It has been a while since I’ve tackled a building project and my recent spring backyard cleanup has finally given me the excuse to get back out to the workshop and generate some sawdust.
I needed a storage solution for the backyard, but due the limited space I wanted something that would double as seating. I couldn’t find anything commercially available that was NOT either:
1) ugly and plastic
2) extremely expensive or
3) designed for interior use only..
So I had to take matters into my own hands. I ended up designing a bench which was customized around a set of crates I found at the thrift store.
I actually bought the crates a while ago, since for $3 I couldn’t pass them up. (Now that I bought mine I realized you could find these exact crates at Michaels, JoAnn’s or even Home Depot.) I have used them before on my fall front porch and to organize stuff in the garage. I knew they would be perfect to store sand and pool toys in the back yard since (unlike the plastic bins I’m currently using) they will allow the sand and extra water to drain!
The bench itself is pretty much a copy of Ana White’s Rustic X Console. But just cut down to the exact dimensions of the crates. (I have plans to draw up the exact plans with all the dimensions.. one day..) The total cost (not including the crates or the finishing supplies** was around $40)
More specifically, the lumber list was:
3- 2x2 (8 foot) @1.92/each
2- 2x4 (8 foot) @2.42/each
1- 2x6 (8 foot)@4.57
1- 2x6 (12 foot) @5.86
1- 1x12 (12 foot) @14.36
1 Box 2.5 inch Kreg Self-Tapping Screws @ 4.97
TOTAL COST: $40.36
I assembled the bench pretty much exactly like Ana’s instructions. I drilled about 100 pocket holes with my Kreg K4 Pocket Hole system and put everything together using the Kreg 2.5 inch self-tapping screws.
With the exception of attaching the top 2x8 boards, 100% of the connections are pocket holes. (I got really really good at doing them!)
If you want to see a simple ‘get your feet wet' project for working with the Kreg Jig, check out my chalkboard arrow sign post.
My kindergartener helped out with some of the holes. Because the jig has a stop and directs the drill to exactly the correct part of the wood, it is a great way to let her help without fear of her making a mistake.
Once I had all the math worked out for the modified cut list, and I had all the holes drilled, it went really fast. I put it together in less than two afternoons (while the baby napped.. so approximately 4 hours):
Finally, I needed to finish it so that it would withstand the elements since it is going to be used outdoors.
First I sanded the whole thing down with my palm sander. Because this isn’t very high quality lumber I did my best with this sanding step but I didn't knock myself out. It is supposed to look rustic, so the wood will never be perfect, I just wanted it to not give anyone splinters when they sat on it.
Next I treated the wood with a wood conditioner. This helps the stain go on evenly. Because the wood had a LOT of grain in it I wanted to knock down as much variation as I could. I'm so glad I did this. Minwax Pre-stain isn't super cheap, but it is worth it. You can see after the conditioner went on, how different the wood looked. That variation would be amplified with stain.
Next I needed something that would seal the wood from the elements so I used DECK STAIN.
Do not!! I repeat DO NOT use regular ‘Polyshades’ or any other product intended only for indoor use. Yes, your color options are more limited when you look at outdoor products, but you need the extra waterproofing if you don’t want your chair to fall apart, rot or mildew.
I settled on Behr’s Transparent Weatherproofing stain in Cordovan Brown (You can get a lot more custom colors in the gallon sizes but I only needed a quart. Your choices are limited to only the transparent options in the quart size.)
To completely seal the wood takes two coats. This is what the first coat looked like. You can get an idea of the effectiveness of the wood conditioner. The grain is still there, but it isn't screaming obvious.
When I first designed the storage bench I knew I wanted the crates to contrast with the actual bench (I wanted it to be clear they weren’t attached.. so it would be more obvious on what part to pull out.) Instead of staining them I just I sanded them down and sealed the plain unfinished wood. In this case I used Mixwax Polyurethane, which isn’t meant for outdoor use, but the crates are so easy to replace I am not worrying about it. You could use a deck sealant for the crates as well if you are worried about the weather and wear and tear.
I had the polyurethane on hand and I knew sealing the crates with it was better than nothing.
You can see the contrast between the crates and the table in this photo of the finished bench:
My favorite part of the whole project is definitely the “X” shaped ends. It took me a while to figure out the correct angle on the cuts, but I finally go it:
I’m excited about all the storage I have for the backyard now! And it is pretty well disguised. Better than I expected actually.
It feels good to be back to DIY’ing!
If you want to create this same piece at home, you just need the lumber listed above plus the following:
Chop/Miter Saw (I have this one but I dream about this one)
Drill/Driver (I love my Makitas, especially for the price)
Polyurethane * (I used interior, but this exterior type is what you should use)
*I didn't include these in the $40 price because I only used a small fraction of the cans and I had most of them on hand from previous projects.