Archive for August, 2015

My blog somehow seems to attract possibly more attention for the Waldorf movable classroom benches I built for a small school two years ago than for just about any other subject. Many people have asked for plans, and I apologize for the wait. I have finally taken the time to find my original plans and various jigs, to drawing the plans in a smaller scale with dimensions and to writing down some instructions. The link to the pdf version of them is at the bottom of the page. Though there are not any particularly difficult steps, I would not personally want to take on this project without a variety of power tools, especially if you intend to build more than 2 or 3 of them. These plans and instructions are free to use, however, I am starting my small furniture business, and if you were inclined to help spread the word on my new business( Wessinger Woodworks LLC), it would be much appreciated.

If you do build any of these benches, please send pictures! I would love to see them.

The Bench:image

Among the tools that will make this project go much more smoothly are a good tablesaw with an accurate crosscut sled or miter gauge, a bandsaw for cutting the profile at the bottom of the feet, and a router with a patterning bit and perhaps also a round over bit to speed up the shaping of the various pieces. There are angles that must be cut accurately and a lot of corners and rounded profiles to cut if the benches are to be built exactly the same as I built them. I also attached the top to the rails and legs using Kreg pocket hole screws. Though this design may not have a lot of classy joinery, it is an expeditious way to build some sturdy benches.

Materials include the following:

3/4″ baltic birch plywood for the top, legs, and rails directly under the top.

Construction grade 2×4 for the spreader between the legs closer to the floor.

1-1/4″ Kreg Pocket Hole Screws.

8, #12, 2-1/2″ Sheet metal screws per bench to attach legs to rails and stretcher.

8 finish washers in size appropriate for those screws.

I am not providing the number of sheets of plywood or the number of 2×4’s because the amounts will all depend on the number of benches. Doing some work to find ways to optimize your materials before beginning to cut pieces out can help minimize waist, and minimize the materials that you have to buy, though especially if you plan to assemble these benches with students get enough extra screws that if some get stripped you can still assemble all the benches.

Before cutting out any pieces I would strongly recommend laying out the plans for these benches full size on a large piece of paper or perhaps some plywood. This will help build familiarity with the plans and as you begin cutting pieces out it will provide a way to double check the dimensions of parts. There are also some parts that I am not providing the length for on the plans. You could measure the length of these pieces from the drawings (If you print these plans out and they happen to print out at precisely the same scale as the drawings I have scanned, each 1/4″ on the drawings will represent 1″ in real life), but I think you would get a more accurate measurement from full size drawings. I am providing the side view as only half of the bench so that I could draw it at a larger scale, but laying both halves of the bench out would allow you to lay the rails and stretchers directly on your copy of the plans to check their dimensions.

The tops are 18″ in width and 4′ long. They are cut from 3/4 inch birch plywood. The corners could be simply rounded over with sand paper, but I took the added step of routing each corner with a patterning bit to give them a 1″ radius. If you are doing multiple tops, you can create an original pattern to route each corner on the top of one bench, and then use that first bench top as a pattern for each subsequent top so that you can route all 4 corners without moving a pattern each time.

The legs are cut from 3/4″ birch plywood. The top and bottom of the leg are cut at 10 degrees off of a 90 degree angle. Most easily done with a crosscutting sled or miter gauge on the table saw with the blade tilted, but these angles could probably also be cut with care using a Skil Saw or track saw. Take the length of the legs off of your full size drawing. They are cut to be 14-1/2″ wide. When cutting the angles for the top and bottom make sure the resulting side profile will be a parallelogram instead of a trapezoid.

The two rails between the legs and under the top are also cut from 3/4″ birch plywood. They are 2-1/2″ tall. The ends are cut with the same 10 degree angle. Get the length of these pieces from your full size drawing.

The stretcher is cut from a construction grade 2×4. It would be worth finding ones that are as straight and knot free as you can find. Especially if you think students will be flipping the benches over to use the stretcher as a balance beam. The length can be measured from a full size drawing. Then angle on each end will be 10 degrees off of 90.

Jigs to ease construction:IMG_1939

To ease with assembly I cut several jigs. I did them out out of some scraps of 1/4″ plywood. The first is a drilling guide. Cut to the same dimensions as one face of the legs, it had the locations of all screw holes predrilled. If you plan to build a lot of these benches, a drilling guide will save you a lot of time spent laying out hole locations.

