A table saw is the easiest way to cut wood down to the desired dimensions because you can quickly cut and rip (cut lengthwise as opposed to across) the wood. You can use a hand saw or circular saw to do the same thing, it would just take a little longer and a little more planning.
Decking screws will hold up to the elements and also let you take it apart easily to transport or move around. Always drill pilot holes for the screws. A pilot hole is a hole you drill before driving a screw into the wood to guide the screw properly and to prevent splitting.
Outdoor wood decking stain will protect the bench from rain and sun.
Safety tools are a must for any project. No matter how simple the project it is, when using power tools and a paint sprayer, you need to protect yourself. Wood splinters, sawdust, paint spray can lodge in your eyes or be inhaled. Be safe!! Know how to use your tools to avoid accidents.
6 x 60 in.
2 x 58 1/2 in.
6 x 22 1/2 in. ripped in half
3 x 72 in.
2 x 72 in. ripped in half
4 x 22 1/4 in. ripped in half
4 x 21 1/2 in. ripped in half
4 x 35 1/4 in. ripped in half
2 x 58 1/4 in.
2 x 60 in. ripped in half
2 x 61 1/2 in. ripped in half
To start out with, I made a simple sketch to give me an idea of how many boards I would need and their basic positioning.
After determining how many boards I needed and the dimensions, I cut all my boards down. Always use eye and ear protection while using power tools!
The work surface consists of four boards laid against each other edge to edge: three 60 in. boards against each other and one 58 1/2 in. board in the back. I used 6d nails to evenly space the boards apart so that the boards can breath and water doesn’t pool on the surface.
Centre the shorter board in the back so you leave a 3/4 in. space on each end of the board to accommodate the bench legs. This photo, taken further along in the process shows why you’ll want to do that. If you look at the top right hand corner you’ll see that the board is shorter where the bench leg is attached.
The work surface boards are attached together using three equally spaced 22 1/2 in. supports perpendicular to the direction of the surface boards (attached on the underside using three screws for each board).
Tip: For a clean, finished look, use a straightedge (can just one to the boards) to align your screws across the boards so you have a nice straight line of screws instead of a zigzag pattern.
The lower storage surface is assembled in the same fashion as the upper work surface with the exception of the front-most board. On that one, cut out a 3/4 in. by 3 1/2 in/ piece out of the front of the board ends to accommodate the legs. I used my back saw for this.
Now that you have the surfaces built, we can build the side supports and legs.
To make the bench sturdier and more stable, I created “L” shape supports and legs. If I just used single flat boards as legs then the bench would need additional cross supports to prevent swaying, collapsing and folding.
Assemble the back leg with one 72 in. board and one 72 in. board that was ripped in half. The full size board will be the side part of the leg and the ripped one will be the back part to make a “L” shape. So the screws are on the back, butt the full size side board onto the back face board. See pic to see how this looks. Don’t forget the drill pilot holes!
Assemble the front leg the same way using two 35 1/4 in. boards. Again, have the side board butt into the face (front) board.
Join the front and back leg using two 21 1/2 boards that were ripped in half. One at 11 1/4 in. high and then another right at the top. They are placed on the inner part of the “L” and connect the front and back support legs as well as a cleat to support the lower storage shelf and the top work surface. Drive two screws at each end through the cleat boards into the leg supports.
Repeat a mirror image for the other side support.
Now you have four main parts assembled: two side leg supports, lower storage shelf, and the main work surface. You also have the pieces left for the two upper shelves, back support, and four longs pieces for the front edges.
At this point I decided to put on a base coat of stain before assembling the bench.
To prep for painting, I gave the wood a good brush with a steel brush to remove cobwebs, loose paint, and dirt leftover from when it was a fence. Then I gave them a quick rough sanding for a final clean up. I then used a hand broom to brush off any remaining dust. Remember eye and ear (if using a power sander) protection and to wear a dust mask while doing this.
I laid drop clothes on the ground as well as hung some behind and to the side of my spray area.
Tip: Go to Goodwill or a thrift shop to buy old sheets for drop clothes; it’s way cheaper than buying canvas drop clothes from the hardware store and, like cloth or canvas, they’re heavy and stay down instead of blowing in the wind, sticking to you feet, or bunching up like plastic sheeting. They can also be reused for years. We bought these ones about 12 years ago and still use them. Just make sure you fold them in half to maintain thickness and paint doesn’t soak through.
After setting up my spray paint work area, I laid the main work surface onto a couple of saw horses.
This is where I pulled out our brand new paint sprayer from HomeRight. The sprayer they sent was the Finish Max Fine Finish HVLP Sprayer
. I had never used a paint sprayer before so this was a fun new experience for me. Not knowing much about paint spray guns, I did a little research.
HVLP means “High Volume, Low Pressure”. What this means to you is that it pushes more air through the system but a lower pressure allowing you to work closer to your project so more paint is applied to the material rather than off your project or misting to the air. With a tradition spray gun that uses high pressure, less than 30% of your paint actually sticks to your project because of overspray and paint bouncing off. With an HVLP gun, you get upwards of 65% transfer efficiency.
What I was excited about the HomeRight sprayer was that the sprayer can accommodate many different types of paint (according to HomeRight, you can “Use this Finish Max sprayer with paint, chalk paint, clear sealer, polyurethane, primer, stain, or varnish”), that it was extremely easy to set up and clean, and that it’s quicker and has a better finish that brushing.
