Bench seat prototype

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Project by Chuck posted 10-19-2010 02:57 PM 2278 views 1 time favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This is a prototype for a bench that I made out of red oak with a cedar stretcher. It is constructed with sliding dovetails.

I was going to make the bench out of red oak, but when I had milled the lumber, I decided I didn’t really like the look of the red oak. But since I already had the lumber milled, I decided to make it as a prototype anyway. The sliding dovetails are a little loose… a good reason to make a prototype – I know where to focus on the next bench.

I’m looking for some feedback on the design/construction. I think the next bench will have a lighter top, possibly birch. It will be a little bigger (longer/wider). Some initial thoughts are to make the legs and stretcher both out of darker lumber, I have sapele sitting around (I would prefer to not purchase any lumber for this). Other thoughs are to make the legs out of thicker stock. They were cut from a 4/4 piece of red oak. I was thinking of milling the legs to maybe 1 1/2” thick and the stretcher to match. I am planning on moving the legs in from the edge a little bit, so I can cut a bigger curve on the bottom corner of the stretcher.

-- Chuck, Preston CT,

11 comments so far

View swirt's profile


5856 posts in 3940 days

#1 posted 10-19-2010 03:19 PM

Nice looking prototype. If you want feedback though for design and construction you may want to post a few more photos (preferably with some brighter lights on) so that construction details are more visible.

A long arch in the stretcher would make it appear a little lighter

-- Galootish log blog,

View Chuck's profile


27 posts in 4212 days

#2 posted 10-19-2010 03:37 PM

Good idea. I’ll get better pictures tonight when I get home. I always forget to take the camera to the workshop… the iPhone doesn’t take the best pictures (no flash).

I like the idea of an arch in the stretcher. I had thought it looked a little plain as it is.

-- Chuck, Preston CT,

View MedicKen's profile


1615 posts in 4431 days

#3 posted 10-19-2010 04:18 PM

I like the overall design, looks comfy. I also like your idea of making the base a little bigger. Have you considered flaring the legs out a little? Not much, something like 5-7 degrees to make it a little more stable. It appears a little “tippy” to me, could just be the pics.

-- My job is to give my kids things to discuss with their [email protected]

View Jonathan's profile


2609 posts in 4019 days

#4 posted 10-19-2010 04:20 PM

Is the curve on the stretcher going to match the curve on the legs? That would help bring a cohesive look to the piece.

Since your one picture is a quartering picture and you didn’t list dimensions, I’m not sure how big this piece is, but I would caution you on insetting the legs too much farther; the farther in you place the legs, the less stable and tippy the piece will become near the ends. Just a word of caution, that’s all.

A couple other minor details:
-remember to chamfer the feet to prevent chipout,
-maybe make the stretcher smaller/shorter? From this picture, it seems a little out of proportion to my eye,
-if you do shrink the stretcher, maybe use thicker stock on top, then bevel or chamfer the bottom edge at a 30-degree angle or so.

You could also make the various parts out of different species of wood to lend some additional interest, giving you 3-species of wood: 1-for the top, 1-for the stretcher, and 1-for the legs.

I’d agree that more and brighter pictures from various angles will also be helpful in garnering suggestions on the piece.

I’m curious to see how the final results turn out.

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

View a1Jim's profile


118153 posts in 4546 days

#5 posted 10-19-2010 07:14 PM

It has a real modern shaker look


View jockmike2's profile


10635 posts in 5215 days

#6 posted 10-19-2010 10:19 PM

I like the look. Maybe a lighter top would look better. What do I know?

-- (You just have to please the man in the Mirror) Mike from Michigan -

View Chip's profile


1904 posts in 5061 days

#7 posted 10-20-2010 11:50 AM

Great piece and some very good suggestions from the other LJ’s. If you’d like to lighten the look a bit further still, perhaps beveling the underside edge of the top a bit too. I see this suggestion for table tops all the time and maybe it would work here also. Just a thought. Regardless, this looks great and look forward to seeing what you decide on…

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

View Chuck's profile


27 posts in 4212 days

#8 posted 10-20-2010 02:36 PM

I did upload a couple more pictures. I took them this morning (in a rush) and got the back view (where the sliding dovetail comes out).

Thanks for all the suggestions. I like the idea of adding a shallow curve to the stretcher. I have already made the top of the final bench. It is a little deeper (maybe 1 inch deeper) and 50% longer than the prototype. I also decided to add a simple inlay of a leaf in one corner (it is my first time trying an inlay – I’ll put up pictures on when I get that bench completed.

I agree that the stretcher is a little big (out of proportion), making it a little narrower and adding an arch/curve will make it look lighter. I think I may also take the idea of flaring the legs, that could make it more stable and add more visual interest. I hadn’t thought about beveling the underside of the top, but the more I think about it, the more I like the idea.

I made the top out of birch – it should be a lighter color than the oak. I’ll use a darker wood for the legs/stretcher to add more contrast. Another thought, maybe make the legs out of a darker wood (sapele) and the stretcher out of a even lighter wood (maybe maple). I am trying to work with the lumber I already have sitting around the barn so that limits what I can use… I think I have oak (red and white), sapele, beech, birch (I’ve already done the top in that), maple and cedar, plus random pieces that I don’t really know what it is…

Also, based on the comments, I think a thicker top would look better, but I have already milled and put in the inlay on the next top… so I’m stuck with that one….. maybe I need a third bench somewhere… but that will have to wait until after Christmas (need to start working on Christmas gifts after this project is done).

-- Chuck, Preston CT,

View Bradford's profile


1434 posts in 4791 days

#9 posted 10-20-2010 04:27 PM

Chuck, the above comments are right on track. However, I would add a skirt, flush with the top, to give a beefier look, instead of making a heavier top. I would want the heavier wood on the legs to keep from tipping, (Flared legs, possibly ) The prototype is a good build, but needs a dovetail plug at the end to cap off the exposed cut.
I’m looking forward to the final bench pics.

-- so much wood, so little time. Bradford. Wood-a-holics unanimous president

View Chuck's profile


27 posts in 4212 days

#10 posted 10-21-2010 03:22 AM

I know I need a dovetail plug…. but it is the back of the bench – so I was just going to be sloppy and let it be – the bench will be decoration for the back porch until I make something better. It is a stopped dovetail, so it isn’t visible from the front. That is what I get taking pictures in the morning before I had my coffee…. A skirt around the top is an interesting idea. I hadn’t thought of that. It would also hide the dovetails as well.

-- Chuck, Preston CT,

View Jonathan's profile


2609 posts in 4019 days

#11 posted 10-21-2010 05:25 PM


Might want to check out a stepstool project that was just posted for a little bit different idea on the legs:

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

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