DIY Nelson Bench for Our Front Entrance

I made a DIY Nelson Bench for Our Front Entrance

Entrance bench completed and in place

My girlfriend and I recently moved into a new apartment and we wanted a bench near the front entrance. Having seen images of Nelson Benches online, I decided to take a swing at it. I was somewhat negligent in taking progress shots, but I followed the guide outlined here:

The platform is made of maple 1 x 2 slats, and the base is a trapezoid made using 1 x 3 maple. Material cost for this project was about $200 – 250 CAD (mostly lumber). I also had to purchase a dado blade for the table saw.

Apartment dwelling makes wood working tough, luckily my parents live in the same city and were happy to let me use their garage to complete this project.

Skipping right to the cutting part

No pictures of the very beginning, but I cut 4 pieces of 1 x 2 to 24" length (larger than the final depth of the bench). These will be the end pieces and the middle support of the bench (the centre support is twice as wide as the ends, two pieces were glued together for the centre support). I used the overhang on the ends to clamp the pieces together and ran them across the table saw with the dado blade installed. Before cutting the bench pieces, I made multiple cuts using scrap pieces in order to ensure the blade height was set to cut the dadoes at exactly half the thickness of the lumber. 12 dadoes were cut in the cross pieces in order to fit 12 slats for the bench top. The actual size of the 1 x 2 is 0.75 x 1.5 after finishing, so the dadoes were cut at 0.75" width with 0.75" spacing in between cuts.

Make sure everything on your saw is square! I was too eager to start and didn't realise the guide on the saw was a little out of square. It wasn't so bad that I noticed immediately, but when I tried some dry fitting of the pieces, I noticed the dadoes in the support pieces were at a slight angle. Luckily I only had to buy one 8' piece of maple to redo the support pieces.

Bench slats with dadoes cut

Because the centre support is twice the width of the side supports, two passes over the blade were required (neither the dado set purchased nor my saw would allow for a sufficiently wide cut in a single pass). Once the middle dadoes were cut, I marked the location of the end dadoes (I aimed for a finished length of 48"). The end dadoes were cut with extra material overhanging. This was done so that after gluing, a flush-cut router bit could be used around the entire bench top to ensure a good fit.
After gluing and cleaning up

Sorry, no pictures of the glue up, but the dado cuts make sure that everything aligns nicely. When clamping I used scrap lumber in order to prevent damaging the bench surface and to provide more even clamping force.

Here, the glue is dry and I've used a flush-cut router in order to trim the overhang on the maple slats.

End detail

It's not perfect, but sometimes good is good enough.

I really like the contrast of the end grain and long grain visible at either end.

I sanded all surfaces (100, 180, 320 grit) in order to prepare for finishing.

Simple trapezoid legs

The bench legs are made using 1 x 3 maple and are narrower at the bottom compared to the top. Because the inside angle at the top joint is less than 90 degrees, a mitre saw capable of cutting an angle larger than 45 is required to mitre the joints. I didn't have a saw that could do that and I didn't feel like building a jig to accomplish this using my saw, so I decided against mitre joints.

The exact dimensions here were made up on the fly. The top piece of the legs was cut 1/2" shorter than the width of the bench and I cut the angle at approximately 8 degrees. I aimed for the leg height to be approximately 14" (if I remember correct, I'll measure later), then cut the bottom piece to fit.

Once cut, the legs were secured with glue and screws. counter sunk pilot holes were drilled for the screws through the top and bottom leg pieces.

As with the bench top, the legs were sanded with 100, 180, and 320 grit paper.

Leg placement

I arbitrarily chose a leg placement so that approximately 2/3 of the bench length lied between the legs. I used a carpenter's square the mark the leg locations then clamped them in place to drill pilot holes for mounting the bench top to the legs. I used 5 screws in each leg to attach them to the bench top.
Pilot holes in bench top

The screw holes are staggered in order to provide more rigidity. Given that there is no cross bracing on the legs, I'm a little concerned about torsional rigidity, but the bench won't be used too roughly (I hope).
Pilot holes in the legs, getting ready to stain

Here the legs are prepped to stain. I used mis-cut support pieces as support during the staining phase.
Wood conditioner

I don't have much experience with staining, so when I read to use a pre-stain conditioner, I did as told.
Satin black stain

This is the stain used for the legs. I applied the stain in 3 coats with at least 8 hours drying time between coats. Also, as per instructions on the stain, I roughed-up the pieces lightly with steel wool between coats.
Clear coat

The bench top was unstained but I did apply the pictured clear coat in order to protect the lumber. I also applied the clear coat to the legs once the staining was completed.
Staining and spraying

Not my favourite part of the project, but necessary nonetheless. I applied the stain to the legs with a foam brush.
Felt feet installed

Just some adhesive felt feet to protect the flooring under the bench

The legs were attached using the already drilled pilot holes and the bench was ready to go!
In place at our apartment

The bench is actually rather comfortable to sit on and I'm very happy with the result!
In place at our apartment

Front shot
In place at our apartment

Side shot
Source : root_beers from Reddit