Build your own vintage garden bench

Do you love vintage, even in your garden? Then use our instructions and tips to build your own vintage-look garden bench.

Garden bench vintage build
© Jeanette Dietl –

The new favourite place in your garden could be a vintage garden bench. The ravages of time seem to have already left their mark on the wood. With a few simple steps you can help and give history to the wood. Especially in the romantic farmer’s garden, garden furniture with a vintage look comes into its own. The result is a cosy retreat where you can let the day fade away and the family can take a little break. We will now tell you how to give the wood a natural patina and how to build a comfortable bench for the garden.

Vintage furniture for the garden

Vintage furniture looks particularly good in the garden because it seems robust and literally washed with all kinds of water. Nothing seems to be able to harm them, even though the ravages of time have already gnawed at them properly. Vintage benches are sturdy and forgiving of scratches and stains. Natural wood furniture in a vintage look is an asset for any outdoor area, especially the seemingly outdated pieces of furniture in a cozy garden in the country house style harmoniously look.

How does wood get its vintage look?

The secret is simple – the wood has to be painted several times and then sanded. The superficial layers of paint are then removed and the paint in the recesses is retained. You start the painting with white acrylic paint. Allow to dry thoroughly before applying a light brown varnish. Once this layer has dried, a layer of dark brown acrylic paint is applied. Once all the layers of paint have dried well, sand the boards until the desired appearance is achieved.

“Tip: The desired vintage look can best be achieved when sanding is done manually instead of with a sanding machine.

Garden bench in vintage look and your favourite colour

Garden bench paint vintage
© Ingo Bartussek –

Acrylic paint is just one way to paint a vintage looking garden bench. However, the effect is even better with chalk paint. This allows you to create any shade you want and you can design the garden bench in white, blue, green or other trendy outdoor colours.

Painting a vintage garden bench – that’s how it works!

If the wood is older, it is first treated with a damp cloth. You can use methylated spirits as a cleaning agent. If wood comes into contact with moisture, the wood fibres are set up. To ensure that the paint covers better later, the wood should be lightly sanded after cleaning.

If oak wood is used for the garden bench, the wood must be pre-treated with insulating primer before the chalk colour is applied. This primer protects against unattractive staining after painting. These stains can be caused by the ingredients of the wood, but wine stains, coffee stains or water stains cannot simply be painted over. If the subsoil is not insulated, it will always come to light.

You won’t do anything wrong with this bestseller:

“Tip: All particularly resinous woods should be provided with insulating primer. In addition to oak, this also applies to mahogany or pine.

If the wood has been pre-treated accordingly, the paint can be applied. Chalk colours are available in various colours, or can be mixed at the specialist dealer. Chalk paint is easy to work with and apply. Ensure that the ink is applied evenly and allow the ink to dry well. If you want to apply a second color, maybe change the hue slightly or work with a second color, this can happen after about eight hours. The chalk paint needs this time to dry.

In order to achieve the desired vintage look, the wood is sanded until individual layers of paint have been removed. Do not use a grinding machine for this, but do the sanding by hand so that the desired used look can be achieved much more easily, even if some muscle power is needed. With the grinding machine you take away too much paint at once, which can result in completely colourless areas. If the wood has the desired vintage look, it is painted with clear varnish and then treated with wax.

Build a vintage garden bench – step by step

The following example illustrates the construction of a stable and comfortable garden bench with backrest. Of course, there are numerous variation possibilities, so that this can only be an example. You can adjust the dimensions of the wood to your personal circumstances or even construct a bench without a backrest.

Vintage garden bench build – material list

Wooden boards in various dimensions:

component number dimensions
backrest, seat, front side 6

112,5 cm

Armrests, side panels 6 69,5 cm
Supporting wood Seat surface 2 5 cm x 62,5 cm
Supporting wood backrest 2 42 cm x 5 cm
Supporting timbers front side 2

6,7 cm x 5 cm

Top side backrest 1 112,5 cm x 8,5 cm
Upper side armrests 2 66 cm x 6,5 cm
feet 2

66 cm x 5 cm

Which tool is needed?

