Building a Craftsman Style Bench With Storage
This build was a pretty fast and furious build. My last build ran a bit long so I was running out of time to get it done by the time I told the client it would be ready. As a result, most of the video that goes along with this build was shot as a time laps, but I will walk you through the details of the build in this post.
I started out by rough cutting the stock to size. I lay out all my parts in chalk and cut them into manageable pieces. This does a few things for me. It allows me to select the best looking boards out of the stock on hand for the show faces, such as the front panels for the front and top. The rest of the parts are marked for the bottom and back. Once the lumber is cut to the rough size it is easier to manage. It take much less effort and fewer passes across the jointer to flatten a face that is 24″ long v.s. a board that is 96″ long. It also saves material in the thickness.
Next I started gluing up the legs from 5/4 stock to make them 2” thick. I took my time when selecting the wood so that the two pieces that are glued together where similar in color and grain pattern. This way the glue line will be disguised and it would look like it is one piece of wood unless someone really examined it.
I used the Rockler’s silicone glue brush, which I seem to use less and less. It is a pain in the butt to keep track of it the shop and as time has gone by some of the bristles have been pulled off. To save on space, clamps and time I ganged them all up in one set of clamps.
I used my router with a 3/8” straight bit to cut the mortises for the tenons and groves for the panels in the legs. The other wood you see clamped to the long edge of the bench are all of the rails, and mullions that will make up the rest of the structure for the bench. I have them milled and rough-cut to length waiting to get tenons cut on them. I keep them clamped to the bench to reduce the chance of wood movement after milling. Occasionally, there is too much stress and/or moisture in the wood that causes it to move and I end up milling a new piece.
In this picture, I am cutting the taper on the legs. The bottom 3 inches or so have a slight taper to add some style to the legs. If you pay close attention to this part if the video you may notice that on one of the legs I got confused which side needed the taper cut on. I cut it on the wrong side and had to start over and mill a new leg. (Milling the new one not shown in video) It was a bit frustrating on an already short timeline for this build.
I cut the long section of the tenons on the table saw. Then I brought the pieces over to the bench and hand cut the short section of the shoulder. I never cut all four sides on the table saw. If anything is slightly off, they don’t line up perfectly and you end up with a gap somewhere between the leg and the rail. Once I cut the tenons to size, I used a chisel to round over the ends to match the round mortises caused by the router. It is faster to round the tenon over than to square the mortise.
Doing a little test fit to be sure, everything is square and snug. While I had it all assembled I measured each opening for the panels and cut each one separately. This insured that if anything were off it would still fit together.
I hate plywood. I hate how heavy and awkward it is to maneuver a sheet through the shop. I hate fighting it in the wind when unloading and loading it. I especially hate how easy it is to splinter if you don’t have a perfectly sharp blade and a backer board or tape when cutting it. I also hate how it looks in general. To get awesome looking panels I took 4/4 stock and re-sawed it in half so I had a book matched set for each panel. Then I picked the best panels to be on the front of the cabinet. It looks much better than plywood. I used the Laguna 14X12 band saw, and for the price I love it.
Because the panel will be floating inside a grove in the frame I pre-stained and finished the panels before I glued them up. This was done in case the panel shrinks after it is installed. If it was stained after it was installed there is a good chance you would see unstained wood showing if it shrank.
Before I could glue up the legs I had to make a relief cut towards the bottom of the leg to accept the bottom. To lay it out I test fitted the legs to the side panels and marked the location where the dado that will receive the bottom intersects the legs. I then used a chisel and router plane to cut a square notch.
Because this thing was so big and awkward, I glued it up in sections. The front and back as sub-assemblies. Once those where dry I inserted the bottom and glued up the side panels and legs. Because the bench was longer than any clamp I had I used clamp extenders to attached two shorter clamps together and was able to reach across the full length of the bench during assembly.
The top got a little out of alignment during glue up so I used a hand plane to flatten it. I did use biscuits during assembly to help keep things aligned but there is always a little play in the biscuit slot. Since I built this storage bench, I have invested in a domino and the Festool domino has much tighter tolerances, which greatly reduces the amount of slop in the slot. Since I have been using the domino, my glue ups require a lot less touch up after the fact.
The breadboard ends have a standard craftsman/green and green style over hang, and are installed using a basic notched tenon and grove system. I drift pined the tenons using 1/4 inch dowels and only glued the center tenon to allow the rest of the panel to expand and contract with seasonal movement.
This bench was built for a client who lived in an 1800’s craftsman style home that had a lot of built in bookshelves and cabinets that are original to the house. The have tried to tie in their other furniture with the style of the house. One of the built ins had a small quarter round rope molding detail. The size and depth of the rails and styles where selected specifically to accommodate this style rope molding. The rope molding is attached with a pin nailer.
For the hinges, I used Rockler’s lid stay torsion hinges to prevent any smashed fingers. For most toy chest and blanket chest, they are designed to stay open at any position. However, the size of this bench did not allow that, the lid was just too heavy. I used four hinges spaced evenly across the back; any more would have been too crowded looking. With four hinges, the top may not stay open at every position but when it is getting close to the being closed; it is a slow soft close. No slamming, with a soft close was a nice trade off from having six hinges across the back to hold its position.
For more information about this bench please visit my custom furniture website, Craftsman Style Bench With Storage
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, and want more Join me on Patreon.