3 Easy-to-Build Outdoor Benches

Build one or more of these easy-to-build, attractive outdoor benches, from mail-order plans: a log and plank bench, the Leopold bench and the Jordan Pond bench and table.

Garden Bench With Logs

Two sturdy logs and a rough-cut plank make a satisfying garden bench.

Photo by Len Churchill

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When's the last time you sat quietly in the outdoors? Do you even have a place where you can sit in your garden or woodland? Every property owner should have at least one bench to enhance a favorite spot. Our trio of build-it-yourself bench designs lets you choose the quick, inexpensive and easy Plank Seat; the Leopold Bench with its clever backrest design; or the solid, classic look of the Jordan Pond Bench and Table. And, we have detailed plans and materials lists available to help those of you who are not experienced woodworkers.

The Plank Seat

A couple of log sections and a sturdy board are all you really need to make the Plank Seat for a quiet spot by a garden, lakeshore or campfire ring. Although a few tools are handy for building this bench, they're not essential. If you don't have any short logs handy, ask a friend with a chain saw to cut a couple of 12- to 14-inch-long stumps off a log for the two uprights you'll need. A simple plank across the top does the rest. A rough-sawn 2-by-12 is terrific here, but a piece of milled, construction-grade lumber works, too. Whatever you choose, the bench will look best if you extend the seating plank beyond the uprights by 6 to 8 inches.

If you're a traditionalist, fasten the plank to the stumps with finch hardwood dowels driven into holes bored into the stumps. Hot-dipped galvanized spikes or 4-inch-long wood screws are a faster, though more modern, alternative.

Place the stumps on a well-drained spot so they last longer, and peel the bark as it loosens over time. The large, flat seating plank is ideal for visitors to carve their initials in as a reminder of their time at your place. Think of it as a great, big outdoor guest book.

Leopold Bench

Great writers give the world more than words; they offer a new way of seeing, and that's the enduring legacy of American naturalist Aldo Leopold. Author of the 1949 environmental classic A Sand County Almanac and co-founder of The Wilderness Society, Leopold spent a great deal of time thinking about our place in the natural world. He promoted conservation of natural resources and an ethical relationship between people and the land. His simple, sturdy bench design reflects these ideals.

Leopold designed the bench while visiting the run-down farm he purchased along the Wisconsin River in central Wisconsin. Leopold, his wife, Estella, and their five children renovated the only structure on the property — a chicken coop — into a small cabin for weekend retreats. "The Shack," as the structure is now called, is the only chicken coop on the National Register of Historic Places.

The bench you see here, The Shack and Leopold's writings are all reflections of his commitment to living lightly on the land. A handsaw, drill, a few bolts and some screws are all you need to build your own Leopold Bench.

You could use cedar or some other rot-resistant wood. Even inexpensive spruce or pine will last 10 years or more outdoors, especially if you put the bench under cover during the off-season. Screw replaceable wooden foot pads to the bottom of each leg to extend your bench's life even longer.

Jordan Pond Bench & Table

If you've ever visited Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island along the coast of Maine, chances are you've stopped in at the Jordan Pond House restaurant. For almost a hundred years, park visitors have enjoyed afternoon tea and piping hot popovers served on the restaurant's lawn overlooking the pond and the grand scenery of Acadia.

Our third design — a bench and matching table — was inspired by the sturdy, classic outdoor furniture used at the Jordan Pond House.

The Jordan Pond Bench and Table are easy to make. Standard 5/4-by-6-inch decking lumber, weatherproof glue and corrosion-resistant screws make this design strong and long-lasting. Order plans for the Jordan Pond bench and table.

Complete Plans Available

Those of you with woodworking experience will be able to build these benches using the illustrations as a guide. For those of you needing more detailed plans, we have construction drawings, instructions and materials lists available.

Contributing Editor Steve Maxwell has been helping people renovate, build and maintain their homes for more than two decades. “Canada’s Handiest Man” is an award-winning home improvement authority and woodworking expert. Contact him by visiting his website and the blog, Maxwell’s House. You also can follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook and find him on . 

6/6/2015 11:53:46 PM

nice idea.I will try it at my backyard to sit in sun in winter season. http://naturalwaysofhealing.blogspot.com/

5/13/2013 10:36:36 AM


ann pulley
3/6/2013 11:28:26 PM

This story says it is how to make THREE benches, but there is a picture of only ONE bench. Part two talks of a shack and a bench different somehow from the first... Why would I buy plans for something I cannot SEE ?

mary-sue nichols
3/6/2013 4:34:43 PM

I don't see the other two benches in the image gallery. I just get a whole bunch of the same picture (of the first bench) ???

kim _3
10/13/2008 4:43:38 PM

any ideas how to make a kitchen bench. Also how to make a healing pack...preferably one that you can use even if you don't heat it up

heidi hunt_2
9/11/2008 8:32:35 AM

The other two benches are in the Image Gallery at the top of the article.

9/11/2008 8:31:26 AM

Hey Steve, although the pictures don't show up in the article, if you click on the plan links you can see them in a small picture.

9/11/2008 8:30:54 AM

I'd also like to see pics of the other two benches.

steve thyng
9/10/2008 11:36:06 PM

uh, . . . I see the first bench . . . what happened to the other two?