We made a simple bench design and power carved an AWESOME texture into it! Of course, if you don't have the power carving attachments you can totally follow this for an easy DIY bench tutorial (but the power carving is the best part!). We have free 3D plans and a cut list available here: evanandkatelyn.com/project-plans
Here are the tools and materials we used:
- Arbortech TURBO Plane
- DIY Hairpin Legs (16 inch)
- Angle grinder
- Drill (and bits)
- Power screwdriver (and bit set)
- Random orbit sander
- Belt sander
- Handheld belt sander
- Table saw
- Miter saw
- Kreg jig
- Wood glue
- Wood glue brush
- Wood putty
Step 1: Cut Top and Long Sides
This bench is made like a box without a bottom: 4 sides, and a top. Our lumber wasn't perfectly flat, so before doing anything we ran it all through our benchtop planer. This step may not be necessary if your lumber is already good to go.
The next thing we did was cut the top piece to length (we opted for about 48" but whatever you choose is up to you). We cut it to length on the miter saw.
All of our cuts from here on out were not done based on a measurement, but based on whatever previous pieces we had already cut. So to cut the 2 long side pieces, we didn't measure them, we just use the board we cut for the top to mark how long to make them. We cut these to length on the miter saw as well.
Then we ripped the side pieces on our table saw so that they were a few inches wide. This will determine how thick your bench looks, and again, it's up to you.
Step 2: Attach Side Pieces
Before we measure and cut the end caps, we wanted to join the side pieces to the top piece. The reason is because our wood was a little warpy, and we wanted to fix it into place by joining it so that we could get a more accurate measurement for our end pieces later. First, because our wood (pecan) had some crazy color striations going on, we lined up the side pieces under the top piece to decide what would go where.
Then we marked everywhere to drill pocket holes into the insides of the side pieces and drilled all the pocket holes using our Kreg jig.
We attached our side pieces to the underside of the top piece with glue, and we screwed through the pocket holes. The glue is where most of the strength comes from, but the pocket holes allowed us to make sure everything was staying in place and didn't shift. We also pulled out the big clamps for this, our Bessey clamps, and used those to keep everything aligned while we screwed through the pocket holes.
Step 3: Cut and Attach End Pieces
Once the side pieces were secure, we measured the openings left for our end caps and cut the end caps to size on our miter saw. They fit in quite snuggly!
We attached them using the same method as the side pieces: We drilled out pocket holes, applied a layer of glue, and attached them to the underside of the bench using the pocket holes while securing with clamps. The main difference is we also did some sideways pocket holes, like you'll see in the photo. This allowed us to attach the end caps to the side pieces.
Step 4: Sand and Putty
Next we sanded, sanded, and sanded a little bit more. We started with a low grit belt sander because (like we mentioned before) our wood was a little warpy and so there were some spots where we had to knock off quite a bit of material to get it all flush. Belt sanders will generally take off more material, and the low grit obviously helps too.
Next we used the random orbit sander with higher grit. This gave our flat surfaces a nice smooth finish. We skipped the top of the bench because we knew we'd be power carving it down, but if you're not adding the carved texture you can go ahead and sand the bench top too.
Next we used a sanding block to hand sand the corners just enough to take the edge off so they weren't sharp.
We added a little wood putty to any areas that had gaps, and hand sanded down those areas as well.
Step 5: Add Legs
For legs, we wanted to keep it really simple. We wanted something modern and angular to balance the organic texture we'd be adding, so we went with hairpin legs. They were easy to attach: we marked where the attachment holes were on the underside of the bench, drilled pilot holes in the spots we marked, and then screwed the legs to the bench.
Also at this point, you have a perfectly acceptable bench and can move onto the finishing step if you don't have the TURBO Plane to power carve it.
Step 6: Power Carving!
Here comes our favorite part! The power carving!! If this is your first time power carving, we definitely recommend practicing on some scrap wood first to get a feel for how the tool handles. We used the Arbortech TURBO Plane which attaches to a grinder, and we'll list our tips for achieving this texture below:
- Carve so that the wheel is cutting with the grain, not against the grain. In the video we show how it looks cutting with vs against, so you'll definitely know if you're doing it correctly or not. Against the grain leads to a lot of tearout, whereas with the grain ended up really smooth.
- Have a light hand. The tool is really powerful and you don't want to cut away too much material if you're going for this texture. We didn't use much downward force, just lightly pulled the tool along the wood's surface, pulling it towards us so it created more of a pocket and less of a sliver of cut area.
- Place your cuts randomly so that you don't accidentally form a visible pattern. We think the texture looks best when it's random. Again, this is probably easier to see how we did it in the video.
- Don't forget to cut all the way to the edges so that the texture bleeds off the top.
Step 7: Finishing
We gave our newly power carved texture a light sanding by hand (surprisingly, it didn't take much at all!). Then we finished the wood with shellac. We chose shellac because we've used it before and it was really forgiving. It's not the very most durable of finishes, but it's so easy. With this texture, we wanted easy! In the video we used bristled brushes because it's all we had on hand, but we recommend applying it with foam brushes. Brush on thin even coats.
Tip: you can shine a flashlight at a steep angle against the surface your finishing to better see what spots are too thick or thin (we demonstrate it in the video).
Shellac raises the grain, so we came back and lightly sanded it down by hand using a combo of 320 and 600 grit sandpaper. The first round of sanding required a little more than usual - we aren't sure if it was the texture or the pecan wood we were using. Then we applied a second coat of shellac, and when it dried repeated the light sanding process.
Step 8: Done!
And that's it! The bench turned out beautiful and the texture is so satisfying to touch haha. We really love the results of this project.
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