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Build It | MDF Storage Bench

Ask This Old House general contractor Tom Silva and host Kevin O’Connor build a modern storage bench out of a single sheet of MDF

Steps:

  1. Start by cutting the MDF sheet into a workable size with a track saw.
  2. Before cutting the sheet in half for the top and bottom pieces of the bench, determine where the slots for the cubbies are going to go and mark them with a pencil and a straight edge. Use the baskets to help determine the size of the cubbies.
  3. Use a router to make a dado cut along the marked lines.
  4. Cut the MDF in half across the dado cut lines for the top and bottom pieces of the bench using the track saw.
  5. Cut a few inches off the bottom piece of the bench. The top will have a slight overhang.
  6. Cut the edges off each end of the dado cuts for the bottom piece so that they become rabbet cuts.
  7. Pre-drill holes in the dados so that it’s easier to fasten everything at the end.
  8. Using more of the MDF, cut the pieces for the sides, divider and back of the bench to desired length and width. The track saw can be used for this, but a table saw is a little easier if you have one.
  9. Before assembling the pieces, give everything a good sanding.
  10. Assemble the pieces of the bench together with wood glue and wood screws. The dividers should go in the dado cuts and the sides and back should go in the rabbet cuts. Do one piece at a time, since the MDF will suck up the glue pretty quickly.
  11. Measure and cut the pieces of the toe kick for the bench to rest on. Use a miter saw to miter the angles to assemble the box.
  12. Cut filler pieces to go behind each piece of the toe kick. Connect those using wood glue and the brad nailer.
  13. Assemble the toe kick with wood glue and brad nails.
  14. Glue and nail another piece of MDF in the center of the toe kick for extra support for the bench.
  15. Rest the bench on the toe kick with more wood glue and brad nails.

Resources:
Tom likes MDF because it’s durable and it’s a fairly inexpensive material to work with. He points out that the big downside to MDF is that it doesn’t do well if it gets wet. It is also extremely heavy and will often require two people to work with it. It can be found at home centers.

The top cushion is the Montlake Bench Cushion, manufactured by Classic Accessories.

The baskets that Tom selected are the Rattique Storage Totes in Taupe, manufactured by Whitmor.

The wood glue Tom used for the bench is manufactured by Gorilla Glue.

The other tools and materials Tom and Kevin used to build the bench, including the track saw, sander, and sandpaper, can be found at home centers.