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How to Build a Mission-Style Bench

A chair inspired this versatile bench that can be used in a variety of furniture arrangements in any room. Follow these step-by-step instructions.


oak lumber
miter saw
measuring tape
wood glue
metal T-square
nail gun
220-grit sandpaper
tack cloth (or rags)
3/4" plywood
spray adhesive
2" foam
staple gun


1. Start with the legs, which are made out of four pieces of 2-1/2-inch square oak cut to 16 inches using a miter saw. Attach the four legs to a piece of 3/4-inch plywood measuring 18x54. After drilling pilot holes, glue and screw the four pieces to the bottom of the plywood, lining them up in the corners two inches in from the end and side. Set this basic bench aside and start on the side pieces.

Figure A

2. To make the support for the stiles along the sides, collect three 1x2s at least 18 inches long and rip one of them down to one inch. Glue the three pieces together, sandwiching the narrower piece between the other two to create a trough or groove. Cut it into two nine-inch pieces (figure A).

3. Pocket-screw the nine-inch pieces between the legs on each end of the bench, two inches up from the bottom with the groove facing up. To continue this line on the front and back of the bench, pocket-screw two 1x2s that are 45 inches long between the legs at the same two inches up from the floor.
4. For the decorative frame around the top of the legs, cut two 1x4s to 45 inches for the front and back and two at nine inches. Shape the long front and back pieces with a soft curve at the bottom, starting two inches in from each end. The curve can be made by bending a metal T-square in the appropriate spots, and then tracing along the curve. Cut this out using a jigsaw, and then glue and nail all the pieces between the legs.

Figure B

5. To get the stile detail along the sides, place five 1x1 slats inside the groove of the lower piece created earlier. Get the positioning just right, and then nail them into the back of the upper decorative frame (figure B). To fill in the rest of the groove, cut appropriate-sized pieces of 1x2 ripped to 1/2 inch. Glue these in place to fill them in nicely.

6. Fill the nails holes with spackling compound and let dry. Sand the piece until smooth and remove the dust with a tack cloth or damp rag. Stain as desired and apply a few coats of polyurethane for protection. Let dry.
7. Cut a bench seat to 18x54 out of 3/4-inch plywood. Use spray adhesive to mount a piece of two-inch foam to the top, and then neatly staple fabric over it. Attach the top to the bench by driving several screws up through the bottom of the bench seat.

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