Do you have a nook in your kitchen that’s just the place for a cosy kitchen bench? Maybe you already have a table and chairs there, but the space is tight, and getting in and out of the chairs is awkward. A bench solves this problem because you don’t push it back as you slide in and out. This bench offers more than sitting space; it offers storage space as well. Open the seat lid, and you’ll find a handy place to store tablecloths or infrequently used dishes. There’s even a box built into the side for storing cookbooks.
Materials and finishing
The bench shown here is built of oak plywood with solid oak edging to match bespoke oak kitchen cabinets. You might choose cherry or birch plywood to match your kitchen. Birch plywood also looks great when painted. Consider painting the base and back to match the walls and using a clear finish on the seat and trim.
About 16 hours to construct, plus finishing time
Tape measure, hammer, nail set, utility knife, metal straightedge, sliding bevel gauge, protractor, utility knife, tablesaw, circular saw with rip guide, C-clamps, electric drill driver with 3/64-inch bit for pre-drilling, handsaw or jigsaw, sanding block or random-orbit sander
Accurate measuring, sawing, routing, drilling
Assemble tools and materials, prepare a large work area, prepare installation site
Cutting the plywood
Set the tablesaw fence to 38 inches and, with a helper, crosscut 38 inches from two sheets of plywood for the back (A), the sides (B), and the box back (N). Or use a circular saw with a straightedge guide.
Set a rip guide on the circular saw to rip 1-1/2 inches including the kerf, and rip the edge from one of the remaining plywood pieces. The seat back (C), front (D), seat (E), and bottom (G) will have bevelled edges, but first crosscut them to the rough widths shown in the cutting diagram.
Set the rip fence to 23-7/8 inches and rip the two side pieces (B); you’ll make the angled cuts and the box back (N) later. Set the fence to 35-1/4 inches to crosscut the divider (F) and bottom (G). Rip the divider to final width and the bottom to rough width.
Rip the head support (J) and head piece (K) to rough widths, then use the mitre gauge with an auxiliary fence to crosscut. Set the rip fence to 10-1/2 inches and cut four pieces for the box sides (I) and box top and bottom (H). Crosscut these pieces to length.
Including the Kerf: Hook the tape over the blade
In the case previously, you want to reduce the plywood sheet’s width from 48 inches to 46-1/2 inches. So the saw blade’s thickness must be included in the material you remove. Hook your tape measure on the outside of the saw blade as you adjust the circular saw rip guide to 1-1/2 inches.
Cutting the bevels
Tilt the tablesaw blade 15 degrees and, using the pieces themselves as a guide, set the rip fence to bevel one side of the head support, the head piece, the seat, and the kitchen bench back. Be sure the outside faces are up during the cuts.
The bench back gets bevelled on both sides. The bevels are parallel to each other. Lay out the second bevel, and then place the piece on the saw. Align the tilted blade to the layout line and then adjust the fence to meet the workpiece. Cut the second bevel. You can find out about methods to cut bevel here.
Set the tablesaw blade to 90 degrees. Set the fence 16-3/4 inches from the blade. Place the bevelled side of the seat against the fence, long side of the bevel up, and rip the seat to final width. Repeat for the head support, head piece, and bench back.
Like the bench back, the bench front (D) has parallel bevels on its long sides. This time, the bevel is 5 degrees. Use the same process: Bevel one side first, then lay out the bevel on the piece before cutting the second bevel. Cut a 5-degree bevel on the bottom piece.
Lay Out the Second Bevel: Accurate layout with a sliding bevel gauge
With your sliding bevel set to the angle you need, you can use it to lay out the second bevel on the seat back and the kitchen bench front. Measuring from the long side of the first bevel, mark the final width of the pieces. Then use the bevel gauge as shown to draw a layout line for the second bevel.
Set your saw’s angle accurately
The tilt-angle gauge on a tablesaw or circular saw may not be precisely accurate, so it’s best to use a sliding bevel gauge to set the angle. Start by drawing the angle on a piece of paper. (When you tilt a saw blade to 15 degrees, you’re really tilting the blade 15 degrees from 90 degrees. On a protractor, that’s 75 degrees.) Then set the angle on the bevel gauge.
Safety First: Remove power before adjustment
Whenever you adjust a portable power tool — whether adjusting a ripping guide on a circular saw, tilting a blade, or changing a router bit — be sure that the tool is not plugged in. Many newer saws have an extra safety switch you must press with your thumb while pulling the trigger. These switches do reduce the risk of accidentally starting the saw, but you are still much safer if there is no power to the tool. Likewise, if you have a battery-operated saw, be sure to remove the battery before adjusting the blade.
Cutting the bench sides
Lay out the outside cuts for each bench side and the divider as shown in the drawing below. Lay out the opening for the book box on the side that will be exposed. Score the layout lines with a sharp utility knife so the circular saw won’t splinter the top veneer.
For the three side pieces, place a circular saw straightedge guide along the layout line for the kitchen bench seat. Cut until the saw blade reaches the seat back line. Then cut the seat back line using the straightedge. Finish the cuts with a handsaw. Use the straightedge to cut the seat front line.
To make the book box cutout, clamp the straightedge guide along a line. Position the front of the saw on the guide. Pull the saw’s guard up, turn the saw on, and carefully lower the blade into the wood, checking first that the cut will start near a corner but won’t overshoot.
Stop the cut when you reach a corner. Repeat this process for all four sides of the cutout. Then finish the cutout with vertical handsaw strokes in each corner. You can also use a jigsaw to finish the cuts.
Finish the Cuts with a Handsaw: A few strokes make cuts meet
When you cut two lines to an intersecting point with a circular saw, the cuts won’t be completed at the bottom. Finish the cuts with a jigsaw or handsaw.
Options to Consider: Make cutout with a jigsaw
Plunge-cutting with a circular saw is safer and easier than it looks, as long as you keep a firm grip on the saw and the blade is sharp. However, you may prefer to make the book box cutout with a jigsaw. To do this, first drill 1/4-inch holes in each corner of the box layout. Insert the jigsaw blade in the holes to make the cuts.
Making the lid
Lay out the sides of the lid on the bench seat. (Make sure the bevelled cut will be at the back.) Set a combination square to 2 inches and use it to guide a pencil as you lay out the back of the lid. Score the layout lines with a sharp utility knife.
Rip and crosscut a piece of solid oak for the lid trim (O). Pre-drill holes, then attach the trim to the front of the kitchen bench seat with glue and 4d finishing nails. Keep the piece flush with the top and keep nails away from where you’ll saw out the lid.
Use a straightedge guide and plunge the circular saw to make the cut for the back of the lid. Then use the saw with the straightedge guide to make the side cuts. Finish the cuts with a handsaw or jigsaw.
Now all you have to do is assemble the parts according to the diagram.