The second jig is the width of the leg and is clamped to the inside face of the leg to steady the stretcher while drilling the pilot holes for the screws that hold it to the legs and while driving those screws in.

The final jig fits above the stretcher is clamped to the leg to hold the rails steady while their pilot holes are drilled, and the screws are driven into them.

Assembling the pieces:

  1. Drill all holes in both legs. Clamp your drilling jig to each leg in turn and drill each of the four holes( one for each rail and two for the stretcher).
  2. Attach the stretcher to one side by first clamping the jig to steady the stretcher to the leg, lining the jig up with the bottom and sides of the leg. Set the stretcher into the notch, and drill the pilot holes for each screw. Drive 2-1/2″ screws with finish washers through leg into stretcher. This step, with the jig clamped in place, can be seen in the right side of the picture below. It also reminds me of how nice it was to use a router mat as a grippy, padded surface. I bet an old yoga mat would also work well.image
  3. Attach the stretcher to the other leg following the same procedure as before.
  4. Clamp jig for steadying the rails into place, lining it up with the top and sides of the leg. A scrap of wood can be clamped to the other leg to hold their other end if you don’t have an extra set of hands to hold the rails steady. drill pilot holes in each rail and drive screws with finish washers into the ends of the rails.
  5. Move the jig for steadying the rails to the other side to make sure the rails stay the right distance in from the edges of the legs, drill the pilot holes and drive screws with pilot holes as before.
  6. The base should now be fully assembled. The base is attached to the top with 1-1/4″ Kreg pocket hole screws. Drill pocket hole screw pilot holes every 6 inches along the inside face of each rail. I don’t remember whether I added any pocket hole screws to the legs, but I’m sure it wouldn’t hurt to add two screws from each leg into the top. Carefully center the base upside down on the top and screw the base down, starting at the corners to lock the position of the base in, and then adding all the remaining screws back in.
  7. At this point the bench should be fully assembled. Especially if the stretcher will be used as a balance beam, carefully sand all edges until they are well rounded over.

To finish the benches there are loads of options. What I did was finish them with two coats of natural colored Watco, sanding lightly with 220 grit sand paper between coats. After the second coat I sanded the top a final time with 220 grit paper and wiped on a coat of paste wax which I buffed after it had dried. The final coat of wax makes the surface easier to clean when things inevitably get spilled on these benches.

With a little wax on top and a bit of time for the finish to cure, the benches are good to go. If you have any difficulties with these instructions or plans let me know. With the instructions written out and plans drawn up I should be able to answer questions about these benches quickly.

The Plans in pdf, which should print off in a scale of 3″:1′. This scale allows each 1/4″ on the plans to represent 1″ on the full size bench.


The plans in mostly complete form as images, and which would not print off true to scale:


IMG_1935And lastly, because it makes me smile:




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Naturally, they took me longer to build than expected. I suppose that’s a perk of starting my small furniture company, Wessinger Woodworks LLC, as a side project while continuing to teach. Regardless, the first 5 of my Hilltop Side Chair are completed and available to purchase.

These chairs are built in Oregon White Oak that I purchased from Zena Forest Products, and finished with Osmo Polyx- Oil, which I like for its durability, low toxicity and its feel. I would compare its feel to hand rubbed oil finishes with wax on top, but I am able to get the feel and look I want with much less work using Osmo. Four of them were upholstered in blue fabric while one was done in black leather. The upholstery was done by a local upholsterer who works out of ADX with 40 years experience. His name is Johnathan and without his input during the design stages and his experienced hands at the upholstery these chairs could not be what they have become.

That list point is one I would like to pause on. Though I am starting this furniture without any employees, I rely on a wide variety of people and the relationships I have developed while working on these chairs is likely the most rewarding part of building them. Over the coming weeks I would like to introduce some of these folks. In the mean time, I’d like to ask for the assistance of my readers. If you like these chairs and especially if you know of anyone who might enjoy them, please help me get the word out. My goal is to sell these chairs directly to those who will use them, which will allow me to keep the price much lower than if I was to offer them through stores in the area.

For more pictures of the finished chairs, visit WessingerWoodworks.com.



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