It's Not What You Use, But How You Use It

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Project by Jonathan posted 09-16-2010 03:15 PM 8674 views 19 times favorited 21 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This bench was constructed using only pockethole joinery. I thought I’d use a fairly basic joinery technique here that quite a few either have access to, or can easily learn to use. Sometimes it’s not what you use, but how you use it! With this project, I tried to take something simple-pockethole joinery- and not only dress it up, but use it as a main design element. You don’t necessarily have to use a complicated or elaborate joint to dress up a piece.

This is the 5-Board Bench that I built for and submitted to the Charles Neil 5-Board Bench Contest. Thanks to Charles Neil, Sherri, and everyone else involved for putting this contest together. It was an enjoyable experience, from start, to finish. A nice job on everyone’s part that entered the contest.

I knew I wanted to design and build something that strayed from the traditional 5-Board Bench style, originally toying with the idea of building it out of 5-different species of wood. After thinking it through though, I decided to stick with 3-species of wood, as I thought that 5-species would be a bit too busy.

This 5-Board Bench is constructed from 4/4-walnut, 4/4-curly maple, and 4/4-cherry, including the corresponding species for the pocket hole plugs, and was joined together using nothing but pocket hole joinery. I didn’t use any glue. I decided to go this route and keep the lines simple, yet use some prettier woods to dress the basic design up. I wanted to show that a person with nothing but a Kreg pockethole jig, or a similar pockethole jig, could construct this bench. You can build this bench with nothing but a pocket hole jig and a drill, pockethole drill bit, pockethole screws, and pockethole plugs. This could obviously be made out of all one species of wood instead of combining them as I did. I carried over the same 3-species of wood into the pockethole plugs, but intentionally used contrasting plugs as a design element to add a bit of visual interest.

I joined the pieces in sections. First, I joined the legs, which are constructed of curly maple on the outside, with a walnut interior board. I used cherry plugs to fill the pocketholes. Next, I joined the top together, changing the sequence of the boards to alternate with the legs so that the top is two pieces of walnut and one piece of curly maple. The top has a piece of curly maple running down the middle, sandwiched by 2-pieces of walnut, and the pocketholes were again filled with cherry plugs. The aprons are a single piece of cherry, only this time, I used both maple and walnut plugs to fill the pocketholes in an alternating fashion.

I first made the frame for the top to sit on by joining the aprons to the legs on the interior side. There are 2-pocket hole screws used on each side of both aprons, for a total of 8-pocket hole screws holding the frame together that are out of sight. After the frame was complete, I joined the top to the aprons with the 5-pocket hole screws on each apron that are visible on the outside of the bench, then joined the legs to the top with 4-pocket hole screws per leg that are out of sight on the inside of the legs. So the top is held on to the frame by a total of 18-pocket hole screws. When it was all said and done, I had drilled 58-pocket holes, used 58-screws, and 42-pocket hole plugs. I did not fill the pocket holes that are out of sight, just in case anything needs to be tightened up with a bit with use.

I did freehand a very minor 45-degree chamfer on the bottom of each leg with the router to prevent any chipping issues at the edges.

The bench was finished using Watco Danish Oil in the Natural tone. I also wetsanded it a bit to fill in a few minor voids around the pocket hole plugs. This bench received 3-5-coats Renaissance Wax after the danish oil thoroughly cured for several weeks.

This bench is a housewarming gift for my brother and his fiance, as they are buying their first house.

Quick details and dimensions of the piece are:
Wood Species: Walnut, Curly/Tiger Maple, Cherry
Joinery Method: Pockethole screws, dressed with pockethole plugs of the same species above (no glue used for joinery, just used glue to secure the pockethole plugs)
Tools Used: Tablesaw, drum sander, random orbital sander, Kreg Pockethole Jig, drill, router, flushcut saw, clamps to hold pieces secure while screwing together
Finish: Watco Danish Oil (allowed to cure for several weeks), followed by 5-coats of Renaissance Wax on the top of the bench, and 3-coats of Renaissance Wax everywhere else
Overall Length: 36” on top
Depth: 15” on top
Height: 18-1/8”
Leg Width: 12-3/4” (leaving a 1-1/8” overhang on the front and back)
Leg Spacing: 32” (leaving a 2” overhang on the left and right side)

The pictures are arranged to sweep around the piece in a logical order, starting at the left, front side and gradually sweeping counterclockwise, over to the right side of the bench.

