Build your own solid wooden bench – material, instructions & tips

Massive wooden benches have their very own charm. If you are also built by yourself, you can be mighty proud. It’s guaranteed to work with our instructions.

Build your own solid wooden bench - material, instructions & tips
© nidafoto –

Plastic benches are good, no question about it. But depending on the quality of their workmanship, they can shake, bleach and even make the material brittle. Who sets on long-lived solutions, which are in addition still clearly safer, should consider absolutely the building of a wooden bench. What materials are needed for this, how it works and what needs to be considered during construction, we’ll tell you now.

Why it’s worth betting on wood

In times of cheap garden benches made of plastic or modern models made of metal, some may ask themselves why it is worth the effort to build a solid wooden bench by yourself. The answer is quite simple: wood has a particularly rustic charm that no other material can match. In addition, such wooden benches are much more stable and safer with little maintenance.

Important preliminary considerations

Convinced? Then it’s on to planning. The following questions should be asked first:

” Which wood should be used?
Larch wood is extremely practical, as the hardwood is less frequently attacked by insects and fungi than other types of wood. In addition, it is very acid resistant and less sensitive to bad weather conditions. But also teak, eucalyptus, robinia or cedar wood is suitable for garden furniture due to the essential oils it contains.

” How wide and deep should the seat be?
A depth of 43 to 50 centimetres is considered pleasant by many. In addition, a seat width of at least 45 centimetres should be planned per person – the more space, the more comfortable.

“Which seat height is comfortable?
Should the seat be slightly arched? If so, it must be planed accordingly.

“Are armrests preferred?
Depending on personal taste, a height of 20 to 28 centimetres makes sense here.

” How wide should they be?
5 to 10 centimeters are considered common.

” Should the armrest be a little beveled?
An angle of about 15 degrees is quite comfortable.

” How high should the backrest be?
Unless the bench is built specifically for children, it should be higher than 50 centimeters.

Required material

In the following we have compiled a shopping list:

material clues
1 tree trunk
  • as seat and backrest surface
  • the feet can also be built from parts
  • If there is enough wood left, it can also be used to make the holder for the backrest.

“Notice: The length of the tree trunk varies according to the desired size of the bench. The longer the trunk, the more seat area results accordingly. Further information can be found under “Important preliminary considerations”.

Example: Two-seater

  • 1 metre tree trunk as seat and backrest
  • 50 centimeters for the two feet (if the trunk is divided for the feet). Otherwise two times 50 centimeters, if blocks are to be sawn from it
  • four square timbers for the construction of two armrests
Peeler, also called bark peeler or tree peeler (my favourite) to remove the bark
chainsaw To divide the tree trunk
Hand or electric planer (my favorite) For smoothing surfaces
Angle grinder with matching milling disc for milling out recesses
Drilling machine with wood drill and Forstner drill (e.g. 50 mm) for pre-drilling holes
long wood screws for attaching the feet and backrest
hammer for driving in the screws
ratch for tightening the screws
protractors for checking the angle of armrest and backrest
2 squared timbers (e.g. 55 x 55 mm) as holder for the backrest
Wood protection or oil Glaze to protect the wood – colourless, available in natural wood colours or strong colours (such as white, red or blue)

Building a wooden bench – step by step instructions

Step 1: Edit tree bark

If not already prepared bought: First the tree trunk is freed from the tree bark with a peeling iron. This is particularly easy with tree trunks that have been stored in the shade for six to 12 months. So the cambium layer falls off almost by itself. If you want it to be completely clean, you should work here especially on the edges. A wafer-thin residual layer of bark can also look very natural and chic.

Step 2: Saw through tree trunk

In the next step, the tree trunk is sawn with a chainsaw to separate the wood for the seat and back from the rest of the trunk to be used for the feet.

Step 3: Saw the bench into shape

Now the part of the trunk for the seat has to be sawn through again. The slower the cuts, the more even the cut edges. Optimal would be a central cut, because the finished bench looks very even.

Step 4: Grind off surfaces

To ensure that the surfaces are beautifully flat, they are sanded down piece by piece using a plane. You can test if everything is nice and smooth by carefully driving your palm over it – but beware: wear work gloves!

Step 5: Flatten the backrest

Optional: Next, the backrest should be flattened slightly with the angle grinder or electric planer – so the whole thing doesn’t look so bulky and requires less space.

Step 6: Milling recesses

Now cut out recesses in the lower half of the trunk with an angle grinder. The round feet are screwed into these later. During milling, the foot should be held regularly in the recess to see if it is flush.

Step 7: Clean edges

Before the seat is screwed together, all hard edges should be broken and cleaned in order to minimize the risk of injury and facilitate painting later.

