Introduction

a finished garden bench made from 2 harp-backed dining room chairs
Photo: Wendell T. Webber
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With just some basic carpentry skills, you can transform a pair of vintage chairs into an outdoor bench that you'll enjoy for years to come. Select seats with contoured backs and rear legs that are fully intact and free from cracks, like these harp-back chairs that we found at a secondhand store. And you needn't fuss over the finish or upholstery, as you'll be removing the seats and painting the entire bench once it's built.

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    Tools List

    • multi-bit screwdriver
      Screwdriver. Phillips and/or flathead, depending how chair seats are attached
    • flush-cut handsaw
      Flush-cutting saw
    • wooden mallet
      Wood or rubber mallet
    • 16-foot tape measure
      Tape measure
    • circular saw
      Circular saw
    • drill
      Drill/driver
    • 1/4-inch drill bit
      ¼-inch drill bit for pilot holes in bench frame
    • Countersink bit
      Countersink
    • hand clamps
      Clamps
    • sandpaper
      Sandpaper in 60, 150, and 220 grits
    • cleaning rag
      Rag
    • artist paintbrush
      2½-inch nylon paintbrush
    • dress scissors
      Scissors
    • staple gun
      Staple gun
    • 1/8-inch drill bit
      -inch drill bit for pilot holes in seat bottom

    Shopping List

    Two identical vintage chairs

    Poplar 1x4 for bench frame. Get one 8-foot length.

    Poplar 1x1 for cross-support. Get a 3-foot length.

    ¾-inch birch plywood for seat.

    1¼-inch exterior wood screws to secure bench ends to chair backs.

    2-inch exterior wood screws to fasten bench-frame ends to front and back pieces.

    -inch exterior wood screws to fasten bench seat to frame.

    3-inch zinc-plated corner braces. Get four.

    Wood glue

    Wood filler

    Latex primer

    Exterior latex paint. Get two 8-ounce cans.

    Spray adhesive

    2-inch-thick high-density foam rubber, cut to fit

    Polyester batting. Cut to fit seat frame, plus 4 inches on all sides

    1 to 2 yards of weatherproof outdoor upholstery fabric (You'll need more if the fabric has a pattern, to ensure proper alignment.)