-- Jonathan, Denver, CO "Constructive criticism is welcome and valued as it gives me new perspectives and helps me to advance as a woodworker."

21 comments so far

View PurpLev's profile


8652 posts in 4764 days

#1 posted 09-16-2010 03:28 PM

beautiful. the plugs definitely give it a nicer tone – I don’t think it would have looked as nice with just glued panels.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 4788 days

#2 posted 09-16-2010 03:38 PM

Beautiful bench.

View BigTiny's profile


1716 posts in 4004 days

#3 posted 09-16-2010 03:45 PM

Beautiful job Jonathon! This raises the humble bench to the level of fine furniture.

-- The nicer the nice, the higher the price!

View BritBoxmaker's profile


4611 posts in 4152 days

#4 posted 09-16-2010 04:20 PM

Handsome bench with interesting details that add to the overall appearence. Nice to see alternative fixing methods used as well.

-- Martyn -- Boxologist, Pattern Juggler and Candyman of the visually challenging.

View dorran's profile


140 posts in 4350 days

#5 posted 09-16-2010 04:39 PM

Very nice contrasts in color.

-- Life is about choices. You can spend a lot of money on furniture and have really nice furniture; Or you can spend a lot on tools and have even more expensive, crappy furniture. I made my choice.

View dub560's profile


628 posts in 4029 days

#6 posted 09-16-2010 05:52 PM

very nice work jonathan

-- Life is enjoyable especially when you borrow from people

View whitedog's profile


652 posts in 4573 days

#7 posted 09-16-2010 06:35 PM

very nice… I don’t think you mentioned that yours happens to be the winner. Great Job

-- Paul , Calfornia

View reggiek's profile


2240 posts in 4386 days

#8 posted 09-16-2010 06:39 PM

Beautiful execution…love the alternating plugs….they are more like inlays then plugs….great job…and congratulations on your win.

-- Woodworking.....My small slice of heaven!

View DaddyZ's profile


2475 posts in 4156 days

#9 posted 09-16-2010 10:46 PM

Nice Design !!!

-- Pat - Worker of Wood, Collector of Tools, Father of one

View Jonathan's profile


2609 posts in 4166 days

#10 posted 09-17-2010 12:17 AM

Thank you everyone.

Paul, I didn’t mention the fact that I won. I’m not one that likes to brag.

I will say that this was the first woodworking competition of any sort that I have entered, unless you count racing pinewood derby cars, regattas, and rockets when I was in Cub Scouts.

I hope you all got a chance to check out the other benches on Charles’ site.

-- Jonathan, Denver, CO "Constructive criticism is welcome and valued as it gives me new perspectives and helps me to advance as a woodworker."

View jack1's profile


2163 posts in 5143 days

#11 posted 09-17-2010 02:26 AM

Ya gotta love pocket screws! Nice bench, great design.

-- jack -- ...measure once, curse twice!

View Chip's profile


1904 posts in 5208 days

#12 posted 09-17-2010 06:12 AM

Like this a lot Jonathan. Bold and different. And great craftsmanship. Congrats on the contest too.

-- Better to say nothing and be thought the fool... then to speak and erase all doubt!

View mikega's profile


81 posts in 4983 days

#13 posted 09-17-2010 09:49 PM

Very nice job. The finish on the bench look excellent. Congratulations on your win!!

-- Mike

View Jonathan's profile


2609 posts in 4166 days

#14 posted 12-28-2010 08:07 PM

Just a quick update here.

My wife and I gave this to my brother and his fiancé as a Christmas and future housewarming gift.

I wasn’t sure if they were going to like it or not. Guess my fear was unjustied, as they were blown away. Now we’ll get to see it every time we go to visit them, which will be nice because my wife also really liked this piece.

-- Jonathan, Denver, CO "Constructive criticism is welcome and valued as it gives me new perspectives and helps me to advance as a woodworker."

View NBeener's profile


4816 posts in 4289 days

#15 posted 12-28-2010 08:35 PM

I missed this, the first time around.

Absolutely beautiful piece.

I’m sure your brother and SIL-to-be are thrilled to have it in their house !

Well done !

-- -- Neil

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