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Build It | Reclaimed Heart Pine Bench

Ask This Old House general contractor Tom Silva and host Kevin O’Connor create a wooden bench out of reclaimed heart pine.


  1. Use a grinder with 50-grit sandpaper to take off dirt. Then go over it again with 220-grit sandpaper.
  2. Cut rough lengths for boards with a miter saw.
  3. Rip cut legs to cut off ½ inch on both sides using a table saw.
  4. Make a jig to cut the tenon for the using plywood and scrap lumber. Place the leg flush with the plywood and attach two “stops” on each side of the plywood. Then move it up above the end of the plywood by 1 7/8-inch and drill in another stop on the third side.
  5. Using a straight-cutting bit in a router, flip the jig over and ride the router along the edge, cutting to a depth of ¼ inch.
  6. Flip the leg and make the same cut with the router on the opposite side.
  7. To finish up the tenon, take ½ inch off both sides using a hand saw.
  8. Make the cut, then knock the pieces out with a chisel and a hammer.
  9. To make the mortise, you’ll have to make another jig by measuring your tenon. Then add the the dimension of the templating guide minus the outside dimension of the router bit. This will give you the proper size for the jig.
  10. Using that jig, set the depth for the router and cut two mortises in the seat of the bench.
  11. To add stability to the legs, use a piece of 2x6 as a spreader, which will be attached using tenons on each end and a through-mortise in the legs.
  12. Create a jig the width of your tenon, but allow it to slide down the board as you cut your tenon. Keep the router bit a consistent depth so when you flip the spreader over and reuse the jig on the other side, the tenon will be centered in the spreader.
  13. Reuse the mortise template to cut a through-mortise into each leg. You will need to add fillers to the old jig to ensure it fits the new tenon size.
  14. Cut a “V” notch into each leg to increase the stability of the leg.
  15. Use a hole saw and a jigsaw to notch out a small hole in the center of the tenon on each end of the spreader.
  16. Sand down all the pieces using a sander, increasing the grit with each pass.
  17. Use rags to spread oil across each piece. Doing this before you put the bench together will help spread the oil evenly and thoroughly.
  18. Assemble the legs and spreader together, putting the tenons into the through-mortises. Once the pieces are together, create a peg to put into the notch you cut in each tenon. The peg should be tapered. Once it’s driven into the notch, it will tighten up and not move.
  19. To hold the bench seat to the legs, spread wood glue evenly into both mortises.
  20. Place the bench seat on top of the legs and hammer it together using a rubber mallet.
  21. Use rags to put a coat of oil on the bench seat.