My Other Blog About Diet and Exercise

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How to Build a Garden Bench

Assemble this attractive, comfortable garden bench. We show you how to build it so it's strong and durable, using a simple biscuit joinery technique.

Garden bench overview: Design, tools and materials

I built this bench four years ago. Since then, it’s been used and abused as a prop on photo shoots, and sat on and commented on by staff and passersby. The first thing they all notice is the design—simple but handsome. Then, as soon they sit down, they’re all surprised by how comfortable it is.
Finally, everyone admires my amazing woodworking skills. But the truth is, this bench is just plain easy to build. I used only biscuits and screws, the simplest types of joinery. Still, the bench is surprisingly strong. It’s been hauled around, knocked around and used as a mini scaffold—and once it even fell out of a moving pickup. But it’s still solid.
Round up the tools and materials
I spent about $95 for the lumber for this bench. You may have to buy more lumber to get knot-free pieces, so your cost may vary. You’ll find everything you need to build this bench at your local home center or lumberyard. Refer to the Materials List in Additional Information below, then choose the lumber carefully to avoid large knots.
In addition to the lumber, screws and wood plugs, you’ll need No. 20 wood biscuits and a special tool called a plate or biscuit joiner to cut the biscuit slots. You can buy a good-quality biscuit joiner for $100 to $170. You’ll also need some clamps, a table saw and a router fitted with a 1/4-in. round-over bit.
Figure A: Garden Bench Details
Overall Dimensions: 60" long, 16-1/2" wide, 16-3/4" tall
You can download and enlarge Figure A, including Part B and Part F Details, in “Additional Information” below. You can also download a complete Materials List and Cutting List in “Additional Information.”

Step 1: Cut out and drill the parts

Photo 1: Drill plug recesses

Use a 1/2-in. Forstner bit to drill recesses for the screws. Later you'll fill them with wood plugs to hide the screws. You can easily control the depth of the hole by drilling until the top of the cutter is flush with the surface.
Start by inspecting your boards and planning the cuts to take advantage of the knot-free sections. Use a table saw to rip the boards to the right width. For crisp, clean edges, rip about 1/4 in. from the edge of the boards before you rip them to the final width. To work around knots, you may have to rough-cut some of the boards to approximate length before ripping them. When you’re done ripping, cut the parts to length. We used a 1/4-in. round-over bit and router to ease the edges of the seat boards. It’s a great task for a router table setup if you have one.
Next, measure and mark the center of all the screw holes and drill 3/8-in.-deep holes for the 1/2-in. wood plugs. I used a Forstner bit to create clean, flat-bottom holes.

Step 2: Cut the biscuit slots

Photo 2: Cut biscuit slots for the seat rails

Mark the centers of the biscuit slots on masking tape. Then, with the plug recesses facing up, cut the slots in the narrow sides of the legs. Keep the plate joiner and leg tight to the bench top as you cut. Use tape to avoid marks on the wood and to keep track of the orientation of the pieces.

The final step in preparing the parts for assembly is cutting the biscuit slots. If you’ve read my previous plate joiner story, you know I’m a proponent of a technique I call the bench reference method. Rather than use the adjustable fence to position the slots, you simply place your work-piece and the base of the biscuit joiner against the bench top and cut the slot. To find the story, type “biscuit joints” in the search box above.
The only downside to this method is that the slot isn’t always centered on the part, so you have to pay close attention to orientation as you cut the slots and assemble the bench. You’ll see how I use masking tape to keep track of the orientation. Photos 2 – 5 show the plate-joining techniques I used to cut slots in the parts.

Step 3: Assemble the garden bench with biscuits and screws

Photo 6: Join the rails and legs with biscuits

Put a biscuit in the slot and dry-fit the leg and seat rail to make sure the rail is oriented correctly. It should be centered on the leg. Then spread glue in the slots and on the biscuit and press the leg and the seat rail together.
Photos 6 – 10 show the assembly steps. Biscuits connect the legs to the rails for extra strength. Spread exterior wood glue in the slots and on the biscuits. Then clamp the parts until the glue sets. Use 2-1/2-in. deck screws to attach the legs to the braces (Photos 7 and 9). If you aren’t using self-drilling screws, drill pilot holes to avoid splitting the parts. Attach the top slats to the frame with 1-5/8-in. deck screws.

Step 4: Finish the garden bench

Photo 11: Hide the screws with wood plugs

Glue flat-top wood plugs into the plug recesses. Use a cutoff dowel or a small block of wood to pound them flush.
I plugged the screw holes with 1/2-in. flat-top birch plugs, but if you own a drill press, you can make your own cedar plugs using a 1/2-in. plug cutter.
I finished the bench with Cabot Australian Timber Oil. This penetrating oil finish leaves the wood looking natural, but it has to be reapplied every year. For a glossy, more permanent finish, you could use Sikkens Cetol SRD or spar varnish.

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Tips on Creating a Garden in a Small Area

With spring’s arrival on March 20, you might be feeling the urge to start a garden. But if you live in a space with no yard, or in the middle of the city, you might be thinking you can’t satisfy this urge.

Creating a garden on a small courtyard certainly an interesting challenge. Moreover, if the park is to be created must be beautiful and neat, convenient alias seen and enjoyed. Well, here are some interesting tips.

Here are some tips for small-space gardening.

Use container planting. Almost any vegetable can be grown in a container, if the container is big enough. Anything can be used: old tubs, old window frames put together to make a box and a wheelbarrow all make great containers, so use your imagination! Think about the size of the plant. How wide will it get? How tall? What about the size and depth of the root system? Research your favorite veggies, read seed packets (a good seed company puts this important information on the package for you). Once you have the right container, then you just need to fill it with good potting soil, have a spot that provides full sun at least six hours a day, and water it consistently.

Grow up. Many crops can be easily trained to grow up poles, trellises, or even lattices attached to walls. Any kind of support that is sturdy enough to use string across it will work. You can use planter boxes in different sizes and stack them to make a vertical garden. When choosing what to plant, think about things that can be trained to grow up. Pole beans, peas and even cucumbers are good contenders.

Use succession planting to create more space. Succession planting (sowing seeds of the same crop every few weeks), will allow you to have more of your favorites for a longer time. Leaf lettuces are especially good for this because they grow quickly. If you start seeds in a different planter every two to three weeks, you will have enough lettuce to last you all summer.

Use companion planting. Companion planting basically means planting things next to each other that benefit one another, by providing needed shade, acting as a natural pest control, or adding nutrients to the soil. Not only is lettuce a good crop for succession planting, it is also a great companion plant. Since lettuce is a bit more shade tolerant and actually prefers less direct sun, planting or putting those containers of lettuce beneath your taller plants or vertical planters will help them thrive during the hot summer afternoons. Aside from lettuce, think about other crops that can tolerate some shade, and plant them next to taller ones, especially leafy vegetables like cabbage, chard, endive, mustard greens, parsley and spinach (all cool season crops). Or, think about things that grow faster or earlier like radishes and peas, and plant them with your warm season crops that are slow growing, like peppers or tomatoes.

Use compact or dwarf varieties. There are varieties made specifically for containers or small areas. When choosing plants, look for anything that’s marked patio, container, baby or dwarf. If you think you can’t grow a fruit tree, there are even dwarf varieties of apple, citrus, peach, and pear trees that do great in containers.

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