  • cordless screwdriver
  • Compact saw with rip fence, mitre angle attachment and carbide cutting disc
  • grinding wheels
  • hot glue gun
  • countersunk bolts

The individual work steps at a glance

  1. Handling boards
  2. Cutting boards to size
  3. Mounting side panels and armrests
  4. Fastening the supporting timbers
  5. Screw the seat and front side together
  6. Mounting the backrest
  7. final assembly

Once all the boards have received the desired vintage look, they can be cut to size according to the measurements given. Of course you can also define individual dimensions. In any case, you should work very carefully.

“Tip: Draw the dimensions on both sides of the boards.

Set the cutting disc of the compact saw to 20 mm cutting depth. If you use a compact saw with rip fence, this will help you to saw straight. The mitre angle attachment is the best option for diagonally running cuts.

“Tip: If you do not have an appropriate saw or little manual skill, you can also have the boards cut to the appropriate dimensions in a DIY store on site.

❶ Now the side parts and the armrest are assembled. To do this, arrange three 69.5 cm long scaffolding boards next to each other. Now attach the foot pieces (66 x 5 cm) to the short sides. The feet are fixed flush with the edge with countersunk screws. To attach the armrest, turn the side section so that the narrow side is facing upwards. The boards measuring 66 x 6.5 cm are now screwed to the narrow side. These steps are carried out for both sides.

❷ Now it’s time for the construction of the seat and front panel. The supporting timbers for the seat are attached to the inside of the side part at a height of 36 cm. The supporting timbers should run crosswise to the longitudinal boards and end exactly with the trailing edge.

❸ The supporting timber for the front (6.7 x 5 cm) is attached at a 90-degree angle next to the front end of the supporting timber. The two supporting timbers result in an “L” when professionally fastened, whereby the short alphabetic character on the front. These steps are repeated on the inside of the second side panel, where you place the supporting timber for the front panel mirror-inverted.

❹ Now attach the front of the garden bench to the side parts. This is done by turning the side panels over and screwing the 112.5 cm long scaffolding boards onto the short supporting timbers. Then place the bench in an upright position, place the boards on the supporting timbers and attach the screws on both sides.

To make it even more comfortable, our garden bench has a backrest. This can optionally be omitted.

❺ The remaining 112.5 cm long boards are first placed next to each other to ensure a perfect fit. The 42.5 x 5 cm long supporting timbers are arranged flush on top. Make sure that the boards are flush at the top and sides and then screw the whole thing together. The narrow upper side (112.5 x 8.5 cm) is now connected to the upper edge of the backrest. Now adjust the backrest to the desired angle of inclination and screw it to the inside of the side panels.

❻ If sharp or rough edges are created, they are finally ground. Fill the resulting screw holes with pore filler. In order for the new garden bench to withstand wind and weather, a suitable wood oil or wood glaze is then applied.

Garden bench made of dollar pallets in vintage look

Garden bench dollar pallets
© maho –

Would you like to make it as easy as possible for yourself and still not do without a vintage-look garden bench? Then simply use dollar pallets. Seats made of dollar pallets are stable and robust, cost little and are quickly assembled. The wood does not have to be treated in a complex way, because the trendy used look is already available. For a simple bank of dollar pallets, six pallets are needed.

The wood can be treated as desired. For the natural vintage look you do not need to do much, it is sufficient to apply a caring wood oil or a wood glaze. If the pallets are to be painted in colour, roughen the surface, apply diluted acrylic paint and sand after drying until the desired used look is achieved.

Set up the pallets and screw two pallets together. Thus a seat has already been created. A further pallet is used for the backrest and you screw it to the two pallets already set up at the back, which serve as a seat. This allows you to produce several seat units which should then be bolted together at the installation location. For a bench with normal dimensions, six dollar pallets, i.e. two seat units, are sufficient. However, you can extend the bench at any time and create a spacious seating landscape that can also be arranged in a corner.

“Tip: Soft cushions and pillows make it really comfortable on the pallet bench.

Don Burke

I am Don Burke, one of the authors at My Garden Guide.  I am a horticulturist that cultivates, grows, and cares for plants, ranging from shrubs and fruits to flowers. I do it in my own garden and in my nursery. I show you how to take care of your garden and how to perform garden landscaping in an easy way, step by step.I am originally from Sydney and I wrote in local magazines. Later on, I have decided, more than two decades ago, to create my own blog. My area of specialization is related to orchid care, succulent care, and the study of the substrate and the soil. Therefore, you will see many articles dedicated to these disciplines. I also provide advice about how to improve the landscape design of your garden.

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