When I shared a couple of weeks ago that we bought thirty common boards for our winter organization project, what did you guess we were making?
If you guessed a bench, you were right!
Our mudroom is a disaster of boots, shoes, backpacks, coats, gloves, hats and well, you get the point…
Walking in there, we can’t help but feel overwhelmed – the ‘stuff’ just doesn’t have a place to go. Shoes, coats and bags get shoved into the closet only to pour back out. Or, it all just gets left all over the floor (mostly that). None of us can quickly find what we need before to get out the door.
It is long past time for an organization solution.
The long term project will be a bench and lockers. But step one is the bench.
I love the look of a butcher block bench but its so expensive – especially 8 feet of it, so we can do 5 cubbies beneath and 5 lockers above.
I am grateful my adventurous husband agreed to help me make our own bench using common boards. It won’t be as flawless of butcher block, but I
was confident hoped it would be lovely. In full disclosure, I desperately need his help (aka. tell me what to do) because although eager to learn, I’m just not experienced or savvy in this area.
The first post detailed the supplies used, purchased and borrowed, so today I’ll just share a bit of the process and where we are so far.
First, we picked the 27 best of those 30 common boards – pretty much every board was warped, had a big chip out of it, or had big knots. It’s good we want a perfectly imperfect bench– this will have character whether we like it or not.
We lined the boards up and arranged them so the wood grain on each board is oppasite the next. My husband trimmed each 9 foot common board to 8 feet.
Wood glue was used to secure the boards together – half the first night, then the rest the second. We used 4 clamps to squeeze them together for 24 hours. When the clamps are secured, lots of glue dripped out on the plastic table cloth – I’m glad we protected the table or it would have been a mess!
With the boards glued, it was even more evident just how not-straight common boards are. Even with effort to keep them lined up while gluing. Smoothing would take forever with a belt sander. What we really wanted was access to a large wood planer but we didn’t know anyone with the equipment. So, my husband suggested we try hand planing.
Hand planing is kind of fun, although my husband may not agree (he admittedly did more than me). It isn’t exactly a quick process, and requires persistence and elbow grease. We took turns – when one got tired the other took over. It took a couple of evenings after the kids went to bed to get it fairly even. We (read: my husband, with me on kid duty) sanded the boards using a belt sander. The change was amazing – honestly, the before and after pictures don’t do it justice.
Wood was sanded one last time using a palm-sander before using a pre-stain wood conditioner. MinWax Espresso stain was applied using a stain pad. In the past I used a brush, but would consider using a stain pad again – less mess and even coverage. We allowed the stain to sit 1o minutes before wiping it off. We did reapply one time to try to darken the color but it didn’t add much. We used grubby old t-shirts to wipe the stain off and let it dry overnight before sealing it.
This bench is going to be used in the mudroom. We live in Minnesota – winter gear will be wet and snowy when it gets hung up, especially by the kids. We want this wood bench to be long-lasting and not be damaged by water. That is why we used Helmsman Spar Urethane to seal it – it is for indoor/outdoor use and is tough enough to endure heavy traffic and moisture.
Spar Urethane requires two coats, with a light sanding between coats. Surprisingly, the odor was less intense than expected. When I used the spray-version of Spar Urethane to seal the DIY Outdoor Vertical Stencil-Painted ‘Believe’ and ‘Grateful’ Sign, the aerosol spar urethane odor was much stronger. I think I may only use the brush-on version going forward.
Here is the top of the bench, stained and sealed with a satin finish.
Isn’t she pretty?
This project is already so gratifying, even though it took quite a bit of elbow grease. And it was even better to make it with my husband – a gift to work on something together. It will be sweet knowing we made something for our family will actually use and enjoy for years to come.
Next we’ll build cubbies underneath for shoes and boots before adding lockers for backpacks and coats.