Scrap wood into potting bench

As I have worked on various projects over the years, I have accumulated some leftover wood. I made some “floating shelves” for our bedroom and had some pine planks and 2x4s that I had ripped in half (“ripping” wood means you cut along the grain, usually lengthwise; a crosscut goes against the grain). I also had some saw horses I made years ago from 2x4s and I took those apart. (I got tired of storing them. I have plastic saw horses that fold flat.) I also had some 1x6s left over from my bench project. And some 2x6s were left from my benches and raised garden beds. And, finally some plywood from, probably, when I made my work bench. So, yeah.

I didn’t go with a specific plan. I looked at a lot of potting benches on line and used ideas from some of them. Basically, I wanted to get rid of the scrap wood. Some of it has been hanging around and I keep it thinking, “Hey, I might use this for something later…” But, see, whenever I go to make a new project, I’m usually following a plan I got that has a cut list and often a list of wood to get. So, it’s easier to get wood from the store in standard cuts than to see if I have enough in my scrap collection. This means, of course, the scrap collection accrues further.

In this case, I got the scrap out and started trying to see what I could put together based on that. This is why it has taken me three days to build something that should have been done in one day. Instead of the cuts being planned ahead of time and knowing the dimensions of the project, I had to go with the flow.

I started with a left over 2×6 that was over 60″ and then I used the 2x4s to make legs… Then, some of the wood split. The screws I am using are supposed to not need pre-drilling. But, they do because if you get the head of the screw flush with the surface, it splits the wood. I then chose to take it apart and make it smaller. I realized that the space where I was putting the bench was 59″ and that 60″ would be too long. And, then I thought pocket holes would be good for the joints because maybe it wouldn’t split the wood.

But, I don’t have the right screws for pocket holes and the size of the wood I’m using. Ugh. So I made it work but I think it sucks. Whatever. I think it will work.

I used the ripped 2x4s to make rails and stretchers. Those are the parts of the frame that go around the lower parts of the legs to give it stability. It turns out that a lot of this wood had twisted or warped in the time I’ve had it. So, despite cutting it really carefully to exact measurements, it’s not exactly square and the legs aren’t the same length. Or, they are the same length but the piece connecting the two legs is warped so it seems like they are not the same length. And, when I take the shelf boards, that are square and put then into the frame to create the top, they don’t fit exactly because the top frame is warped.

I keep reminding myself that this isn’t fine furniture, it’s a potting bench made from scrap wood. Even though I don’t actually make, um, well, anything perfect, I always feel like it should be perfect. So, it bugs me that it’s not.

I then added a shelf unit above the work surface. Cutting the rabbets for that took a while. I have dado blades. But, I thought the time it would take for me to set them up in my table saw would take almost as long as using a regular blade and  cutting, very slowly, was about the same. I used my table saw to cut slots 3/4″ deep. Then I removed the excess wood. I screwed the supports into the frame and set about making a shelf and shelf supports. I think it worked out okay.

I cut slats and nailed them into the bottom shelf supports. Then I installed supports for the middle shelf. And supports for the work surface. Then I installed the work surface.

The final part is that I want some kind of holes in the work surface that will allow excess soil to fall through into a plastic bin below when I’m doing stuff like that. I saw some benches like that and it seemed pretty cool, so I’m doing that. But, I haven’t been able to decide how to accomplish it. Some benches have that part be removable so you can put in a solid surface. That seems good, too, but I don’t think it will work, ultimately. I was also seeing a couple benches that had another part with a removable surface and recessed bin to hold soil you are using. I want to do that but I might not. Finally, I’ve sanded it where ever I could reach and I put a coat of spar urethane on it last night. With the rainy, cold weather, it will take a long time to dry. But, at least it will protect it and make it less likely to rot and fall apart.

Overall, considering I didn’t pay anything extra for it, that all of the materials used to build it have been left over from previous projects, including the urethane, screws and nails, it turned out satisfactorily. It was interesting to build something with no plans or measurements to rely on. I let the materials dictate what the project turned out to be. I mean, of course, I had the ideas of what it should look like when I’m done. I wanted a work surface and a place to store my “everyday” gardening tools. I wanted a place to work on plants and related outdoor activities that I wouldn’t mind getting dirty. And, in theory, if a part gets damaged, I can replace it.The work top is only screwed in so, if I decide to, I can replace it. Maybe one day I will get some new plywood and make the top a single piece instead of the three pieces there now. I can always replace the lower shelves, too. If I used half-inch plywood it would allow me a bit more room for storage. I wouldn’t mind adding a few extra “cubby holes” in the upper shelf for storing smaller items like seed packets maybe.

If you want any measurements or more details on the construction, leave me a comment. I’ll post an update when I get it finished completely with the slots in the work surface. I’m also going to add in some hooks for hanging tools. But, for today, I’m happy with the build. 

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