a template.

Using the first piece as a template, mark the cut lines on the other leg. Flip the “template” over and complete the transfer. Cut and drill the second leg and use it as a template for marking the other half  of the first leg. Finish cutting out the first leg.

Step 9

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The notches are the key to a sturdy bench.

The notches are the mechanical support for the side rails. Use the height of the rails to mark where the cuts will be. Cut out the notches using the jig saw.

Step 10

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The cleats hold the bench seat to the side rails.

Use some scrap to make some cleats. These are 3″ long by 1″ x 1″ with 2 holes in one side and a single hole in the perpendicular side. The purpose is to hold the bench seat to the legs and rails. I used 3 on each side rail and one on each leg (8 total per bench).

Step 11

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Sand it to 150 grit.

It’s time to get all of the parts nice and smooth. Sand all of the pieces up to 150 grit. This leaves a little texture for the paint to stick to. If you plan on staining yours, sand to 220. I also like to use a hand plane on the edges, instead of sanding. To get in the notch in the legs, I wrapped a piece of sandpaper around a piece of 1/4″-thick wood.

Step 12

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Assembly takes a few clamps and some glue.

Assembly. My workbench is not level by any means, so I took extra care to create a level surface. Apply some glue in the notches in the legs then attach the side rails to the legs.

Step 13

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Attach the cleats. Leaving a little space from the edge will help make a tight fit with the bench seat.

Attach the cleats using glue and screws. Leaving a little space at the top will help hold the seat tightly to the rails.

Step 14

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Attach the top.

Attach the bench seat to the rest of the assembly starting with a line a glue. Line up the seat and screw into the cleats.

Step 15

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Plug those holes!

Glue plugs in the side screw holes. The difference between plugs and using a dowel is that the plugs will be long grain wood and the dowel will be end grain wood. The long grain runs in the same direction as the side rails. And do yourself a favor. Don’t use cherry plugs if you don’t have to. When the glue is dry, level off the plugs. I find that a hand saw and hand plane works perfectly.

Step 16

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Clean it with mineral spirits or a damp rag.

Clean the whole thing using a damp rag or mineral spirits. This does two things. One, it removes sawdust and two, it raises the grain. In a lot of species of wood, when it gets damp (like when painting) the loose grains stand up, making for a rough surface. Pre-raising the grain helps to minimize the effect.

Step 17

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Sand it again.

Sand again to get rid of the raised grain.

Step 18

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A first coat of paint

Paint, paint, paint.

Materials

  • 1 x 12 poplar
  • 1 x 6 poplar
  • screws
  • paint
  • wood plugs
  • wood glue

Tools

  • Jig Saw
  • Drill
  • 1 1/4 forstner bit
  • Bit for drilling pilot holes
  • Sandpaper
  • Paintbrush
  • Miter Saw (optional)
About Dan Lipe 

12Posts

I’m a Senior Interaction Designer, focused on creating compelling and intuitive user experiences. During my 15+ years in the design field, I’ve worked in print, corporate identity and digital media ...

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One Response

  1. Jess says:

    This plan is exactly what I am looking for. I wish the format of the article was better, it is cumbersome to read. It would be great if there was a buy list and cut list, too! It is much easier to follow a build plan if the instructions are organized and I don't have to dig through a paragraph for dimensions!

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