2x4 Bench: A cheap Pottery Barn knock-off

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Project by Chris McDowell posted 01-01-2015 03:51 AM 9342 views 42 times favorited 36 comments Add to Favorites Watch

If you would like to watch a video of this build, watch here:

I don’t have any money to buy nicer wood, so I used some 2×4’s I had on hand. The whole bench consists of 2×4’s from the home center.

The first thing I did was glue up the top by planing and laminating four 2×4’s together to make a 1 foot wide panel:

I’ll come back to the top later.

I started making the legs by using two 2×4’s laminated together to make 1 leg.

I first cut the stock to rough length (I think around 18 inches) then cut the rounded edge off at the table saw.

Then I ran all the pieces through the planer and glued everything up.

After the legs were dry, I ran all of them through the planer to clean them up. I think I ended up with a thickness of around 3 inches square. I cut a 5 degree angle on one end of each then I set them on the top so that I could measure for a final bench height of 17 inches (I think. I’m trying to remember. This was a couple of months ago.) Then I cut them to final length using 5 degrees again.

I measured and drew out the through mortises on each leg and proceeded to chop them out. I used a chisel at first to get the layout down, then I drilled the rest of the waste out with a drill press and cleaned them out with a chisel.

I made the tenons on the table saw by passing them multiple times over the blade using the miter gauge. To make sure all the angles worked I kept a bevel gauge adjusted to the same angle as the legs were cut and used it for reference everywhere it was necessary. After the tenons were done, I glued them into the legs.

Back to the top.

I did breadboard ends for the top. I first chopped the mortise in each breadboard the same way I did the mortises for the legs: chisel, drill press, chisel.

For the tenon, I used a base I had previously made and clamped a fence onto the base with a couple of c-clamps. I then kept adjusting the router depth until I ended up with the tenons a tad thicker than final thickness (so that I could sneak up on the fit).

Then I used a block and some sandpaper (I don’t have any planes) and made passes on each side of the tenon until it was a slip fit in the mortise.

I then clamped the breadboards on and drilled 3 holes on each tenon for dowels to keep the breadboards secure. I widened the two outside holes so that any seasonal movement of the top wouldn’t be restricted by the dowels.

To install the breadboards, I added glue to the only center portion of the tenon and then slid the breadboard on.

Next I installed the dowels. The center dowel got completely glued in, but the outside dowels only got glue on the top portion.

I used pocket holes to join the upper leg supports. If I had the opportunity to take my time on this project, I would’ve done mortise & tenon completely, but it didn’t work out that way, so I decided from the outset to use pocket holes at this stage to cut down on time.

For the lower stretcher I decided to join it using 3” screws. So that I could guarantee a stronger joint, I decided to add an oak dowel through both ends of the stretcher. This would allow the screws to grab on to long grain instead of possibly tearing out or working loose in end grain alone.

I drilled a 1” hole using a spade bit.

I then added glue to the dowel and hammered it in.

I then supported the stretcher on the far end while I added 2 screws. Afterward, I capped off the screws with some dowels.

To attach the top, I used a pocket screw on each end on the small leg supports in the center. These won’t be affected by wood movement. For the sides along the length of the bench, I made some little wooden brackets to hold the top on. I routed some slots along the length on the inside of the upper stretchers and attached the brackets. This method will also allow for seasonal wood movement.

I made this bench for my sister-in-law and she wanted it stained the gray color of driftwood. I used “driftwood” stain by rust-o-leum.

Thanks for reading.

-- Chris, , FACEBOOK: , Proverbs 16:9

36 comments so far

View yooper's profile


228 posts in 3940 days

#1 posted 01-01-2015 04:11 AM

There is nothing cheap about this awesome bench. I’d take it over the Pottery Barn bench, but maybe in a darker color. Great job, and thanks posting the steps.

-- Jeff, CT - keep calm and make sawdust

View HerbC's profile


1820 posts in 3972 days

#2 posted 01-01-2015 04:22 AM

Excellent project.

Good workmanship.

Great write up.

Keep up the good work and don’t forget…

Be Careful!


-- Herb, Florida - Here's why I close most messages with "Be Careful!"

View Vince's profile


1291 posts in 4542 days

#3 posted 01-01-2015 09:40 AM

Very nice work…excellent post.

-- Vince

View wbrisett's profile


205 posts in 3462 days

#4 posted 01-01-2015 11:18 AM

Chances are the Pottery Barn bench will fall apart in a year. Not so with this one! Great job!

View Chris McDowell's profile

Chris McDowell

645 posts in 3265 days

#5 posted 01-01-2015 11:59 AM

Thank you all for the encouraging comments! I enjoyed building the bench, but I didn’t enjoy feeling rushed the entire time. There are portions of the build that would have come out better had I not done a rush job. For instance, the tenons for the breadboards took 2 times to get right. I messed up the first time and just cut them off, leaving the bench a little shorter in final length than it should’ve been!

-- Chris, , FACEBOOK: , Proverbs 16:9

View Buckethead's profile


3196 posts in 2982 days

#6 posted 01-01-2015 01:18 PM

This is a beautiful bench.


Excellent workmanship! Used what you have… It makes the execution that much sweeter.

We are most critical of out own work, and tend to see the blemishes first. Here you have created an heirloom. Your family will treasure this more and more as time passes.

-- Support woodworking hand models. Buy me a sawstop.

View Chris McDowell's profile

Chris McDowell

645 posts in 3265 days

#7 posted 01-01-2015 01:30 PM

Bucket head: wow, thank you for the kind comment! I hope it lasts years. I will definitely be checking on it whenever I visit my sister-in-law. She lives a few states away, so I’m a tad worried about wood movement.

-- Chris, , FACEBOOK: , Proverbs 16:9

View KDO's profile


154 posts in 3882 days

#8 posted 01-01-2015 01:30 PM

Nice work, you should be proud. It looks really solid and should serve her well.. And, just think how much you learned doing it! Keep up the good work

-- Christian, Husband, Grandpa, Salesman, amateur Woodworker.

View Andygulfcoast's profile


30 posts in 2950 days

#9 posted 01-01-2015 01:32 PM

I too am really impressed with the craftsmanship and ingenuity you displayed in using “What you had”.

Great looking bench.

-- Hobbyist woodworker. My garage shop now shares space with my kids toys, and most of my equipment is stored on shelves.

View Chris McDowell's profile

Chris McDowell

645 posts in 3265 days

#10 posted 01-01-2015 01:38 PM

Thanks KDO and Andy! I did learn a lot!

-- Chris, , FACEBOOK: , Proverbs 16:9

View ronstar's profile


652 posts in 4823 days

#11 posted 01-01-2015 01:40 PM

Nice bench! and great tutorial!

-- Ron, Northern Illinois

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

12347 posts in 4541 days

#12 posted 01-01-2015 02:09 PM

Great design, excellent execution and a beautiful end product.
I do hope she keeps it out of the weather.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View pretzer's profile


21 posts in 2427 days

#13 posted 01-01-2015 02:39 PM

Really nice. Been looking for a bench to build. I could be it ! Thanx!!

View Chris McDowell's profile

Chris McDowell

645 posts in 3265 days

#14 posted 01-01-2015 02:41 PM

Thanks ronstar, Gene, pretzer!

Gene, she is keeping it inside! I had only put it outside to take pictures with good lighting.

-- Chris, , FACEBOOK: , Proverbs 16:9

View jeff's profile


1308 posts in 4578 days

#15 posted 01-01-2015 03:00 PM

Very nice project with build pics and all-it looks great.

-- Jeff,Tucson,Az.

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