How to Build a Garden Bench

Build a custom slat bench by contouring stock lumber

finished garden bench with garden tools
Photo by Tim Street-Porter

You'd think the guy who ­commissioned the most famous gardens in the world would have provided people a place to relax and enjoy all that beauty. But check out a 17th-century etching of the Palace of Versailles and it's hard to find a place to sit on the royal grounds. Perhaps that's ­because Louis XIV had his minions carry him in a chair for his daily "strolls." But until you hire yourself some lackeys to cart you around, you'll probably want a nice place to plant yourself for the best view of your own stately landscape.

Get yourself a simple but comfy bench, and position it in a shady spot for your leisurely breaks. If you're good with a jigsaw, it's not difficult to make a nice contoured one with simple horizontal slats. Or you can find many similarly shaped ­offerings in garden catalogs and shops. A well-placed bench will be a welcome respite for the constant gardener, and the occasional regal admirer.


Steps // How to Build a Garden Bench
1 ×

Build a Garden Bench

 
Step One // How to Build a Garden Bench

Build a Garden Bench

build a garden bench overview
Illustration by Gregory Nemec

You can make a comfortable wooden seat with curves by cutting out stock lumber and laying the slats horizontally

 
2 ×

Shape the Seat Supports

 
Step Two // How to Build a Garden Bench

Shape the Seat Supports

close up on seat supports
Illustration by Gregory Nemec

Draw the curves of the seat onto a 2x6, leaving at least 2 inches at the shallowest point.
Cut both seat supports at the same time. Sand them smooth.

 
3 ×

Cut the Back Supports

 
Step Three // How to Build a Garden Bench

Cut the Back Supports

close up on back supports
Illustration by Gregory Nemec

For each back support, cut one of the ends straight and the other by setting the angle at 15 degrees. Cut a curve to round over one corner of the straight end, and sand it smooth. Screw the back supports to the inside of the seat supports, splayed back slightly so that the angled edge is flush with the bottom of the seat support.

 
4 ×

Make the Legs

 
Step Four // How to Build a Garden Bench

Make the Legs

close up on bench legs
Illustration by Gregory Nemec

Cut the two front legs with square ends. Use two carriage bolts to screw them to the inside of the seat supports, ¾ inch in from the front edge. Cut the two back legs with both ends angled, set at 15 degrees. Attach each to the outside of its seat support with carriage bolts, splayed back so that the angled ends are in a straight line with the front legs.

 
5 ×

Reinforce the Bench

 
Step Five // How to Build a Garden Bench

Reinforce the Bench

close up on spacers for front and sides of bench
Illustration by Gregory Nemec

Size two spacers to fit snugly between each front leg and angled back support. Attach them to the seat supports with 15⁄8-inch screws. Screw a 1x3 to the edge of the front legs to connect the two seat supports. Screw two 1x3s across the top and bottom of the back supports.

 
6 ×

Install the Slats

 
Step Six // How to Build a Garden Bench

Install the Slats

close up on slats for garden bench
Illustration by Gregory Nemec

Cut enough 3-foot-long slats to cover the bench. Using 15⁄8-inch large-head deck screws, attach the slats to the supports.

 
 
 

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