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Easy Build Mission Bench

 

 

Approximately 18 months ago I built a Mission Style Side Table for a fund raising auction at church. I came up with what I thought was a simple design that still evoked the style of Mission furniture.

Recently, the people who purchased that table at auction contacted me with a commission to build a matching bench to go in their front entry. This was to be a "sit down and put on your shoes" type of bench, that also could in a pinch be pulled up to the table for some overflow seating.

Fortunately, I still had the sketchup 3D design files for that table. I went back to the computer and took that design and stretched it wider, longer, and pushed it shorter. Then I tweaked it some more, as they wanted a cushioned bench, which also affected the layout.

It was a fun challenge to come up with something that was clearly from the same "design family" as the original table, and yet still had the strength of a bench, and a satisfying look.

Providentially, I still had two white oak boards from the same lumberyard purchase that supplied the white oak for the side table. One plank was ten feet long, and the other was between seven and eight feet long, and both were around 8-9 inches wide. This provided plenty of lumber for this project.

One thing to remember is that this will be a cushioned bench. So the top (seat) of the bench will be a piece of plywood. Therefore I don't need that much hardwood.

I always start by looking at the wood and picking the best looking sections for the most prominent part of the project. In this case, I started by looking for wood for the legs, and for the two long crosspieces. After that I started cutting up the board using a circular saw and the bandsaw, and then bringing it to the jointer and planer to dimension it to size.

I started with the side assemblies. I laid them out on the tablesaw in their final orientation. I choose which boards would be where, and which faces would face in and which would face out. I then put them in position and left them there.

I'm using dowel joinery for this project. So I would take each piece from it's position, drill the dowel holes, and then (and this is important) return it to it's spot on the table, in the correct orientation. I have had it happen before that pieces get mixed up and turned around, and I so I have come up with methods like this to try and prevent such accidents. It is really important to me to have the grain direction and orientation that I chose!

After a dry fit, I moved on to glueing and clamping the side assemblies together.

The spindles are next. Spindles are typically fitted between the upper and lower rails. However, in my designed, I changed that so that the ends are notched and they are simply fastened to the insides of the assemblies with screws. This is a much simpler and easier method, but from the outside you still have the look that we want.

I notcheds the spindles on the tablesaw and bandsaw and then fitted five into each of the side assemblies. I will be staining this project, so I spraypainted the screws black before using them to fasten the spindles in place.

The next step is to glue the front and back crosspieces into position. Here the bench is positioned upside down on my workbench as I clamp it together.

One thing to note is that in my design, the crosspieces are positioned two inches below the top of the side assemblies. This is partly for looks, but it also gives a two inch "pocket" at either side of the bench where you can tuck in the cushion to help keep it in position.

There is also a lower centrally-mounted crosspiece. I fastened this in place with through-dowels, as that was a bit easier than using hidden dowels. I drilled two holes through from the outside of the side assemblies. I then glued two dowels into the two holes, and tapped them deeply into the holes, leaving a small gap at the top. I then cut some white oak plugs with a plug cutter and glued those into the top of the hole. After the glue dried, they were cut off flush and then sanded. They are virtualy invisible afterwards, as the white oak plugs blend in with the white oak side boards -- I was careful to try and orient the grain of the plugs to match that of the side assembly boards.

Two seat supports are then installed, between the front and back rails. This will help support the plywood seat. I installed these using pocket holes.

Cleats were added between the seat supports, on the inside faces of the front and back rails. These six cleats need to be at the exact same height as the seat supports, and the tops of the spindles. All of those together will support the plywood seat.

I then cut a sheet of plywood to fit, and also cut the arm rests to size. I did not install either of them at this time though. I found it easier to first stain the pieces separately and put on the first two coats of polyurethane.

However, that finish would then interfere with later gluing the arm rests into place on top of the side assemblies. I therefore masked off the top of the side assemblies...

... And matching areas on the bottom of the arm rests was also masked off. Here the bare wood under the arm rests is being revealed as I peel off the tape.

The seat was then fastened into place, with screws from beneath, through the cleats. The arm rests were glued and clamped in place on top of the side assemblies.

My client is responsible for the cushion part of the project, but I was curious as to what it would look like, so placed one of our long pillows on the bench to give and idea of the finished look.

I am very pleased with the result. One thing I was a bit concerned about was building with such thin stock for a bench. However, the bench is very very solid and strong. Part of that is possibly due to how strong white oak is. But also, the front and back rails are three inches tall and there is not much risk of sag over a forty-two inch span with that. Both my wife and I sat on it and could not detect any deflection in the piece.

Here are a few more photos of the finished project.

 

Thanks for reading!

See Also:


Easy Build Mission Side Table


Mission Nightstand with a twist


Tall Mission Dresser