Making a custom project doesn’t always need to be as involved as having every part of the final piece be unique from anything you’ve ever done. A project can be “custom” just by taking a stock piece and adding a little personalization.
This Shaker-style sitting bench is simple enough that it could be mass-produced quickly using conventional shop tools or CNC machines. The customization can come by adding CNC- or hand-carved details to one or both of the rails. Of course, you can alter the overall size of the final piece per your customer’s request, but this design makes it easy.
To build this piece, I used a combination of power and hand tools. The carving was done by hand. I used 5/4 poplar for the legs and top. Because I was going to add carving details to the rails, I used basswood for them. The rails are 3/4″ thick.
The legs are joined to the top with wedged through tenons in open mortises in the top. The rails have 1/4″-deep dadoes on the back that fit into 1/2″-deep notches cut into the legs. This allows the rails to provide strength against racking without the use of fasteners. I cut the curved profiles on the legs and rails at the band saw and sanded them smooth with an oscillating spindle sander. The rails were carved before assembly.
For finish, the carving was painted with acrylic paint. A coat of boiled linseed oil was allowed to cure for 24 hours before it was topped off with three coats of water-based polyurethane.
The design of the bench plus the ability to personalize it for each customer makes it appealing. It’s a popular project that gets a lot of attention.
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