I recently had a client in San Francisco contact us about making a shoe bench for one of his clients. The bench needed to be fairly small, since it was going in a foyer shared by three apartments, have the ability to hold a fair number of shoes, and have a striking design.

This is the first of two parts in which I take you step by step on how I manufactured this unique and stylish curved bench made from Sapele Hardwood and Veneer. First we tackle the design, build the frame and deal with a sheet of EconoKore in order to form the fundamental framework for the bench.

After creating a few designs that incorporated a box joint detail where the legs and top met, we decided to throw that design out and go with a more streamline and sleek look, where the legs curved into the top. The client loved it! We then added a shelf to hold the shoes off the ground. We made the shelf out of slats, rather than a solid flat surface, which made the bench feel more open and light.

We began the project by building the frame that would give the bent lamination, which is the bench itself, its shape. We made the sides and spacers out of 3/4″ melamine scraps we had laying around the shop.

I have done some bent lamination in the past, but the bent lamination was not structural. With this project, the bend lamination was the entire piece, which meant that it needed to be rock solid and pretty much perfect!

Since using solid wood to form the bench itself was out of the question, I narrowed our field of options down to two contenders, 1/8″ MDF and 1/2″ EconoKore. I chose the EconoKore because the idea of trying to glue 12 layers of the 1/8″ MDF together to reach our desired thickness seemed a bit overwhelming. The EconoKore was more expensive, but with the amount of time it saved in the long run, it was probably the economically wiser choice.

The EconoKore is a sheet of 1/8″ Masonite type material with kerfs on one side that create 3/8″x3/8″ ribs. I purchased a 4×8 sheet and cut the three pieces we would need for the bent lamination.

In the next part we start gluing the EconoKore while accurately distributing clamp pressure and testing the weight and durability of the bench.

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