The Finish Max Fine Finish HVLP sprayer is a small compact unit consisting of an upper motor (that sounds like and is about as loud as a vacuum), spray nozzle with a three-way spray setting for horizontal, vertical, and circular spray, adjustable trigger to regulate width and intensity of spray, and a paint reservoir that holds 0.8L (28oz) of paint. The unit doesn’t have a lot of parts or complicated settings which made setup really easy with minimal fuss.
Included in the box are a viscosity cup, air nozzle, and cleaning brush. The viscosity cup is used to determine if you need to thin your paint before using it in the spray gun. The air nozzle is nifty little attachment to turn your spray gun into an air duster to dusting out keyboards, computers, and other delicate devices. Think of it as a bottle of canned air that never runs out. The cleaning brush is clean to nozzle and other small areas around it.
Before jumping right in and spraying away, the manual suggests to first practice spraying water onto newspaper or cardboard to get a feel for the machine and trigger sensitivity, to test the spray patterns and to feel how much pressure the paint/air come out at (you don’t want the paint gun to blow over your project). I’m glad I did as the trigger feels like it has two action points. When you first lightly engage it, the motor turns on and it starts blowing air, water/paint doesn’t start coming through until you firmly press the trigger. When painting always keep the trigger pressed firmly to ensure the paint comes out even.
After getting a feel for it, I emptied out the water and prepared the stain. Depending on the type of paint, you may need to thin it to prevent choking and clogging. That’s where the viscosity cup comes in. It’s a little cup with a funnel hole at the bottom. You dip the cup in the paint and time how long it takes for the cup to empty. The time varies on the type of paint you are using. The manual says no thinning is required for stain but I was using a thick opaque stain that took more than 60 seconds to flow through the cup. To avoid choking and clogging, I decided to thin it with water until the cup emptied in about 40 seconds. (If you are using an oil-based product, thin as per the manufacturer’s instructions.)
When I had the stain to the right consistency, I filled up the reservoir and got ready to paint away. Safety is always first so I put on eye and ear protection and put on my paint respirator (make sure it’s rated for paint and specifically the type of paint you are using). To also make clean up easier, I put on coveralls and latex gloves.
With my paint gun ready, me all suited up, and my work area all setup, I was ready to paint. When using the spray gun, keep a stiff wrist to keep the spray gun at a consistent angle to the work surface, don’t bend or turn at the wrist. This will help keep the paint application consistent and avoid overspray and paint build-up.
When done the top, I flipped it around to do the underside. Since this was a first coat, I wasn’t too concerned about paint rubbing off. When I finished that side, I stood it on end and leaned it up against a wall to dry. I put the lower storage shelf on the saw horses and painted it the same way. I continued doing the side support legs of the bench and the extra boards.
All in all, it probably took me 40 minutes to paint the whole thing. This includes getting into the nooks and crannies and flipping and moving the boards around in my small painting workspaces. It was so much faster than using a paint brush and a lot less wastage of paint. With a brush, I always found that you have paint soaked up into the brush, and left in the bucket or tray. With the Finish Max spray gun, it took about one and a quarter fills of the reservoir, so about 35oz. of stain for the first coat. I poured what was left into a plastic container to save for the second coat after assembly.
I knew I wasn’t going to able to finish the bench in one session so I cleaned up the sprayer as per the manual. This is usually my least favourite part of projects but the Finish Max cleaned up relatively easily. All you need to do is rinse out the reservoir, fill it with water and run the spray gun to rinse out the insides. afterwards, unplug the spray gun and take apart the nozzle (only consists of 4 parts). In the reservoir section, pull out the pick-up tube and sealing ring and rinse everything in warm soapy water. If you are using an oil-based product, use the appropriate cleaning solution the manufacturer recommends.
Leave all the parts of the sprayer on a rag to dry then reassemble.
When the first coat was dry, it was time to see the fruits of all my work assembled. It helps to have one or two other people here to help hold things balanced while you are attaching things but you can do it yourself.
Start by setting the lower storage shelf on the on the lower cleats of the legs and screw it down on each side.
Then set the upper work surface on the upper cleats and screw it down on each side.
The main part of bench is now assembled. To put up the upper storage shelves cut four boards down to size and used the two longer ones to prop up the first upper shelf. I screwed them in from the back. Then I took the shorter two and then also screwed them from the back. I then took four smaller cleats to support the shelves.
The last step is to attach the back support and the front and side edges. The back support is the last 72 in. board centred in the back as attached at each touch point. The front edges are the two 60 in. boards ripped in half for the upper shelves and the two 61 1/2 in. boards ripped in half for the front of the work surface and the lower storage shelf. The side edges are four 22 1/2 in. boards ripped in half attached at each side of the work surface and lower storage shelf. As always, pilot holes!
With the bench now assembled, the final coat of stain can be applied using the HomeRight Finish Max. If you’d like to give your piece a more weathered look you can rough up the bench a bit with some sandpaper once your paint has dried.
The potting bench is now complete. Future modifications that I want to do with it are a hinged work surface with a covered storage compartment underneath for tools and a knee high side storage shelf to put bags of soil on so we can scoop out soil at a comfortable height. But for now, we have a nice simple, sturdy bench for our garden and DIY projects.
Tell me… Have you ever taken on a DIY project like this? Where do you do your planting? Do you have a potting table? I hope that you liked this DIY Dads post! Let me know what you would like to see me build next!
Disclosure: Thank you to HomeRight for working with us on this post. As with every post on Hello Creative Family, all thoughts and opinions are 100% our own.