Overview

a garden bench made from 2 harp-backed dining room chairs
Photo: Wendell T. Webber
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Download a cut list for How to Build a Garden Bench from Dining Chairs

Harp-back chairs are frequent finds at used-furniture stores and flea markets—ripe for a DIY reinvention. This sleigh-style bench takes advantage of the chairs’ graceful contoured backs and gets its new seat frame from home-center 1x3s and plywood. A couple of coats of exterior latex paint (we used Benjamin Moore semigloss in Goldfinch), plus upholstery in a water-resistant, fade-resistant fabric (here, Sunbrella in Zara Sunset), and you have a porch-ready perch.

A crossbar under the seat adds stability lost from the removal of the chairs' front legs.
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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.)