These DIY bench plans are originally from Ana White – and while I really don’t want to steal her thunder (please go and check out her blog for her version and a million other DIY projects) – but I did need to come up with something for a sales “pitch” I made the other day.

I contacted my local Home Depot and had a meeting with them to discuss the possibility of me hosting a DIHer workshop in-store. I know, it’s done all the time in the States, but our version (in London anyways) is for someone to stand at the front of the class, build a project and then send the women home with the building plans.

I’ll be honest, I wouldn’t attend one of those classes. I’m a hands-on person and I learn best by trying and experimenting and quite frankly, I want to take something that I made home with me. Anyone can learn with some helpful DIY advice, it’s pretty easy to do DIY once you get the hang of it.

Of course this brings liability and insurance issues into play, so I wanted to pitch the idea of a build that required a minimal amount of power tools and that could be completed in less than 2 hours AND be easy enough for a beginner to leave feeling pretty pleased with themselves.

DIY Bench Plans / DIY Garden Bench

I also needed to come up with a way to maximize the use of each board of wood so that costs remained low and scrap wood was minimal.


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DIY Bench Plans / DIY Garden Bench

This meant I needed to work with 2 x 4 x 10 boards and I needed to alter Ana’s plans to create 5′ DIY bench plans so that they would fit into people’s cars after the workshop.

I drafted my own DIY bench plans within these parameters and then made one myself to make sure everything was accurate.

Note: this was made entirely from building lumber – white pine, the least expensive in-store.

DIY Bench Plans / DIY Garden Bench Screen Shot 2016-04-19 at 1.45.16 PM Screen Shot 2016-04-19 at 1.59.32 PM DIY Bench Plans / DIY Garden Bench
Screen Shot 2016-04-19 at 2.53.39 PM DIY Bench Plans / DIY Garden Bench

There are a few steps in this that would have to be done outside of a workshop (if I get approval), but if you are attempting to make this garden bench at home, you could incorporate now to make life easier…

First up – this is a sponsored referral – but it is truly and honestly sincere – having a Rockwell JawHorse made making this project SO MUCH easier!

Rockwell Tools - Jawhorse

This thing can clamp anywhere from 0 – 37″ with just a tap of your foot – which means you can load up your wood and grip it into place with 1 ton of clamping force – without using your hands!

<img class=”aligncenter size-full wp-image-12260″ src=”” alt=”Rockwell tools – Sawhorse 0-37″ of clamping area with 1 ton of clamping force” width=”900″ height=”630″ />

Which meant that I was able to sand down my 2×4’s all at the same time! Because the slats on this bench are only 3/4″ apart, it’s easier if you sand them and stain them before you put them together. It’s not necessary, you could squeeze a sanding block and possibly a roller in after-the-fact, but this is a simpler way to go.

<img class=”aligncenter size-large wp-image-12259″ src=”×1024.jpg” alt=”Rockwell tools – Jawhorse 0-37″ clamping area with 1 ton of clamping force” width=”788″ height=”1024″ />

I was able to clamp all of the boards in at once and then sand each side smooth and flip. This saved a ton of time, and a lot of strain on my back…. plus it was nice to work outside in the sunshine.

Before my Jawhorse, I would have sanded each board individually, on the ground on my hands and knees. Don’t worry if you’re thinking “where the heck would I store that bad boy – it folds down to a compact, rolling block!

American girl dollhouse - Rockwell Tools 4

If you are making this at home and you’ve stained between the boards and let dry, you are ready to start layering; remember to begin with your best-looking boards with the good side facing down. Save your next best boards for last – they will make up the outside of the bench on the other side, so you’ll want their best sides facing up.

DIY Bench Plans / DIY Garden Bench

You can see in the above image how the wood between the slats is darker – that’s because I followed my own advice and stained before layering.

Sand your entire piece smooth using 60, 120 and 180 grit sandpaper and a random-orbit sander (don’t bother with a belt sander – I rented one and it was a beast to handle and I managed to break it in less than 20 minutes).

Wipe clean and remove any sanding residue and then stain the remainder of the DIY garden bench. I put the bench on top of my Jawhorse and used Minwax Special Walnut.

DIY Bench Plans / DIY Garden Bench

Notice how there aren’t any screws showing on the front of the bench? Ana’s DIY bench plans (and mine), have all the wood being adhered together from the back, so that only one side of the bench will show any screw heads.

Be sure to coat it with a few layers of outdoor polyurethane or outdoor varnish to help it withstand the sun and elements.

I figured the cost of the wood to come in at less than $32 (for a 5′ bench), and with these DIY bench plans you should be able to complete the entire project in about 3 hours – not including drying time. The only additional costs would be your new Rockwell Jawhorse – which you will use again and again, and whatever finish you decide to put on it – paint, stain, varnish etc.

DIY Bench Plans / DIY Garden Bench

Doesn’t this just beckon you to come visit?

For me, it begs me to take a book outside and watch the world go by.

DIY Bench Plans / DIY Garden Bench


Wish me luck with Home Depot – maybe we’ll be building one of these together in the near future!

DIY Bench Plans / DIY Garden Bench

Have a great one!


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5 Responses

  1. What a great project. I certainly hope that Home Depot will come through. I am waiting to start my project with her whenever it comes available.