Step 8: Prepare feet

The feet of the bench seat should be prepared by now at the latest. Practically, these are made from one piece of the tree trunk by removing two sides with a chainsaw.

Step 9: Put the bank to the test

Now is the perfect time to set up the bank on a trial basis. Pay attention to the following points:

  • Does the overall picture look harmonious?
  • Is the distance between the feet optimal?
  • Is the lateral distance between the feet and the seat the same?
  • If not, you can now measure and work again.

Step 10: Mounting the feet

If everything fits, the feet can then be mounted to the seat from below. After the holes have been pre-drilled, the wood screws or metal rods are hammered tighter into the wood with a hammer and then tightened with a ratchet.

Step 11: Pre-drill holes

Now the holes for the backrest can be pre-drilled. A Forstner drill is ideally suited for this purpose, in order to create sufficiently large holes for the squared lumber.

Step 12: Assemble the backrest

The squared lumber is then used to support the backrest. One end is carved with the angle grinder so that it fits into the prepared holes. As mentioned above, it is much more comfortable if the backrest is not mounted at a 90 degree angle to the seat, but is slightly inclined. To ensure that the angle of inclination is the same for both squared lumber members, you should not work by feeling, but check the measurement with a protractor.

Step 13: Fastening the backrest

As soon as the squared lumber fits into the pre-drilled holes, the backrest can be fastened with sufficiently long wood screws.

Step 14: Apply Wood Preservative

To protect the wood, it should be glazed with an oil. In most cases, a primer is also recommended to protect the wood from discolouration caused by blue stain and fungal attack. After this has dried sufficiently, one or two coats of varnish should be applied.

This video tutorial shows what it might look like:

Tips for building a solid wooden bench

tip clues
slim seat or backrest If the seat or backrest from half a tree trunk is too bulky for you, you can divide the trunk halves again.
soft edges Classic solid wooden benches have hard edges. But if you like it more romantic and playful, you can also break the corners in a larger angle, so that they become nicely round.
Metal struts for the backrest holder If you have little confidence in squared lumber, you can also use metal struts to connect the seat to the backrest. The wooden charm is lost, but the construction is even more robust.
easier mounting of the feet If it is too difficult to cut out the recesses for the feet, the seat surface can also be placed on the feet and then connected with a long metal rod. You can hide the visible holes by inserting a wooden stick with the diameter of the holes and sawing it off accordingly. Alternatively you can build plugs from the remains of the trunk. In both cases, any protruding material should be removed with a plane so that the seat surface is beautifully flat.

Care tips for wooden benches

The amount of care required depends very much on the type of wood. While a wooden bench made of soft wood (e.g. pine, beech or spruce) has to be sanded and varnished regularly, hardwoods are much easier to maintain.

Nevertheless, garden furniture should be properly cleaned at least at the beginning and end of the gardening season. However, aggressive cleaners are not at all suitable for this. Instead, we recommend soap suds made from natural soap, which, thanks to the vegetable oils they contain, not only care for the wood, but also ensure re-greasing. The bench should then be rubbed dry so that no soap residues remain on the wood.

” Attention: Microfibre cloths damage the wood by removing important oils. Simple cotton cloths are better suited. But sponges or a brush can also be used.

In addition, after basic cleaning it is advisable to treat the wood with a care oil two to three times a year. When choosing the product, however, it should be noted that colourless variants generally do not offer UV protection. This can cause the colour of the wood to turn grey. Apart from that, the oils should be free of solvents, otherwise the natural protection of the wood will be damaged. Cotton cloths, but also pads and brushes are also suitable for application.

Creating an oasis in everyday life – our best decoration tips

Is there still a lack of inspiration on how best to stage the garden bench? Then follow our decoration tips for a feel-good oasis in the garden.

  • Seat cushion: Unfortunately, wood has an unattractive habit: it’s hard. But with cushions or seat cushions you can make yourself really comfortable.
  • Rose arch: If you like it particularly romantic, you can place a rose arch behind or above the garden bench. Especially the second variant offers a natural source of shade. Not only climbing roses are suitable for planting the rose arch, but also forest vines.
  • Flowerpots: If an arch of roses is too big, flowers in rustic pots will also look enchanting.
  • Parasol: To protect yourself from direct sunlight, a parasol can also be installed. In the meantime, there are also numerous models that have a rustic appearance and therefore perfectly match a solid wooden bench.
  • Mountable table: Small wooden tables, which can be mounted on the armrest, are suitable for storing a glass or a book. If you choose a swivel model, you can also work/read comfortably on a laptop or tablet.

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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