From this to .... a storage bench

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Project by SimonSKL posted 09-03-2009 05:23 PM 240579 views 32 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch

My eldest son lives in a condo in Atlanta, GA with limited storage space so he asked me if I could build an outdoor storage bench for him. He came across a picture of a style that he likes and sent it to me. This is the project that I have been working on in the last 8 days.

For material I was debating if I should use western cedar (not a whole lot of choices for outdoor lumber in Midwest) which costs about $2.80/bf from a local hardwood dealer (twice as much from a local home center) or Douglas fir which costs about $1/bf (4”x4”x96”). After reading something about Douglas fir, I found it is one of the strongest and hardest softwood. Most utility poles are Douglas fir and they season well. I decided not to use cedar because of the high number of knots (i.e. high wastage) and cost. Since it will be stained with an exterior stain, I believe Douglas fir will last many years with proper maintenance.

Construction is pretty straight forward. I used 2/3 of the exterior graded plywood sheet to construct the box and then milled all the other pieces to size and thickness. A new 6” Grizzly jointer that I just got helped a lot in getting the piece straight and square. The key thing is try to get the grain running horizontal for the rails and vertical on the legs and strips. That took a little planning before cuts. I was not able to avoid some knots on the lid because of its length and width but they will be mostly covered by the cushion which my wife will make.

The 2nd picture show the completed storage bench and the Douglas fir that was left from the six 4×4x8’ poles.

The 5th picture showed how the pieces are fastened to the box. A rabbet was cut in the top rail and the top of each 2” strip. The top of the bottom rail was cut at 5% bevel, same for the bottom of the 2” strips, to allow water to run off without pooling at the ledge. You can see the red line showing the exaggerated bevel.

There are over 250 screws, mostly stainless steel and exterior graded screws, to fasten the exterior wood to the box from the inside so no screws are visible from the outside.

This has been a fun project and I got to learn how to use my new jointer.

Thanks for looking!

This is after it is stained with an exterior UV protected stain Dark Mahogany.

-- Simon, Danville, IL

12 comments so far

View Robb's profile


660 posts in 4983 days

#1 posted 09-03-2009 06:23 PM

That’s a great-looking storage box; I bet your son loves it! Good use of the new jointer, thanks for sharing with us.

-- Robb

View ratchet's profile


1391 posts in 4836 days

#2 posted 09-03-2009 07:01 PM

Nice box! It looks like it can store alot. Plan on restaining every other year at least.
Do you like your Cub Cadet…any rust yet like mine (a 1515).

View LesB's profile


2944 posts in 4492 days

#3 posted 09-03-2009 07:23 PM

Good looking chest and a great description of your work.

I think you got a good deal on that fir. I’m not sure I can get clean Douglas fir that cheep here in the Douglas fir capitol of the world, Oregon. Unless I cut down and mill some of my own trees….I have 14 acres of them. What you got is referred to as “2nd” growth but what you used looks good. Sometimes it has much larger growth rings and is not as attractive. “Old growth” would have 3 or 4 times as many growth rings per inch and the price would be ridiculously high.
The biggest difference between Western Cedar and Fir is the rot resistance and as you stated the hardness of the wood. One thing to cautious of with cedar is there are two types, Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata) and Insence Cedar sometimes called California Cedar (Calocedrus decurrens). The latter is known locally as “pencil wood.” It is much softer and less desirable than Western Red and is literally used to make wood pencils. If the store called it just Western Cedar you don’t know which one you are getting.

-- Les B, Oregon

View ChrisN's profile


259 posts in 4823 days

#4 posted 09-03-2009 07:39 PM

Great design!!! Awsome job!!! Looks comfy too!

-- Chris N, Westford, MA - "If you won't eat something from your fridge that turned green...why would you eat something that started out that way?"

View Mike Gager's profile

Mike Gager

665 posts in 4317 days

#5 posted 09-03-2009 07:55 PM

very nice! i love straight grain douglas fir.

lesb is right about the old growth fir, i have some 2×4s out of my house that was built in the 30s and i kid you not they have 70-80 rings per inch. i wish i had more!

View SimonSKL's profile


185 posts in 4289 days

#6 posted 09-03-2009 08:41 PM

Thanks everyone for the comment.
Ratchet, my Club Cadet is probably 10 yr old and has very little rust. May be a little on the mow deck. I make a habit of using my blower to blow off any clippings after each use to keep them off my garage floor. That helps to remove any wet grass also.

LesB, thanks for the lesson on Douglas fir, I learned something new today. I bought them from a local home center for about $9 each. From among 40 on the shelf, these were the best looking ones that I could find with good straight grain and straight. I am not sure what type of cedar the stores here are selling but they are just too soft for this project.

-- Simon, Danville, IL

View Bob Costello's profile

Bob Costello

68 posts in 4704 days

#7 posted 09-03-2009 10:20 PM

Now, about the cost of transporting from Danville, IL to Atlanta!

I’m in Florida, my kids are in Boston. They are always saying, “Dad, build me a whatever” to which I reply, “How we gonna get it to Boston?”.

-- Bob Costello

View SimonSKL's profile


185 posts in 4289 days

#8 posted 09-03-2009 10:50 PM

I did deliver an entertainment center to my son in Atlanta in the bed of my pickup truck once and in pouring rain half way there. Good thing I had the whole thing wrapped water tight. For this bench, he will have to come home to get it. He has a Toyota SUV. This bench should fit inside. This is one way I can get him to come home more often than he does:). This is his birthday present!

-- Simon, Danville, IL

View huff's profile


2828 posts in 4335 days

#9 posted 09-04-2009 01:18 AM

Great looking storage bench. I’m sure your son is going to love his Birthday present.

-- John @

View Jeison's profile


968 posts in 4157 days

#10 posted 12-14-2009 09:54 PM

Very nice work!

-- - Jei, Rockford IL - When in doubt, spray it with WD-40 and wrap it with duct tape. The details will attend to themselves.

View Tony Bryce Perez's profile

Tony Bryce Perez

14 posts in 1806 days

#11 posted 10-06-2016 01:45 AM

Do you think I can have the plans for this chest for a price? It’s a beautiful piece.

Thank you,

-- Tony Bryce Perez

View SteveWin's profile


1 post in 1590 days

#12 posted 12-03-2016 12:53 AM

Hey guys. I’m new(ish) to woodworking and brand new to this website, so please excuse me if this is a dumb question… Won’t those large panels that make up the top and the sides swell and shrink with changes in the weather? Won’t that destroy your bench? Is there something that I’m not seeing that allows for thickness changes over time across the grain of those panels? The sides look like they’ll all expand horizontally and destroy the frames you built around them. The top looks like it will expand forward, which might tear out some of the screws on the supports beneath the top. How wide can panels be before you have to worry about expansion of the wood? This bench looks great, but unless I’m missing something, it may not last very long. Is it still in one piece? Looks like the original post was a few years ago now.

I’m thinking I’ll make something similar, but with an area on the sides to allow for expansion (kind of like making a cabinet door). For the top, I’d do pretty much the same thing, but the supports wouldn’t be screwed or glued to the top except for a small area at the back, and then I’d run another piece of wood along the front that holds the wood supports vertically, but allows them to slide backwards and forwards some (relative to the top, which would really be doing most of the moving) as the top expands and contracts. I’d probably skip the plywood. Any thoughts?

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